Health & Medicine

Currently commercially available Australian world first products and technologies in health and medicine.

 A highly potent killer of all types of germs

Billions are spent annually trying to stop the destructive effects of bacteria and viruses in hospitals, agriculture, food and paint preservation, air conditioning and industrial plants, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. The limitations of conventional chemical applications is that they can be toxic, only work for a short period or only kill some germs - leaving others to flourish.

Now, a chemical product called CHEMYDE released by Chemeq Pty Ltd offers a revolutionary solution to many of the problems associated with bacteria and viruses. It is non-irritating to eyes and skin, and if swallowed is non-toxic. Patents have been approved in 20 countries.

The product was developed by Dr Graham Melrose over a six year period and its unique properties make it a highly potent killer of all types of germs, including viruses. Its potency is further enhanced by the fact that it remains active for up to 9 months.

CHEMYDE, a polymer, ruptures outer membranes of micro organisms and kills them. Because it is such a large molecule, it is harmless to humans because it can not penetrate skin or pass through the intestine and into the blood stream.

There are three major applications for the product. As a preservative for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and toiletries. As a soft invisible coating which kills all types of germs and protects against re-infection on things like skin, hospital products made from non-woven fabrics, cotton, hospital carpets. And, in plastics or paints it protects against deterioration and prevents the growth of fungi.

CHEMYDE may lead to unique new products, with unique new selling points, such as health-care sprays, wipes, hand-rubs, creams, powders and lotions. Drugs are yet more options being considered for the use of the product.

 Skin disinfectant for optimum hygiene

Hygiene is crucial not only to people working in hospitals such as surgeons, but also to those in community services, industry and agriculture where infection or cross-infection is a risk. In high risk situations, continued hand washing is often not enough. Even 'clean' hands can harbour microscopic micro-organisms.

In 1970, chemist Rod Tomlinson invented the world's most efficient skin disinfectant, which was commercialised by Soltec Research Pty Ltd in 1985.

Hexifoam is a powerful thermophobic foam containing chlorhexidine acetate with 60% ethyl alcohol, considered to be the most effective broad spectrum skin disinfectant available today. Sprayed from a pressurised can, a single, precisely measured application of the foam kills 99.99% of all bacteria tested in 60 seconds. It is also active against fungi, yeasts and viruses. The high ethanol content rapidly wets, penetrates and kills the micro-organisms and the chlorhexidine suppresses their regrowth for several hours. Hexifoam also contains special emollients to reduce skin dryness and irritation caused by frequent hand washing.

The innovation has not only increased levels of hygiene, it has also substantially reduced the need for endless supplies of towels and laundering.

 World's first vaccine for Q fever

Often misdiagnosed as influenza, Q fever's symptoms are fever up to 40C, chills, severe headache and muscle pains which last for one to three weeks. Death from Q fever is extremely rare and following recovery from Q fever, most patients are immune for life. However, various complications like endocarditis and hepatitis can occur. First identified in Australia in the 1930s, the highly contagious disease is a particular occupational hazard for workers in farms, dairies, abattoirs and veterinary personnel. New recruits and non-immune visitors to contaminated environments are especially at risk.

Caused by a microorganism called Coxiella burnetii, cattle, sheep and goats are often the most significant source for human infection, although dogs, cats and kangaroos also spread the disease. People can be infected by inhaling moisture and dust which has been contaminated by placental tissues, birth fluids or excreta of infected animals; direct contact with contaminated materials such as straw, wool or hides, or during the slaughtering of infected animals; or drinking unpasteurised milk from an infected animal. In some countries, Q fever has been observed in the general population along routes used to move sheep from one pasture to another.

Following extensive successful trials with abattoir workers in South Australia from 1981 to 1988, CSL Limited released the first commercially available vaccine for Q fever, called Q-Vax.

But because vaccination of people who have been exposed to Q fever naturally or by previous vaccination, can result in severe local or general reactions, blood and skin tests must be taken before vaccination.

 Quick safe asthma relief from technology application

Asthma. Although rarely fatal, the respiratory disease characterised by unpredictable periods of acute breathlessness and wheezing can be a very serious condition, especially in young children. Asthma can not be cured, but it can be controlled with a variety of drugs. One of these drugs is Ventolin.

Until the ingenious development of sterile Ventolin Nebules by Glaxo Australia Pty Ltd, people with asthma had to buy a bottle of Ventolin respirator solution, carefully measure a dose, add sterile water or saline solution, put it in a nebuliser attached to a face mask and connected to an electric pump, before inhaling. Glaxo Australia was the first subsidiary in the world to apply Blow-Fill-Seal technology from the United States to producing Ventolin Nebules, which has benefited countless numbers of asthmatics around the world, giving them a high quality, safe and easy to use product.

Nebules are a sterile plastic unit dose delivery system produced in a high speed Blow-Fill-Seal machine. While Blow-Fill-Seal technology can be used to pack a number of pharmaceutical products, it is best suited to sterile unit dose delivery systems like the Ventolin Nebules.

Glaxo Australia has committed substantial capital and human resources to develop new applications for Blow-Fill-Seal technology for human medicines at it's global centre in Victoria.

 Oral vaccine for acute bronchitis

During winter, many people suffer from chest infections which often begin as a common cold. These infections often result in bronchitis, which means a trip to the doctor, time off work and in serious cases, being confined to bed or even hospitalisation. The typical symptoms are chills, tiredness, tight chest, breathing difficulties and in more severe cases, coughing up phlegm. The culprit has been identified as the infectious Haemophilus influenza.

Smokers, the elderly, people who work in dirty or dusty environments, and people with damaged lungs are most at risk.

