Medical Technology Current Affairs - 2020

Doctors from Netherlands perform brain implant for the first time in history

Doctors from Netherlands have performed the first-ever brain implant on a 58-year-old woman paralysed by Lou Gehrig’s disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-ALS).

With this, she became the first patient to use a brain-computer interface. The implant has enabled paralysed women to communicate in day-to-day life via a speech computer.

What is the case?

Prior to this implant, the ALS disease had caused nerve degeneration in the women and she was left completely locked-in. Her motor neurons had deteriorated to the point where she could only control her eye muscles.

First-ever brain implant

  • Doctors in first-ever brain implant directly installed a device called an electrocorticograph (ECoG) on the women’s brain. The device has electrodes fitted in the brain.
  • Using these electrodes in brain, the patient can control the computer using brain signals, spell out messages at two letters per minute.

How it works?

  • These implanted electrodes detect brain activity that results when she moves fingers in her mind, and coverts it into a mouse click.
  • The patient has a screen in front of her that includes the alphabet and some additional functions (such as selecting previously spelled words or deleting letters).
  • Each letter on screen lights up one at a time, and by using her brain to click the mouse at the right time, she can compose words one letter at a time.
  • These words then are vocalized by a speech computer. The entire process is done wirelessly.

NASA develops electroactive bandage to speed up wound healing

The NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has developed a new high-tech electroactive bandage that uses electricity to significantly promote healing of injured wounds.

The high-tech bandage creates an electric charge to promote the healing process of wounds in space especially in conditions of non-Earth gravity.

Need

  • In conditions of non-Earth gravity, human blood displays quite different behaviour from that on Earth. In case of injury in space, wounds heal more slowly
  • Considering the survival risks due to injury and the cost of space missions, healing wounds as fast as possible is crucial.

Key Facts

  • The electroactive bandage uses a new material called polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) which can be stimulated by pressure of cell growth and body heat.
  • The new material generates a small amount of electricity when interacts with another surface, including human skin.
  • When this electroactive bandage is applied to an external wound site, it utilises low level electrical stimulation to promote wound healing.
  • The bandage speeds the wound’s healing process and minimises infection and related complications such as amputation or illness.
  • Potential Applications: This bandage could be used by astronauts in space, military personnel wounded in field, patients who have undergone surgery or who have suffered a serious wound.