Leslie Mertz

Leslie Mertz (lmertz@nasw.org) is a freelance science, medical, and technical writer, author, and educator living in northern Michigan.

Associated articles

IEEE PULSE, Feature March/April 2017
Brain over Brawn
As much as we know about the vitamins, minerals, and types of exercise important to promoting good muscle health, many fundamental questions remain about skeletal and cardiac muscle: What do the basic muscle components look like in real time in a... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature July/August 2014
The View from Space
Want the real scoop on doing research in space? Ask someone who’s been there. Two astronauts—Joe Kerwin, M.D., who was on the first manned mission to the U.S. Skylab space station, and Jerry Linenger, M.D., Ph.D., who spent nearly five months on the USSR’s space station... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature September/October 2016
Omics Tech, Gut-on-a-Chip, and Bacterial Engineering
It was six years ago that fecal transplantation first received prominent media attention and the public began to fully appreciate that the bacteria and other microbes in their bodies could have a real impact on health. “In that case, the patient... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Cover Story May/June 2019
Virtual Reality Is Taking the Hurt Out of Pain
Slip on a set virtual reality (VR) goggles and connected gloves, and you are transported to another world. For the entertainment industry, that kind of immersive VR may mean shoot-‘em-up games where players have to blast blood-thirsty aliens or other... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature March/April 2016
The Engineer’s Take on Biology
Tom Knight may laugh when someone calls him the “godfather of synthetic biology,” but his ideas have helped spur a worldwide movement to look at biology with an engineer’s eye. Knight’s road to synthetic biology was not a straight shot. As... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature May/June 2018
Hospital CIO Explains Blockchain Potential
Work is already underway to bring blockchain technology to the healthcare industry, and hospital administrators are trying to figure out what it can do for them, their clinicians, and their patients. That includes administrators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center,... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Cover Story July/August 2017
Sharing Data to Solve the Riddle of Autism
Worldwide, at least one in 100 people has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put the number at one in 68 [1]. Despite this high rate of prevalence and the increased... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2015
Babies from Skin Cells?
“It may sound like it’s on the scientific fringe, but it’s not a pipe dream. This is actually happening.” When stem-cell researcher Dr. Kyle Orwig, of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, made this remark,... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2017
Tech Fights Toughest Tumors
Ask any surgical oncologist, and you’ll hear the same thing: tumors are insidious. Removing them completely can be very difficult. Sometimes tumors are in hard-to-reach areas, and, in many cases, tumor tissue looks so much like normal tissue that surgeons... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature March/April 2014
Size Matters
Why are nanomaterials such a hot ticket? It’s all about size. Thanks to their small dimensions (at least one dimension fewer than about 100 nm) and, therefore, high ratio of surface area to volume, nanoparticles have some very unusual and... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature July/August 2016
Stem-Cell Work Yielding New Approach to Disease
Above: Figure 1: iPSCs reprogrammed from a woman’s skin. (LEFT) The nuclei are shown in blue; green and red indicate proteins found in reprogrammed cells, but not in skin cells. (RIGHT) iPSCs such as these can be matured and used to... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2019
New Quantitative Approach to Autism Diagnosis
Only a few years ago, leading autism expert David Amaral described the disorder as a lifelong disability. Today, he acknowledges that description is no longer true. “Research lately shows that a substantial proportion of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)—something... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2018
Automated Insulin Delivery
For individuals with Type 1 or insulin-requiring Type 2 diabetes, new technology may offer something they desperately need, but is now nigh impossible: the ability to maintain ideal blood glucose levels all day, every day. FIGURE 1 Bryan Mazlish One problem is... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2016
Convergence Revolution Comes to Wearables
