Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, returned to TED 2011 a couple weeks ago to give updates on his breakthroughs in regenerative medicine. In addition to explaining the process of growing bioengineered organs, valves, and tissues, he also demonstrates how he’s using printing technology to fabricate body parts and even print skin tissue directly onto a patient’s wound. Other highlights of the talk include a live demo of a kidney-shaped mold being printed on the TED stage, and a reunion with a young patient who was one of the first recipients of a bioengineered bladder from Dr. Atala’s lab.
After the computer known as Watson easily dispatched of the best two human Jeopardy! contestants in history, IBM announced that one of the first applications of their artificial intelligence technology would be in the medical field. We should soon expect virtual physician assistants in the exam room. At least one of my friends even speculated that the days of human doctors are numbered.
Is it possible that machines will replace humans in the doctor-patient relationship? I doubt it. According to a study done by the Mayo Clinic in 2006, the most important characteristics patients feel a good doctor must possess are entirely human. According to the study, the ideal physician is confident, empathetic, humane, personal, forthright, respectful, and thorough. Watson may have proved his cognitive superiority, but can a computer ever be taught these human attributes needed to negotiate through patient fear, anxiety, and confusion? Could such a computer ever come across as sincere?
I’m afraid some major calibrations might be needed to substitute artificial intelligence for an “ideal” physician. What do you think? Here’s an artist’s conception (read: farce) of how such an application in the examining room might play out. Click HERE to watch the medical cartoon.
If you’ve been watching Jeopardy! over the past couple days, you probably know that IBM’s highly-advanced artificial intelligence software, Watson, has been competing against Jeopardy!’s most successful contestants (and as of Tuesday night, took a commanding lead over the humans, despite having some trouble with United States geography).
Besides the amazing ability to power through “Daily Doubles” and answer random trivia in the form of a question, IBM researchers believe that Watson could revolutionize the healthcare industry. From diagnostics to informatics, Watson could quickly search through medical records, clinical documents, and research information for precise answers that would benefit both doctors and patients.
Check out the video below to see physicians explain how Watson’s technology could transform medicine.
Also watch the TED.com webcast of Dr. David Ferrucci (Principal Investigator of the DeepQA/Watson project at IBM), Dr. Herbert Chase (Professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University School of Physicians and Surgeons), and others discussing the Jeopardy! challenge and the impact the technology behind Watson could have on society.
What do you do when you’re one of the world’s biggest food companies and you’re looking to explore what happens after your products get chewed and swallowed? Apparently you build a large refrigerator-sized, million dollar model of a human gut, complete with valves, injection ports for enzymes, and a transparent window for visibility, of course.
Nestle, in their quest to create foods that trick your body into feeling even more satisfied after eating than you otherwise would be, has a research and development center that holds this artificial gut, tucked next to the mountains in Lausanne, Switzerland. Here they’re busy studying and trying to commercialize gastrointestinal phenomenon such as the “ileal break,” a peptidal feedback mechanism that both slows transit through the GI system and reduces food intake by triggering feelings of satiation. They hope to release products based on this science within five years.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Tracking the movement of food in a person’s gastrointestinal tract isn’t easy. So at a “digestion lab”—part of Nestle’s sprawling research and development center here—scientists use a million-dollar model of the human gut.
The machine is about the size of a large refrigerator. It has several compartments linked by valves, and it is carefully calibrated to the body’s temperature. The entire setup is controlled by a computer. The front is glass, allowing observers to watch as food travels through the system.
On a recent day, the “stomach” section at the top slowly squeezed and churned a salt solution, just like the real thing. The liquefied result then wended its way down the other tubes, representing other sections of the digestive tract. At each stage, tiny valves released the appropriate salt, bile and enzymes, which helped to digest the food.
The question still stands: What comes out the other end?
After assuming control of the House in the mid-term elections, Republicans vowed to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act, the health reform law signed by the “Big O” last March. Thank heavens, therefore, that the Boehners were too busy congratulating themselves to even notice those federal helicopters dumping $1 billion in cash on some needy biotech companies just as the election results were being tallied.
Yep, it happened. Federal disbursements in the form of grants and tax credits were made last week, as required by a provision in the reform law known as the Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project Program. According to the terms of this program, biotech and life sciences companies with less than 250 employees could apply for federal funds to cover research costs they had incurred in the last two years, so long as the research focused on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of chronic diseases. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*
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