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WATCH: Curing Medical Conditions With Sound and Light

Zoe Romanowsky - published on 04/24/16

Even novelist John Grisham is getting behind this early stage medical technology

John Grisham has written many novels, among them including The Client, The Rainmaker and The Pelican Brief. Now he has a new one, The Tumor. And no, that’s not a joke. He wrote it to draw attention to something called high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU)  (or sometimes MRgFUS, for magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound) because he’s such a believer in its potential.

Focused ultrasound is an early stage medical technology — in various stages of development worldwide — being used to treat a range of diseases such as cancerous tumors, Parkinson’s disease, fibroids and pain. It uses ultrasonic energy to target tissue deep in the body without needing to make incisions or use radiation. Essentially, it’s a sound therapy and the fundamental principle is like using a magnifying glass to focus sunlight on a specific spot to generate burning heat. Each individual beam of energy passes through tissue with no effect, but at the focal point, where the beams converge, there can be a thermal or mechanical effect.

Focused ultrasound has already been used in other parts of the world like Israel, Canada and parts of Europe and Asia, but it’s relatively new in the United States. In this TED Talk, Dr. Neal Kassell, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Virginia, and author John Grisham, talk about the technology and its potential to transform the treatment of many medical disorders. Be sure to catch the testimony of a women who’s been suffering from Parkison’s disease — it’s a powerful thing to watch.

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