Digital technology at the heart (and brain) of this year’s Discovery Health Zone

April 26, 2013

With each passing day more and more is being discovered about the human body, how it works and how to fix it when there is a problem. Two parts of the body that are receiving a lot of attention are two of the most vital: the brain and the heart. Digital technology is now playing a significant role in healthcare, allowing us to examine these two engines in a way we never could before – a theme that is evident at this year’s Discovery conference and trade show.

According to the Ontario Brain Institute (OBI), one million Ontarians currently suffer from a brain disorder. New innovations in technology are changing treatments for brain injuries and illnesses, allowing for faster and more effective recovery than ever. 

“The brain is an incredibly complex organ, and health and wellness approaches involving the brain have historically lagged behind care involving the rest of the body. However, thanks to new technology and knowledge about brain functioning, that is changing,” says Alvro Fernandez CEO of SharpBrains, in a blog post for Young Upstarts. Fernandez also states that the combination of digital health and wellness tools and an emerging focus on Big Data, has the potential to further revolutionalize brain research and treatment.
One of the companies leading this charge is Mynd Tec (formally Simple Systems) based in Mississauga. Mynd Tec has developed a therapy called RECLAIM, which uses electrical stimulation to retrain the brain to restore voluntary arm and hand movements for stroke and spinal cord injury (SCI) patients. These patients have realized dramatic gains in self-care independence after just eight weeks of treatment. 

OCE supported Mynd Tec in 2011 with Market Readiness funding of RECLAIM and in April of 2012 Mynd Tec won the TiEQuest award for the therapy. This interactive technology will be showcased as part of the Health Zone at Discovery, May 27-28 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, where attendees will be able to watch demonstrations and interact with the founders of Mynd Tec.

With six million people now suffering from heart failure in North America alone, the heart is another part of the human body that is being studied more than ever. Of these people, up to 50% of them are admitted back to hospital because of complications and medication issues. A Waterloo-based company called Nicoya Lifesciences is looking to change that with a new prototype. 

The company has designed a system that allows heart failure patients to test their blood for warning signs from anywhere with instant analysis. The system uses a drop of blood and small machine connected to a smartphone, which uploads the results directly to the patient’s medical files. This allows the doctor to easily follow a patient’s progress and determine if action is necessary. 

“When we tell people the story behind what we’re trying to do with heart failure, everyone instantly sees how huge a problem it is, and how desperate the need is for a solution,” says Ryan Denomme, founder and CEO of Nicoya Lifescience. “People see how [heart disease] is dealt with now, and say there has to be something better.”

Nicoya Lifescience is pursuing that “something better,” with their solution that is also easier and more cost efficient. Denomme aims to help reduce re-hospitalization by 60% and save the North-American healthcare system $6 billion with this technology that will also be showcased in Discovery’s Health Zone.

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