Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Laboratories Seek New Ways to Take a Look Inside

Isabelle Shinsato
Current Events Report

            Markoff, John. “Laboratories Seek New Ways to Take a Look Inside.”  The New York Times, published October 8,2012

            Christopher Contag, a microbiologist, at Stanford University in California has just developed a wide range of new tools that can travel down the stomach, intestines, and esophagus and virtually see three dimensions below the skins surface to allow pathologists to probe for cancers. These new devices are also able to virtually “punch holes” into hundreds of cells and using acoustic and optical techniques are able to use color contrasting to identify abnormalities in the cell. These new pathology tools provide doctors with an instant diagnosis and at the same time are able to make it inexpensive and can usually be based on smart phones. These advances are mostly possible because of the declining cost of computing and the rising availability of other miniaturization technologies such as nanotechnology. Another developing product was made by Mathew Putman, from Columbia University, and it is an advanced ultrasound system that is put in through the patients mouth and goes down to the esophagus. The technique is called three-dimensional transesophageal echocardiography, or 3-D TEE, this takes a picture of the heart from the patients rib cage and turns them into high resolution 3-D videos of the patients beating heart.

            These new technologies are able to give the patient a diagnosis in a much faster and cheaper way than ever before. The fact that new pathology tools are more affordable means that they can be used to help sick people in poverty stricken countries, which is an amazing accomplishment. Since doctors can make a diagnosis faster it means that diseases that are fatal if not caught soon enough, such as cancer, can be detected faster and with more precision.

            I thought this was a very well written and descriptive article. My only criticism is that I think this article could have been split into two separate articles because the author touches upon many different new technologies but some are in different fields of medicine. I think the author did a great job explaining each new technology and made sure that the reader could understand all the scientific terms and didn’t leave any gray areas.


  1. I thought that Isabelle’s review of new methods being developed to take a look inside the human body was very well written. One aspect that was particularly well presented was her summary. It was brief and easy to understand, and included the significant facts and details emphasized in the article about new advancements in technology that allow pathologists to probe for cancers or abnormalities in cells. I also liked how she included the importance of this new technology advancement in her review, as she addresses how these new advancements allow the patients quicker and cheaper diagnoses than ever. She also explains how people in poverty stricken countries will be able to benefit from this technology, and how diseases that are fatal can be detected earlier on with more accuracy. Isabelle brought up a good point that the article could have been split into two separate articles since there are many different technologies that are in different fields of medicine. I agree with this point because with all the different technologies that are within different fields of medicine mentioned in this article, it is easy for the reader to get confused or bored with the article. I found many of the new advances mentioned in this article to be fascinating. One I found to be especially interesting was the 3-D TEE, which takes a picture of the heart from the rib cage of the patient and is then able to turn them into high resolution 3-D videos of the patients’ beating heart. I find this interesting because it really proves how much technology has advanced that it is now possible to make high-resolution 3-D videos of a beating heart. Another fact I found interesting was that new devices developed by a microbiologist, Christopher Contag, are virtually able to “punch holes” into hundreds of cells and are able to identify abnormalities in the cell by using color contrasting. This stood out to me because just the fact that it is possible to virtually punch holes into hundreds of tiny cells fascinates me. My only suggestion for Isabelle would be to include the reason why she chose this article next time, as I was interested to know why this particular article stood out to her. Overall, I thought she did an excellent job and I learned a lot from reading her review.

  2. Isabelle’s analysis of new tools developed by Stanford University was well written, very in-depth and interesting. It struck me how interesting this article was and how interesting she made it. It interested to me that they developed such futuristic ways of diagnosing problems inside the body. The fact that it was developed shows just how advanced our technology in the medical field is becoming. Isabelle was really able to express this theme and enthusiastically wrote it. Isabelle was able to grab the reader’s attention with this in-depth view of how these tools work inside the human body.
    I was also impressed with Isabelle’s cohesiveness in the article. She pieced together this analysis very well by explaining the function of the these tools, where it was developed, the technology behind these tools, what this means for the rest of society and the world, and her personal take on the article. She had good insight on any problems with the article as well as sang its praise in the same paragraph so as not to discredit the author. This was a very well written piece.
    I was also impressed with how in-depth she was at explaining the functions of the tool. When I first read the heading, I pondered how the subject of this article worked. All the nanotechnology involved and the opportunities it opened up to the rest of the world really stood out to me.
    I had no idea that the idea of using nanotechnology in the medical field even existed until I read this analysis. It really was a good introduction for me into the field of new technology in the medical field. I also didn’t know about the lowering cost of nanotechnology. This also stuck out to me and I realized how advanced our society was and is becoming.
    The only suggestion I can make was talk about the timeline of each of these products. When were they developed, when would they be available to the public, how far is it in the development stage. Overall, very well written though.

  3. Biology Spencer Cox
    Current events response 3 10/15/12

    I read Isabelle's article on laboratories trying to find new ways to look inside of humans. I found that this article was very interesting due to the vast amount of information that it presented. I never thought that anyone would manage to come up with other ways of looking inside the human body without making incisions or using extremely expensive and heavy machinery. Besides the areas of this article that I personally found interesting the areas that were really well presented were the way in which the information was presented to the reader. I had to read the article to the very end because it presented a lot of very interesting information that proved to be quite informative and revolutionary. The second thing that I thought was well presented was depth that the review went to. the review went into more detail in some areas that the article failed to. This was very surprising because usually the article goes more in depth but for once it was the reverse. The final thing that I thought was well presented in this was the way that this new technology could help people in poor countries get better medical care that would benefit them so that they wouldn't be constantly be getting sick. I was impressed by how well organized and presented the information was. For example the way that doctors could diagnose health problems quicker by using this new equipment. Lastly I was impressed by how these new tools can not only diagnose things faster but actually instantly. Usually there are a number of tests that must be run in order to determine whether or not someone has a health issue such as cancer. The fact that this can determine immediately whether or not you have a disease can save a lot of people's lives. The only thing that this review could have done to of been even better would have to be shortening the length of the review. While I found it extremely interesting and informative it was very wordy towards the end, other than that the review is amazing.

  4. Isabelle’s review on the new ways to look inside the human body was very interesting and well written. She described Stanford and Columbia’s technological advances well and her writing was very clear. What interested me was the device that can travel below the skins surface to search for cancer. This could become important to finding a cure. I thought also that Isabelle connected these technologies to society in a very clear way. It’s great that many of these new tools don’t cost very much, so everyone can have access to them. Finally, I was impressed at how well Isabelle summarized the article. Although she says in her last paragraph that the article could have been broken up into two separate pieces, she takes key information and summarizes it really nicely. I also learned more about the technological advances scientists are making. It’s fascinating to see how technology impacts the science world and it seems to have become vital in studying many topics. Although this review was very strong, my only suggestion would be for Isabelle to talk about why she’s interested in this particular topic and what she enjoyed about the article. Overall, Isabelle did a great job.


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