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Lungs singing, breathing, and more at TEDMED
October 27th, 2010
06:51 PM ET

Lungs singing, breathing, and more at TEDMED

SAN DIEGO, California - TEDMED 2010 has had only three full sessions so far, and already new ideas about everything from organ transplantation to cooking to education have taken the stage in innovative ways.

Soprano Charity Tillemann-Dick, whom CNN wrote about earlier this year, captivated the audience with her operatic voice and the story of how she persevered with her passion  despite needing a double-lung transplant.

After Tillemann-Dick provided stunning sounds, thoracic surgeon Dr. Shaf Keshavjee came out with the visual shock of the evening: a pig lung retrieved Tuesday morning that was breathing with the help of a heart-lung machine, and without any blood. This contraption has already been used for preserving human lungs that are going to be transplanted, and 30 patients have successfully received lungs kept going through the machine (it is not yet available in the United States, however). Through a combination of the organ's natural healing and the treatment applied to it, the organ reaches its recipient in better shape than when it was taken from the donor, Keshavjee said.

The fluid going through the machine is actually synthetic, and much like the plasma in human blood, but without the blood cells. Martha Stewart thought it was cool enough to go up to the stage and touch (with gloves, of course). I did too, afterward - it was rather light and sponge-like. Keshavjee's work will be featured more in-depth on CNN later this year.

For cooking enthusiasts, Nathan Myhrvold, founder of Intellectual Ventures, has some lessons for you: In fact, his cookbook is 2,400 pages worth of insights about science and food, as well as beautiful photo illustrations of what happens to different foods as they cook. For example, do you know how much longer it takes to cook a 2-inch thick steak than a steak that is 1-inch thick? The answer: the bigger one needs to be cooked four times longer - he got that from squaring the thickness.

Participants got a blunt and powerful awakening the next morning to the realities of death and the brevity of life in a spoken word piece by Sekou Andrews and Steve Connell. They talked about different values that different cultures might place on the dying process – being humane vs. being dignified, for example – and posed the question “What kind of death do you want?” as if it were a matter of ordering from a restaurant menu.

The next presentation was not for those who get queasy from the sight of blood, as Liberty Science Center's Emlyn Koster facilitated a live connection to a cardiac bypass surgery. Besides awe of the up-close-and-personal view of inside the 57-year-old patient's body, the message behind Koster's talk is that young people who visit the museum benefit from this technology too, through a program called Live From... Kids can better appreciate the risks of heart disease through exposure to this surgery, for example. And that's only one of these live connections to medical settings that students can get at the museum: other offerings include robotic surgery, neurosurgery and kidney transplant.

On the side, CNN.com caught up with Koster, Keshavjee, Deepak Chopra, and other intellectual luminaries whom we will be featuring in videos in the coming months.

TEDMED is an annual event that brings together dozens of luminaries from a variety of fields to "demonstrate the intersection and connections between all things medical and health care related: from personal health to public health, devices to design and Hollywood to the hospital." TEDMED 2010 is taking take place from October 26 to 29 in San Diego, California.


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