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From low-tech to high-tech, our roundup of simple medical tools and sophisticated gadgetry.

1 / Beyond Kisses

alternative medicine

Could mistletoe be the latest weapon in the war on cancer? The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center is studying mistletoe extract, which may boost the immune system and diminish chemotherapy side effects.

Image of a bird on a twig
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Medical Resident Satish Mishra, The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Satish Misra, a third-year medical resident at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, was one of the creators of, a one-stop website for physician-led reviews of medical apps, separating cool tools from quackery. The site reviews an app’s data, discloses any conflicts of interest, and assesses its overall advantages versus potential harm.

Satish Misra
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Tongue Depressor

Doctors have been brandishing these humble wooden paddles for centuries, though 18th- and 19th-century versions were also made of bone, ivory, nickel, and silver.

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2 / Brain Scan Bank

pediatric neurology

Johns Hopkins engineers and radiologists are building a searchable image bank of MRI scans from children. The cloud-based digital archive currently holds 5,000 images of brains sorted into 22 brain disease categories such as chromosomal abnormalities, congenital malformations, vascular diseases, and psychiatric disorders. Researchers described the image bank as Google for pediatric brain scans.

image of a brain
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3 / Tweeting the Flu

social media

When people get the flu, they often say so on Twitter. Researchers from Johns Hopkins and George Washington universities have been able to analyze Twitter data to track the spread of flu in New York City, which could be a model to help health care workers in other locales prepare.

image of a bird on a thermometer
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4 / Atlas Knows


Atlas, a wrist-mounted fitness tracker due out later this year, tracks exercises in three dimensions. It analyzes movement and can tell the difference between pushups, curls, and squats.

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5 / Pocket Diet Coach

weight management

If you have a smartphone, you have a diet coach. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s pilot program TRIMM—Tailored Rapid Interactive Mobile Messaging—sends personalized weight-loss messages to the phones of registered users, typically three or four times a day. In a six-month trial, TRIMM participants lost more weight than those who received an initial assessment and dietary advice, but not the daily dietary coaching.

illustration of an iPhone with a tape measurer around it
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6 / Selfie-Medicating

patient care

Johns Hopkins technology is behind a new app called miDOT that reminds patients to take their pills on time and enables them to shoot video of themselves in the process so they can share the footage, along with notes about symptoms, with their doctors. The app is in the pilot phase.

illustration of pill bottles
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7 / Light Hearted

heart disease

Defibrillators can jolt troubled hearts back to regular beating with strong bursts of electricity. Lives can be saved, but the process can damage tissue—and be painful. Biomedical engineers from Johns Hopkins and Stony Brook universities are exploring the possibility of using blasts of light instead. The process uses special light-responsive proteins that can create electricity in response to light in a way that is much more targeted than the broadly delivered zap from a pair of paddles.

image of a heart
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