Innovation Day at Children’s Hospital Boston: A preview

Valentine's Day is Innovation Day (image: Richard Giles/Flickr)

In a series of 17 short TED-style talks next Tuesday, February 14, clinicians and scientists from Children’s will present new products, processes and technologies to make health care safer, better and less expensive. The event, from 1-5 p.m. Eastern, is sponsored by the Innovation Acceleration Program. It’s now running a wait list, but you can also watch the live stream or track the proceedings on Twitter (#iDay) or via @science4care. Here’s a small sampling of next week’s presenters; for details, read the press release or view the full agenda.

Diagnosing lazy eye when it’s most treatable: in preschoolers

If lazy eye, or amblyopia, is caught early – ideally, before age 5 – it’s easily treated by patching the “good” eye, forcing the child to use and strengthen the weaker eye. But if it goes unnoticed, the weak, unused eye can slowly go blind, simply because the brain starts ignoring visual input from it. David Hunter, chief of ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital Boston, wants pediatricians and community programs to start screening for amblyopia in preschool-age children; once children reach 8 to 10 years of age their vision often can’t be restored. Hunter has developed an easy-to-use Pediatric Vision Scanner with help from Children’s Technology Development Fund, a Small Business Innovation Research grant, the National Eye Institute, private donors and a team of engineers.

Public health intelligence in real time

Within 10 miles of my house, four swan carcasses in a pond just tested positive for avian influenza. Two students were reported to show signs of whooping cough. I learned this from HealthMap, an open-source, multilingual surveillance tool that captures and maps the current global state of infectious diseases. 24/7, it can gather, integrate and filter information from official reports, expert-curated discussions, Google News, peoples’ searches on Google, eyewitness reports (via the companion mobile app Outbreaks Near Me), Twitter and more, often flagging emerging problems before government health agencies do (see tomorrow’s post!). HealthMap (licensing info here) keeps adding new features, so I’m looking forward to what its co-founder — epidemiologist John Brownstein — has to say.

Bedside assessment of babies’ brains

Surprisingly little is known about babies’ brains before age 2, because safely imaging children so young is a challenge. Ellen Grant, a neuroradiologist trained in theoretical physics, will discuss what advanced imaging techniques and computational science can reveal about the newborn and even fetal brain. Her lab is seeking to bring these tools into routine clinical care, allowing neurologists to track the brain as it forms and folds, follow the growth of individual brain structures, and detect problems in brain organization before a child starts missing developmental milestones – and then evaluate the effects of brain-protective treatments such as cooling the body. Her talk next week focuses on one technology known as near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS).