Open Mics With Doctor Stites 3-27-24

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Jill Chadwick

News Director

Office: (913) 588-5013

Cell: (913) 223-3974


Key points from today’s guests:

Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer, The University of Kansas Health System

  • We see amazing new technology in sci-fi shows like Star Trek, but some of that type of technology is not just fiction, it is a real possibility.
  • When you think about where we've gone in medicine, it's like the brain is the final frontier.
  • We are addressing how your brain interfaces with a computer and what the line is between your own thoughts and that of a computer code.
  • Experts are exploring how long until this technology might reach clinical use, not just for spinal cord injuries, but for other conditions.

Dr. Paul Camerata, M.D., neurosurgeon; clinical service chief, neurosurgery, The University of Kansas Health System

  • Fixing spinal cord injuries is difficult because some of the problem is the scar tissue that develops. The nerves are very sensitive, and a slight shock can render them inactive.
  • Another problem is there's very little regeneration in nerves. The poor regenerative capacity of nerves, combined with the scar tissue that forms in that area after the injury can be difficult to fix.
  • What's really cool is the amazing plasticity of the brain and seeing the examples of how people can move cursors around on a computer screen or making a robotic arm move just by thinking about it.
  • This is an evolution and it really requires not only a lot of smart people and a lot of great scientists and engineers to work on this, but it requires a lot of money.
  • The amount of research and development just like developing a new pharmaceutical agent -- the drugs aren't expensive because the materials are expensive -- they're expensive because all the research and development that's required and investors that are required.
  • Over time, this will evolve into a completely new way of treating brain injuries.

Dr. Randolph Nudo, Ph.D., associate director, Landon Center for Aging; vice chair of research, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehab, KU Medical Center

  • I think neurotechnology has really solved some issues with spinal cord injuries.
  • Neurons that control your muscles in your in your hands and legs, they're still operating after an injury, but not quite like they did before because they don't have anything to operate because of the connections are cut off.
  • But they can still process the information and they can still create those signals to initiate the movement.
  • We worked with NeuraLink back in 2008 helping the Department of Defense develop new techniques for treatment for veterans with brain injuries.
  • The original chip had eight electrodes to connect to the brain. Today’s chip has more than 1,000 electrodes.
  • These electrodes read brain signals and can be processed to move limbs.
  • There are so many different opportunities for helping other diseases, whether that's helping rehab for stroke, cerebral palsy, and others. Just our knowledge about the brain and better devices could allow for many more opportunities for medicine.

Dr. Adam Rouse, M.D., Ph.D., director, Precision Neural Dynamics Lab; director of basic research, Department of Neurology, KU Medical Center

  • The challenge is working with maybe 1,000 neurons connecting to the chip when there's 86 billion neurons in the brain. There's so many different patterns and so many different ways in how the brain is organized, the big question is how do you learn and adapt to do different things and different tasks?
  • It's all about trying to figure out how to take all those channels of activity and intelligently combine them into output signals that really allow you to drive things.
  • When we talk about artificial intelligence, what we're really talking about is really advanced algorithms. As we get more and more advanced, all these AI or deep learning algorithms really start to analyze patterns that allow you to do much more complex things.
  • We're seeing a real explosion of breakthrough interfaces and their ability to do predictive language models. Now you can decode these signals so you can have relatively simple signals that are generating really complex actions because these algorithms have gotten more advanced.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control, The University of Kansas Health System

  • The hospital COVID count for this week is at 11 inpatients, down from 12 the previous two weeks.
  • Hopefully over the next few weeks, we will see that getting into the single digits and maybe at some point down to zero.
  • A form of avian flu has been found in cows in Kansas. This can be passed to humans, so it is important for all of our farmers and all of our people working with livestock around the state and around the region to take precautions to help reduce their chance of infection.

Thursday, Mar. 28 at 8 a.m. is the next All Things Heart. Learn about a technique that eliminates the need for you to go on blood thinners.

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