November 1998

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Laserbeamed biochip detects blood disorders
Molecular nanotechnology and nanomedicine scientific concepts involve the art of manipulating atoms in such a way that you can use their characteristics to build fully new materials and objects. As if scientists were to be offered "the finger of God" to create whatever they want. A team of researchers at the Sandia National Laboratory and the National Institutes of Health recently developed a biochip which in a flash detects blood disorders and nanometer-scale changes in cell structure by inserting blood samples into a laser beam generation process. Is this one of the first medical breakthroughs, nanophilosopher Michael Wisz has in mind when expressing his firm belief that "molecular nanotech will come with tiny probes cruising the bloodstream looking for foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria in a attempt to eliminate most of the infectious diseases"?

Globus metacomputing environment offers framework for telemedicine
A joint team of researchers from the Mathematics and Computer Science Division of the Argonne National Laboratory and from the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute is developing a basic software infrastructure for high performance computing which integrates all sorts of geographically distributed computational and information resources. The scientists, involved in the project, refer to this framework of interlinked virtual supercomputers as the Globus metacomputing toolkit. Large-scale testbeds are deployed to evaluate the performance and functionality of the various tools and to figure out how to construct applications that can exploit the distributed resources available on a computational grid. In this regard, the researchers have discovered how the modular Globus toolkit components are able to provide the indispensable low level mechanisms for the specific requirements and higher level services in a telemedical environment.

$5 million telemedicine grant will bring disabled people back on their feet again
The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research has awarded the Sister Kenny Institute a five million dollar federal grant for five years. The money will allow the institute to expand its various existing rehabilitation programmes via telemedicine consultations in the clinics and hospitals of greater Minnesota, and even in the patients' homes. No matter where they live, people with a disability, as well as their caretakers or family will benefit from the access to the most advanced rehabilitation methods. The grant has been offered to Sister Kenny Institute in partnership with the Catholic University of America and the National Rehabilitation Hospital, that both are situated in Washington D.C.

Virtual reality simulator trains microsurgical skills
The progressive miniaturization of surgical procedures and tools invests the concept of virtual reality with a new and revolutionary role. At the 67th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (ASPRS), held in Boston last month, the organizers presented a study, conducted by Dr. Paul J. Gorman, which highlights the benefits of advanced virtual reality training tools for the development of the plastic surgeon's skills. Medical experts already dream of replacing the basic training in microsurgery with virtual reality simulation.

Self-care diabetes programmes encourage responsibility
Health organizations are rapidly discovering the use of new approaches such as telemedicine, disease management, and telephone triage systems, for the development of self-care management techniques for diabetics. Today, we are witnessing an exponential market growth for diabetes drugs and monitoring supplies which will reach $7.6 billion by the end of this year. Details about revenues and growth rates for self-testing and self-treatment products and services from 1993 through 2003 are figuring in "Diabetes Care Markets", a freshly issued report by Feedback Research Services.

Wouldn't you like to fly in the telemedicine balloon?
At the end of December, Dave Liniger, Bob Martin and John Wallington will make a new attempt to fly around the world in a balloon. Physicians and researchers of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (UCHSC) will participate in the mission, sponsored by RE/MAX International, to offer medical advice and monitoring by means of advanced telemedicine communications. The Technology Integrations company for Medical Applications will be responsible for the systems implementation of medical devices whereas AT&T will provide global technical communications support. Similar equipment has been used during the telemedicine guided Everest Extreme Expedition, earlier this year in May.


Digital imaging replaces traditional X-Ray films in Dutch hospital
Little by little, the storage of X-Ray data on conventional film will disappear from the modern 21st century hospital. In the Netherlands, Philips Medical Systems (PMS) is now partnering with the Arnhem Rijnstate medical facility in a ten year project to generate a fully "filmless" hospital. The idea is to turn Rijnstate into a pilot site to serve as an example for other Dutch medical centres. In this capacity, the hospital has been able to obtain a special contract with reduced price settings. A large scale initiative of this size and ambition is truly unique within the Dutch health care sector, as stated by the Automatisering Gids .

Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council pushes its telemedicine systems
Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital constitutes the principal association of health care facilities in the Northeast of Texas, with no less than 82 member institutions. The major challenge involves the delivery of health care services to customers who are difficult to reach geographically or unattainable in the normal space of time. In these cases, direct patient interaction is extremely expensive and inefficient, if not ineffective . Because telemedicine forms an affordable answer to the problem, the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Association has signed an agreement with VidiMedix for the promotion of this company's telemedicine systems, peripherals, related products, system integration and maintenance services.

MetroHealth System smoothens patient record access
The MetroHealth System has recently decided to select Hewlett Packard 9000 Enterprise Servers to upgrade the hospital's IT infrastructure and to optimize secure access to the electronic patient records' archive for all of the organization's outpatient facilities. The Cleveland based health care provider has chosen to standardize on the HP-UX operating environment in order to guarantee the high speed transmission of large volume medical data between the various health care locations.

Endovascular prosthesis implantation benefits from advanced imaging
The newest minimally invasive technique to treat abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) is called endovascular prosthesis implantation. Professor of Vascular Surgery at the Utrecht University Hospital, Bert Eikelboom, is working together with Philips Medical Systems to apply state-of-the-art pre-operative Computed Tomography (CT) and high quality fluoroscopic imaging during the surgical intervention. The patients are carefully selected with use of ultrasonography to detect the typical structure of the arteries. In case the images meet the selection criteria, exact measurements are performed on the segments of the affected vessel by means of CT angiography. The prosthesis is introduced and correctly positioned under fluoroscopic control. CT again is applied to assess the post-operative condition of the aneurysm with regard to the implantation.

Scanning Thermal Microscopy goes one step further
In June 1998, a project was set up by the British Technology Transfer Node (TTN) Entice to explore the potential offered by a new imaging modality, consisting of Tomographic Analysis with Scanning Microscopy (TASM). This revolutionary approach allows researchers to image below the surface of materials to show their three-dimensional microstructure. The basic technique originates from medical imaging practices, referred to as Electrical Impedance Tomography (EIT). EIT images represent the changes in electrical conductivity occurring between various types of tissue. The new Scanning Thermal Microscopy (SThM) method goes one step further, since TASM images display the 3D spatial distribution of thermal conductivity. TASM enables industrial chemists to reveal material characteristics which are of vital importance for the modelling of polymer-based systems.

Parallel computing enhances health care analysis
Three University Hospitals and a software technology provider are partnering with the Entice Technology Transfer Nodes (TTN) co-ordinator in a project, called CAMRA, for the improvement of Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Analysis. The hospital end-users aim to optimize cardiac diagnosis through the combination of high performance computing with low cost analysis of magnetic resonance (MR) images. The project team is using multi-processor PC-compatible systems, that run under Windows NT, to turn Mayo Clinic's ANALYZE software into an enhanced analysis programme. For this purpose, the computer specialists are parallelizing existing serial algorithms, which will eventually allow the physician to shift from qualitative to quantitative image interpretation.

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is testbed for brain cancer radiotherapy treatment planning
The Department of Bio-Medical Physics at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary is participating in the THERAPY project, set up by the Entice TTN (Technology Transfer Nodes) and the Parallel Applications Centre (PAC), to assess the value of the RAPT treatment planning system in the everyday clinical practice of a hospital environment. The work started on April 1st 1998 and will end by April 30th 1999. The THERAPY initiative provides remote high performance computing tools and advanced 3D medical imaging techniques in order to plan adequate and effective radiotherapy treatment for brain cancer patients.


Phred, Phrap and Consed perform better on HP 9000 Exemplar server
During the 10th International Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference, Hewlett Packard issued the news that biotechnologists at the University of Washington in Seattle, have installed the company's HP 9000 Exemplar server to enhance the speed and performance of DNA-sequencing applications. Phred, Phrap and Consed are three integrated base-calling and sequence-assembly applications, which are intensively used in the human genome research. In order to obtain a more effective use of the HP server multiprocessor capacities by increasing the throughput, Southwest Parallel Software has assisted with the parallelizing of the Phrap software.

