Author – Sudha Kamada
The field of medicine is constantly evolving and scientists come up with innovative ways to improve the healthcare system to make it accessible to commoners as well as to bring down the cost of pharmaceuticals. Here are a few such medical innovations that have not only sparked a change in patient treatment, but are also eco-friendly and easily available.
Reliable supply of oxygen is a major challenge for hospitals in rural areas, especially during emergency situations. There are challenges in refilling and transportation of medical gases in the Indian rural ecosystem, since the equipment is bulky. There is a drastic need to produce oxygen instantly where ever and whenever required through a handy kit-style product that is durable and portable.
A team from M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology including Nitin Hebbar, Aniruddh Jain, Ashish Sharma and others came up with an interesting idea named ‘O2-Matic’ is a low-cost method of producing oxygen (O2) instantly for emergencies. The device has an outer reusable canister, a lid with an oxygen outlet and a replaceable cartridge, which holds the chemical compound and the catalyst required for producing oxygen. When the lid is completely locked, it activates the cartridge enabling the compounds to react inside the closed canister and produce oxygen, which can be administered to a needy patient for almost an hour.
O2-Matic produces oxygen using simple chemical procedures – thus need no electricity, and its end product is cost-effective. After winning an award at the CAMTech India Jugaad-a-thon, the team is now working on a portable kit that can be used by an unskilled person to generate oxygen using a modular apparatus.
Microbutor Water Tester
Microbutor is an interesting innovation that uses an energy efficient solution to create a low cost water contamination tester. Ganesh Bhere, Ashwini Gaikwad, Ashwin Pawade, three Mumbai-based engineering students went to a village named Nandurbar in rural Maharashtra for social work. There they realized the drastic need to test drinking water for microbial contamination when one of their village acquaintances died of a water-borne disease.
This incident inspired the team to create Microbutor, or ‘micro-incubator’, an innovative water testing equipment that nurtures bacteria culture by using a thermal battery. Once the bacteria culture is ready, it is tested for harmful pathogens. This low cost thermal battery is useful for both testing labs as well as healthcare field workers in rural areas.
Bio-polymeric Anti-microbial Wafers
Typically, injured patients are wrapped in bandage to treat their wounds but there is a high risk of infection due to delayed healing. D.V. Gowda, Sharon Fredric, Atul Srivastava, three researchers from JSS College of Pharmacy, Mysore found that topical antimicrobial compounds embedded in absorbent dressings can control infection of wounds and improve healing. Lyophilized, bio-polymeric antimicrobial wafers can offer a contemporary, user-friendly, self-adhesive and effective approach for the management of suppuration and poly-bacterial contamination in a wide range of persistent wounds.
The team developed cohesive, non-friable, porous, disc-shaped wafers with sodium alginate, guar gum (1:1 ratio) and Neomycin as an antimicrobial agent. Test proved that there was no chemical interaction between the pure drug and used excipients. Formulations with various concentrations of polymers was evaluated, and bio-polymeric antimicrobial wafers were successfully prepared for use in chronic wounds infected with bacteria. Based on the results obtained, the team observed that drug-loaded bio-polymeric antimicrobial wafers showed faster wound healing as compared to the conventional Neomycin sulphate cream.
Artificial Liver Tissue
At a time when scientists all over the world are struggling to develop artificial liver tissue, three Bengaluru scientists developed such tissues that perform functions of the human liver, by using 3D bio-printing technology. This breakthrough has not only brightened hopes for patients seeking liver tissues from live donors, but has also brought a potential alternative to artificial extracorporeal liver dialysis.
Three scientists Arun Chandru, Dr. Abdullah Chand and Dr. Sivarajan T, from a biotechnology start-up called as Pandorum Technologies ideated this process in 2009. The scientists found the artificially grown liver cells resembled the original human liver tissues structurally and functionally. They could eventually replace the human liver, thus enabling transplants without waiting for living donors. The process of making this made-in-India liver tissue involved taking cells from a live human liver and 3D bio-printing them after encapsulation in hydrogel.
In 2012, they received a grant for research project from the Indian Department of Biotechnology. It has not yet reached the stage where it can be transplanted, but the mini-liver can serve as test platforms for discovery and development of drugs with better efficacy, less side-effects and lower costs. The scientists feel such artificial tissues could help cut down costs of medical research by 20-30%, besides transplant costs.
Darshan Nayak and Pulin Raje, two Stanford University biodesign students realized there was a need to find an affordable leg splint that would be easy to use by semi-skilled healthcare workers and fit all sizes, and also that the product should be easy to dispose of after use. So they developed a product named “HiCARE LIMO” – a simple and cost-effective limb immobilization device that can temporarily immobilizing injured limbs of trauma patients for pre-hospital care.
HiCARE LIMO comprises a leg splint made up of sturdy cardboard with multiple creases for better encapsulation of different leg girth sizes, hip support section and multiple belts for immobilizing joints at different locations. It is a single, free-size device for limbs with an effective wrapping effect and its unique strapping mechanism stabilizes a limb for 6 hours. It is designed to address the unmet Indian clinical need and unlike metal splints, it does not interfere with imaging tests like CT scan, X-ray and MRI. After the first clinical trial in AIIMS in 2011, the duo improved upon the product, and licensed it to HLL Lifecare. The cost of HiCARE Limo is one-third of such products in the market.