Medical Breakthroughs Are Boosting Our Longevity
Learn about Focused Ultrasound - a non-invasive alternative to surgery and more
A couple of weeks ago, oh, maybe about a month now, I shared with you on this program some information about how we are going to be living to age 100 and beyond. One of the subjects that I covered was a new medical innovation. Frankly, not so new that is leading many people believe to the eradication of some of the leading causes of death, some of the biggest illnesses that we face. It's called focused ultrasound, and I got a lot of comments from folks as a result of that commentary because people were finding it rather preposterous. They just found it hard to believe that something as incredibly effective as I was describing this technology could be something they'd never even heard of. So I figured I'll bring you the source. Let me introduce to you, Dr. Neal Kassell, the founder and chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. He was professor of neurosurgery at the University of Virginia for 22 years and has been a member of the Global Future Council on Neuro Technologies and Brain Science for the World Economic Forum. Dr. Kassell, it's so good to have you with us on the program here.
Neal Kassell: Well, it's a great pleasure to join you and the people who are listening in.
Ric Edelman: Well, let's just begin with the most basic of all questions answer for us what is focused ultrasound and how does it work?
Neal Kassell: Well, focused ultrasound is an early stage, totally noninvasive therapeutic technology that will serve as an alternative or a complement to traditional surgery and radiation therapy. It's a new way of delivering drugs and other therapeutic agents more safely and effectively. 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. At that focal point where all of the beams converge, like where all the beams of light converge and heat up a spot and burn a hole in the leaf, that's where the magic occurs, where all the different effects occur in the tissue.
Ric Edelman: And doesn't this hurt? You use the analogy of burning a hole in a leaf. Well, if my skin is that leaf, I'm getting burned. So, is this painful?
Neal Kassell: Patients are treated either with no sedation or with conscious sedation, which is the same analgesic that is used like for a colonoscopy. And it's important to note that since this is a noninvasive procedure, it can be done on an outpatient basis and almost universally the patients go home the same day.
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Ric Edelman: So, you mentioned that this can be used for a wide variety of treatments. What kind of illnesses or diseases can this be applicable for?
Neal Kassell: So, 10 years ago, there were only three. Today, there are more than 160. And it's everything from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and OCD and depression, and epilepsy and stroke to benign and malignant tumors of the breast and brain and pancreas and prostate, to arthritis and so on. So, it's truly an amazing technology which is going to revolutionize therapy to the same degree that magnetic resonance imaging, MRI scanning revolutionized diagnosis.
Ric Edelman: Is this all in the future or is any of it available already right now?
Neal Kassell: Well, of the 160 indications, 32 have regulatory approval around the world. In the U.S., seven have regulatory approval, and many of those are already being paid for by commercial insurance or by Medicare and Medicaid.
Ric Edelman: So, is it fair to assume that if I have a given illness or disease that this technology is applicable for and it's already FDA approved, my doctor will know about it?
Neal Kassell: That's the problem, because in the past, focused ultrasound has been called medicine's best kept secret.
Ric Edelman: Yeah.
Neal Kassell: So, one of the key roles of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation is to increase the awareness of the potential of focused ultrasound amongst all the stakeholders, including particularly the patients and the doctors, and the organizations that have to purchase the equipment, and the organizations that pay for it. So the problem is that with any sort of new, highly disruptive medical technology, it usually takes decades for it to evolve, from laboratory research to widespread utilization as a global standard of care. It's a glacial process, so the focused ultrasound has the potential to improve the lives of, without exaggeration, millions of people around the world with a wide variety of serious medical disorders. So the problem is, how do you shorten the time from laboratory research to widespread utilization? And it's a critical question because every month that goes by that the technology is not available, translates into unnecessary death and disability and suffering for countless people. So, we created the foundation as a unique medical research, education and advocacy organization with a simple mission to accelerate the development and adoption of focused ultrasound. Saving time, saving lives.
Ric Edelman: You mentioned that there are more than 160 diseases and illnesses that this technology can be useful in treating or eradicating, and seven of them are FDA approved here in the U.S. right now. How long do you think it's going to take for the FDA to provide approval for all of them?
Neal Kassell: It is going to be at least five years and probably 10 years.
Ric Edelman: So, the fact that it is coming fairly soon is, I think, a hopeful sign. So, I have two final questions for you. Dr. Kassell. First, what would you recommend people do if they currently have an illness or a disease, or if a loved one does, and they would like to learn more about this technology and focused ultrasound? And how do they talk with their primary care providers about this?
Neal Kassell: Well, they can speak to their primary care physician or their family doctor, who will probably not know anything about focused ultrasound yet. But then they can go to the foundation's website, FUSFoundation.org, that's FUSFoundation.org. And that's basically the encyclopedia of focused ultrasound. It will help patients navigate to every research site, every clinical treatment site around the world for whatever illness they're interested in. And it will tell the patients about the status of the development of those indications.
Ric Edelman: And if people want to be helpful to you and the foundation to help get this development even further accomplished, how can people learn more? How can people help the foundation?
Neal Kassell: Number one, awareness is a big problem, so once people learn about focused ultrasound, they should go out and tell everybody they know who's got a disease that focused ultrasound might be able to help them. Secondly, we live on philanthropy almost entirely from individuals, so we're always looking for philanthropic support. This year we have to raise $8 million so you can go to the website, and it will give you instruction as to how to support the foundation.
Ric Edelman: And again, the website is?
Neal Kassell: FUSFoundation.org. FUSFoundation.org.
Ric Edelman: That's Dr. Neal Kassell, the founder of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. Here on The Truth About Your Future. Dr. Kassell, thank you so much for joining us today.
Neal Kassell: Again, thank you very much for the opportunity. And let me close by saying that I can say with a high degree of confidence, that either you or a loved one or a friend, or maybe more importantly, a pet, a dog will develop a disorder sooner or later that could be treated with focused ultrasound. Learn about it.
Ric Edelman: Thank you, Dr. Kassell. Our dogs. I hadn't even thought of that. That's really great info. If you would like to hear the full conversation between Dr. Kassell and me. Just visit our website, TheTruthAYF.com.