Siemens and Picker embrace CT technology
Two major original equipment manufacturers (OEM) of CT or computed tomography systems have signed a transatlantic agreement to support each other in the development of innovative multi-slice technology for advanced clinical applications. The German Medical Engineering Group of Siemens AG, based in Erlangen, will collaborate with Picker International Corporation, headquartered in Cleveland, to continue a 1996 contract with Elscint Ltd. The CT division of this latter company will pass into the hands of Picker management.

New PUSH 640 Display to deliver affordable 3D immersion at your desktop
A successful co-operation between Fakespace and i-O Display Systems has led to the spectacular release of the new PUSH 640 Desktop Display for less than $10,000. The binocular device enables scientists and industrial developers to perform immersive visualization of 3D models and

computer-generated simulations at entry-level or mid-range workstations. The immersive viewing system combines the i-O Display Systems' full colour VGA-quality stereo optics of 640 x 480 pixels per eye with the Fakespace patented PUSH navigation platform. This allows the user to enjoy six degrees of freedom in extensive virtual spaces, as well as to examine virtual models in detail by means of the Virtual Library (VLIB) software.

Ultra-fast electronic submission of new drug applications
Three firms have come together to help the Pfizer pharmaceutical company develop a cost-effective solution for the conversion of documents to electronic formats. The so-called DocCon application will be used for the internal review of new drug applications as well as for their submission to the US government's Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To this purpose, Platform Computing has delivered the LSF Suite analysis and workload management software to harness the power of Compaq's Windows NT based workstations' cluster, whereas Infodata Systems has provided vast expertise in organizing the workflow for both electronic document creation and management. The DocCon solution will allow Pfizer to process 60.000 pages in 24 hours.

Nortel's broadband wireless access network trials in Taiwan
Nortel has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Taiwan National University to demonstrate the transmission capacities and the applications potential of its Reunion broadband wireless access network. The try-out will serve as a "case study" to assess the quality of broadband wireless access technology in distance learning programmes, videoconferences, multimedia digital libraries and telemedicine.

VidiMedix to partner with Data General for desktop telemedicine
VidiMedix designs advanced desktop telemedicine systems, allowing bridging time and distance to bring high quality medical care and information to the patient's doorstep. The company recently formed a strategic alliance with Data General Corporation, a supplier of high-end NT, CLARiiON Fibre Channel storage systems, Unix AViiON servers, as well as related software and services. The synergy with this company will optimize the VidiMedix telemedicine approach with Intel-based servers and will provide an opportunity for joint marketing efforts.


Special issue on Esprit projects
The news magazines Primeur and VMW, prepare an update on all HPCN or medical Esprit projects in special issues that will be published in conjunction with the large IST event (the former Esprit/Telematics conference) in Vienna late November/early December of this year.

Do your own online surgery simulation
The world of surgery simulators is getting more crowded everyday. This is very positive news for medical students, trainees and surgeons in the various specialized hospital departments. The performance of complicated procedures and innovative surgical techniques can be trained extensively without having to involve the patient in the impending risks of experimental try-outs. At the Manchester Visualisation Centre, situated at the University of Manchester, Dr. Nigel W. John and Dr. Nick Philips, who is active at the Department of Neurosurgery at Leeds General Infirmary, have decided to establish a resource for online surgical training tools. A first Web-based surgical trainer for simulation of ventricular catheterisation has already been installed. To run the simulator, the researchers have implemented Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML).

Computational Fluid Dynamics simulate blood flow in the heart
A freshly launched project, funded by the European Commission, will integrate the use of relatively inexpensive High Performance Computing and Networking (HPCN) techniques, such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), in the research for the exact functioning of the human cardiovascular system. The partners plan to build a simulator to study the impact of various cardiac prostheses, like stents, grafts, heart pumps or artificial valves, on the interaction with the blood flow. The bloodsim tool may be adopted in a later stage by the regulatory authorities to issue strict directives in the validation procedure of prostheses before they enter the commercial market.

