Links to the Future

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’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.

Neuroscience Research Kicks Off World Cup
With all eyes on the soccer pitch as the World Cup began, a team from the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering took the field to share work they knew would “shock the world.” Led by Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, the team watched their efforts come to fruition as 29-year-old Juliano Pinto, a young man with complete lower-trunk paralysis, kicked a soccer ball into a goal using a robotic exoskeleton system controlled by its wearer’s mind.


Start-up Develops One-Drop Blood TestIf a one-drop blood test with same-day results sounds like a dream come true, feel free to pinch yourself. Researcher and entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes has launched “Theranos,” a blood analysis capable of conducting up to 30 tests on a single drop of blood. Because many tests are completed on-site, this approach not only promises faster results, it can also eliminate errors that sometimes arise during shipping.


Lung Cancer Breath Test Could “Revolutionize Lung Cancer Screening”Soon, testing for lung cancer could be as easy as breathing, according to oncologist Dr. Nir Peled, who recently presented his research findings to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. It’s still in the works, but Peled and his team have developed a breathalyzer-based exam to test for and analyze evidence of lung cancer. If the team is able to perfect the process, it would be a huge step for diagnosing and treating the most deadly form of cancer.


Sifting Through “Big Data” for Medical InsightsMore than ever, the world is run by data — and the medical world doubly so. But with all this data comes a problem: too much data. Now, researchers and analysts are looking for ways to cut through the jungle of facts and figures to find real, actionable insights. Their data-crunching has begun to yield surprising news like this: Men with abnormally high levels of PSA (prostate specific antigen), a possible marker for prostate cancer, were also more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer in the coming year.


Ultrasound Bests CT Scan in Diagnosing Kidney Stones A recent study shows that using an ultrasound to search for kidney stones may be more effective than the traditional CT scan method. Though this study is considered “preliminary,” the possibility of adopting ultrasounds as the primary method of kidney stone diagnosis is an exciting development that could reduce the patient’s exposure to radiation as well as overall costs.


Single Molecule May Help Diagnose Mental Disorders Did you know that depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders impact an estimated 10% of the world’s population? Developing a better understanding of the underlying causes of these disorders is a necessary step in being able to improve diagnosis and treatment — and now scientists from the Weizmann Institute believe they have found a “therapeutic molecule” that could drive such improvements.