Now an oral vaccine is available to help prevent bronchitis. Developed in 1985 by Professor Robert Clancy at the University of Newcastle and commercialised four years later by Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Australia Pty Ltd, Broncostat significantly increases the resistance to the infectious influenza by stimulating the body's natural immune system and reduces attacks of acute bronchitis by up to 90% and provides immunity against Haemophilus influenza for up to six months.

 World's smallest ECG and heart pacemaker monitors

The team of biomedical engineers at Micromedical Industries Limited are the innovators behind the world's smallest electrocardiogram (ECG) and heart pacemaker monitors commercialised by the company in 1991. The three products, Biolog, Paceview and Heart Tel are easy to use, 'intelligent' time saving devices that can send signals via the telephone for instant analysis by doctors.

Biolog is a unique hand-held battery-powered portable ECG monitor that provides physicians with instant, accurate, high resolution displays of ECG waveforms and heart rate. The instrument is simply held on the patient's chest. No cables or ECG electrodes are required.

Paceview can accurately monitor all heart pacemakers, regardless of type, age, or manufacturer. The instrument precisely displays pacer pulse markers on the ECG along with the pacemaker pulse shape and enables physicians to detect problems such as lead fracture, malfunction and pacer battery depletion. The single battery-powered hand-held unit replaces four devices currently used for pacemaker analysis, and negates the need for technicians, electrocardiographs, oscilloscopes, cameras or an external power source.

Stored data from both Biolog and Paceview can be transferred to the printer by remote infra-red transmission or merged into patient records on computer.

Heart Tel can track heart data over many days or weeks, dramatically increasing the likelihood of monitoring and diagnosing important cardiac events. The solid-state device is lightweight and can be conveniently worn during everyday activities. With Heart Tel, people with heart problems can take their own ECG and send it over the telephone line rather than go to a doctor's office.

The company's innovative products are sold in Australia, United States, United Kingdom, China, Italy, France, Germany and Scandinavia.

The inventive team of biomedical engineers at Micromedical Industries are now working on new special sports versions for athletes and general fitness as well as for home heart care services for congestive heart failure patients, with its Cardiac Monitoring System (CMS).

CMS is an extension of the Micromedical product range, which will provide a monitoring service outside the hospital environment for use by the patient who has been assessed as having a risk of a cardiac event. This process is carried out under the supervision of a physician.

The patient will be able to monitor their own cardiac performance and transmit the data to the doctor via transtelephonic communication. The physician will then be able to analyse the data by comparing it to past ECG data and other clinical information. CMS should allow earlier detection and prompt treatment of recuring heart problems, and will not only save lives, but will also improve the quality of life and reduce the cost of medical treatments for patients with known heart ailments.

 Bionic ear for the severely deaf

Advances in biological engineering and its application to hearing loss, has lead to the development of a revolutionary bionic ear called a cochlear implant which is helping people to converse better and interact more in the hearing world.

Called the Mini System 22 Cochlear Implant, the device is the world's most sophisticated hearing aid, which has proved to be the most exciting development for the severely and profoundly deaf this century.

The implant originated in the late 1970s from the pioneering work of Professor Graeme Clark and his research team from the University of Melbourne. Implanted into the ear it is an electronic device which helps people who are profoundly deaf, including those with nerve deafness.

The new implant consists of three parts. A directional microphone, cable and transmitter which is worn on the back of the ear; the speech processor worn on the belt; and the cochlear implant embedded into the mastoid bone behind the ear and connected to the cochlear via a thin electrode lead.

Sounds are picked up by the microphone and sent to the speech processor connected to it. The processor analyses the signals and splits them into 22 channels. The signals are then sent to the implant or receiver/stimulator which then transmits them via an electrode to nerves in the inner ear.

While conventional hearing aids only amplify sounds, the Mini System 22 works by bypassing the outer ear, and the damaged hair cells and going directly to the intact nerve fibres in the inner ear. When stimulated these nerves send auditory signals to the brain for interpretation.

People with the cochlear implants have to be trained to use the device correctly. The process requires close co-operation between the recipient and specially trained audiologists.

In November 1991, 12 months old Alexander Bley was stricken by a severe bacterial disease which triggered a serious decline in his physical condition. He subsequently lost the capacity to sit up, to vocalise and recognise his parents. And he could not hear the sounds around him.

Routine investigations established that Alexander had profound deafness and had ceased to respond to words and sounds. He was referred to the German Paediatric Support Service for hearing impaired children, then the Children's Cochlear Implant Centre in Hannover and finally the hospital specialising in cochlear implants for children, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover.

There Alexander's parents were told that bone growth had begun in the cochlear and could possibly progress, so they should consider an implant operation before the growth progressed any further.

At 14 months of age, Alexander received a cochlear implant in his right ear, and within a couple of months was responding well to test sounds. He begun trying to make sounds with his own voice spontaneously and through imitations. By August 1992, Alexander showed clear signs of understanding simple commands and started to say single words of one and two syllables.

Since then, Alexander's language and understanding have both improved steadily in his normal family surroundings. He constantly plays with his voice and continues to improve. According to his doctor, his general development is at a level appropriate for his age. Perhaps the most encouraging feature of his behaviour is that he indicates to his mother when the battery in his speech processor is flat by gesturing, pointing to his ear and to the cupboard where the batteries are stored. If his headset becomes displaced while playing he takes it upon himself to replace it where he feels it belongs.

With the birth of a new child, Alexander's parents have been delighted to see him react to the baby's cries, to the telephone and all the sound around him.

The Mini System 22 is marketed by Cochlear Pty Limited which holds nearly 90% of the world market in cochlear implants. To date there are some 3,000 children implanted in 45 different countries, with over 7,000 people benefiting worldwide.

