Bladeless windmills, fentanyl vaccines, 6G, robotic waiters – and the best kept secret in medicine
Ric Edelman: It's Friday, April 28th. I want to talk with you today about some of the advances in the field of exponential technologies. One is wind power. You know, we've got a problem with wind power. Those blades kill a lot of birds, estimated about a million birds a year fly into those blades.
Now, there's a company called Aeromine Technologies, and they have developed a bladeless wind turbine. Their machine captures and amplifies wind using aerodynamics similar to the airfoils on race cars. The external airfoils face the wind and produce low pressure that drives an internal flow that extracts energy. And this device is completely silent. If you put your ear up against it, you can't hear or feel any vibration. And since there are no moving parts, they're expected to last a lot longer than current windmills and all without risking birds. The first pilot program has been launched in Michigan. Several more are underway. We all have high hopes for their success.
Here's another story. Researchers at the University of Houston have engineered a vaccine that prevents addiction to fentanyl. It blocks the drug's ability to enter the brain, eliminating the high. This is a big deal. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin, 100 times stronger than morphine, and it kills 150 people a day. 80% of the people who quit the drug suffer a relapse. This new vaccine might change all that.
And forget about 4G. It's all about 5G. Well, guess what? Forget about 5G. Coming is 6G. 6G is a thousand times faster than 5G. And it's going to bring advances in a wide variety of areas - threat detection, health monitoring, facial recognition, decision making for law enforcement and credit card systems, social systems, air quality measurements, gas and toxicity sensing, sensory interfaces that feel like real life. In other words, when you're going to be in the metaverse, you'll be able to feel what's going on as though you're physically there. 6G. It's coming in just a few years.
And finally, restaurants. We have a big problem in American restaurants. They employ 15 million people. But the National Restaurant Association says 6 out of 10 restaurants are trying to hire even more, particularly waiters. People don't want the jobs. So what are these restaurant owners doing? They're starting to deploy robots. Bear Robotics is selling 10,000 robots all across the US this year that serve as robots. Pudu Robotics already sold 56,000 worldwide. One robot leads diners to their seats. Another delivers food. Employees put dirty dishes onto a tray, and a third robot takes the tray into the kitchen. These three robots eliminate the need for two staff members, and each robot costs $15,000.
Each human costs $5,000 per month. Yeah, the economics are unreal. By having robots do the mundane, the humans can spend more time with customers and customers post videos, and that brings in new business. Pizza Hut has robot servers in a thousand restaurants in its stores in China. Chick-fil-A is trying them out at US locations. Pretty soon you're going to be going to a restaurant where you're going to be served by a robot.
You know, one of the favorite things for me to do when hosting this podcast is connecting with you. And that's why I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. My community has more than 100,000 followers across all my social media pages. I'm really excited that we've grown together over the years and I'm really looking forward to what's coming next. If you haven't already joined, check out my social media pages. The links are in today's show notes. And if you are following me, thanks. Let's keep the conversation going.
Exclusive Interview: Dr. Neal Kassell of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation
The best-kept secret in medicine – Focused Ultrasound treats dozens of diseases noninvasively
Ric Edelman: This show is all about your future. And one of the most important elements of this is how technology is going to revolutionize virtually every aspect of life on our planet. And there's probably no more fundamentally interesting and important area of exponential technologies than health care. There's something going on in this new innovative environment that we're finding ourselves in and a subject you probably are not very familiar about. It's called focused ultrasound. And I really need to have this conversation in front of you because you need to be aware of this. It's very, very exciting and I think it is something you'll be really happy to hear about. And to help us understand what focused ultrasound is, I'm very happy to bring back onto the show Neal Kassell, MD. He is the founder and chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. Neal was professor of neurosurgery at the University of Virginia for nearly 20 years. He's contributed to more than 500 publications and book chapters in medical literature. Neal was also a member of the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel. Neal, it's great to have you on again. Good to see you, my friend.
Neal Kassell: Well, it's good to see you and thanks for the opportunity.
