Health care is constantly changing — from new technologies and methods used by doctors to legislation and policies that shift the entire landscape of medicine and health insurance. Within Highmark Health’s culture of innovation, new ideas are constantly being created, reviewed, discussed and implemented. With that in mind, this Links to the Future series will highlight some of the many fascinating articles and studies we come across, with a focus on the research, technologies and practices that will change and save lives in the near and distant future.


Links to the Future

Making Wearables Better Through the Power of … Chewing Gum? Wearables are helping people all over the globe to track and improve their activity levels, fitness, diet, sleep and other aspects of health. There’s just one problem: they’re easy to break. Scientists from the University of Manitoba are aiming to fix this by using chewing gum, combined with carbon nanotubes, to develop more flexible trackers you can wear — without wearing them out.

Are Wireless Implants the Key to Treating “Untreatable” Pain? New, wireless implants may help alleviate previously untreatable pain, according to researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. These small, flexible devices provide an advantage over traditional devices that need to be anchored to something solid like a bone, and often tethered to power sources. The new devices, which use wireless technology and microLED lights to activate nerve cells, can be implanted in previously hard-to-reach places around the bladder, stomach, heart and other organs.

Newly Discovered Chemical Could Stop Progression of Alzheimer’sResearchers in Korea have discovered that a taurine-like chemical, called EPPS, can be used to break up toxic plaques that develop in the brain in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The scientists found that EPPS removed plaque on the brains of mice, helping to restore cognitive function. The researchers say it’s too soon to tell if these findings will ultimately benefit humans living with Alzheimer’s, but they believe the research will be beneficial to the study of Alzheimer’s regardless.

Researchers Eliminate PTSD in Mice by Blocking a Single GeneBy blocking a single gene in mice conditioned to feel fear, researchers at the Yale School of Medicine have shown it’s possible to eliminate a chronic fear response — a fact that may have implications in treating post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in humans. The receptor related to the chronic fear response, say the researchers, is similar to one in humans, which gives them hope that this new finding will one day lead to effective gene therapy to help sufferers of PTSD.

Study Finds Evidence of Weight Loss Through Brain StimulationA new study shows that brain stimulation may provide a solution to the increasing problem of obesity. Although much more research is needed, psychologists at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases say that preliminary tests showed that direct current brain stimulation caused obese study participants to consume fewer calories, leading to weight loss.

Unlocking the Secrets of Attention by Mapping Brain CircuitsA research team at NYU is working to create a map of brain circuits that may lead to improved treatment of neurological disorders involving attention. By better understanding the roots of attention in the brain, the scientists hope their research will help answer questions and provide treatments for conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD, sometimes also known as Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD), autism and schizophrenia.