 Bio-synthetic long term vascular replacements

Sheep are taking centre stage with a major new development that is transforming medical surgery. They are being used as the host animal in which to grow replacement vascular implants and body wall patches for humans. In extreme cases, the vascular implants are used to save arms and legs from amputations by quickly restoring blood flow. For people who need continual transfusions, artificial blood conduits are implanted to reduce pain and damage to veins or arteries by being constantly punctured by needles.

Developed by Bio Nova International Pty Ltd, the Omniflow II vascular prothesis is a stable bio-synthetic composite made from live tissue which grows around the polyester mesh tube or patch when it is inserted into the sheep. Invented in 1973, it combines the bio-compatibility of biological grafts with the long term durability and performance of a synthetic graft. Up to six implants at a time are inserted into the muscle under the skin of the sheep's back. There they become covered in sheep tissue and are removed after three months.

Omniflow II implants last up to four years in humans - a significantly longer period than previous implants. For the future, the company plans to develop nerve regeneration conduits and patches for hernia repair.

 Permeable and biocompatible implant lens

The need for a more biocompatible intraocular implant lens led opthalmologist Dr Graham Barrett to seek the research and manufacturing expertise of Berna Pty Ltd, trading as Gelflex Laboratories. The earlier PMMA implant lenses were not fully biocompatible and could be damaged by YAG lasers during the implant operation.

After three years work on Barrett's original idea, the world's first hydrophilic intraocular implant lens, IOGEL PC-12 was commercialised in 1985 by Iogel Laboratories, a division of Gelflex.

Precision made from hydrogel, the lens is permeable, soft and flexible, biocompatible and has many advantages compared to the standard PMMA intraocular lens. New designs of the lens have been developed and are undergoing clinical trials worldwide.

 Living comfortably with sleep apnea

As many as 20% of men over the age of 40 have tongue and soft palate muscles that relax when they go to sleep, partially blocking their airways. The condition known as sleep apnea can cause heavy snoring or periods of silence when they do not breathe for as long as 20 seconds. They then partially wake, gasping for air - and this cycle can continue throughout the night, several hundred times.

This can lead to excessive tiredness during the day, memory loss, hypertension, stroke, impotence, accident proneness, and a reduced life expectancy. Few men over 70 suffer from this problem because most sufferers die of a stroke or heart attack before they reach that age.

To help combat the condition, Rescare Limited, in conjunction with Professor Colin Sullivan and numerous sleep disorders laboratories, conducted extensive clinical and basic research which led to the innovative Sullivan Nasal CPAP System. This system does not cure the problem but prevents it from occurring.

Via a mask, the Nasal CPAP forces a constant stream of lightly pressurised air into the nose which acts as a splint to prevent the soft palate and tongue from relaxing in the throat and blocking the airway. This allows the patient to sleep normally throughout the night.

The APD 2 model of the system has been specifically designed for use both within the sleep disorders laboratory and in the home environment. The world first product integrates leading edge technology with ease of operation, resulting in a high performance, user friendly product.

The innovation is bringing relief and peace of mind to many thousands of sleep apnea sufferers in more than 35 countries around the world.

 High performance laser for eye surgery

The latest advance in lasers for eye surgery is a new laser for removing destructive tissue growths in the eye, with minimal discomfort to patients during and after treatment.

The third generation Laserex LQ2106 Opthalmic Nd:YAG laser has made a quantum leap in the application of high-technology to medical products, and increased the comfort and safety of patients. Developed by Taracan Pty Ltd trading as Laserex Systems in 1987, the unique design of the laser enables higher performance through optimum control of the instrumentation at a very competitive price.

The LQ106 is used for removing opaque tissue growths on the back of the lens. Several short bursts of low impact laser light disrupts and tears away the unwanted tissue without damaging other parts of the eye.

 Safe self-treatment of pain without drugs

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is recognised as being effective in the management of pain associated with trauma and after operations. TENS works by using electrical impulses to interrupt the pain pathway from the injured part of the body to the brain. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, the body's natural substance for pain relief.

An ingenious new product invented by engineers Victor Previn and Giuseppe Canala in 1990 and commercialised in 1992 by Laserex Technologies Pty Ltd, the Laser TENS-1000 combines the pain relieving properties of TENS therapy, and the widely accepted use of laser therapy for both pain relief and acceleration of the healing process in sporting and soft tissue injuries.

The small hand held unit uses a laser beam at a wavelength of 670nm to penetrate through the skin into the underlying subcutaneous tissue. The laser light is absorbed by the cellular structures and initiates a series of photochemical changes, increasing blood vessel formation, epithelial cell activity and increased collagen production and micro circulation. This in turn results in reduced pain and inflammation, and accellerated healing.

The LT1000 differs from conventional devices in many ways. It is inexpensive and easy to use both by physicians and, after some brief training, by patients at home. It is self contained and unlike it's predecessors has no leads or wires. The small electrode size enables accurate placement application to the area of pain, and because the unit does not require stick-on electrodes, there is no risk of skin irritation.

Clinical tests show that treatment with the LT1000 for an average of two minutes per point, is effective for pain relief. The unit can be used repeatedly during the day and the theraputic effect may last from hours to several days.

 Lighter, thinner, flatter spectacle lenses

The next best thing not to have to wear spectacles, has to be to wear the lightest, thinnest, flattest and optically the very best that is available. Now there is a revolutionary new lens on the market that combines all these factors in one innovative world first product. Developed by polymer chemists Chang Kok, Huan Toh and Michael Pittolo at Sola Optical, a division of Sola International Holdings Ltd, Spectralite lenses have been hailed as a technological leapfrog over traditional plastic lenses.

