Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron – February 21st
On the morning of the 23rd of February, the session featuring the journalist Milagros Pérez Oliva got underway, as she moderated the 4-way debate that was held in the Auditori of the Campus del Hospital Vall d’Hebrón. The participants included Josep Amat, a member of the IEC and an expert in robotics and remote-control systems; Alícia Casals, a member of the IEC and director of the Robotics Group at the Biomedical Engineering Research Centre (UPC); Ramon López de Mántaras, a member of the IEC and director of the Artificial Intelligence Research Centre (CSIC); and Jaume Raventós, a member of the IEC and Head of Operations and Institutional Relations of the Directorate General of Research Innovation in Health.
The fifth generation of mobile telephone technologies (5G) is expected to be implemented between 2019 and 2020. This will mean a much more stable, quick Internet connection which will help consolidate telemedicine, a practice that was performed experimentally for the first time in 1924, as Josep Amat recalled.
Alicia Casals explained that technology allows routine tasks to be done so physicians can spend more time with patients. As an example, she cited the case of China, where appointments at hospitals are made using algorithms with the goal of changing the healthcare system. Josep Amat agreed that this software may be very useful, but only “if the patient does not perceive that there is a machine behind it”. Having reached this point, the necessary question is whether technology will dehumanise healthcare. Everyone agrees that interpersonal interactions cannot be lost. Jaume Raventós noted that “the ideal combination is to merge the capacities of both humans and machines”.
In this sense, artificial intelligence is a great ally given that it can help professionals detect patterns or choose the most effect treatment. But before that, a large database must be created and then equipped with algorithms; that is, the available clinical records have to be digitised, as Jaume Raventós reminded participants. “As soon as all clinical data can be digitised and crossed with algorithms, healthcare professionals will have better assistance. This is called systems medicine”.
After this debate, the dialogue “The Power of Science and the Limits of Life” got underway. The genetic passport and how quality of life can be improved in the elder years in an ageing society were the two main themes in the debate. Carmen Fernández, the director of Diario Médico, moderated this conversation, which featured Jordi Camí, doctor of medicine and professor at UPF; Pedro Barri, director of the Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Reproductive Medicine in Women’s Health Department at Dexeus; Ángel Raya, director of the Centre of Regenerative Medicine of Barcelona; Joan Comella, director of the Foundation of the Hospital Universitario Vall d’Hebron Institute of Research (VHIR); Mavi Sánchez Vives, doctor of neurosciences and research professor at ICREA; and Anna Veiga, from the Centre of Regenerative Medicine of Barcelona.
Starting the debate, Anna Veiga stated that knowledge of genetics is increasingly extensive, rapid and economical. This makes it possible for genetic testing to be commercialised at a low cost. Using a technology like CRISPR to prevent hereditary diseases is a step forward.
Then, Pedro Barri claimed that before introducing genetic testing into daily clinical practice, we must be certain that we know what to do with this information. Genetics doesn’t determine everything, since psychosocial circumstances also play a role. Joan Comella further emphasised this point: “At this time we do not know how to properly interpret the trends from DNA analyses, and this could lead to serious mistakes”. The question becomes even more complicated if instead of preventing illness, we are considering genetic selection to improve people, and on this point Ángel Raya suggested that this debate must be brought to society as a whole in order to ascertain the level of interest it arouses and our fellow citizens’ degree of commitment to researching and financing genetic selection.
The second part of the debate focused on analysing how technology can improve the standard of living of an ageing society. According to Jordi Camí, making diseases that used to be mortal merely chronic has been one of biomedicine’s main conquests. Just as it has succeeded in conferring more years of life, Jordi Camí claimed that “we have also created chronic illnesses and calamities”. One of the challenges of medicine should be to minimise the life of our elderly after their health is gone, by questioning “does it make sense to live 15 more years but as a dependent ill person?”.
One way to improve quality of life in these latter years may be regenerative medicine. Ángel Raya explained that work with stem cells is geared towards creating new organs which can replace the damaged ones. However, in order for the new organ to integrate properly, the others must work properly.
In an ageing society, illnesses related to the brain, such as Alzheimer’s, have increased. There is a great deal of technological development in neuroscience, as Mavi Sánchez Vives reminded participants, but it is being included in clinical practice slowly. And as an anecdote, she noted that virtual reality may help provide Alzheimer’s sufferers with immersive environments which help them in their day-to-day lives or facilitate remote interaction with healthcare personnel, although it does not resolve the main question of how to repair damaged cerebral tissue.
The Horta-Guinardó district welcomed the more technological LABS. These workshops ranged from “Create your Gadgets with Arduino” to a workshop entitled “From Idea to the Real World: Initiation into 3-D”, along with workshops on “Programming Robots” and “Circuit Bending”. David Lladó, a cultural manager and monitor at the Guinardó Civic Centre, coordinated all of these workshops.
Building your own gadgets with Arduino, a low-cost, open-access electronic device, opened the LABS in the district on the 17th of February with the intention of creating interactive objects using low-cost tools. With this same mission of introducing new possibilities, a 3-D initiation workshop was held in which the participants learned how to use a 3-D printer. Both of these workshops were held in conjunction with Raconet – Guinardó Civic Centre and Aula 141, which provided the venues for the workshops.
Focused on knowledge of robotics and programming, David Lladó taught this workshop which embodied the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) philosophy in conjunction with the Espai Jove Bocanord venue and Aula 141.
Circuit Bending was the last LAB of the week in this district, which examined how to modify the internal circuits of a sound-making toy to get new sounds. This workshop was truly interactive and creative, and the function of some of these toys was changed in order to create musical instruments. It was held at the Biblioteca El Carmel in conjunction with Bibliotecas de Barcelona and Aula 141.
On the 24th of February, technology was brought to kids. Along with the initiative of the Scratch platform which provided this more technical knowledge, children aged 8 to 12 were taught this visual programming language which allows them to create animations in a simple, creative way with the LAB entitled “Create Your Own Videogame” at the Casa Groga Civic Centre in conjunction with Aula 141.