English for Doctors: The Marrow Miner

English medical vocab and conversational class designed for doctors.

Daniel Kraft invents a better way to harvest bone marrow

You are going to view a presentation from Ted.com. 

Technology, Entertainment , Design.

Daniel Kraft demos his Marrow Miner — a new device that quickly harvests life-saving bone marrow with minimal pain to the donor. He emphasizes that the adult stem cells found in bone marrow can be used to treat many terminal conditions, from Parkinson’s to heart disease.

1. Questions:

Is donating bone marrow painful?

What is the traditional procedure  like? Can you describe it?

What is bone marrow used for?

Where is the best place to harvest from?

What is a miner?

2.Vocab & Phrases

a liter of bone marrow

malignancies like leukemia and lymphoma

the soft tissue

punch it into the hard bone

aspirate about 10 mls of bone marrow out

hand it off

She squirts it into a tin

Hands it back to me

To be sore

a callus on my hand

his rear end

Our standard see-through patient

powered catheter

with a special wire loop tip

that stays inside the crunchy part

follows the contours of the hip

to very rapidly aspirate, or suck out

do this harvest as an outpatient

embryonic stem cells

translates to better outcomes

3. You are going to watch a full presentation.

This listening is for general comprehension. Please try to take notes.

Questions 2.

What do you think of this technology?

What does he mean by crunchy?

What does the reference to Swiss cheese mean?

4. You are going to listen to the presentation again but this time with the transcript from the presentation. 


Daniel Kraft invents a better way to harvest bone marrow


So I am a pediatric cancer doctor and stem-cell researcher at Stanford University where my clinical focus has been bone marrow transplantation. Now, inspired by Jill Bolte Taylor last year, I didn’t bring a human brain, but I did bring a liter of bone marrow. And bone marrow is actually what we use to save the lives of tens of thousands of patients, most of whom have advanced malignancies like leukemia and lymphoma and some other diseases.


So, a few years ago, I’m doing my transplant fellowship at Stanford. I’m in the operating room. We have Bob here, who is a volunteer donor. We’re sending his marrow across the country to save the life of a child with leukemia. So actually how do we harvest this bone marrow? Well we have a whole O.R. team, general anesthesia, nurses, and another doctor across from me. Bob’s on the table, and we take this sort of small needle, you know, not too big. And the way we do this is we basically place this through the soft tissue, and kind of punch it into the hard bone, into the tuchus — that’s a technical term — and aspirate about 10 mls of bone marrow out, each time, with a syringe. And hand it off to the nurse. She squirts it into a tin. Hands it back to me. And we do that again and again. About 200 times usually. And by the end of this my arm is sore, I’ve got a callus on my hand, let alone Bob, whose rear end looks something more like this, like Swiss cheese.


So I’m thinking, you know, this procedure hasn’t changed in about 40 years. And there is probably a better way to do this. So I thought of a minimally invasive approach, and a new device that we call the Marrow Miner. This is it. And the Marrow Miner, the way it works is shown here.


Our standard see-through patient. Instead of entering the bone dozens of times, we enter just once, into the front of the hip or the back of the hip. And we have a flexible, powered catheter with a special wire loop tip that stays inside the crunchy part of the marrow and follows the contours of the hip, as it moves around. So it enables you to very rapidly aspirate, or suck out, rich bone marrow very quickly through one hole. We can do multiple passes through that same entry. No robots required. And, so, very quickly, Bob can just get one puncture, local anesthesia, and do this harvest as an outpatient.


So I did a few prototypes. I got a small little grant at Stanford. And played around with this a little bit. And our team members developed this technology. And eventually we got two large animals, and pig studies. And we found, to our surprise, that we not only got bone marrow out, but we got 10 times the stem cell activity in the marrow from the Marrow Miner, compared to the normal device. This device was just FDA approved in the last year.


Here is a live patient. You can see it following the flexible curves around. There will be two passes here, in the same patient, from the same hole. This was done under local anesthesia, as an outpatient. And we got, again, about three to six times more stem cells than the standard approach done on the same patient.


So why should you care? Bone marrow is a very rich source of adult stem cells. You all know about embryonic stem cells. They’ve got great potential but haven’t yet entered clinical trials. Adult stem cells are throughout our body, including the blood-forming stem cells in our bone marrow, which we’ve been using as a form of stem-cell therapy for over 40 years. In the last decade there’s been an explosion of use of bone marrow stem cells to treat the patient’s other diseases such as heart disease, vascular disease, orthopedics, tissue engineering, even in neurology to treat Parkinson’s and diabetes.


We’ve just come out, we’re commercializing, this year, generation 2.0 of the Marrow Miner. The hope is that this gets more stem cells out, which translates to better outcomes. It may encourage more people to sign up to be potential live-saving bone marrow donors. It may even enable you to bank your own marrow stem cells, when you’re younger and healthier, to use in the future should you need it. And ultimately — and here’s a picture of our bone marrow transplant survivors, who come together for a reunion each year at Stanford. Hopefully this technology will let us have more of these survivors in the future. Thanks.

Time 5:16


5. Discussion

Is this just a good presentation to try and sell his new product?

How important is FDA approval in Spain?

Do you ever hear from past patients?

6. Post class work


This presentation from Ted.com is available with subtitles and we suggest listening 1 time with subtitles and then another time with the English transcript on the right hand side. Make notes of unknown words and phrases and try to guess their meaning from context.

Email question: Which neurological diseases can be treated?

7.Using new vocabulary

Please use the vocab from sections 1 & 2 in the following sentences:

Group 1

a liter , malignancy, tissue, to punch , to aspirate , to hand it off 

to squirt, to hand  back 


I need to go to the shop and get a __________ of milk.

When I squeezed the orange it __________ juice into my eye.

In the end I coundn`t afford the car repayments and I had to ______ it __________.

The dentist pulled my tooth out quickly and ____________ before I could see it.

Her husband was so jealous that he ___________ her friend for no good reason.

Could you but the quality brand, the really soft ________, like Kleenex?

Group 2

to be sore, a callus, a rear end, see-through, crunchy , contours, to suck out

an outpatient, an outcome


I played tennis the other day for the first time in 6 months and the next day I could barely walk, my legs were extremely _________.

My friend had a car accident, someone drove into the _____________ of his car.

I get __________ on my fingers when I play the guitar.

I love chocolate with nuts and raisins and ___________ ingredients.

Gillette razors follow the ___________ of your face, apparently.

Marilyn Monroe created huge controversy when she wore a ________________ dress.

if you get bitten by a snake, they say the best thing to do is ___________ the poison.

A fantastic, classy, superior final result of 3-1 is definitely the best __________ we could have hoped for.



8. Using the new vocab, discuss the following statements:

The best medical technology you have started to use in the last 10 years. 


About Author

Justin Donlon

English Teacher & Content Developer Over 15 years of experience in engaging educational content

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