Made from a new monomer material called Spectralite, the new plastic lens has a higher light refraction index than previous lenses, permitting up to 20% reduction in the thickness. Spectralite lenses are also about 25% lighter than conventional lenses. The innovative new material produces thinner and lighter lenses, combined with the company's new aspheric lens design makes the lenses flatter, without compromise to optical performance.

And for those who need bifocals, the good news is that the company's progressive Graduate lenses are also available in Spectralite. The goggle-eyed or beady-eyed look so often associated with strong prescription lenses is now a thing of the past.

 The smoother alternative to bifocal lenses

Spectacles. For people who have to wear them, spectacles become an important and integral part of their appearance and image. Sadly, for those who needed to wear bifocals, the 'look' was all too similar until mathematicians and polymer chemists got together to take the familiar ridge out of bifocal lenses.

Scientists from the CSIRO Division of Mathematics and Statistics assisted Sola Optical, a division of Sola International Holdings Ltd, on the design of progressive multi-focal lenses. Progressive lenses are the smoother alternative to bifocals that provide clearer uninterrupted vision at all distances. Like bifocals, they have different zones for correcting near and distance vision, but the transition between the zones is continuous. This eliminates the optical and cosmetic problems with traditional bifocals, and provides clear intermediate vision.

Called the Graduate progressive lens, it is today the most widely prescribed lens by optometrists around the world.

 Laser for managing pain and stimulating healing

Laser therapy has been widely used for the treatment of injuries and pain relief. Lasers work by penetrating through the skin and into tissue where the light gets absorbed by cells and converted into energy to influence the course of various metabolic processes. The advantages of laser therapy include painless drug-free treatment and immediate pain relief from sports related injuries to soft tissue.

The first LTU-904 Laser therapy unit was developed by veterinarian Dr Arthur Pearce and engineer Victor Previn in 1980 for use on race horses. Subsequent field trials and refinements led to the product being commercialised in 1981 for use on people. Today, they are manufactured and sold by Laserex Technologies Pty Ltd. The breakthrough behind the innovation was the ability of the Laserex team to incorporate the latest technology into such a compact, portable and economical unit, which at the same time is easy to operate.

Activated by fingertip controls, the hand-held unit pulses an infrared laser to send invisible light waves to affected tissues to a depth of 20-30mm. The LTU-904 can be used in conjunction with ultrasonic therapy, physiotherapy, chiropractic and acupuncture thereapy. The time and frequency of treatment varies depending on the type of injury and its condition. This may be as short as one single treatment of a few minutes or many treatments over a duration of time. It is essential to get an accurate professional diagnosis before commencing therapy.

 New bifocal contact lens for presbyopia

Spectacles have to some extent been replaced by contact lenses. But long-sighted (presbyopic) people have always had to have reading glasses as well. Now, a new technology using complex lathes and computer modelling is behind an innovative world first contact lens for presbyopia, a structural defect of the eye or lens which occurs with old age where the eye loses its power to focus light rays at near distances.

The multi-focal contact lens design is either spherical or elliptical and shaped on the interior and exterior surfaces so that the lens thickness varies from its centre to its circumference in varying degrees, depending on the patient's needs. The resulting curvatures allow the eye to achieve a simultaneous bifocal effect without compromising either distance or near vision.

The new lens was invented by optical research scientist, Stephen Newman in 1992 and developed by Capricornia Contact Lens Pty Ltd, and was made possible by new computerised hi-tech lathes which can cut the surface shape to an accuracy of 0.5um and a surface resolution to 0.10um.

The extraordinary multi-focal capacity of the new contact lens gives presbyopic people the ability to see clearly without the use of spectacles.

 Laser treatment of skin pigmentations

A new medical laser using copper bromide instead of the conventional copper vapour, has made significant improvements to the treatment and removal of unsightly skin pigmentations such as birth marks and port wine stains.

Originally conceived at the Bulgarian Academy of Science in 1987, the Copper Bromide Laser system was developed and commercialised by Norseld Pty Ltd. Lighter and able to operate at lower temperatures, the compact new laser provides outputs in two colours, thus enabling multiple uses.

The yellow light is used for the treatment of port wine haemangiomas, facial capillary telangiectasia, spider angiomas and Campbell de Morgan spots. The yellow laser beam works by raising the temperature of the blood in the veins to 80C, causing them to block the blood flow and remove colouring under the skin.

The green light is used for the treatment of benign pigmented lesions and combined green and yellow light for skin cancers, tattoos and brown spots due to ageing. Sophisticated dose control provides cost-effective and relatively painless treatment which can often be done without a local anaesthetic.

 Lasers for treating cancer by photodynamic thereapy

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a method for treating cancers using red light and the drug haematoporphyrina. After administration to the patient, the drug is selectively retained by tumours, especially those which grow on the surfaces of the body's hollow organs. The drug, by itself, does nothing, but when a laser of the correct colour is shone on the light-sensitive drug, it triggers a chemical reaction which destroys the tumour. PDT was first used experimetally in oncology in 1978 and has since benefited many thousands of people worldwide.

A major recent world first in this method of treatment is the Gold Vapour Laser invented in 1983 by Professor John Piper at the Macquarie University and developed and commercialised by Visiray Pty Limited in 1990. The new laser supersedes argon-pumped dye lasers, and is the simplest and most direct method of providing red light at the fixed wavelength.

Gold Vapour Lasers are being used in medical research institutes in the United Kingdom and Australia. In Hong Kong they are being used to treat naso-pharangeal carcinoma, the second most common type of cancer in South China with the highest incidence in Hong Kong.

