skip to main | skip to sidebar

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The da Vinci Surgical System

Leonardo da Vinci, known for his revolutionary advances in art, music, and science, is now known for his ability to peel a grape.

The da Vinci Si Surgical system is the future and present of surgeries here in Ventura County. Earlier this year, St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard was awarded a $1,750,000 grant, the largest gift in the history of the hospital, which was used to purchase the da Vinci system. “I am overwhelmed by this generous gift to St. John’s,” said Laurie Eberst, president and CEO for St. John’s Hospitals in an interview posted on the St. John’s Hospital website. “It demonstrates that our legacy is strong and that local philanthropic leaders recognize and support the innovative surgical procedures being performed at St. John’s by our highly skilled physicians.”

The da Vinci Si Surgical System is one of the most technologically advanced surgical platforms available today. It is used as an extension to the surgeon during procedures, for those such as lung cancer, prostate cancer, thoracic surgery, gynecological procedures, urology, and general surgeries. “The application of this technology in the treatment of lung cancer [at St. John’s] is a relatively new and tremendously advantageous approach,” said Dr. Bruce Toporoff, a cardiothoracic surgeon at St. John’s, per the St. John’s Hospital website. “The potential to perform minimally invasive surgery to treat and cure lung cancer is phenomenal and will enhance St. John’s active lung cancer program.” Toporoff added, “we are already innovative in our cardiac surgery program and the use of robotics affords us new opportunities in the future.” The surgeon is in control of the da Vinci system during the entire surgery and is able to project precision that is impossible to replicate with just one’s hands. The system allows the procedure to involve the smallest incisions possible, as well as giving the surgeon 3-D views of the patient.

The da Vinci Si Surgical System benefits both the hospital and the patients through shorter hospital stays, reduced blood loss, fewer blood transfusions, minimized side effects, faster recuperation, reduced postoperative pain, and smaller incisions that lessen the likelihood of infection. Incisions made by the surgeon using the da Vinci System are so small and precise they can peel a grape! A video for this grape peeling can be seen on the St. John’s Hospital website.

Technological advances like these are bettering our medical practices every day. We have a machine that eliminates the possibility of a surgeon's hand shaking hindering the success of a procedure and it’s only a few miles away from Cal State Channel Islands. The future looks bright for students aspiring for positions in the medical field because machines like this are opening more and more doors.

Once again science, you rule. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Untreated soil (left)
Soil treated with biochar (right)
Though carbon sequestration, the act of taking carbon out of the atmosphere, is hardly a new concept when it comes to the fight against climate change, researchers all over the globe are eager to think up new wacky ways to do it. Biochar, a newly developed charcoal-like soil additive based on an ancient technology, has researchers and environmentalists thrilled about its potential to reduce our carbon footprint. In a 2010 study that was published in Nature titled Sustainable Biochar to Mitigate Global Climate Change, it was calculated that if industrial scale biochar production was practiced globally it could offset carbon dioxide emissions by 12%.

The biochar soil enhancement technique comes from the remarkably fertile soils of ancient Amazonia. The man-made dark earth soils, otherwise known as terra preta soils, have been found to contain charcoal, fish bones, ceramics and other bits of debris. The extraordinary thing about terra preta soils is that though naturally they are particularly barren and fruitless in nature, they have remained fertile for thousands of years.

Biochar is made from any organic waste product. Normally organic waste would be consumed by an animal or decomposed, eventually making its way back into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide or methane. Instead, thermal degradation breaks down the waste in a pyrolysis process, heating in the absence of oxygen. Combustible gas is then produced which provides more than enough energy to sustain the reaction for the rest of the production process leaving behind a charcoal-like residue. Since the carbon is stabilized in this process it can be stored in the ground for thousands of years without escape.

Reduction of greenhouse gasses isn’t the only benefit to this technology. Since biochar has a weak electric charge it attracts plant nutrients in the form of positive ions in the soil. Preliminary research suggests that the use of biochar can boost plant yields as well as reduce ground water contamination from fertilizers.

Looks like biochar may be the next new thing in progressive agriculture as well one more weapon in the arsenal for scientists in the battle against climate change. Thanks for the tip ancient Amazonians!