Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hi-Tech Health Care

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With a speakers list ranging from Deepak Chopra to Steve Wozniak, to Goldie Hawn and David Blaine, the TEDMED 2009 Conference brought together some of the worlds greatest minds to discuss the future of health care technology.

The most interesting innovations didn't come from Hollywood, of course, but from exciting new companies converting research successes into technological marvels.

On the cancer front, the Pink Army Cooperative seeks to destroy breast cancer cells using synthetic, tumour-killing viruses. The viruses will be initially tested on cells taken from a patients' own tumour before being introduced into the body.

Another company, HopeLab, has designed a video game that helps kids respond better to cancer treatments, called Re-Mission. The user plays the role of a nanobot that destroys malignant cells with drugs and radiation.

Wi-Fi gadgets also had a big presence at the conference. The Corventis PiiX monitor sticks to your chest, looks no bigger than a cell phone, but can measure and transmit about a dozen different vital signs at a time. Another device, Zeo, is an alarm clock that records your brain waves as you sleep.

Finally, and most impressively, tissue engineering is moving ahead leaps and bounds. A company called Organogenesis is using sheets of lab-grown tissue to heal difficult wounds like diabetic ulcers. The grafts, shown above, consist of cells grown on a flexible collagen support matrix.

Whole organs are not far off, especially considering the announcement of a potential X-Prize competition dedicated to this end. Perhaps some custom-made hearts and brains are in order for US legislators?

~Rheanna Sand

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