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UCLA Magazine Fall 2004
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The Next Wave
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Fall 2004
The Next Wave
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Two UCLA faculty members — Daniel Levi, a pediatric cardiologist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and Gregory Carman, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering — are developing just such a valve. They might also use thin-film nitinol technology to develop a ventricular-assist device for patients whose hearts have difficulty pumping. It’s a distinctly futuristic aim that Levi describes as “our ultimate goal.” The idea is to wrap the heart of a patient in thin-film nitinol trained to expand and contract, thereby helping the heart’s pumping action.

Kim, Levi and Carman are part of a broad and diverse group of UCLA professors, researchers and students engaged in an ambitious interdisciplinary effort to help transform the frontiers of science and society. They are working on potentially revolutionary technologies of such enormous diagnostic, therapeutic and predictive value that our civilization appears set to take what the American futurist Alvin Toffler has called “a quantum leap forward.”

In The Third Wave, his best-selling 1980 book, Toffler noted the vital contributions of the agricultural and industrial revolutions. Looking to the future, he proposed that “a third wave will sweep across history and complete itself in a few decades … tearing our families apart, rocking our economy, paralyzing our political systems, shattering our values.” Everything from medicine, defense and space travel to foods, fashion and art will surely be transformed.

Indeed, much of Toffler’s vision appears to be on the brink of coming true. Some of the most remarkable future developments will be in medicine. Based on what has been learned of the human genome, drugs will be tailor-made for individual patients and administered through ultra-precise delivery systems implanted into the body. Rapid diagnostic testing will be possible at home, and invasive procedures like open-heart surgery will be performed on outpatients.

“We are going to see the miniaturization of biomedical diagnostic devices, just the way we have seen the miniaturization of computers,” says Edward R.B. McCabe, co-director of the UCLA Center for Society and Genetics. “Engineering and medicine are going to improve medical care in ways we can’t even fathom.”

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