Stories about: asthma

GeckoCap: How industry networking can help a start-up

(seeking thomas/Flickr)

Yechiel Engelhard, MD, MBA, is founder and CEO of Gecko Health Innovations, a health care mobile technology company that recently unveiled the GeckoCap, a smart button for inhalers that allows families and doctors to monitor a child’s asthma.

Asthma affects nearly one in 10 children and is the cause of more than 700,000 emergency department visits and 14 million missed school days each year. A big concern is that children often don’t realize the importance of their asthma inhalers and don’t use them properly. That’s why we saw the need to make asthma easy to understand and inhalers fun for children to use.

The inhaler lets parents know when their child uses it or when medication is running low.

Our team came up with the concept of a “smart” cap that would fit onto an asthma inhaler and turn medication adherence into a game. The cap would send notifications to parents and give them a dashboard on their smartphone, showing them when inhalers are used improperly and helping them identify troublesome patterns. The cap would also generate reports for doctors, showing medication usage and helping them to educate parents about the correlation between medications, adherence and asthma triggers.

We moved forward to make this cap a reality, but quickly realized that like many start-ups we needed a strategic partner for the next development phase.

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Empowering patients: Intelligent devices and apps for better health

Melinda Tang, MEng, is a software developer for the Innovation Acceleration Program at  Boston Children’s Hospital.

When children return home from the hospital after surgery, parents can be overwhelmed by the written information and instructions for follow-up. At the MIT Media Lab’s Health and Wellness Hackathon earlier this year, the focus was on empowering patients to take an active role in their health. As my colleague Brian Rosman described, our team from Boston Children’s Hospital attended and spent two weeks developing “Ralph,” a mobile application for managing post-operative care that incorporates an avatar and features of gaming to engage and motivate children to follow their regimen. I was one of the primary programmers for our group.

We won third place, working alongside five other talented teams. Here are some snapshots of what they were up to — helping patients manage asthma, diabetes, pain, cardiac rehab and more.

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Personalized medicine in asthma: Finding the right targets

Asthma triggered by the influenza virus works through pathways not targeted by existing drugs. (Photo: Cynthia Goldsmith)

A case of the flu almost always exacerbates asthma, and often spells hospitalization for asthmatic children. But why is flu so dangerous, and why are flu-induced exacerbations so hard to control?

New research reveals that these attacks arise via a previously unrecognized physiologic pathway that appears to bypass existing asthma drugs.

“Virtually everyone who comes into the hospital with asthma has a viral infection, because we just can’t treat it well,” says Dale Umetsu, the study’s senior investigator and an immunologist at Children’s Hospital Boston. “If we could find better therapies that specifically target this pathway, we might be able to help these patients.”

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Harnessing the hygiene hypothesis to prevent asthma

How do dirty environments protect against asthma?   (bigcityal/Flickr)

Certain infections in young children might shape their immune systems in a way that protects them from developing allergic asthma, says a new study in mice. The study shows how that may happen, and showed that the same effect can be achieved using a compound that can be made synthetically.

“Some infections appear to result in important protective effects against asthma,” says Dale Umetsu, of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Division of Immunology, a senior author of the paper. “But we certainly don’t want to give people dangerous infections to prevent asthma. So if we can understand how infections prevent asthma,

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