Friday, October 29, 2010

5 Minutes with Dr. Evan Nadler: The Link Between Surgery and Obesity

Dr. Evan Nadler, co-director of the Obesity Institute at Children's National Medical Center, is also a principal investigator in the systems biology initiative of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation. What's the connection between pediatric obesity and surgery? Dr. Nadler is one of the few doctors who performs bariatric surgery on adolescents, and his research focuses on the systems biology of obesity and the safety and effectiveness of various weight loss procedures in adolescents.

He was recently profiled in Bariatric Times about his work in obesity supports the goals of the Sheikh Zayed Institute. He said: "Not only does obesity play a role in all the major diseases that lead to death, but the financial burden of the health care costs of obesity has overwhelmed our economy. Unfortunately, surgery is the only tool we have right now for significant and sustained weight loss. We need to learn more about how it works so that we can apply that knowledge to preventing weight gain in the first place.

"Furthermore, we need to know why some people are more successful than others following surgery. Surgery is a model through which we can explore the mechanisms at play in both weight gain and weight loss. Our bariatric surgery work is part of the Institute’s Systems Biology Initiative, a multidisciplinary effort to understand how distinct cells, tissues, and organs work together in disease and surgical interventions."

Explaining the goals of his research, Dr. Nadler said, "Working with genomics expert Monica Hubal, PhD, we have two studies underway through the Institute. The first looks at the genetics of weight loss surgery. We want to identify specific genetic variations in an individual that can predict success or failure for certain interventions. The overall goal is to develop personalized medicine approaches to selecting an obesity treatment based on a patient’s genetic profile. In the second study, we are examining muscle, liver, and fat tissue samples in patients before and after weight loss surgery to identify the molecular pathways important for successful extreme weight loss. The hypothesis is that the same pathways will be important for weight gain, and once they’re identified, you can target them with prevention strategies and therapies to hopefully make surgery obsolete."

Read the interview.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Robotic Surgery Expert Joins Sheikh Zayed Institute

Children’s National Medical Center has appointed Craig Peters, MD, chief of Surgical Technology and Translation and Principal Investigator in the bioengineering initiative at the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation. His research will focus on customized surgical planning and evaluation, enhanced visualization during surgery, and minimal and noninvasive surgical methods. Dr. Peters will also be part of the Division of Urology, where he will treat infants, children, and adolescents with urological disorders.

“Robotic surgery has been my passion for the last eight or nine years of my work in minimally invasive surgery in urology,” Dr. Peters said. “The potential exists for robotic technology to improve surgery for children through better visualization, manipulation of tissues, and access to small areas. The Sheikh Zayed Institute provides unparalleled opportunities and resources to lead a paradigm shift in surgery toward greater precision and better outcomes.”

“Dr. Peters is an important part of our growing team of surgeons, researchers, and engineers that is coming together to transform children’s surgery,” said Dr. Kurt Newman, senior vice president for the Joseph E. Robert, Jr., Center for Surgical Care and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation. “Robotics is an important part of that effort because it can improve how we as surgeons see and navigate within a child’s body. The benefit to children is less painful procedures and more successful outcomes.” Read the news release.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Heading to Abu Dhabi for the 2010 World Health Care Congress

Children’s National is pleased that several of our doctors and researchers have been invited to present at the World Health Care Congress in Abu Dhabi on Dec. 5-7. Co-sponsored by the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD) and the Tourism Authority of Abu Dhabi, the World Health Care Congress will convene more than 500 global thought leaders and decision-makers – including health ministers, leading government officials, hospital directors, IT innovations, and suppliers -- to share global best practices.

The Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation will be featured prominently on a panel discussion on precision surgery led by Dr. Kurt Newman, senior vice president at the Institute and the Joseph E. Robert, Jr. Center for Surgical Care at Children’s National. Other speakers from the Institute will include Dr. Raymond Sze, Dr. Craig Peters, and Dr. Eric Hoffman. In addition, our chief medical officer, Dr. Peter Holbrook, will lead a session on transforming health care through safety and quality initiatives.