PDT is clearly one of the most important cancer therapies ever developed and is giving new hope to millions of people all over the world.

 Laser makes light weight of cosmetic surgery

Blood vessels close to the surface of the skin can cause unsightly red marks. Port wine stains are large red marks which deteriorate in time to disfiguring swellings. There are surgical remedies to remove these stains, but they are very expensive, often time consuming and can be painful.

In a major new development, a copper vapour laser has been combined with a computerised high speed scanner that can reduce the treatment time from many one-hour treatments spread over months, to just one 30 minute session. Invented by Phillip Butler and Peter Walker in 1986 and commercialised by Visiray Pty Limited in 1990, the Scanall Medical Laser System, can be used to remove port wine stains as well as kidney spots, birth marks, spider veins in legs and swollen veins resulting from excess drinking.

After sedation, the area of the skin to be treated is plotted by using a computer and video display. The required exposure time is selected and the laser light moves rapidly and evenly across the lesion at the optimum speed, eliminating the inaccuracies of hand held lasers. The system uses copper vapour for the laser instead of the inert gas called argon because copper can provide enough power at the theoretically ideal colour to give the best possible result. The innovation has introduced a new era of convenience and precision for cosmetic surgery.

 Treatment for varicose veins and other venous disorders

Varicose veins are swollen, stretched veins in the legs, close to the surface of the skin, caused by pooling of blood. Blood from the legs needs to return uphill, against the force of gravity to the heart, so the veins in the leg are lined with one-way valves to prevent blood from flowing back down towards the feet. When pressure on the veins stretches them, the valves cannot close properly, and some blood travels back down. This blood accumulates in pools, which stretch the veins even more.

Varicose veins are not too serious, but they may lead to other chronic venous conditions: a leg ulcer (an eroded patch on the skin); phlebitis (an inflamed vein); or a blood clot (a thrombus).

People who sought medical attention were told there was no remedy for their suffering and that they should change their diets and lifestyle to better manage their ailments.

Vascular surgeon Dr Rodney Lane sought answers to the problem and over a seven year period, developed the Venocuff System for Bellara Medical Products Ltd. The cuff is a Dacron reinforced medical grade silicone rubber device implanted around the vein at the site of the incompetent valve to reduce the circumference of the vein to normal and allow the valve to operate effectively. The system can be used to treat most valves of the legs. There are three different cuff designs suitable for different implant locations. The Venocuff System comes as a kit and allows surgeons to treat several valves during the same procedure.

@BODY TEXT L = The technology was sold to Vaso Products Inc of the United States for commercialisation in 1993. In Australia, the product is marketed by Johnson and Johnson Medical Pty Ltd.

 Device helping paralysed people to walkabout

The Walkabout is a deceptively simple lightweight stainless steel and plastic device that allows paraplegics - even those paralysed from the shoulder down - to walk with the aid of calipers and sticks or crutches.

Conceived by Stewart McKay, and developed by Polymedic, a division of his outdoor furniture company Polycane Australia Pty Ltd, the device does not replace the wheelchair, but offers healthy mobility, and the opportunity to shrug off the disabled tag.

Using the Walkabout, the person walks stiff legged, by moving the torso from side to side and forwards. At least to begin with, the patient needs a corset-like webbing around the abdomen, attached to the calipers, to provide stability.

The concept is not original, but the difference between the 340g Walkabout and the previous full-body versions which weighed nearly 10kg is enormous. It can be worn inconspicuously underneath clothing - an important cosmetic factor that helps paraplegics to look as much like everyone else as possible.

When patients first use the device, their wasted legs start to fill out and their blood circulation improves, which aids their general heath. Another important benefit of the Walkabout is that unlike the older versions where the upper body was held rigid, the Walkabout allows movement in the upper body. This allows the wearer to bend at the waist and reduce injuries in the event of losing balance and falling.

Paralysed people of all ages are finding a new lease of life and greater mobility with the Walkabout.

 Improved external fixator for multiple fractures

Accident victims often have multiple fractures and require immediate surgery. The common treatment of wrapping the bone in plaster cannot be used when there are open wounds that also need tending. And putting metal plates or pins into the bones in these situations, is also risky, because the chance of infection is high. The alternative is to use an external fixator.

These cumbersome looking devices are literally screwed into the bone on either side of the break, so that the leg remains perfectly straight as it naturally mends.

External fixators are nothing new. However, orthopaedic surgeon Dr Tony Pohl and engineer Bruce Ide have developed a new fixator, that is far superior to anything that is currently available.

Early fixators only served as a splint for the broken bone, but modern fixators allow a tiny movement in the direction along the bone, which accelerates the healing process. Powered by the patient's walking, the fixator continually moves the bone back and forth about one millimetre. The problem is that some of these devices tend to jam and do not allow movement at all.

The ingenious engineering design of the new Rigidyne fixator, marketed worldwide by Zimmer Australia Pty Ltd, uses modern low friction plastics instead of metal and is jam-proof - even in the most adverse conditions. It is also very versatile and can be used on a wide variety of breaks.

When patients are bed-bound by severe injuries, an electric motor attached to the end of the fixator reproduces the tiny movement normally present in walking patients. The same fixator can be used to lengthen bones left shortened by severe fractures. A variant of the fixator can close gaps left in bone by by fragments missing after severe injuries. These state-of-the-art techniques called 'leg lengthening' and 'bone transport' prevent potential deformity by re-establishing normal bones of correct length.

Early indications from trials at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, are that the new fixator helps fractures mend in a better way and in a much shorter time.

