TEDMED Highlights 2012 (video links!)

TEDMED Highlights 2012

My selection of innovative and inspiring TED talks around Medicine and Healthcare from the latest TEDMED round in April 2012.

What is TED and TEDMED?

Last week I had the fortunate opportunity to join the 2012 TEDMED talk series in Washington D.C. together with 1,500 other participants (and viewers at 2,000 simulcast locations nationwide).

You may be familiar with TED.com talks on their website, podcast, or YouTube.com:  TED started out bringing together topics from Technology, Education, and Design (hence the TED acronym) but then expanded into other areas such as Medicine – TEDMED.

TEDMED 2012
TEDMED 2012

My Highlights 2012

From the variety of great innovation topics around medicine, research, and healthcare presented this year, here are my personal highlights that I took away for myself and that I want to share with you:

  • Albert-László Barabási (Director of the Center for Complex Network Research, Northeastern University) pointed out that –today- we know only 5% of genes associated with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or asthma, for example.  He drew an interesting comparison to the street map of Manhattan, were we would not be able to see clusters around ‘hotspots’ (Wall Street, Theater District, etc.) if we only had access to 5%  of the data.  Since scientists today focus on researching one disease at a time, they cannot connect the dots across diseases to identify which genes are associated with multiple diseases.  He promotes ‘Network Medicine’ to identify commonalities across diseases, so we can fight clusters of diseases that appear unrelated today. (Watch The Video Now)
  • Seth Cooper (Creative Director, Center for Game Science, University of Washington) presented his successful ‘Foldit’ project as a crowd-sourcing challenge around gamification of science.  Players around the world competed on folding a synthetic protein, formed collaborating teams, and achieved to solve a puzzle that specialized scientists were unable to solve in 10 years.  Key to success was to model the right game approach to motivate the players. This project involved no monetary incentive but honor-based reward instead. (Watch The Video Now)
  • Franziska Michor (Associate Professor of Computational Biology, Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) from Austria uses a mathematical approach to cancer research by modeling rules of cell behavior that follows the basic patterns of evolution (‘egoistic’ behavior by cancer cells in multi-cell organism).  Her goal is to predict cell behavior and replace clinical trials with mathematical models that predict the drug dosage with the lowest probability of resistance thereby reducing dose-finding trials.  This speeds up the research process, reduces the need for many clinical trials, and helps targeting and conducting fewer clinical trials in the future. (Watch The Video Now)
  • Miguel Nicholelis (Founder of Duke’s Center for Neuroengineering) presented successful primate studies of his neuroscience ‘Walk Again’ project: Signals from the brain to move limbs (arms, legs) by-passed the spinal chord and were transmitted to artificial limbs even in remote locations.  This way, one day, paralyzed or amputated patients are able to walk again using and exo-skeleton prosthesis after a short training period (think: Avatar in case you watched the movie).  So far, a primate in America easily navigated a walking robot in Japan exclusively through its brain signals. (Watch The Video Now)
  • Barbara Bass (Director, Methodist Institute for Technology Innovation and Education, MITIE) builds prototypes and innovative environments to train surgeons by leveraging technology.  Examples include (1) virtual operating room presence, (2) wearable technology to co-pilot a surgeon remotely, or (3) thermal imaging of a trainee surgeon’s face reflecting the trainee’s level of stress and confidence conducting a procedure, which gives feedback to educators on the trainee’s level of proficiency. (Watch The Video Now)
  • Bud Frazier (Director, Cardiovascular Surgery Research, Texas Heart Institute) and Billy Cohn (Director, Minimally Invasive Surgical Technology, Texas Heart Institute) suggested there is no need for a pulse with an artificial heart. There are 2k heart transplants in the US every year vs. 400k potential patients.  Previous artificial hearts ‘bio-mimic’ the pulsating human heart in a reverse-engineering approach.  This challenges size and durability of the device (that needs to produce 35 million or so palpitations per year reliably and without damaging the blood).  Based on an Archimedes’ screw inspired turbine, their artificial heart approach has only 2 (soon only 1) moving parts that last approx. 15-20 years – without a pulse in the patient.  Apparently, a pulse is not necessary to live.  11k devices were implanted since 2003(?) with promising results in cattle and –recently- human application.
    (Watch The Video Now)
  • Lynda Chin (Chair, Department of Genomic Medicine & Scientific Director, Institute of Applied Cancer Science, MD Anderson Cancer Center) advocates practically (perhaps not realistically though) to cover not only target biology but also drug discovery within Academia (translational) to speed up the development process.  Academia should be reorganized to recognize the importance of applied science with incentives granted for meeting milestones, not publications. (Watch The Video Now)

Please share your thoughts or questions!