February 2000

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*** Virtual Medical Worlds Magazine's 1999 TOP 10 articles listing ***

The rich world of 3D medical imaging, the secret of surgery simulation, and the fast emergence of wireless telecommunications for telemedicine: these are the topics that hold in store the highest fascination for our readers ...

Special issue with an update on results from European R&D projects, 1999 !

Each year hundreds of European R&D projects produce important results. In this special issue, co-published by the magazines Primeur and VMW, we give an update from a number of projects in the HPCN and medical sectors that were supported within the Esprit or Telematics programmes from the European Commission.

Please, check in at the telemedicine project below:

TeleInViVo, the building of an economically viable telemedical workstation for 3D ultrasound

This special issue is published in conjunction with the ITIS-ITAB 99 event in Amsterdam.

When you want your project results published in one of our next special issues, please contact the editors of Primeur magazine or Virtual Medical Worlds magazine.

ITIS99logof Visit the website of the second International Conference on the Telemedical Information Society.
Combined ITIS'99-ITAB'99 Conference, April 12-13 1999, Amsterdam.

Also featuring all forum discussions!

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Cold sore virus possibly could help treat Parkinson's disease
Innovative treatments using viruses to deliver gene therapy are proving successful in experimental systems, and could one day be used to help patients with Parkinson's disease. The pioneering research is reported in the November 1999 Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine by Dr. David Latchman, who is attached as a Professor of Human Genetics at the Institute of Child Health in London.

European care takers soon to discuss their professional experiences over the Internet
In July 1998, a European Commission project was set up within the Telematics Programme for disabled and elderly people with a duration of 30 months to provide Distance Information, Support and Communication for European Carers (DISCUS). The primary objective of the DISCUS project is to develop Internet based resources which support professional care workers in the practical aspects of their work, and which is particularly appropriate for the education, training and support of carers in remote locations. A team of researchers from the Human Sciences and Advanced Technology Institute at Loughborough University is partnering with organisations and companies of kindred spirit in Greece, Italy and The Netherlands to enhance the quality of life for elderly and disabled people by ensuring that care workers have access to the best available knowledge and care support.

Educational multimedia technology to optimise training in anaesthesiology and critical care
Three European member hospitals of the International Trauma Anaesthesia and Critical Care Society (ITACCS) are working together with Lectures Libres Productions, a French medical education software company, in the ESTPER project on emergency training for medical professionals. In January 1998, this initiative was started within the Educational Multimedia Task Force (EMTF), funded by the European Commission. ESTPER stands for European Severe Trauma Perspective and aims to provide multi-media educational tools in the fields of anaesthesiology and critical care for paramedical personnel, nurses, students but equally senior doctors who are familiar with neither of these medical specialities.

Internet and teleconferencing help standardising Motor Disability Assessment training
Globally, a substantial part of the elderly and disabled population is suffering from slightly or more severely disturbed motion behaviour. To aid these people in keeping their independence as long as possible, specific skills and treatment are required. European professionals, who are specialised in physiatry, bio-engineering, and physical therapy are currently addressed in a project, funded by the European Commission, which aims to deliver a multi-disciplinary training, based on interactive multimedia tools. The programme is targeted at helping specialists to assess motor disability and disseminate good practice among their colleagues, working at remote sites.

Dutch soil excellent for ICT-platform breeding in health care
Once again, a new platform has been founded in The Netherlands to promote the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) in the health care sector. This time, a series of well-known industry companies and research organisations, such as Philips, KPN, Hiscom, Farrington, and TNO, the Dutch National Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, have joined their forces to create the Health Care ICT Industry Platform (ZIIP). The ZIIP initiative, already the third one in the medical area, aims at uniting the ICT industrial know how with focus on health care and at establishing solid directives for standardisation.

Researchers to prepare "gene tonic" for the extinguishing brain of Alzheimer's patients
American brain researchers at the Department of Neurosciences from the University of California in San Diego (UCSD) are now setting up an experiment to treat patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease with a novel, revolutionary gene therapy. In a couple of months, genetically manipulated skin cells will be implanted into the brain of the first one of eight selected patients with a mild form of Alzheimer's, the most well-known cause of old age dementia. The skin cell referred to as fibroblast, can be modified in the laboratory to secrete the human albumen known as the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). Initially, the UCSD team will have to check whether this NGF therapy does not involve any dangerous risks for the patient. In a later stage, it will be possible to investigate if the treatment is able to slow down and preferably even stop the decline of the patient's memory and other cognitive functions.