In the field of wearable biomedical sensors, the convergence revolution is more than a fanciful, utopian view of the way innovation should be done. Medical-grade wearable sensors rely on it. Their development requires technical know-how, computing expertise, clinical input, and... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Cover Story March/April 2017
New Forensics Approaches Looking More "CSI"-Like
If CSI and those other police procedural TV shows are to be believed, criminals don’t have a chance. A finger smudge on a light switch, a flake of skin, or a sweat-stained fiber is all the information an investigator needs... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature July/August 2014
Chicago Biomedical Consortium: A Three-University Hub of Research
When someone thinks about Chicago, the first thing that comes to mind might be its picturesque skyline on the shores of Lake Michigan; its tantalizing Chicago-style hotdogs or deep-dish pizza; its amazing assemblage of museums; its stunning architecture; or one... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Cover Story September/October 2016
Deciphering the Mysterious Microbiome
A few years ago, the average person had no idea what the microbiome was, but now it is bantered about on quasi-medical talk shows, social media, and blogs almost as though it were the savior of human health: change your... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature July/August 2019
How a Tiny Electrical Current to the Brain Is Treating Medical Symptoms
The medical benefits of mild electrical stimulation of the cranium may seem like marketing hype, but decades of clinical research studies have verified that it does alleviate symptoms in a wide range of conditions. This method delivers very-low-frequency current to... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Cover Story March/April 2016
Putting a Number on Pain
Will new technologies substantially change the way subjective complaints are measured in clinical trials, and, if so, by how much? Depending on the expert consulted, the answer ranges from a little to a lot. For decades, clinical trials that include so-called... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature May/June 2018
(Block) Chain Reaction
Electronic health records may have digitized patient data, but getting that data from one clinician to another remains a huge challenge, especially since patients often have multiple doctors ordering tests, prescribing drugs, and providing treatment. Many experts now believe that... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature September/October 2017
Reading Minds
When you see or think about an object, your brain engages in a unique pattern of activity tied specifically to that object. That’s how you know a cat is a cat, and not a dog or a house or a... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature March/April 2015
Sending out an SOS…and More
It seems as if many of us are getting used to the idea of wearing sensors, whether they are counting the number of steps we take each day with an iPhone-connected pedometer or keeping track of heart rate while we... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2017
Turning the Unknown into Known
Taken as a whole, rare diseases are not very rare. Even though a rare disease by definition is one that affects fewer than 200,000 Americans or fewer than one in 2,000 Europeans at any time, when rare diseases are considered... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature May/June 2014
Ready or Not
The days of one-size-fits-all health care are coming to an end. After years of hopeful talk, a collection of technological advancements is finally edging personalized medicine from theory to practice. As these technologies make their way to the clinic, medical... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature July/August 2016
Thumbs Up for Stem Cells
Researcher Jeanne Loring thinks she has a good method for reversing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and she believes this method—a stem-cell therapy—will find its way to clinics in as little as twoand- a-half years. Although the work has progressed... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2019
Battling Superbugs: How Phage Therapy Went From Obscure to Promising
Above: After a grueling battle with a nasty bacterial infection that nearly killed Thomas Patterson (seated), bacteriophage therapy came to the rescue and saved his life. Patterson holds an image of his nemesis, a multidrug-resistant strain of A. baumannii, while his... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2018
Machine Learning Takes on Health Care
FIGURE 1 Leonard D’Avolio, Ph.D. When Leonard D’Avolio (Figure 1: Photo courtesy of Cyft) was working on his Ph.D. degree in biomedical informatics, he saw the power of machine learning in transforming multiple industries; health care, however, was not among them.... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2016
The End of Seizures and Depression?
