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"Individuals are unique not only in terms of their genetic make-up and personality, but also in terms of their health. The course of a disease and the recuperation process differ from one person to another. This is why prevention, diagnosis and treatment should be individually tailored to each person".
How technical innovations are driving forward personalised medicine
Ever since the earliest beginnings of medicine, individual diagnosis and treatment have formed part of a doctor’s daily work. The term ‘personalised medicine’ goes much further, however. Supported by technical innovations, personalised medicine improves not only diagnostic accuracy but also the success of therapy.
As such, it makes for more efficient and effective medical treatment of the individual patient. Examples include patient-specific diagnostics, individually adapted implants and prosthetics or indeed the holistic use of patient data within the framework of digitisation.
Personalised medicine saves lives
Entirely new materials may be used for patient-specific diagnosis, such as nanoparticle-based materials for conductive and flexible electrodes. Patients can wear patches featuring integrated sensors, for example. As a result, they remain independent and can cope with their daily activities. The flexible electrodes help detect arrhythmia and allow the patient’s heart to be continuously monitored. As soon as the cardiac data deviate from the norm, the patches automatically transmit the information to the patient’s doctor. As such, they act as an early warning system for life-threatening events. This not only saves lives; it also offers considerable economic potential given that it enables lengthy and costly hospital stays to be avoided, as well as the necessary after-care and rehabilitation processes.
Smart plasters help wounds heal more quickly
Another example of personalised medicine relates to the healing of wounds. Wounds sometimes heal quickly, and sometimes more slowly. Some people have significant problems with wound healing and suffer from chronic wounds. For such patients in particular, replacing the plaster prematurely can be counterproductive in terms of the healing process. Smart plasters support the process by using colour-coding for example to indicate whether the plaster needs to be changed. In addition, drugs can be incorporated into these new plasters, providing for instance an antibiotic in the wound area to accelerate the individual healing process.
From applied research to final product
"These examples constitute a direct part of my work – I am involved from project application through to implementation. These technologies have not been used in medicine as yet because some key results are still outstanding and the issue of patient safety has to be clarified. We expect it to take another three to five years to complete the development process and prepare the approval applications."
Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nano Systems
Dr Mario Baum is an industrial engineer and head of the Smart Health business unit at the Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nano Systems (ENAS) in the east German city of Chemnitz. He conducts research in the fields of microsystems technology and micro- and nanotechnologies. Together with his colleagues, Dr Baum wants to transfer findings from basic research into application-oriented research projects with a view to creating innovative products.www.enas.fraunhofer.de