Massachusetts General Hospital to "DXplain" patient diagnosis via Web-based tool
Expanding its extensive range of interactive patient care solutions, HEALTHvision, a major health care Internet company, has closed a strategic licensing agreement with the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to add DXplain, a clinical diagnostic decision-support tool, to its interactive patient care solutions. Developed by Massachusetts General Hospital's Laboratory of Computer Science, DXplain is a Web-based application with the features of both an electronic medical textbook and a medical reference system. The reference tool contains a database of more than 2000 different diseases and related symptoms, signs and laboratory test findings, and provides extensive reference information to support doctors in their diagnostic decision-making.

Baptist Health to select Data General's advanced NUMA servers to sustain expansive growth
Baptist Health has chosen AViiON servers from Data General, a Division of EMC Corporation, to accommodate both its rapid growth and its increased commitment to the community it serves. Data General's advanced NUMA technology has enabled Baptist Health to substantially upgrade its Hospital Information System (HIS) in order to support hundreds of new users and additional hospital beds, as it has been extended from a single hospital to a health system including over 1100 beds, 1500 users, and multiple sites.

Cutting-edge foetal laser surgery calls halt to twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome
Nothing can prepare parents expecting twins for the news that the placenta shared by the foetuses is not allowing blood to flow equally between them, putting both at risk. Yet this is the grim reality for the 10 to15 percent of identical twin pregnancies affected by twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a relatively unknown condition. Just recently, The Health Network, one of the leading television and Internet health destinations, has aired on its web site a pioneering laser surgery to correct the condition.

Neuromate stereotactic robot sold to French hospital in Nantes
Integrated Surgical Systems (ISS), a pioneer in medical robotics and the world leader in image-directed, robotic products for interventional applications in the fields of neurological and orthopaedic surgeries, has sold its Frameless NeuroMate Stereotactic Robotic Assistant to the Hôpital Guillaume et René Laënnec in Nantes, France. The Neuromate system to date has supported neurosurgical procedures on more than 2000 patients.

Visitor number HOISe news server with Primeur and VMW magazines more than doubled
The number of different visitors to the Primeur & VMW news server HOISe more than doubled in the past year, breaking the 10,000 barrier in December with over 10,100 different visitors during that month. The number of page views was close to 50,000.

First Gastein Health Declaration to refocus attention on the patient
In its health policy, the European Union really should focus on the patient. This unanimous consensus emerged at the occasion of the European Health Forum Gastein, the annual Conference that is held at Bad Hofgastein near Salzburg. At the beginning of October 1999, over 300 European experts representing all groups participating in health policy decisions, e.g. science, business, industry, public administration, politics, health care, and patient representatives, elaborated joint proposals and guidelines on current health political topics. The scientifically elaborated results are available now.

Dynamite might speed up medical image processing and surgical simulation tasks
Recently, the Dynamite project, which has been supported by the European Commission in the Fourth Framework Programme, has come to an end. Dynamite is the name of software, based on Parallel Virtual Machine language, which solves load balancing job problems through the migration of tasks in a dynamically linked parallel programme. Dynamite is able to solve load balancing issues for all kinds of compute-intensive applications, equally medical ones. As a result, Genias Benelux, one of the project members, has prepared a marketing study to investigate the suitability and the commercial potential of the Dynamite software within the European health care sector.

Computer-assisted training simulator to sharpen surgeon's skills in laparoscopy and hysteroscopy
Newly emerging minimally invasive surgical procedures such as laparoscopy and hysteroscopy require specific skills both from novice and experienced surgeons. These complex interventions in a patient's abdomen or a woman's uterus need to be frequently trained and practised in detail before the operation can take place safely on the actual patient. In the first half of 1998, a consortium of German, Portuguese and Spanish partners set up a project under the umbrella of the Educational Multimedia Task Force (EMTF) initiative, funded by the European Commission, in order to design an advanced training system called Lahystotrain, for this type of procedures. The surgical simulator will integrate virtual environments and combine them with intelligent tutoring technology to build realistic operation scenarios.