The objective tools of engineering should be brought to the challenge of understanding emotions in people, and this could change the way we approach many health conditions, including epilepsy and depression, according to Rosalind Picard, Sc.D., a professor in the... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature May/June 2017
Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine
Medical researchers increasingly regard tissue engineering and regenerative medicine as potential game changers when it comes to repairing damage from disease or injury and restoring function. To understand the progress made and challenges ahead for this combined field, IEEE Pulse... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature November/December 2014
Saving Lives and Money with Smarter Hospitals
Smart technology is a major topic for hospitals today, and it’s all about gathering, sharing, and using information with the lofty aspirations of improving care while also cutting costs. The emphasis is on functional interoperability of medical devices and hospital... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature November/December 2016
mHealth to the Rescue
In rural areas, it is not unusual for patients to travel 50 miles or more to reach their doctors’ offices or for doctors to refer patients to specialists whose offices are 80, 100, even 200-plus miles away. The sheer distance... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature September/October 2019
Heart to Heart
A person who has had a myocardial infarction often gets excellent emergency treatment at a hospital, and is able to go home or even return to work in a matter of days. Despite this quick recovery, all is not perfect,... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Cover Story March/April 2016
The Foundry: Scaling Up Biological Design
Above: Depicted, from left to right: Chris Voigt, Ben Gordon, Rob Nicol. Photo by Lillie Paquette / MIT School of Engineering. Living organisms are amazing feats of engineering: By following instructions encoded entirely in DNA, living systems can sense and respond to... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Cover Story July/August 2018
The Many Textures of Robotics
Innovative researchers are employing flexible, rather than rigid materials in combination with new design approaches as part of the emerging field of biomedical soft robotics. The idea is to generate tools that conform to and interact with the human body... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature March/April 2018
A CRISPR Approach For a Common Inherited Disease
Gene editing and CRISPR (a group of repeated DNA sequences in bacteria) typically target disease-causing mutated genes by eliminating the bad gene altogether, by correcting the problem DNA to restore proper gene functioning, or by modifying a different gene to... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature May/June 2015
Light Plus Sound
In just a decade, optoacoustic or photoacoustic imaging has become one of the fastest growing areas of biomedical technology, exploding from just a handful of research groups in the late 1990s to more than 400 dedicated scientists and engineers today.... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Cover Story January/February 2017
The War on Cancer
Located on the north shore of Long Island in New York, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (Figure 1) started out with a marine biology emphasis at the end of the 19th century, but it soon established itself as a prominent cancer... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature May/June 2014
One Step at a Time
One of the biggest health problems in the world is also one of the most solvable. Yet, millions of people continue to be afflicted every year, spend time in hospitals for costly treatment, and, in many cases, become permanently disabled... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature September/October 2016
What Can Big Data Tell Us About Health?
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data,” said Sherlock Holmes creator and author Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887. In this era of big data, and especially the crush of medical information becoming available through new technologies... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature March/April 2019
Gift of Sight: Stem-Cell Patches for Wet and Dry Macular Degeneration
For people who have relied on good eyesight for the first six or seven decades of their lives, the diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is devastating. This disease, which currently has no cure, can severely limit central vision and,... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2016
Are Wearables Safe?
Sometime over the last few years, wearable electronics have become the norm. Whether it’s a cell phone attached to a holster at the hip, a smart watch on the wrist, or sensors on and sometimes woven into clothing, these technologies... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2018
Tiny Conveyance
In the science-fiction classic Fantastic Voyage [1], a shrink-ray zaps a submarine and the crew within it, and the resulting microscopic vehicle ventures inside a human body to destroy a blood clot and save a prominent patient’s life. While that... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature May/June 2017
New Advances Push Engineered Tissues Toward 3-D
Although doctors still cannot simply order new, functioning organs for patients who need replacements, researchers in labs around the world are making the important advances in tissue engineering that set the stage for regenerative medicine as well as make other biomedical... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature November/December 2014
My Body, My Microbiome
The human body is a microbe’s playground: interspersed among the 37 trillion cells of the human body [1] are at least ten times as many bacteria, fungi, viruses, and archaea. That amounts to 100 times as many microbial genes as... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature November/December 2016
Tying Tech to Care
People can do an incredible range of things remotely today. From a chair at the office or under an umbrella at the beach, they can adjust lights and appliance settings at home, monitor visitors on their doorstep, and check in... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Cover Story November/December 2019
Joint Ventures
Within a decade, life will likely become a lot easier for people with low back pain. The reason is cell therapy. Research is progressing rapidly and clinical trials are ongoing for new products that promise to repair the damage at... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature May/June 2016
Taking on Essential Tremor
Every year, Doris’s primary care physician sends her to see a neurologist to check on her hand tremor, which has increasingly worsened over the past 20 years. Year in and year out, the neurologist asks her to draw a circle... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2018
Cyber-Attacks to Devices Threaten Data, Patients
Above: Kevin Fu (front right) and his research group are testing the security and privacy of various medical devices, including heart-rate sensors, pacemakers, defibrillators, drug-delivery systems, and neurostimulators. (Photo courtesy of Joseph Xu, University of Michigan College of Engineering.) Every device that... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature July/August 2015
New Dental Tech Says a Mouthful
Above: Dentistry has evolved considerably, first with digital dental radiography, then cone beam computed tomography, and now intraoral scanning, which includes scans made with lasers, a series of LED lights, or high-speed video imaging, according to Jonathan Ferencz. Here, he uses... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature March/April 2017
The Coming Gray Tide
The human population is getting older, and technology will play a key role in addressing the pressures this aging will place on healthcare systems. According to the 2015 United Nations’ World Population Ageing report [1], the number of people worldwide... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature July/August 2014
Why Space?
