Entries in TEDMED Conference (3)


Teaching Old Drugs New Tricks for Rare Diseases

TedMed(WASHINGTON) -- Sam Burns of Boston is a ninth-grader stuck in an 80-year-old man’s body. He has progeria, a rare disease that has aged his body faster than his mind. Although his condition limits him physically, he says there’s nothing he puts his mind to that he can’t do.

“When there is something I really want to do that Progeria gets in the way of, like marching band or umpiring, we always find a way to do it,” Sam told a crowd of nearly 1,500 people at the annual TedMed conference Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

So don’t think for a second that you can tell Sam there’s no treatment for his condition.

Although research for any treatment for any rare disease, including progeria, has been slow going, the message for researchers who are trying to knock out rare diseases might be this: Don’t start from scratch.

Indeed, the drug treatment that has shown promise for progeria was not developed for progeria, but for cancer. And the same might be true for other rare diseases. Drugs that once looked promising for prominent diseases such as cancer are increasingly being repurposed to treat unrelated rare diseases, and they’re actually working, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told the TedMed crowd.

Sam is being treated by a drug called Farnesyltransferase inhibitors, which is considered a cancer treatment. But the drug might also mask the gene mutation that’s associated with progeria.

The repurposing of drugs that may have failed clinical trials for one type of disease, but have shown promise in others will help get more rare diseases treatments out to the public, and out faster, according to Collins.

“It’s a win for company, because they have a product that can give them something rather than a dead end drug that has failed,” Collins told ABC News. “And it’s a win for the public. It’s the answer diseases that wouldn’t otherwise been looked at so quickly.”

Sam said participating in clinical trials is his contribution toward helping researchers find the right treatment, which might come in the form of a drug’s second wind.

“Research on progeria has come so far in less than 15 years, and that just shows the drive that researchers can have,” Sam said. “If that drive exists, anyone can cure any disease.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hospital Room Designed for the Patient, by the Patient

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- You may not know that famed architect Michael Graves is in a wheelchair, although many of us know his name, because we buy his well-designed home products sold at Target stores.

At TedMed, an annual conference focusing on health and medicine, Graves told his story of paralysis.  From his wheelchair, Graves shared that in 2003 he had been running around the world, traveling nonstop to create his incredible designs, when he got a sinus cold he could not get rid of.  He could not ignore it, because the next day it had spread and became a pain in his back.  He had no choice but to take himself to the hospital, and by the next morning, he was paralyzed.  Doctors told him he had something that only four other people in the world had.  His sinus infection had gone to his brain and then his spine, resulting in paralysis.  It’s still not clear what the infection was.

Graves spent months in the hospital undergoing rehab.  He learned quickly how poorly designed the hospital room was for a wheelchair-confined person.  Tasks like shaving and reaching the sink were troublesome for him.

Graves knew he had to do something. While he still designs buildings and products, he has gone on to design furniture -- tables, chairs, tools for the hospital room that meet patients’ needs.  His furniture designs are simple and make sense -- a table with a handle and two levels, so you can separate your tissues and medicines from your newspaper and candy.

He also designed a simple trash can that could fit under the bedside table.  Another of his designs is a chair with holes in the back, so that when a patient puts a sheet on it before sitting down (something, he said, patients often do to keep the chair germ free) it doesn’t come off with the patient when the patient stands up.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Feel the Freezer Burn: Losing Weight by Chilling the Body

Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- When popular diet plans failed, Ray Cronise, former NASA scientist and founder of Zero G Corp., says he found an extraordinary way to lose weight by tapping into the laws of thermodynamics: he was going to literally freeze his butt off.

"The current paradigm of losing weight is diet versus exercise, calories in, calories out. I was able to do was figure out that another big part is the environment we're in. Our body temperature remains constant and it takes a lot of energy to keep it that way, no different than heating your house," Cronise says.

By exposing his body to cold in the right ways, he theorized, he could boost his weight loss. In fact, he doubled how fast he lost weight using these techniques, losing 30 pounds in six weeks.

"I treated my body like a thermostat…to see if I could run up the utility bill and get the furnace, [my metabolism,] running at full blast," he explained in a presentation on his weight loss given at Wednesday's TEDMED conference.

Cronise's inspiration came when, desperate to find a more efficient way to lose weight, he heard that Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps ate 12,000 calories worth of food a day. Even with all the athlete's physical activity, it didn't make sense to Cronise why he would need that much.

"Then I found out it was the water," he says, because the cool water forced Phelp's body to constantly fight to maintain its temperature.

It turns out, this phenomenon was well-studied by the military and the space program in the 1950s and 1960s, only in the context of keeping weight on soldiers in cold, harsh environments, not on weight loss.

Using swimming and something called thermal loading, where the body is exposed to cold in various ways, Cronise applied this decades-old research and found that he could lose up to four pounds a week.

"You really think you're burning all these calories because you're sweating [when you work out], but when you're cold you burn way more calories," he said in his presentation.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio