How NASA came to work with a children’s hospital

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Brian Ahier, writing for Government Health IT,  tells the story of how NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories ended up collaborating with Childrens Hospital Los Angeles on a seven-year project focusing on the detection of pediatric cancer through a “a collaborative approach to the discovery and development of early detection biomarkers.” It sounds like a goofy match but, when Ahier breaks it down, it’s easier to see how and why these strange bedfellows ended up together.

nasaPhoto by nasa1fan/MSFC via Flickr

1. JPL presents a paper on a software framework used for planetary science that functions as ” a kind of search engine that allows scientists working with data in one expression or format to find and compare their data with another.”

2. National Cancer Institute representatives involved with the Early Detection Research Network see the presentation, understand the framework’s potential and hire JPL to consult.

3. The project evolves and CHLA’s Virtual Pediatric Intenstive Care Unit joins the effort to “build a distributed data-sharing network to drive the next generation of clinical decision support for pediatric cancer treatment and research.”

Here’s Ahier’s explanation of why the NASA system makes a difference for the hospital:

The VPICU connects emergency rooms, community hospitals and intensive care units worldwide in a virtual network, extending consultations to even the most remote areas. Using (the JPL technology), clinicians can access data from a network of pediatric hospitals to build an evidence-based foundation for research into childhood cancers.

“The variability in patients in a pediatric ICU is enormous with regards to age, weight and other factors,” says David Kale, a research engineer in the VPICU. “So the question is can we build clinical decision support tools that will help clinicians by augmenting their experience by providing data.”

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