To do experiments in space, scientists must carefully think out and prepare their experiments long ahead of time, wait for an available launch window to get their projects up to the laboratories on the International Space Station (ISS), rely in some cases on the... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature September/October 2016
The Case for Big Data
Cigarette smoking is tied to lung cancer, but people still smoke. Why do people start smoking in the first place? That is one of the many complex, interdisciplinary questions behind the Kavli HUMAN Project, a massive data-collection endeavor with the... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature May/June 2019
Virtual Reality Pioneer Tom Furness on the Past, Present, and Future of VR in Health Care
Back in the mid-1960s, rotary-dial telephones were the norm, music cassette tapes were brand new, and microwave ovens hadn’t made it into houses yet. That’s also when newly minted electrical engineer Thomas Furness joined a U.S. Air Force Lab and... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature March/April 2016
All It Takes Is Vision
Traditional genetic engineering has for several decades enabled the cutting and pasting of DNA from one place to another, allowing for all kinds of developments: giving bacteria the ability to make insulin, making crops pesticide- resistant, and increasing the size... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Cover Story March/April 2018
Nuclear Imaging Enters a New Era
Nuclear medicine has come a long way in a short time. Over the past three decades alone, it has taken two major steps forward and is now on the precipice of yet another advance that could begin to have a... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature July/August 2017
Taking on the Obesity Epidemic
If obesity were tied only to too much food or too little physical activity, the cure would be a simple matter of counting calories or keeping track of steps with a pedometer. Unfortunately, obesity is much more complex. Many other... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2015
The Birds, the Bees, and Technology
In 1978, “test tube baby” Louise Joy Brown became the first person born through the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Since then, the number of babies delivered with help from IVF or other assisted reproductive technology (ART) totaled about... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2017
A Glowing Future
“Did you get it all?” That’s one of the first questions many cancer patients ask when they awake following surgery to remove a tumor. Surgeons today can only say they did their best and resected as much as they could... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2014
Seven Steps to Innovation
Innovation isn’t easy. Not every idea is great, and not every great idea evolves into a final product or solution. So what does it take to move from the drawing board to realization, especially in the field of biomedical engineering,... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature May/June 2016
A Better View
Approximately 2% of Americans have a visual disability— vision that cannot be corrected even with the strongest prescription—and in developing countries where infectious disease or untreated cataracts are more common, the percentage is often higher. Many different diseases and conditions... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature November/December 2018
Opening Act
When an artery is blocked, stents are often the best way to open up the vessel. A mesh stent is tightly crimped over a tiny balloon and guided to the troubled spot; the balloon is inflated, expanding the stent, which... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Cover Story January/February 2018
On the Cusp of a Healthcare Revolution
Of the key technologies listed as “ready to propel industries and transform our world” in the 2017 report Top 50 Emerging Technologies: Growth Opportunities of Strategic Imperative, most fall under the scope of biomedical engineering (BME). Issued by the major... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature September/October 2015
From Annoying to Appreciated
There’s a big difference between driving suggestions that come from a newly licensed, know-it-all teenager and those that come from a professional racecar driver who has spent years honing skills on the course. The first is one you just want... Read more
IEEE PULSE,
Joint Ventures
Within a decade, life will likely become a lot easier for people with low back pain. The reason is cell therapy. Research is progressing rapidly and clinical trials are ongoing for new products that promise to repair the damage at... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2020
New Tests and Devices for Early Cancer Detection
“More than 600,000 people will die from cancer in the United States this year, and almost all of them could have been saved by detecting their cancers earlier when they were more amenable to the treatments available today,”... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2020
The Fight Against Cancer: Are We Winning or Losing?