 Software for surgical reconstruction

Using powerful work-stations running the Unix operating system and sophisticated imaging software, doctors can now obtain data that allows accurate 3 dimensional surgical reconstructions of the head and other parts of the body to be undertaken. The spectacular innovation is a major step forward for a whole range of surgical procedures, particularly cases where severe traumas require custom-made implants to be made.

Developed by Dr Amanda Abbott and Dr David Netherway from 1989 to 1993 at the Institute of Cranio-Facial Studies Inc, the 3-D medical imaging and analysis software called PERSONA is distributed worldwide by Maptek Pty Ltd.

The software interprets and manipulates the vast amount of information that is generated by modern scanning equipment quickly and efficiently, to precisely locate anatomical landmarks and calculate critical measurements required for surgery. Data is captured in digital form direct from the scanner and loaded into the computer. The software manipulates the information and presents it in 3-D graphics.

Multiple windows give simultaneous viewing of the original slide data, two additional orthogonal cuts through the data, two sets of multiple 3-D reconstructions, and a 3-D perspective view of a cut along any plane.

The programme is easy to install and requires minimal training for skilled professionals. An invaluable new software tool, it can generate informative and useful models, essential for understanding morphologies, helping to design prostheses and planning reconstructive surgery. This can in turn reduce surgery time and result in fewer operations.

 Rapid diagnostic tests for infectious diseases

As we approach the end of the 20th century, the never ending battle between microbes and man has entered a new and dangerous phase. After suffering a series of major defeats following the discovery of antibiotics and the development of safe and effective vaccines earlier in the century, the microbes are fighting back. Antibiotic resistant forms of malaria and tuberculosis have appeared, in addition to a whole range of bizarre new diseases, often as a result of population pressure or major changes in societal behaviour. Examples of these are the AIDS related diseases, Toxoplasma and Pneumocystis, and the water borne infections such as Giardia, Cryptosporidium and Legionella.

Joining the battle against these new and old diseases is Cellabs Pty Ltd, a diagnostics company, who have developed and commercialised a range of world first rapid tests to assist with the detection of the various organisms.

The Cellabs tests for Giardia and Cryptosporidium are sold in more than 30 countries and help identify these parasites in drinking water supplies. Giardia is a major cause of 'travellers' diarrhoea' and Cryptosporidium has emerged as a potentially fatal infection for immune supressed individuals.

Another test detects the parasite Pneumocystis which causes a severe and often fatal pneumonia in AIDS patients. In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, Pneumocystis affected more than 80% of patients in the United States and was the cause of death in more than 63% of cases.

Cellabs' third set of diagnostic kits target the Chlamydia bacteria which cause a wide range of diseases in man and animals. Chlamydia is the leading cause of sexually transmitted disease, the principal cause of infectious blindness (trachoma), and a major cause of infertility in women. In animals, Chlamydia may cause abortion, and in Australia, it is a major cause of disease in the koala.

The Cellabs tests are either microscope or colour based systems with the emphasis on quality, sensitivity and speed.

 Two-minute HIV test to slow the spread of AIDS

Estimates suggest that in the past 10 years, more than 10 million people around the world have been affected by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. That number is expected to double in the next few years, primarily because most people carrying the virus are unaware they have contracted it. Until a cure is found, to slow down the spread of AIDS, it is important to be able to quickly and accurately diagnose carriers.

The conventional laboratory test requires a number of time consuming and comparatively expensive steps in which the blood sample is separated and analysed.

A new two minute AIDS test, called SimpliRED HIV, was developed by biochemists Dr Carmel Hillyard, Bruce Kemp, Dennis Rylatt and Peter Bundesen at University of Melbourne and commercialised by Agen Biomedical Ltd in 1990. The procedure is simple. A couple of drops of blood are placed in two wells on a slide. The detecting solution is added to one sample and a negative solution to the the other for comparison. After mixing, the sample is agitated to prompt a reaction. Within two minutes the test result is clearly apparent and initial trials indicate that the two-minute test is as accurate as the laboratory test.

Although the AIDS virus is hard to find, after it enters the blood stream, the body's immune system produces antibodies to try to fight it. The test works by quickly detecting the presence of HIV antibodies, and therefore HIV in the blood. The solution contains a special reagent which attach on one end to the walls of red blood cells. The other end seeks out HIV antibodies and if it can find any to join up with, it cross links the blood cells, causing visible clotting.

Until a cure is found, SimpliRED will play a key role in allowing faster diagnosis of HIV and help slow the spread of AIDS.

 Automatic biological specimen processing

Australian Biomedical Corporation, a division of Invetech Operations Pty Ltd, have developed a range of specialised instruments for processing biological specimens with sophisticated microprocessor controls. Commercialised in 1989 by Leica Instruments GmbH, the range includes three innovative new instruments.

The Jung Autostainer XL is for all routine staining of tissues or cells with a capacity to handle up to 200 slides per hour. Automatic fume extraction and continuous load without opening the automatic stainer means there is little exposure to the various hazardous chemical fumes commonly used in the staining process.

The Jung Histostainer for staining of tissues, is quicker and designed for smaller samples. With a computer controlled micro-spray delivery combined with a rotating carousel and series of chemical substances, it processes up to 20 slides at a time and interfaces with any of the 10 programs available.

The Lynx EM Tissue Processor is a compact system for processing biological specimens for electron microscope and high resolution light microscope examination. Its processing eliminates the wasteful application of chemicals and the employment of high levels of manpower resources.

 Controlled release drug for severe pain relief

Morphine can be addictive, but only when abused. Administered in strictly controlled doses, morphine is an indispensable drug for severe pain, and can bring welcome relief for people with severe pain.