Ric Edelman: So we have had Neal on this program before, but it's been a while and there have been new developments and I really think it's worthwhile you hearing what's going on because still focused ultrasound flies under the radar. So, Neal, start from the very beginning. What is focused ultrasound? How does it work?
Neal Kassell: Sure. Focused ultrasound is a rapidly evolving, totally noninvasive therapeutic technology that has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of a wide variety of serious medical disorders, decreasing death and disability and suffering for countless people, millions of people around the world. And it works by serving as an alternative or complement to traditional surgery and radiation therapy, a totally new way of delivering drugs more safely and effectively and of enhancing cancer immunotherapy. So it's a very big deal.
Ric Edelman: Well, how does it work?
Neal Kassell: So the way it works is analogous to using a magnifying glass to focus beams of light on a point and burn a hole in a leaf or a piece of paper.
Ric Edelman: We used to do that as kids all the time. It was fun all the time.
Neal Kassell: Everybody's done that, but not everybody's done focused ultrasound. And the way focused ultrasound works is that instead of using an optical lens to focus beams of light on a point, an acoustic lens is used to focus multiple beams of ultrasound energy on targets, deep in the body with a high degree of precision and accuracy, sparing the adjacent normal tissue. So where each of these individual beams goes through the tissue, it has no effect because that ultrasound has just the same power as diagnostic ultrasound. But at that focal point where all the beams converge, we now understand more than 30 ways in which the ultrasound will interact with tissue at that target or at that focal point. And the fact that there are so many different mechanisms of action, unlike, for instance, radiation therapy, which only has one mechanism, the fact that there are so many different mechanisms of action creates the opportunity to treat a wide variety of medical disorders. And to give you an idea, today there's more than 170 clinical indications or disorders or diseases that are in various stages of research and development and commercialization around the world. 10 years ago, there were only three. So this field is rapidly evolving.
Ric Edelman: Give me an example of the application of this. Tell me a patient's story of somebody who's got a condition where focused ultrasound was helpful.
Neal Kassell: A great example are patients with essential tremor. This is a benign form of tremor. It's a cousin of Parkinson's disease. It's relatively common. So these patients are often disabled by their tremor for years, sometimes decades. And there's a great patient story. There was a woman who had been disabled by her essential tremor for more than 10 years. She couldn't get up in the morning and button her shirt. She couldn't tie her shoes. She couldn't hold a cup of coffee. She couldn't eat cereal. She couldn't go to a restaurant. She couldn't go to church. So she went and was treated with focused ultrasound. And the way it was used was to destroy in the middle of her brain, the abnormal nerve cells that were firing away uncontrollably, causing the shaking. So she was treated with focused ultrasound, wide awake. No drugs, no incisions in her scalp, no holes in her skull. At the end of the treatment, for the first time in more than 10 years, her hand was rock steady.
Ric Edelman: Wow.
Neal Kassell: She came out of the device and the first words out of her mouth were, "This is a miracle". And that's not uncommon.
Ric Edelman: That's really rather astonishing. You mentioned no surgery, no drilling in her skull. Was there anesthesia required?
Neal Kassell: No drugs at all. Nothing. Because it's important that when you're treating things in the brain that the patients are awake so you can monitor them and interact with them to make sure that nothing's going wrong. For focused ultrasound, this is the norm for essential tremor and for tremor from Parkinson's disease. And a very important publication in the New England Journal of Medicine was for treating the cardinal or motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease. So there's a lot of really interesting and exciting developments in this field, particularly as it relates to treatment of brain disorders. And the other really hot area is cancer and cancer immunotherapy.
Ric Edelman: How does it work in fighting cancer?
Neal Kassell: For tumors, for instance, you can destroy the tumor using focused ultrasound by a variety of mechanisms. You can use it to deliver drugs to the tumor or the area around the tumor in extremely high concentrations, much higher concentrations than can be achieved with the normal intravenous or oral routes of administration, thereby improving the effectiveness and decreasing the side effects. You can use the focused ultrasound to stimulate the body's immune response to the tumor and enhance the effectiveness of the new miraculous cancer immunotherapy drugs. So there's multiple shots on goal for treating tumors.
Ric Edelman: Well, I'm a little fuzzy on how it works, which is not a surprise since I know nothing about medicine. But I mean, I get what a laser would do. I understand what radiation or chemotherapy would do and certainly understand what a scalpel would do. But how do soundwaves have an impact on attacking tumors or cancer cells?
Neal Kassell: So first of all, at that focal point where the beams are focused, you can increase the temperature and heat it up and basically cook it. That's called thermal ablation.
Ric Edelman: Got it.
Neal Kassell: Or you can destroy the tumor by just using the mechanical energy of the ultrasound to create micro shockwaves and destroy the cells. Or you can use it to enhance the delivery of drugs to the brain by opening the blood brain barrier or to other organs.
Ric Edelman: So what's the status of this? You said that there's 170 different medical conditions that are involved in clinical trials at one stage or another. Where are we overall with this? What's the availability of getting this treatment - like getting my doctor to prescribe this for me?
Neal Kassell: Yeah, that's a terrific question. Of the 170 plus indications, 30 some have regulatory approval around the world, seven in the US and the number is increasing and it will increase fairly rapidly in the not-too-distant future. And a number of these indications already have reimbursement from government insurance, from CMS/Medicare as well as commercial insurance, and it includes prostate cancer and other conditions of the prostate, uterine fibroids in women, Parkinson's disease and pain from tumors in the bone. But like I said, there's seven approved in the US, 30 some around the world. And as you know, these fields grow exponentially. And in the last couple of years, we've passed the inflection point in the curve where the dialog has clearly shifted from if focused ultrasound - which is known as medicine's best kept secret, from if focused ultrasound will have a major role to play in the therapeutic armamentarium, from if to when. But more importantly, in the last 18 months or so, this field is making the transition from what's been primarily a research and development environment to the beginning of a patient treatment environment. And today, let's say in 2023, there will be about 1,000 commercial treatment sites around the world where patients can receive focused ultrasound therapy, about 200 in the US, increasing rapidly. But that's out of a potential market of 10,000. And next year there will be more than 100,000 patients treated worldwide. But the potential is more than a million a year.
Ric Edelman: So how do I find out about this? If I've got a medical condition and I want to determine whether or not this technology might be of value? How do I find out more?
Neal Kassell: You can ask your primary care physician or specialist, and they probably haven't heard of it. Or you can go to the Focused Ultrasound Foundation website and search for your condition and it will tell you where all the clinical trials are, where all the commercial treatment sites are and so on.
Ric Edelman: We have that web address in the show notes today, so you can easily get that information. It made me laugh when you said it, but it was a very nervous laughter. I could ask my doctor about it, but they probably won't know anything about focused ultrasound.
Neal Kassell: Yep. As I said, it's been called medicine's best kept secret, and one of the challenges is to increase the awareness of the potential of focused ultrasound amongst patients and the caregivers, the clinicians. And that's why appearing on your show is so important for increasing awareness because there's so many patients who can benefit and they just don't know about it.
Ric Edelman: Well, I'm happy to help and do my part here. To that regard, you mentioned that this treatment is typically covered by Medicare or private health insurance. How much does it cost to have this treatment?
Neal Kassell: Well, it depends. For instance, for uterine fibroids, the treatment is $5,000 to $10,000.
Ric Edelman: That's a fraction of the cost of a cancer treatment.
Neal Kassell: Well, it's a fraction of a cost of a hysterectomy for uterine fibroids, which is $20,000 to $25,000. And if you have surgery, if you have a hysterectomy, you lose your uterus and you don't have the ability to have babies in the future. So for Parkinson's disease, sort of the gold standard today is deep brain stimulation. And all in year one, depending on where you live, that's $60,000 to $100,000. Focused ultrasound is $25,000 to $30,000. So it's an amazing technology in that it's one of the few new noninvasive therapeutic technologies that fulfills the holy grail of not only improving outcomes, but of decreasing the cost of care.
