This Year’s Disruptive Dozen at the World Medical Innovation Forum

This year’s World Medical Innovation Forum concluded with a panel discussing the “Disruptive Dozen:” 12 technology spaces that could improve cardiovascular health.

The Wednesday panel, in Boston’s Westin Copley Place, ended a three-day conference. Although the panel touched on some technologies that are currently creating an impact, experts also noted other areas where innovation is needed.

Each of the twelve segments began with a short descriptive video, followed by words from a panelist with expertise on the topic. Below are the twelve topics in the order which they were announced:

12. Anti-Aging Drugs Used To Treat Cardiovascular Disease

Research on this topic suggests that drugs used to slow aging complications in animals may be useful in slowing age-related diseases of the human heart.

“Groundbreaking discoveries that slow or reverse aging phenotypes in animal models — from improving protein homeostasis, to diminishing oxidative stress, to killing senescent cells — continue to generate excitement about someday targeting the aging process for therapies for chronic age-related conditions,” the video explained.

Expert and panelist, Dr. Jason Roe, said he was “excited” by what scientific research is revealing. “Whether it’s targeted catalytic therapies that can reverse atherosclerosis or [treatments] that can relaxation properties of the aged heart, I think what we’re starting to realize now is that aging is not necessarily this passive process of time that we have no control over.”

11. Nanotechnology For Diagnosis and Treatment

According to the next video, nanotechnology could change the treatment and diagnosis of diseases like atherosclerosis with nanoparticles, particles 100-times smaller than a red blood cell.

In Boston, targeted nanoparticle technologies were recently used in a study to reduce atherosclerosis in animal models. In the study, nanoparticles were able to latch on to plaque and release a drug that could prevent damage. Scientists reported that atherosclerosis was reduced and that the plaque was less likely to cause further blockage.

“Whether we’re using gene therapy, editing technology, small molecules, or drug delivery, we need a delivery vehicle that can carry the cargo to the targeted site. We can use nanoparticles to enhance their accumulation at the target site and even be selective. What we can do with that is design a chip that we can implant in patients that can treat them and diagnose based on need.” said Natalie Artzi of the Harvard School of Medicine and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Artzi explained that, with nanotechnology, it’s possible that a chip paired with nanoparticles could be implanted to look for biomarkers or sample blood. This type of chip could also potentially receive signals telling it to release treatments into the blood.

10. Diagnostic and Therapeutic Potential for RNA

Recently, forms of ribonucleic acid, or RNA, have posed as helpful health markers. According to the presentation, a Boston-based research team is working to identify mRNA molecules that could help predict possible health outcomes in patients with heart disease through RNA sequencing technology.

9. Expanding The Transplant Pool

As the shortage of organs for donors on U.S. transplant lists continues, doctors and scientists are working to develop alternatives relating to heart transplants.

“The role of mechanical circulatory support devices and advanced heart replacement therapy is increasing steadily, with some thinking that these devices could have the potential to overcome heart transplants in the next decade,” the presentation video explained.

A group of Boston scientists have also used messenger RNA to grow human heart tissue, according to the video. The mRNA helps to converts skin cells into stem cells which will then be converted into cardiac muscle tissue. The presentation also highlighted the transplantation efforts of CRISPR/Cas8, where pig hearts are currently undergoing gene editing in order to be placed and tested in the bodies of primates.

8 and 7

Topics eight, “Cancer Therapy Without Cardiovascular Toxicity,” and seven, “Minimalist Mitral Valve Replacement,” focused on the open spaces for prevention.

While treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation treatments have aided in cancer survival, cardiovascular complications, such as clotting, hypertension and heart failure, can still arise due to the toxicity of a treatment, according to the short video presentation.

“Cancer survivors are … living long enough to have the cardio side effects of treatments like chemotherapy. Many of them are developing recurring cancers so they need more additionally chemotherapy,” said Dr. Anju Nohria, the director of cardio technology at BWH. “We need to come up with ways that we can minimize the cumulative cardiotoxicity.”

According to the video, biomarkers, such as those of mRNA, may represent a “cost effective and minimally invasive” means for diagnosing and monitoring post-treatment cardiac complications.