The Internet seen as a divine gift to solve all major problems in health care
The Internet will radically change the face of health care. This was the starting point for keynote speaker Peter G.W. Keen to outline the marks of future health care delivery during the five-day Conference of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), last November. Peter G.W. Keen is recognised as a major consultant and writer in information technology. His viewpoints on the role which Internet will play for each party involved in the health care process of the 21st century can be called visionary.

Zydacron and American TeleCare to provide interoperability for CareTone telephonic stethoscopes
Zydacron has completed interoperability testing for the American Telecare line of CareTone telephonic stethoscopes. The patented CareTone stethoscope is an industry leading technology, that is offered exclusively by American Telecare. It is designed for high quality heart and lungs sounds to pass over either an analogue or digital connection. The CareTone family of products is widely used in home health care and remote diagnostics. It was recently used as a part of the NASA space shuttle missions to monitor the astronauts' medical signals. The Ultra line of stethoscopes utilises the least bandwidth among telephonic stethoscopes on the market today at only 9.6 Kbs. This leaves ample bandwidth for the audio/video functions provided by systems like Zydacron videoconferencing units.

CardioDynamics to address demand for Internet-based home tele-monitoring systems
CardioDynamics International Corp., manufacturer of BioZ non-invasive digital cardiac output monitoring systems, has launched the first phase of its Internet medical product development strategy. It includes the technological infrastructure for an Internet-based electronic data centre, BioZ.net, as well as an electronic commerce programme. CardioDynamics, based in California, has committed itself to fundamentally changing the way haemo-dynamic monitoring is performed in health care. The global market potential for BioZ products is estimated to be $5 billion, with an additional $800 million in recurring annual revenue for disposables.

L&H turns Health Care Solutions business group into separate legal entity status
Lernout & Hauspie, the worldwide market leader in speech and translation technologies, products and services, has announced to prepare several of its business groups for separate legal entity status to better serve the fast growing global market in speech and linguistic technology. Two key divisions thus will gain total independence: Health Care Solutions as well as Globalisation & Internet Translations. The company also plans to consolidate both the Corporate and Telephony Solutions Group Divisions within a proper legal position. These new enterprises will strongly contribute to L&H's status as a global market leader in the area of speech and linguistic technologies for various markets and industrial branches.

Panasonic's DVD-RAM drive to enhance Bio-logic's electro-diagnostic systems
Bio-logic Systems, a pioneer in advancing computerised electro-diagnostic technology, has integrated Panasonic's 5.2 Gb DVD-RAM drive into two of its modular sensory and neurological testing devices. Key benefits of combining the Bio-logic systems with the DVD-RAM drive come down to providing medical professionals with a reliable, low-cost means of storing test results digitally so they can be easily accessed and shared with others.

Accordant Health Services to install multi-media messaging platform to manage chronic diseases
Accordant Health Services, a leading provider of expert systems-driven disease management programmes for complex, chronic diseases, has integrated the Interactive Intelligence's Enterprise Interaction Center's (EIC's) real time web communications option into its clinical call centre. Patients are able to go on-line and without picking up the phone to communicate directly with a nurse in the clinical call centre, by initiating a real time one-on-one chat session. The web chat option allows patients to connect directly with a professional who specialises in their condition.

Clinton announces nearly a $3 billion increase in US Twenty-First Century Research Fund
In a speech at California Institute of Technology, US President Clinton announced that he will include a $2.8 billion increase in the "Twenty-First Century Research Fund" in his FY2001 budget, including a $1 billion increase in biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health and double the largest dollar increase for the National Science Foundation in its 50 year history.These investments should enable America to continue to lead in the 21st century by increasing support in all scientific and engineering disciplines, including biomedical research, nanotechnology, information technology, clean energy, and university-based research.

Benjamin Franklin as inspiring source for ingenious system to guide blind people through the subway
A biomedical engineering team has designed an artificial vision system providing independent mobility to blind people. The system, reflecting more than thirty years in development work by the Dobelle Institute in New York City and its affiliates on Long Island and in Switzerland, allows a totally blind person to achieve visual acuity of about 20/400 within a narrow visual "tunnel". The new device at last materialises Benjamin Franklin's prediction of an artificial vision system he wrote down in his report on the "kite and key" experiment, with which he discovered electricity in 1751.