Children’s National and the Sheikh Zayed Institute are sponsoring a physician CME breakfast event on Dec. 6:
  • Dr. Sze -- "Understanding and Winning the Imaging Arm’s Race"
  • Dr. Peters -- "Using Tomorrow’s Surgical Technology Today"
Key speakers from Abu Dhabi will include His Excellency Zaid Al Siksek, CEO of the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi; Oliver Harrison, MD, director of public health & policy at HAAD, Carl Stanifer, CEO of the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company; Cother Hajat, MBBS, MPH, PhD, MRCP, MFPH, section head for public health programmes at HAAD; and Finn Göldner, MD, director of health system financing at HAAD. Learn more about the conference.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sheikh Zayed Institute Surgeon Calls for Regulations to Ensure Safe, Effective Synthetic Biology

Louis M. Marmon, MD, PhD, a pediatric surgeon at Children’s National Medical Center and member of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, is coauthor of a paper in the October 2010 issue of Nature Biotechnology that calls on the scientific community to quickly implement regulations, funding, and oversight mechanisms to ensure that synthetic biology advances unimpeded and in safe and effective ways. This is the first peer-reviewed paper published by faculty of the Sheikh Zayed Institute.

Synthetic biology, the creation of synthetic life within a laboratory, could be the next scientific advancement to revolutionize medicine, potentially producing engineered microorganisms able to destroy cancer cells, repair defective genes, or break down toxins in the body. However, the promise of synthetic biology comes with risks and bioethical implications.

“Synthetic biology offers technologies that could address some of our most basic and important needs – health, clean water and clean energy," Dr. Marmon said. "At the same time, there are ethical concerns about creating synthetic or hybrid forms of life and the danger of those creations being accidentally or intentionally misused. That is why it is important to quickly develop additional regulations and oversight mechanisms to ensure that this promising science is not impeded by fear and is allowed to advance in coordinated, systematic ways that will foster innovation and competitiveness."

Coauthored with David A. LaVan, PhD, a mechanical engineer at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the paper summarizes the discussion results of two recent national meetings on synthetic biology hosted by the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"This paper is an important contribution to the science of synthetic biology," said Anthony Sandler, MD, chief of pediatric surgery at Children’s Center for Surgical Care and leader of the Sheikh Zayed Institute’s immunology initiative. "We are working to harness the full power of technology to improve surgery and in some cases eliminate the need for surgery all together. Synthetic biology is an emerging science, which supports that work, and the promotion of sound regulations and best practices will speed our progress and reassure the public that this work is taking place in safe, ethical and effective ways."

Kurt Newman, MD, senior vice president at the Joseph E. Robert, Jr., Center for Surgical Care, said, "This is just the first of what will be many important publications and discoveries through the Sheikh Zayed Institute. Dr. Marmon is part of our growing dream team of doctors, scientists and engineers, whose groundbreaking work will transform surgery for children everywhere."

Read the news release.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Video: At Aspen Institute Forum in Abu Dhabi, Dr. Newman Shares Vision for Surgical Innovation for Children

At the Emirates-Aspen Forum on Innovation, sponsored by the Aspen Institute in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 5, Dr. Kurt Newman, senior vice president at the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, discussed the ways the Institute is rethinking surgery for children around the world. Dr. Newman was part of a panel on “Innovation in the Health Sector” with Suhail Mahmood Al Ansari, healthcare associate director for Mubadala; Dr. B.R. Shetty, CEO of New Medical Center; and Finn Goldner, director of health system financing for the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi. View video. (Dr. Newman starts at 35:10.)

“I have been facing issues of taking care of children one at a time and seeing the issues that they deal with and families deal with as you care for them,” Dr. Newman said. “Maybe it seems mundane, but it’s the problems of big operations on small children, pain and big incisions. In the field it seemed like there was progress, but not the big quantum leaps that I would read about when people were decoding the genome and when we were doing all these other things.”

Dr. Newman explained that the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation has been challenged to think creatively and innovatively to find ways to make surgery more precise, less invasive, and pain-free for children. “This was a very different way of thinking than we usually think about in science and medicine. Usually it is very incremental…it’s not taking big leaps…it’s not that kind of a culture.”

The Institute is driven by big ideas and a spirit of innovation, he said. “There’s a sense of urgency -- we’ve got to get this done. We want to do it and it’s attracting the best talent from around the world. People want to make a difference. And they want to have this opportunity of freedom, of some resources, of an opportunity to take some shots. We’re not sure what’s going to work, but they’re going to take some shots and change the paradigm.”

View video.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Video: The Future of Surgery

Dr. Kurt Newman, Dr. Timothy Kane, and Dr. Craig Peters of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation discussed "The Future of Surgery" at Grand Rounds on Sept. 29. In this hour-long video, learn how our physicians and researchers are applying the latest innovations in imaging, robotics, and technology to make surgery more precise and less invasive.