When it comes to cancer, there’s good news and there’s bad news. While the combination of new screening tests and therapies are making headway, some types of cancer are becoming more common, especially in certain age groups... Read more
IEEE PULSE,
New Tests and Devices for Early Cancer Detection
“More than 600,000 people will die from cancer in the United States this year, and almost all of them could have been saved by detecting their cancers earlier when they were more amenable to the treatments available today,” according to... Read more
IEEE PULSE,
The Fight Against Cancer: Are We Winning or Losing?
When it comes to cancer, there’s good news and there’s bad news. While the combination of new screening tests and therapies are making headway, some types of cancer are becoming more common, especially in certain age groups. So how well... Read more
IEEE PULSE,
New Tests and Devices for Early Cancer Detection
“More than 600,000 people will die from cancer in the United States this year, and almost all of them could have been saved by detecting their cancers earlier when they were more amenable to the treatments available today,” according to... Read more
IEEE PULSE,
The Fight Against Cancer: Are We Winning or Losing?
When it comes to cancer, there’s good news and there’s bad news. While the combination of new screening tests and therapies are making headway, some types of cancer are becoming more common, especially in certain age groups. So how well... Read more
IEEE PULSE,
New Tests and Devices for Early Cancer Detection
“More than 600,000 people will die from cancer in the United States this year, and almost all of them could have been saved by detecting their cancers earlier when they were more amenable to the treatments available today,” according to... Read more
IEEE PULSE,
Joint Ventures
Within a decade, life will likely become a lot easier for people with low back pain. The reason is cell therapy. Research is progressing rapidly and clinical trials are ongoing for new products that promise to repair the damage at... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature March/April 2020
Updating Diagnoses for Speed and Accuracy: Using AI, Cameras, Assays, and More
When it comes to their health, people want answers right now. But clinicians cannot always make snap judgments about ailments or injuries. One way to help both general practitioners and patients is to introduce technologies that deliver quick and accurate diagnoses in a standard clinical setting... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature March/April 2020
Restoring the Sense of Touch: From “Sci-Fi Dream” to Reality
A range of remarkable prostheses are now available to give function back to people who have had hands, arms, feet, or legs amputated, but for all their capabilities, these devices are missing a critical feature: a real sense of touch. Without it, a patient has no tactile sensory feedback on whether they have stepped off a curb or onto a misplaced child’s toy, or are gripping a Styrofoam coffee cup or a toddler’s hand too tightly or too loosely... Read more
IEEE PULSE, COVID-19 Crisis Response, March/April 2020
Quick-Thinking Turns Out Low-Cost Ventilators
As the number of coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID–19) cases in the United States began mounting in the early weeks of March, healthcare workers raised the alarm about a looming shortage of ventilators to treat patients. On March 30, Ford Motor... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature May/June 2020
E-Textiles for Health Monitoring: Off to a Slow Start, but Coming Soon
Smart technology is in cellphones, televisions, cars, and home appliances, but smart textiles haven’t inundated the market yet. While engineers have been developing new and interesting ways to marry electronics and fabrics for several years now, the average person isn’t wearing e-tights to audit vital signs during a workout, switching to electronically enhanced bed sheets to track sleep patterns, or adding smart base layers to the everyday wardrobe. If the technology is moving forward as rapidly as it appears to be, why aren’t e-textiles flooding the market?... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature May/June 2020
The Great Exhale: Using Breath Analysis to Detect Disease
Your breath gives away a lot of information. Besides betraying that you’ve had garlic or onions for lunch, it also contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that provide quite telling biomarkers of disease. Building on the potential capability of VOCs to detect illness, the U.K. company Owlstone Medical is now developing a testing platform called Breath Biopsy [1] as a noninvasive diagnostic method and is collaborating with clinicians, researchers, and other biomedical companies around the world on its potential application for early detection of various cancers, respiratory illnesses, and immune diseases... Read more
IEEE PULSE, COVID-19 Crisis Response, May/June 2020
COVID-19 Testing: What New Mexico Did Right
Unlike many other states across America that have struggled to get enough diagnostic tests for coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID–19), New Mexico has not only met the demand for testing symptomatic patients, but is now expanding its screening to asymptomatic individuals.... Read more