Nine TED Talks about Health Technology

Nine TED Talks about Health Technology

If you are someone who already enjoys consuming media in video form, then you are probably already aware there is an abundance of great TED Talks on a variety of subjects online. As health technology and health innovation continue to prosper, some great thought leaders have emerged on the TED platform to present on their area of expertise. Below you will find nine TED Talks for those who have an affinity for health technology.

Predicting future trends

In his 2012 TED talk, chemist Lee Cronin—a professor at the University of Glasgow—asked whether we could 'app' chemistry. He had been wondering if there was such a thing as a universal chemistry set from which any organic molecule could be built. He was able to answer this question with the help of a 3-D printer. Using chemical inks, it is indeed possible to produce chemical compounds.

Cronin explained the technology that allows us to print our own medications in his talk: Print Your Own Medicine. Cronin also predicts that by using our stem cells and genes we might at some point in the future be able to print our own personalized drugs. In fact, printed drugs are now becoming commercialized. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the first time approved a prescribed medication manufactured through 3-D printing.

Another futuristically-orientated talk was given at a local TEDx event in Philadelphia by Dr. Stephen Klasko, the president and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and its affiliated hospital.

In his talk, Dr. Klasko takes us on a time journey to the year 2024. He presents his view of the future health care and the changes required to get there. Klasko believes these should include transforming medical education, improving consumer experience and integrating technology and innovations from other fields into health care.

Using health technology to biohack

Continuing the topic of personalizing health through digital means, Ellen Jorgensen and her cohorts wanted a place where anyone could go and get more involved with learning about their own biology using technology.

She is one of the founders of Genspace, which is a government-compliant establishment for DIYbio. Genspace, and Jorgensen, are on the forefront of the do-it-yourself biotechnology movement. If biohacking interests you, Jorgensen’s TED video Biohacking—You Can Do It, Too might be of interest.

Genome-editing technology like CRISPR plays an important role in the biohacking movement. Geneticist Jennifer Doudna presents the elements of CRISPR-Cas9 in her talk: How CRISPR Lets Us Edit our DNA. Although Doudna co-invented this tool, she now reflects on the ethical implications of manipulating our DNA and urges others to do the same.

Exploring humanitarian uses of mobile technology

Today, more people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to a mobile phone than have access to running water. With this in mind, Andrew Bastawrous—an eye surgeon and inventor—started thinking about how to harness the power of mobile technology to improve eye health, especially in less privileged environments.

In the TED talk by Bastawrous, he explains how his team developed a portable eye examination kit and replaced bulky and fragile medical equipment with smartphone apps.

Moreover, to determine the reason for vision loss, Bastawrous’ team developed an affordable 3D-printed hardware that can be clipped onto a smartphone and enables a good quality examination of the back of the eye, performed by anyone with minimal training, anywhere in the world.

Similarly, Jorge Soto—a cancer technologist—described how progress is being made in developing an open-source cancer test, which will be a part of a mobile platform and will detect early forms of some cancers in an egalitarian way.

Since cancer is still, in most cases, diagnosed only when symptoms develop, Soto’s research could offer a breakthrough and could also help people who have so far not had access to early detection technologies.

The test Soto talks about in his TED talk ‘The Future of Early Cancer Detection?’ is reliable and only requires a simple blood sample.

Advancing perceptions of the world

In one of the most sensational TED talks, neuroscientist David Eagleman—who researches perception and brain plasticity—explains the limitations of our perception. In his words, “we are constrained by our biology,” and his research aims to expand our world beyond these constraints and open up new dimensions that are out there.

To unstick us from our limited subjective world, Eagleman and his colleagues devised a wearable device with an interface that runs on cell phones and tablets.

The first device, a sensory vest, gives humans new senses and makes them aware of things previously undetected. The vest translates sound into a pattern of vibrations the human brain can learn how to interpret. Tests on deaf people showed that, over time, people start understanding the language of the vest and hearing the world around them.

Another wearable device that advanced medicine is a temporary tattoo that can be used to monitor a patient. Todd Coleman is a bioelectronics innovator who gave a TEDMED talk explaining the development of his ground-breaking monitoring patches. Coleman and his team were inspired to develop a high-fidelity wearable system that would use the same chips as a computer. Ideally, it could be worn at home to monitor your health and wirelessly transmit data. The end product was a tattoo-resembling invention that has sensors embedded into flexible adhesives that are usually used in hospitals.

Pioneers from the fields of epigenetics

Epigenetics represents a new revolution in medicine. It suggests that our genes are not as static as we once thought. Instead, they can be (re)programmed based on different social and environmental factors. Moshe Szyf is an expert exploring the mechanisms that turn our genes on and off. He starts his TED talk with a story of intriguing mother rat behavior that appears to influence their offspring. Szyf goes on to explain how early life experience is written into our DNA.

Contrary to what we used to believe, our genome is not a pre-written script. It correlates with the dynamic world and according to Szyf’s research, life experience and environment we are exposed to can change our gene expression. Research like his has a big potential in understanding human behavior. It also gives new insights into the development of different diseases and could potentially offer epigenetic treatment options.

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