Swiss-cheese bones

Know anyone who’s had a bone marrow transplant?

The person who donated that marrow will have gone through a long, pretty involved, and presumably rather painful operation in order to do so.  He’ll have had general anesthesia (i.e., he was put under for the operation), and the doctors took a not-so-small needle and stabbed it into his pelvic bone, to get to the marrow.  But not just once; with the traditional procedure, the doctors can extract only a small fraction of the marrow they need from each needle entry point.  According to Daniel Kraft, a doctor & researcher at Stanford who spoke at a TED conference, the donor will leave surgery with upwards of two hundred holes in his hips.

Ouch.

Kraft’s speech was an introduction of a new method for harvesting bone marrow; his approach allows for doctors to extract a better sample of marrow from not 200, not 50, not 5, but 1 needle entry point.  The doctors use a tool that gathers more marrow per insertion, and it is flexible, so it can follow the curves inside the bone.  That ability to curve with the bone is what allows for the use of just one entry point. Much less painful than Swiss-cheese bones.

It’s like when you drink a frozen slurpee with a straight straw – you can only get so much ice from one straw-hole.  You have to keep moving the straw to get more ice, and even then it doesn’t work all that well as long as the slurpee hasn’t melted.

Weird example?  It’s true, though. Here’s the talk:

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