Research report: Modeling tools likely to aid pediatric surgeons


Congenital heart defects account for five times more deaths annually than all childhood cancers combined. An assistant mechanical and aerospace engineering professor at UCSD has developed a unique set of computer modeling tools that are expected to enhance pediatric surgeons’ ability to perform heart surgery on children.

The work focuses on designing and using simulation tools to provide a way of testing new surgery designs on the computer before trying them on patients, much like, for example, engineers use computer codes to test new designs for airplanes or automobiles.

Declining reef fish

A study by a scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD has provided fresh evidence of fishing’s impact on marine ecosystems. Archival photographs, spanning more than five decades, were used to analyze and calculate a drastic decline of so-called “trophy fish” caught around coral reefs surrounding Key West, Fla.

The paper published in the journal “Conservation Biology” describes an 88 percent decline in the estimated weight of large predatory fish imaged in black-and-white 1950s sport fishing photos compared to catches photographed in modern pictures. The study is part of an emerging field called historical marine ecology, in which photographs, archives, news accounts, and other records are examined to help understand changes in the ocean ecosystem over time and establish baselines for future ecosystem restoration.

Attacking liver tumors

A new minimally invasive technique, called microwave ablation, uses intense heat to treat liver tumors. To perform the procedure, the tumor is accessed through the skin, or through a small laparoscopic port or open incision. With ultrasound guidance or a computed tomography (CT) scan, the tumor is located and then pierced with a thin antenna which emits microwaves.

This energy spins the water molecules in the tumor producing friction which causes heat. Temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit cause cancer cell death, usually within 10 minutes. Microwave ablation is available at UCSD Medical Center and Moores UCSD Cancer Center.