Trans-European research network gets a boost
Unisource Belgium has been awarded a three year contract of 60 Mecu (2,4 billion BEF) for the development of the major part of the Trans-European Network, referred to as TEN-155, by DANTE. The new European research network, TEN-155, officially will be operable from December 1st 1998. In the months to come, the bandwidth capacities for researchers will be upgraded to 155 Mbps in eight European countries, namely Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Distributed Intelligence assists in collaborative decision making
Just imagine a number of doctors at different remote locations to dispose of a completely automated discussion forum tool to decide upon the appropriate treatment for a specific patient. No special requirements needed to enter the platform at the exact time as your colleagues do. You can share the experience of a distributed, asynchronous collaboration by means of the assisting guidance of an intelligent system equipped with intuitive interfaces for information retrieval from remote databases and with linguistic modules for natural language processing and argument building. All you need is a Web browser and Internet access to join the medical debate within the user-friendly framework of the World Wide Web.

Health care transaction booms in Flanders Language Valley
The Flanders Language Valley Fund has made an investment of 3 million dollars in Sequoia Software Corporation, an American designer and support provider in leading-edge solutions for health care transaction services. The Flanders Language Valley (FLV) initiative has been set up by Lernout & Hauspie, the world leader in speech technology, to concentrate industrial manufacturers, specialized in speech recognition systems and all relating technologies in one giant business park near the Flemish town of Ieper. Sequoia Software, founded in 1982, will open a new division in FLV for expansion of its activities within Europe. The FLV Fund has acquired 13,95% of Sequoia's shares, in order to forge a strategic partnership with Lernout & Hauspie to further develop advanced speech products for the medical sector.


Japanese institute orders NEC to develop new medicines
The Computer Centre of the Institute for Molecular Science (CCIMS) in Japan has ordered a four-processor SX-5/4 with 32 Gflop/s peak performance and 32 GByte main memory. The system will be delivered to CCIMS in January, 1999 and will be operational in February.

Gynaecologists will take real time 3D picture of unborn child
At the Bologna Hospital in Italy, a project currently is running to acquire 3D images from ultrasound scanning in real time. The PARSEMED initiative is coordinated by the French division of TTN or Technology Transfer Nodes to generate a literally new dimension in sonographic technology. The gynaecologists will be the first end-users of the innovative 3D system which enables physicians to immediately obtain a 3D reconstruction of the foetus for optimum diagnosis of the baby's condition.

Virtual neurosurgery reduces unexpected complications
In the last 25 years, neurosurgery has been subject to a profound evolution. The impact of advanced technologies has completely changed the aspect of this medical discipline. During the seventies, the introduction of micro-surgical techniques gave way to the adoption of standards based on the practice of neurosurgery. In the successive years, this ruling philosophy has led to a radical development of miniaturization in surgical approaches. At the end of the nineties we are witnessing the consolidation of minimal invasive neurosurgery. Dr. Enric Ferrer Rodriguez, head of neurosurgery in the University Hospital of Barcelona, has summarised the issue very clearly in the Catalonian supercomputer magazine Teraflop : more surgical efficiency with less risks and less trauma for the patient.

Second ATSP Annual Conference gets down to telemedicine business
Last September, the second annual conference of the Association of Telemedicine Service Providers (ATSP) was held in Portland, Oregon. The ATSP members were not just invited to come and listen to presentations on unresolved issues, but to actively join a working meeting, where they could exchange ideas, and witness "shoot-out" equipment demonstrations. The attendees received a nice opportunity to learn and concentrate on the problems of individual telemedicine businesses and the industry as a whole. Of special interest was a dedicated conference track on regional planning and telemedicine services.

Medical Resources delivers professional radiology services
Based in the state of New York, Medical Resources owns about one hundred diagnostic imaging centres in the whole of the United States. Recently, the company has come to an agreement with the International Radiology Group (IRG), headquartered in Texas, for the regular supply of professional radiology services to those diagnostic imaging centres that are not yet under exclusive contract with other professional radiology service providers.

First aid package for DICOM related problem solving
Merge Technologies, a specialist in diagnostic medical imaging software and hardware, has developed the first product in a series of DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) Protocol Analyzer tools. The MergeDPM diagnostic software package will substantially facilitate the servicing of DICOM enabled system products. DICOM application users no longer need to return affected equipment to the provider for repair or check-up analysis. Both Philips and GE Medical Systems already have ordered the programme.