Have a look at how origami is revolutionizing the medical industry.

The art of paper-folding is making surgery more efficient and less traumatic. It could even save you money.

Staying in the hospital after surgery isn't exactly cheap.

There are over 50 million in-patient surgeries in the United States each year. They're not always easy on people, and they're certainly not cheap; according to the Kaiser Foundation, a day in a U.S. hospital costs, on average, over $2,200. That's the cost of a used car! That's 7.5 weeks of minimum-wage pay! That's 9,800 Chicken McNuggets!

No matter how you look at it, $2,200 in post-op costs at the hospital is some serious coin, so anything that helps patients heal faster after surgery is a huge benefit.


What if we told you one key to a speedier and cheaper recovery looks like this?

Image from Andreas Bauer/Wikimedia Commons.

Yep. That's origami — the craft of folding paper — and it's a big source of inspiration for engineers who are working to innovate on health care tools.

Of course, hospital-grade origami isn't exactly what your third-grader is learning in arts and crafts class:

All GIFs from Bringham Young University/YouTube.

These new origami-inspired tools are being developed by researchers at Utah's Brigham Young University. The beauty and genius of the designs lie in their simplicity; instead of creating an ever-increasing number of moving parts, researchers are putting that tendency in reverse, instead relying on folds and self-contained hinges to do the same job.

It's an entirely new way to think about medicine, and it could revolutionize robotic surgery.

Here's one example of an origami-inspired tool, which turns the classic origami chompers into miniature forceps.

An enlarged version of the origami-inspired forceps prototype.

The result is a super-small tool with the ability to do more delicate work than current technology allows.

In other words, the new tools will create smaller, more precise cuts, making for less traumatic and less invasive surgery.


Smaller cuts and less invasive surgeries mean patients will be out of the hospital and back on their feet in as little time as possible. After all, a lot of what you're recovering from after undergoing surgery is the giant hole that surgeons cut in your body to get to whatever needed fixing. A less invasive surgery means fewer things your body needs to heal.

"That's really probably the most important thing," says professor Larry Howell, one of the researchers on this project. The goal, he says, is to reach the point where surgery is so minimally invasive it doesn't even leave a scar. "And we're actually starting to be able to approach that size."

If you think these new forceps look clumsy, think again. These guys make sewing a suture look like poetry in motion:

One of the coolest things, Howell says, is seeing how art can inform science.

The limits of this technique seem bound only by designers' imaginations. Scientists can discover designs in art that wouldn't have been immediately obvious with traditional engineering. That has the potential to lead to a host of amazing inventions.

One idea the BYU researchers highlighted was foldable inserts that could one day be used to replace damaged cartilage in the spine:


Image used with permission from BYU.

The team, which has previously done work for NASA developing solar arrays and other equipment, used a similar approach when coming up with the ideas like the spinal insert — taking something big, making it as small as possible in order to get it where it needs to go, then unfurling it when it's needed.

Devices like this have the potential to de-complicate incredibly complicated surgeries. Already minimally invasive techniques like the ones being developed at BYU have allowed doctors to perform certain kinds of cardiac surgery as outpatient procedures.

This is the kind of work that's inspiring, useful, and — let's be honest — really cool-looking. Elegant solutions like these will hopefully turn future surgeries from something onerous into something awesome.

Check out BYU's video on how they're using origami to transform surgery below:

Heroes

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

Keep Reading Show less
Packard Foundation
True

Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

Five people die from vaping, and the government talks about banning vaping devices. Hundreds of American children have been shot to death in their classrooms, sometimes a dozen or so at a time, and the government has done practically nothing. It's unconscionable.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
via Hollie Bellew-Shaw / Facebook

For those of us who are not on the spectrum, it can be hard to perceive the world through the senses of someone with autism.

"You could think of a person with autism as having an imbalanced set of senses," Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, told Web MD.

"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

truth
True