The presentation turned to the mitral valve, which allows blood from the lungs to fill the heart’s left ventricle, can face mitral valve regurgitation, or MR, when the blood goes back into the lungs. According to the presentation, this may cause lung congestion and heart failure, but many who encounter MR are not strong enough for current replacement treatments. Researchers are now looking into TMVR, transcathetar microvalve replacement as a minimally invasive alternative.

6. Workout Monitors

Fitness is a heart risk factor that is “potent” but not routinely assessed by physicians, according to the presentation.

Boston researches are now exploring if exercise capacity tests can be used to identify patients who will benefit from early treatment to prevent cardiovascular disease. Based on this research, the presentation noted that simple exercise testing equipment could soon be used in doctors’ offices to routinely assess heart health with a short test.

Former Athlete and Dr. Greg Lewis of Mass. General Hospital explained, “What’s innovative is how we’re making measurements in the state of exercise. The vast majority of measurements that we make in patients with cardiovascular diseases are in the resting stage … A lot of innovation comes from a recognition of what we can easily measure during exercise.”

Lewis adds that monitoring tools could look at molecular changes during a 10-minute workout, explaining that certain molecule changes will occur in a healthy patient differently than they would for someone with cardiovascular risk.

“We want to harness modern technologies and tools that can be easily applied to simple exercise tasks that can protect the future of cardio-metabolic diseases,” Lewis said.

5. Power Play: Implantable Cardiovascular Devices

Those using electronic device therapy, such as a pacemaker, may encounter complications involving low batteries, shocks and infection. However, optogenetic advances and discoveries may lead to better solutions, according to a presentation video. Optogenetics occurs when light-sensitive genes are placed into other cells. With this technology, there is possibility that electronic devices could react based on light signals in the body rather than external devices.

Currently, a cardiac pacing system, which converts ultrasound signals to electronic energy, is now being tested in Boston, the video explained. The presentation also noted that LVADs (left ventricular assist devices) could be charged through an implantation in the skin, or over a Wi-Fi connection within the next decade.

4 and 3.

In fourth place was, “Adapting To Orphans of Heart Disease.” The panel discussed how rare diseases that were once under-researched by doctors and researchers may gain new innovations with recent advances in technology, awareness, and funding. Topic three, “Targeting Inflammation in Cardiovascular Disease,” discussed how researchers and scientists are working to create treatments to avoid inflammation following a heart attack.

2. Harnessing Big Data and Deep Learning For Clinical Decisions

As patient health information is available digitally, physicians are becoming overloaded with data. Computational biology, which involves making and using tools to analyze biological data and systems, as well as deep learning, the ability for computers to learn without explicitly being told to could impact personalized medicine. According to the video, studies in Boston and San Francisco are similarly created a database of patient information to see if they can build tools to further organize data and recognize connections to health history and the incidences of heart issues..

“We’ll begin to transition from treating disease to really managing health. An important aspect of that is that it turns on its head how we approach evidence-based medicine,” said panelist and BWH cardiovascular expert, Christian Ruff.

1. Quantitative Molecular Imaging

Quantitative molecular imaging allows doctors to examine the heart at the molecular and cellular level. It is estimated that this strategy will become more used in the next ten years to analyze how cardiovascular molecules behave. Imaging probes can be used to noninvasively probe molecules of interest in the heart.

“It holds tremendous potential to hold elucidate cardiovascular phenotypes. We have seen again and again over the last three days that phenotyping of a disease … represents an absolute key step in targeted therapeutics, specifically in an era of precision medicine,“ said BHW cardiologist Viviana Taqueti.

Pamela Bump

Pamela Bump

    Pamela Bump is a candidate for the Master of Science in Media Ventures at Boston University. After receiving a B.A. for a dual major in Journalism and Communication Studies from Keene State College in 2014, she became the Web Editor and Social Media Expert at Taste for Life Magazine, an alternative health publication. She then served as Copy Editor at The Keene Sentinel, a daily newspaper in Keene, N.H. While editing daily city news and designing pages for print, she also managed, edited, and contributed to a weekly health section.As a Media Ventures student with a passion for health journalism, Pamela hopes to use her time at MedTech to expand storytelling skills, while learning about leadership and innovation in the media-startup industry.

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