Morphine is most often administered in solution or by injection. Unfortunately, in cases of severe pain, it needs to be administered every four hours for the patient to avoid experiencing peaks and troughs in their pain relief.

Kapanol, a new controlled release oral morphine capsule that only needs to be taken twice a day for sustained pain relief was commercialised in 1994. The innovation involves the use of tiny polymer-coated pellets that dissolve at differing speeds, gradually releasing the drug into the patient's blood system. Oral administration will give greater independence for patients who will no longer require the frequent care and attention of qualified nursing staff for their comfort.

Kapanol was developed by F H Faulding & Co Pty Ltd under a collaborative agreement with Glaxo Australia Pty Ltd. Faulding plans manufacture and market Kapanol to the United States, Canada, Japan and United Kingdom and Ireland markets themselves. Kapanol will be marketed in the rest of the world by Glaxo Australia.

Kapanol became available in Australia in August 1994, and pending approval of the product by the US authorities, Faulding's subsidiary company Purepac Inc will manufacture the product in the USA, where it will be known as Kadian.

 First reliable, non-invasive tuberculosis test

Tuberculosis (TB) has re-emerged as one of the worlds most significant infectious diseases and it is estimated that one third of the worlds population is currently infected with TB. During the 1990s some 30 million people are expected to die from TB, according to the World Health Organisation, which has described the current situation as a global emergency.

The human body does not start producing anti-bodies to TB until a long way into the infection, therefore, early diagnosis is essential to control the spread of the disease. For over 100 years the Mantoux skin test has been used to assess a persons past exposure to TB. This test has many shortcomings and has been superseded by the QuantiFERON-TB blood test which gives faster, more reliable results, and is non-invasive, therefore, avoids the problem of adverse reactions.

Developed by CSL Limited, QuantiFERON-TB test for humans is based on another world first from the company which is used for detecting TB in cattle.

The new test measures whether a patient has been exposed to the micro-organism that causes TB. Exposure or current infection with TB is indicated by the release of the cytokine, gamma-interferon, from lymphocytes when TB antigens are mixed with the patients blood. The test is easy to perform and an accurate result can be obtained overnight.

With the resurgence of TB throughout the world, CSL's QuantiFERON-TB test is poised to play a significant role in the detection and control of the disease.

 An accurate new test for cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is preventable and can be cured, but only if it is detected at an early stage. The current form of detection is the pap smear test, while useful, fails to detect between 20% and 40% of pre-cancer. As well, the results are not immediate and open to subjective interpretation. Now, a revolutionary new technology provides objective computerised assessment with accuracy levels exceeding 90%.

The basic scientific research leading to the development of the new device called Polarprobe, which can detect cervical cancer and pre-cancer on the spot simply by scanning a probe across the cervix, was instigated by Dr Bevan Reid. The development of the unique algorithms were performed under the direction of Victor Skladnev and Professor Malcolm Coppleson, Directors of Polartechnics Ltd, the company behind the commercialisation of the device.

The breakthrough innovation is based on the discovery that electrical and optical measurements used in conjunction with specially developed algorithms, can differentiate between normal, pre-cancerous and cancerous tissue.

The signals received by passing the probe over the tissue being examined are relayed to the built-in computer where they are analysed by specially developed software. Diagnosis with Polarprobe is immediate. The probe generates either a visual or audio alarm when it finds abnormal tissue, and records it's findings for further examination.

A portable model is expected to be approved by 1994. The future of Polarprobe holds even more hope as the technology is capable of being applied to the detection of pre-cancer and cancer in all parts of the body where physical contact can be made, such as the skin, stomach, colon and the cervix.

 New vapour for early detection of lung disorders

A new vapour called Technegas that can penetrate the finest parts of the lungs is being used in the field of nuclear medicine for the early detection of pulmonary embolism - the life threatening condition of clots in the lung. Invented by Dr William Burch in 1986, Technegas has significantly raised the possibility of accurate diagnosis of the disease and made early treatment possible.

For the technically minded, Technegas is a structured ultra-fine dispersion of labeled carbon produced by a simple process using dried Technetium-99m generator eluant in a carbon crucible at 2,500C. When inhaled with only a few breaths, the miniscule particles of the gas-like vapour adhere to the walls of the alveoli and the mild radioactivity of the Technetium-99m enables a Gamma camera to produce images superior to aerosols, Xenon-133 and Krypton-81m, that were used previously. The image is stable because Technegas is not cleared by further breathing, so unhurried and gated images may be obtained for diagnosis.

The portable microprocessor controlled generator that produces Technegas is manufactured and marketed by Tetley Manufacturing Ltd. The unit is fully computerised and incorporates a self monitoring system. It is easy to use and is made ready for patient administration in a few minutes.

A derivative product called Pertechnegas is undergoing clinical trials in two hospitals in the United States for the quick and sure diagnosis of pneumocystis pneumonia, a complication of AIDS which can be treated if identified early enough. Future applications of the innovation will likely be for asthma and bronchial obstruction as well as gastric emptying, bone marrow imaging and cell labelling.

 Fiber optic microscope to examine the living body

Fiber optic confocal imaging (FOCI) is a new way of seeing microscopic structures underneath the surface of living tissues. A world first that allows people to clearly see subsurface microscopic structures inside the living body. The incredible innovation could revolutionise the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases in the future.

Doctors who need to look inside the body use endoscopes and often need to cut out samples (biopsies) to make a diagnosis later, using an ordinary microscope. FOCI will soon allow doctors to make a diagnosis immediately, without taking a biopsy, giving a safer and less painful option for patients.

