From the category archives:

TEDMED

When we see a satellite image of a tropical depression in the Caribbean, we’ve come to expect that, within seconds, it will get incorporated into probabilistic models shown on our TVs at home, predicting where the hurricane will land and who it’s going to affect. Within minutes, we expect to see a personalized view of what we have to do in response to that public threat.

Do we have anything predictive like that in medicine? Isaac Kohane, MD, PhD, director of the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program, says we don’t yet—but we should.

In this video just posted by TEDMED, Kohane envisions the capability to make our health data work for us—quickly spotting everything from serious side effects of drugs to whether a patient may be experiencing domestic abuse. Or, quickly defining what subtype of autism a patient has. By simply harnessing existing electronic medical records, we may be able to shave years off diagnostic time and improve health care.

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Clinical research is all about numbers. A new informatics network called SHRINE could help make it easier to get find out if the numbers of patients are there to answer complex questions. (victoriapeckham/Flickr)

Ed. note: This morning at 8:15 EDT, Isaac Kohane, MD, PhD, will tell the audience at TEDMED 2013 about his goal of using every clinical visit to advance medical science. 

To preview his talk, we’ve updated a past Vector story about SHRINE, a system Kohane helped develop to allow scientists to use clinical data from multiple hospitals for research.

Clinical research really comes down to a numbers game. And those numbers can be the bane of the clinical researcher. If there aren’t enough patients in a study, its results could be statistically meaningless. But getting enough patients for a study, particularly for rare diseases, can be a daunting challenge.

The Shared Research Information Network (or SHRINE) could help solve this vexing problem. Developed through Harvard Catalyst by a team led by Isaac “Zak” Kohane, MD, PhD, director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Informatics Program, SHRINE links the clinical databases of participating Harvard-affiliated hospitals—currently Boston Children’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital—letting researchers at those hospitals see how many patients from those hospitals meet selected criteria.

Why is this important? Full story »

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Margaret Coughlin is a Senior Vice President and the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Here at the TEDMED conference, it’s all about horizontal or lateral thinking – coming at problems from new directions, without regard to conventional boundaries. I like the thoughts of Edward DeBono (not a TEDMED speaker), who coined the term “lateral thinking” in 1967:

Some people are unhappy about lateral thinking because they feel it threatens the validity of vertical thinking. This is not so at all. The two processes are complementary, not antagonistic. Lateral thinking enhances the effectiveness of vertical thinking by offering it more to select from. Vertical thinking multiplies the effectiveness of lateral thinking by making good use of the ideas generated.

Lateral thinking is, in a way, an antidote to the way we’re all taught—vertically and specifically. Our education systems seem to be getting more vertical – more concerned with meeting prescribed benchmarks, and, in so doing, discarding the creativity and imagination of learning that is critical to real innovation and real forward movement. As for medical education, radiation oncologist and TEDMED speaker Jacob Scott said it has replaced creativity in the brain with a warehouse. Full story »

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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, Full story »

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Margaret Coughlin is a Senior Vice President and the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Children’s Hospital Boston

Disruption. A core ideal of the TEDMED conference. I’m in a senior strategic marketing position at Children’s Hospital Boston, in a healthcare world in dire need of solutions. What can I do as an individual to spark disruption, change the course?

Brilliant individuals from all over the world have converged here.  From biology lab leaders to the U.S. Surgeon General (yes, she is here) – they’ve all convened to share, to educate and to think. The ideas are flying, and the different disciplines are connecting dots that at first glance make no sense. Worlds are colliding and combining and then dividing again. Art, sensing technology, mobile devices, biology and on and on are merging to create solutions to an uncountable number of healthcare problems.

The fundamental question, though, is why doesn’t this happen every day, and happen faster? Full story »

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A tissue engineered cartilage tube ready for implantation.

Tissue-engineered repairs and replacement parts aren’t just concepts out of science fiction – they promise to provide the ideal solution for thousands of children born each year with congenital anomalies or who suffer devastating injuries. A study released yesterday in The Lancet and covered on NPR reports on the latest tissue engineering advance.

Anthony Atala, a former Children’s Hospital Boston urologist and now director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, reports on five young boys in Mexico City whose damaged urethras he replaced with laboratory-grown urethras over five years ago. The patients had suffered damage to their urinary tracts from auto accidents, leaving them unable to urinate without a catheter.

In an approach he began at Children’s back in the late 1990s, Atala and his colleagues took a biopsy of bladder tissue from each boy, and expanded the cells in the laboratory until there were approximately 100 million cells Full story »

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Concept for a new kind of surgical robot (click to enlarge)

Inventors and engineers tend to come up with ideas and technologies first, then say, “This is cool, what’s it good for?” Clinicians tend to say, “Here’s my clinical problem, how can I solve it?”

This was roughly the thinking that brought together Boston University engineer Pierre Dupont and Pedro del Nido, chief of Cardiac Surgery at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Dupont had a vision for a next-generation surgical robot. del Nido had a vision of doing complex cardiac repairs in children while their hearts are still beating. Could they create a viable technology? Full story »

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Daydreaming, Eugene de Blaas (1843-1931)

Things have a way of coming back full circle.

As in the first day of TEDMED, the message today was about imagination. Scott Parazynski, a physician and astronaut, reminded the audience about daring to imagine. As a child, he dreamed about flying in space and climbing to the peak of Mount Everest. As an adult, he made those dreams a reality, because he just dared to image. Nathaniel Pearson, a genomicist at Knome Inc., and Greg Lucier, the CEO of Life Technologies, both asked the audience to imagine a future in which patients come to their physician’s office to have their genome mapped and receive treatments tailor-made for them based upon their genetics. Full story »

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TEDMED, Wurman, Nurjana BachmanTEDMED was fascinating, and it was a great experience for the Children’s team who attended. Based on the conference attendees and the intimate size of the gathering, it offered our constituents ample opportunity to interact with peers from other fields, policy decision makers, media influencers, future collaborators and potential sponsors in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in any other setting. Full story »

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syringeThis is how Dean Kamen, the consummate inventor, framed his talk on Day 3 at TEDMED. If this is the definition of genius, then Marc Koska, who developed a syringe which cannot be reused and also spoke yesterday, certainly is one. The syringe and the associated public health campaign he ran in India and other parts of the developing world to raise awareness about the danger of reusing needles, common practice in these countries, is credited with saving 10 million lives.

Both Kamen’s and Koska’s presentations touched on a theme that hasn’t been discussed much here: the interface between the technology inventor and the private sector industry that develops, manufactures, markets and distributes products. Full story »

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