The Hive at TEDMED is all about ideas, bringing creativity to science, and finding new ways to solve seemingly intractable challenges. With so many important stories to share, we can’t get them all into one blog – be on the look out for weekly posts for more inspiring stories over the next few weeks.
We Felt a Deep Obligation to Do Something
The program: A health movement that aims to get 1 million Black women to commit to and practice a habit of daily walking and then train them to lead walking teams, audit walkability, and advocate for safety, fitness and healthier lifestyles in the highest-need neighborhoods in America.
“My co-founder and I graduated college, had successful careers and traveled the world … only to return to our communities, to family dinners where we couldn’t turn down smothered pork chops, were embarrassed to go for morning runs and watched family members suffocate under the weight of their health conditions.
We felt a deep obligation to do something. Starting a nonprofit organization is risky and difficult and exhausting. We had the skills and connections. I was the former director of a large education nonprofit and Vanessa managed digital products for CNN. We did it because there were no other national not-for-profit organizations addressing the root causes of disease and inactivity for Black women.
For years we talked about practical solutions to the health crisis. In 2011, we publicly set personal health goals and invited our friends and family to walk with us. 2000+ women joined us in the first national walking challenge. With widespread support, we took the leap and left our jobs!”
– Morgan Dixon, Co-Founder @MorganTreks
Looking to Nature
Gecko Biomedical Labs @geckbiomedical
The product: A self-healing wound closure system for minimally invasive surgeries.
To address the problem of internal wound closure, we envisioned a glue- coated patch that can be placed into the body part that requires repair, including the beating heart. The patch would be pushed up against the hole; once it was in place, the adhesive properties of the material would be activated, generating a flexible bond compliant with a wet, dynamic environment. Then, over time, the patient’s own cells could migrate over and into this material and create a tissue bridge as the material completely disappeared.
We had materials that were degradable, elastic, and biocompatible, but to solve this problem, we also needed to ensure that the glue would not dilute or react with blood or other body fluids, and also would resist washout prior to curing.
We couldn’t figure out a way around it so we turned to nature for inspiration. We looked at creatures on the land and in the sea that exist in wet, dynamic environments, and we found something pretty cool. There are sandcastle worms in the sea and slugs and snails on land that have viscous secretions that stay put like honey on a plate; even with rain or surf hitting it, the secretion stays in place.
And then if you look carefully at these viscous secretions, you find they contain hydrophobic components that can repel water. So, we thought, what if we develop an adhesive like that, that is entirely hydrophobic? You put it inside the body, onto the tissue surface to repel the blood away. And then, because it’s viscous, it remains in place, even in the presence of flowing blood. Following a highly iterative process, we created a material that addressed all of these criteria.”
– Maria Pereira, Ph.D., Head of Research at Gecko Biomedical