HBH Technological Industries Pty Ltd's laser-scanning confocal microscope, the Fiberscan 900C, is smaller, cheaper and more flexible than conventional confocal microscopes, which are bulky, difficult to keep aligned and time consuming to set up, because it makes clever use of fibre optic technology.

The company has already commercialised the bench-top microscope using FOCI, invented by Martin Harris, Managing Director of HBH, the idea was developed with Peter Delaney at Monash University and David Mitchell who designed and built the electronics for the system.

The new microscope uses a single length of optical fibre to overcome these problems. The output from the fibre is focused down one point at a time in the specimen sample. The light from that point then returns through the same fibre to where it is separated onto photo detectors. The data is then sent to a PC where Windows based software takes over.

Units have already been sold in four countries and are used at Monash University to study blood micro-vessels in the intestine and the interior of paper fibres, and at the Universityof Melbourne in the study of anti-tumour phototherapy drugs. The company was awarded the prestigious international R&D 100 Award. The company is about to miniaturise the system to be incorporated into an endoscope, and bring the future of medical diagnostics into the present.

 Colour imaging for scanning electron microscopes

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a colour one is worth a great deal more than a black and white one. Because humans can only distinguish up to 16 grey levels, colour adds that extra dimension to vision and greatly enhances the comprehensibility of images - particularly if they are minute obscure objects being examined under powerful microscopes.

The scanning electron microscope (SEM) has become one of the most versatile and powerful tools in modern science. SEMs enable scientists to view objects far smaller than can be observed with an optical microscope, providing magnifications of more than 300,000. The beam of electrons scanned across a sample surface obtains a resolution better than one nanometre and a depth of field up to 500 times more than a conventional light microscope.

SEMs provide various sources of information simultaneously. These include secondary electrons which provide information about the surface structure together with topographic contrast. Backscattered electrons can also be imaged providing information about the composition of the sample. Modern SEMs operate in real time and have the facility to operate at TV scan rates, but until recently, imaging was only available in black and white. This meant that when images of the different aspects of the sample were mixed or superimposed to form a composite monochrome image, information was lost, or further confused the image.

Physicist John Ward and electronics engineer Bob McNamee at the CSIRO Division of Forest Products, developed a device based on analogue television technology to take the monochrome signal from the SEM and convert it to colour and display the image on a television monitor. The Real Time Colour Imaging unit, commercialised by the CSIRO in 1989, can process each separate information signal and merge them to provide topographic contrast, surface structure and elemental contrast in colour in one full colour image.

The colours obtained, although not real, can be altered to approximate the true colour of the object or changed to enhance certain features. The colour is added to the image as it is scanned in real time and colour photographic prints and transparencies (slides) can be obtained using a freeze frame image recorder recently developed by Polaroid.

First of it's type in the world, the innovation has significant new applications in biomedical science. It has already been successfully applied in both industry and research in areas such as materials science, geology, metallurgy, botany and biology.

 A new coating technique for high resolution sem samples

Before microscopic matter can be examined with a the new sophisticated field emission scanning electron microscopes (FE SEM), the sample to be examined must first be coated with a thin metal film. The reason for this is to increase the electrical and thermal conductivity, to improve topographic contrast and to add strength to the sample. The traditional method for preparing biological samples was carried out using a conventional gold coating process using a DC magnetron. The problem with sputtering gold in this way was the tendency for gold to agglomerate in early stages of disposition, causing a grain size too large for the resolution of a FE SEM.

The Xenosput is a revolutionary coater developed by the thin film group at CSIRO Division of Applied Physics headed by Dr Brian Window and Dynavac Engineering Pty Ltd in 1992. Edwards High Vacuum International of the United Kingdom distribute the product throughout Europe, United States and parts of Southeast Asia.

Xenosput incorporates a high vacuum deposition system based on magnetron sputtering which produces fine-grained coatings of any metal with a reasonably high melting point, and which has the added advantage of reducing the bombardment of the sample by energetic neutral inert gas atoms. The highly conducting layer is also free from stress and contamination often caused by heating of the surface.

 Novel synthetic peptide synthesis technique

Synthetic peptides are used in immunology, hormone-receptor interactions and vaccine research by researchers as well as commercial biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.

They provide detailed understanding of the mechanism of the T-cell and B-cell components of the immune response to protein antigens at the molecular level. They could also potentially be used as diagnostic reagents, vaccine ingredients, hormone analogues, agonists and antagonists of receptor mediated functions, and as ligands for affinity purification. But, traditional means of peptide synthesis are slow and expensive, making the efficient use of peptides difficult.

The Multipin Peptide Synthesis technique developed by Dr H Mario Geysen and his colleagues in 1983 and commercialised in 1987 by Chiron Mimotopes Pty Ltd, has made the concurrent synthesis and screening of large numbers of peptides for biological activity, both efficient and cost effective.

The systematic screening of overlapping peptides attached to the protein of interest is an efficient way to localise and identify sequential epitopes. The construction of novel peptides (mimotopes) which can imitate discontinuous epitopes has expanded the usefulness of short peptides.

The company has also developed specialised linkers which allow peptides synthesised on pins to be cleaved directly into physiologically compatible solutions. These peptides do not have cytotoxic reagents and can be used directly in cell culture assays without purification.

The innovative developments in peptide synthesis are helping in the examination of immunological interactions and leading to new approaches to drug design.

Public Notice: Due to an unresolved dispute with the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade), who copied and adopted as their own certain material from Tomorrow's World, the Australian Initiative, and published the material in their Australia Open for Business website, without remorse or recompense, access by Australian Government servers to this online edition has been blocked indefinitely.

Print Edition: ISBN 0646252119 - Paperback - 224 pages - 350 illustrations - $55.00 incl. GST.

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