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Health News

By: Mendy Hecht

July 19, 2018

Robots Could Deliver Home Care to Aging Populations


S. Petersburg, FL — Among the more fascinating presentations at this year’s annual International Society for Gerontechnology convention was a robot.


Casper is a humanoid machine created by researchers at the University of Toronto, who believe robots will help care for the world’s aging population.


“When it's lunchtime, the robot will find you in your home and say ‘Let’s go to the kitchen,’” the University’s Prof. Goldie Nejat told Fox13 News.


The University of Toronto team was part of the approximately 150 researchers gathering from around the world at the conference—sharing ideas on how new technology can be used to help a growing population of older people to live independently in their own homes longer.


For example, University of South Florida (USF) researchers attending the convention have been studying seniors at The Villages retirement complex, where homes have been outfitted with electronic sensors to trace residents’ movements and use of appliances, chairs, beds, and bathrooms.  Caregivers and even family members in other states can monitor them and be alerted to things like falls or changing sleeping, eating or bathroom habits.


Microsoft Invests $25 Million in AI for Disabilities


Seattle, WA — At its recent annual Build conference for software developers, Microsoft launched a $25 million initiative to use artificial intelligence to build better technology for people with disabilities.


According to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, the new “AI for Accessibility” five-year initiative will include seed grants for startups, nonprofit organizations and academic researchers, as well as deeper investments and expertise from Microsoft researchers.


Microsoft President Brad Smith said the company hopes to empower people by accelerating the development of AI tools that provide them with more opportunities for independence and employment.


“It may be an accessibility need relating to vision or deafness or to something like autism or dyslexia,” Smith said in an interview. “There are about a billion people on the planet who have some kind of disability, either permanent or temporary.”


Those people already have “huge potential,” he said, but “technology can help them accomplish even more.”


“People with disabilities are often overlooked when it comes to technology advances, but Microsoft sees this as a key area to address concerns over the technology and compete against Google, Amazon and IBM,” said Nick McQuire, an analyst at CCS Insight.


Bacteria Therapy Tested for Common Skin Disease


In a small study, a treatment using bacteria normally found on healthy skin reduced the severity of a common skin disease called atopic dermatitis.  The results pave the way for a larger, carefully controlled study of the therapy.


Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema.  It can make skin dry and extremely itchy.  Rashes can form inside the elbows, behind the knees, and on the face, hands, and feet.  The cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown.


Recently, animal and lab tests suggest that bacteria known as Roseomonas mucosa collected from healthy skin have qualities that may hold promise for treating people with atopic dermatitis.


Based on those findings, investigators at NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) designed an early stage clinical trial to test the safety and potential benefit of a treatment containing R. mucosa for people with atopic dermatitis. 


Scientists used strains of R. mucosa from healthy skin to make the experimental treatment.  They provided the bacterial therapy to ten adults and five children with atopic dermatitis. The adults sprayed the treatment on the inside of their forearms near the elbow twice a week for six weeks. The children had the treatment applied to all affected skin areas twice weekly for 12 weeks and every other day for an additional four weeks.


The research, published recently in JCI Insight, found that six of the ten adults and four of the five children had over 50 percent improvement in their atopic dermatitis.