Color-coded Surgery


Quyen Nguyen: Color-coded Surgery

Surgeons are taught from textbooks which conveniently color-code the types of tissues, but that's not what it looks like in real life -- until now. At TEDMED Quyen Nguyen demonstrates how a molecular marker can make tumors light up in neon green, showing surgeons exactly where to cut.

Quyen T. Nguyen, M.D.Ph.D. earned her medical and doctorate degrees from Washington University School of Medicine. She completed her surgical internship at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, MO, her Head and Neck Surgery residency and Neurotology fellowship at the University of California, San Diego. She joined the Division of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at UCSD as faculty in 2007. Her clinical practice is focused on the treatment of facial nerve and ear related diseases including implants for hearing restoration. She became the Director of the Facial Nerve Clinic at UCSD in 2009.

In collaboration with Roger Tsien, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, 2008, Dr. Nguyen’s scientific research is focused on the development of fluorescently labeled probes for molecular navigation during surgery. Their first collaborative effort yielded a “smart” probe that makes tumors margins fluoresce, or “glow” and thus easier for surgeons to see and remove accurately during surgery. Their most recent joint effort resulted in another type of probe that can make nerves “glow” during surgery, thus helping surgeons repair injured nerves and avoid inadvertent injury.

She has been awarded a Career Development Award from the NIH in 2007 and a Career Award for Medical Scientists by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund in 2009.


Quyen Nguyen - Q&A at TEDMED 2011

Dr. Tsien is renowned for revolutionizing the fields of cell biology and neurobiology by allowing scientists to peer inside living cells and watch the behavior of molecules in real time. He is well-known for developing colorful dyes, such as Fura-2, to track the movement of calcium within cells and has genetically modified molecules that make jellyfish and corals glow, creating fluorescent colors in a dazzling variety of hues. These multicolored fluorescent proteins are used by scientists to track where and when certain genes are expressed in cells or in whole organisms.

UCSD Professor Roger Tsien, Ph.D., shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Osamu Shimomura of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole and Boston University School of Medicine, and Martin Chalfie of Columbia University in New York. The scientists are being honored for the discovery of Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) and seminal work to design and create fluorescent molecules that enter cells and light up their inner workings.

Video on Dr. Tsien's Research

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