More New Medical Breakthroughs

The most amazing discoveries, devices, tests, and cures.

By RD Staff from Reader's Digest | March 2007

Stop an Epidemic! Soon there may be a way to fight a pandemic before it has time to spread. The Hemopurifier, designed by Aethlon Medical, a small biotech company in California, is a blood-filtering device that removes viruses and toxins before infection attacks organs, using a method similar to dialysis.

The cool part: Treatment can begin without first identifying the infectious culprit. The blood cleaner comes in two sizes and is used with portable pumps or dialysis machines. The smaller version is the size of a large pen. It can be attached to an artery in the arm by emergency medical personnel, using only needles, tubing and tape. After filtering of the blood is complete (within a few hours), researchers can begin to identify the germ or toxin from blood samples. Aethlon’s CEO, James A. Joyce, points out that it took about 90 days before the SARS virus was identified. With the Hemopurifier, you won’t lose valuable time — and lives — while scientists in the laboratory try to figure out what they’re dealing with. Available: 1-2 years — Susan Doremus

Cold, Cold Heart More cardiac arrest patients are walking out of the hospital thanks to a “cool” procedure (three-quarters of them used to die). Medically induced hypothermia means cooling the blood and body five to eight degrees when oxygen flow to the brain and body has stopped or slowed. Combined with better CPR and more aggressive hospital care, it substantially improves the odds of survival and prevents brain damage, according to new research. Today, half to two-thirds of those people are alive and well.

“For years we didn’t see much improvement in patients who suffered cardiac arrest out of the hospital,” says Mary Fran Hazinski, RN, spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. “Now we’ve seen a dramatic shift, and hypothermia is one of the reasons.” More than a quarter of U.S. doctors use the procedure, and more are expected to as further data becomes available. Available: Now — Cynthia Dermody

Blood Backup When it comes to emergency transfusions, blood may someday get the boot. Scientists are developing substitutes that could be used everywhere from ambulances to battlefields.

The oxygen-carrying resuscitative fluids are ideal for emergency, war and disaster scenarios because unlike real blood, they have a long shelf life, can be stored at various temperatures and may be given to anyone, regardless of blood type. Made from chemically modified hemoglobin, the fluids are also nontoxic and disease free.

PolyHeme, a substitute derived from human red blood cells, is being submitted for FDA approval. Meanwhile, the Navy is urging more studies of Hemopure, a blood substitute made with bovine hemoglobin. Some blood substitutes have been linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, so more research is needed. Available: 1-3 years — Laura McClure

Microchip for Meds Do you sometimes forget to take your pills? MicroCHIPS, Inc., of Bedford, Massachusetts, has developed a device that can be preloaded with up to 100 doses of medicine, implanted in the body and programmed to administer the drug via wireless signals. The new system has been designed primarily to help deliver medicines that are less effective when taken orally. It has been successful in preliminary tests with dogs. Available: 5 years — Lindsay Miller

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