Celera resolutely has taken the lead in unfolding the human genome
Celera Genomics, a PE Corporation business, has DNA sequence in its database which covers 90 percent of the human genome. As a result of the extensive sequence coverage of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes and based on statistical analysis, Celera believes that greater than 97 percent of all human genes are now represented in this database. The DNA sequence is from more than 10 million high quality sequences, generated at Celera in the world's largest DNA data factory. The sequence, composed out of randomly selected fragments of all human chromosomes, contains over 5.3 billion base pairs, which constitute the letters of the human genetic code, at greater than 99 percent accuracy.

Internet2 capabilities shown in live hernia repair and synchronous 3D patient data consultation
Ohio has become a national technology development leader in testing and evaluating emerging Internet technologies in the United States. Recently, OARnet, a division of Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC), together with a consortium of Ohio universities and corporate partners, was assigned the management of ITEC-Ohio, an Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center. These partners have decided to organise a demonstration in order to explore the capabilities of ITEC-Ohio by performing a live surgical procedure at the Ohio State University (OSU) Medical Center, and a collaborative consultation with cancer patient data using high-performance network tools.

IBM Supercomputer at Johns Hopkins to search for roots of heart and brain disease
At the end of last year, Johns Hopkins University has installed an RS/6000 SP supercomputer in its Center for Imaging Science at the Whiting School of Engineering to help find cures for diseases of the heart and brain via image analysis. Specifically, Johns Hopkins researchers will utilise the IBM system to try to discover why, so often, the brain degenerates with age, and what exactly causes illnesses, such as schizophrenia and dementia. In addition, researchers hope to find out how heart attacks can be avoided by testing different medication combinations on heart models in pre-arrhythmia condition.

American and British legislators show different approach towards on-line consumer drugs sale
The selling of pharmaceuticals via the Internet constitutes a hot issue governments have trouble dealing with. The problem takes the shape of a many-headed dragon, including various aspects. First of all, there is a growing tendency of pharmacies to go on-line and sell prescription drugs to their clients. In second place, policy makers are faced with the illegal Web-based sale of drugs, prescribed by doctors who are not entitled to perform such actions or on-line drugs delivery without any prescription whatsoever. Thirdly, the on-line sale of pharmaceuticals stimulates the illegal importing of medicine via unregulated foreign company Web sites.

L&H's Power Translator Pro software transforms computer and Internet user into real polyglot
Machine translation is definitely outgrowing its infancy. The time when automatic document translation used to provoke laughter because of the often funny and even ridiculous outcomes seems to be over for good and all. An outstanding generation of new software is breaking through in which Power Translator Pro, developed by the leading speech and language expert, Lernout & Hauspie, is the latest hit in advanced translation technology. We were offered the opportunity to test the Power Translator Pro programme and became impressed with its excellent results.

DoubleTwist to integrate Sun tools into portal for life science research
DoubleTwist Inc. has decided to select the Sun Enterprise servers, StorEdge arrays, Solaris Operating Environment, as well as Java technology, all designed by Sun Microsystems, as the technology platforms to implement its unique portal for life science research. This portal offers genetic scientists the ability to search a large number of public and private genetics databases, to isolate sequences, process queries, and even purchase scientific products on-line.

Novartis fights cancer complications with new drug application for Zometa
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation has submitted a new drug application (NDA) to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Zometa, a zoledronic acid for injection, in order to treat tumour-induced hypercalcemia (TIH). A potentially life-threatening disorder, TIH is typically characterised by elevated serum calcium levels in patients, who suffer from cancer. Tumour-induced hypercalcemia constitutes one of the most common metabolic complications associated with cancer. Zometa forms currently the most potent intravenous (IV) bisphosphonate in clinical trials.

Richard Wolf to distribute Vista's 3D medical visualisation technology
Vista Medical Technologies Inc. has concluded a definitive three year agreement whereby Richard Wolf GmbH, a leading competitor in the worldwide endoscopic instrumentation market, will exclusively distribute the Vista 3D visualisation and information integration platform for minimally invasive applications in general surgery, gynaecology and urology, in all markets outside the United States. The companies will also co-market Vista 3D technology in the United States.