Ric Edelman: You just announced a partnership with the Michael J. Fox Foundation funding a clinical trial at Baylor College of Medicine. Tell us about that.
Neal Kassell: So one of the challenges for Parkinson's or any of these diseases is to have a blood test, a liquid biopsy that will help with the diagnosis and will help with the monitoring of the effectiveness of the treatment. So what we're doing at Baylor is using focused ultrasound to open the blood brain barrier to get some of these biomarkers or proteins out of the brain into the bloodstream so that they can be monitored. So if we can come up with a blood test that will not only tell you whether you have Parkinson's disease or are going to develop Parkinson's disease, but if you're being treated, can also tell you the effectiveness, that will be a big win.
Ric Edelman: Wow, That's exciting. And you were also recently profiled on CNN.
Neal Kassell: Sanjay Gupta came to Charlottesville and saw a patient treated for essential tremor and did a wonderful show on focused ultrasound.
Ric Edelman: What is your recommendation, Neal, for our listeners regarding this new, fascinating technology?
Neal Kassell: I think that the take home message is go to the foundation's website, learn more about it from the website, contact the foundation's medical officers. They'll give you additional information and go out and tell anyone you know who's got diseases that there is either a new treatment currently available or something on the horizon. So we're doing two things. We're treating patients, we're improving the quality of their lives, but we're also giving hope to patients for the future. And I can say with total confidence that for all the listeners today, sooner or later, either you or a loved one or a friend or perhaps your dog or cat will develop a condition that can be treated by focused ultrasound. Focused ultrasound is creating a revolution in therapy.
Ric Edelman: You know, I wasn't terribly excited about this until you mentioned dogs and cats. Now all of a sudden I think you've just won the hearts and souls of everybody listening.
Neal Kassell: Once we start talking about dogs and cats, everybody's attention gets focused. And when you talk about the economics or the cost, nobody cares.
Ric Edelman: Now you've got our attention and our excitement and enthusiasm. And what a wonderful illustration of a genuinely exponential technology. The speed with which this is being developed and becoming available is really very exciting. So I'm glad you shared this with us. Now, one final question for you, Neal. The Focused Ultrasound Foundation is a nonprofit organization. So where do you get your funding?
Neal Kassell: The funding comes from individuals and family foundations for the most part. And then our clinical trials are funded by the foundation's philanthropic support, but we get co-funding from other related foundations, whether it's the Michael J. Fox Foundation or from a recently formed partnership with the ALS Association.
Ric Edelman: So that gives you another incentive to go to Neal's website so that you can donate and support their efforts in developing this technology.
Neal Kassell: Very much appreciated.
Ric Edelman: That's Neal Kassell, the founder and chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. The show notes have the contact opportunities for you to reach out to them. I'm glad we were able to share this information. And Neal, I look forward to having you back and learning the latest about the development of this tech and its availability for consumers and patients.
Neal Kassell: Well, thank you, Ric, and thank all of your listeners. Thank you.
Self-Care with Jean Edelman Podcast and Website
Ric Edelman: You know, every Friday here on the program, I would present to you Jean's segment. Well, we're not doing that anymore. You know why? Because Jean has her own website. Yeah. SelfCareWithJean.com. The link is in the show notes. That's where you'll find Jean's weekly segment. This week, Jean's word of the week is STRESS. Learn how to solve it. I encourage you to go over to her website, SelfCareWithJean.com. You'll get all her content, including her podcast this week along with our blog posts and some exclusive offerings too. You can even ask Jean your questions on self-care. Ask Jean at her website, SelfCareWithJean.com. Jean's really passionate about sharing her knowledge and insights with you on self-care, mindfulness, overall wellness. I know she wants to hear from you and you can sign up for her free email updates and subscribe to her on her own social media channels.
And today, 11 a.m., I'm going to be doing a 90-minute virtual roundtable. It's online, it's free. It's for financial advisors only. We're going to be talking with Bitwise about crypto. So if you'd like to hear the latest of what's going on, get all the questions you have answered. Join me 11 a.m. today online.
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