The Ricordi Chamber stars on “Grey’s Anatomy”!

I thought it was way cool while zoning out last night in front of prime time’s soap, “Grey’s Anatomy” to hear the words the “Ricordi chamber.” 

There I was wondering would Meredith make Mr. Dreamy realize she’s not just his wife but a fine resident? Would Calli ever stop screaming about her pregnancy? Would Mark ever tell Lexie about the baby he’s fathering? Then while Dr. Bailey’s performing surgery that Lexie’s twittering about in the background – much to the consternation of the Chief – someone either in the operating room or via twitter says they need a “Ricordi chamber.” The Chief looks doubtful but a twitterer (I think, because now I’m leaping over to my computer to send a fast email about this) helps them realize the viability and that there’s one down the road at a nearby hospital.

The Ricordi chamber is the creation of Dr. Camillo Ricordi, Scientific Director at the cure-focused premiere Diabetes Research Institute. The Ricordi chamber extracts healthy beta (insulin-producing) cells from a damaged pancreas that can be used for islet infusion. 

I interviewed Dr. Ricordi a few months ago on the Huffington Post, where he spoke about the Ricordi chamber, and much to his dismay having it named after him.

Dr. Ricordi: One night they were discarding a pancreas at the university. I waited for everybody to leave the lab and did a secret experiment. I thought if it doesn’t work I won’t tell anyone. If it does I’ll tell my boss. It worked, and within a few weeks all the engineers at the lab switched to this new procedure I’d tried. It’s based on a chamber.

Riva: This is the Ricordi Chamber?

Dr. Ricordi: Yes, but it was not my idea to call it that. I had called it the Automated Method.

Riva: How did you come up with it?

Dr. Ricordi: Truly, I was inspired watching a log burning in a fireplace. I thought you could develop a process where the pancreas would sit inside a chamber and like the slow, continuous process of disassembling a log in a fireplace, we could disassemble a pancreas and liberate insulin-producing islet cells. At the time it was very tough to break down an organ and get the islets out. They used a very heavy mechanical device not unlike a kitchen grinder. So my idea was quite radical. People laughed, “Sure you want to put a whole organ into a chamber and have things coming out the other side!” But it worked.

My leap to my computer was to email Tom Karlya, Vice President at DRI, whom I’d recently lunched with, and Lori Weintraub, VP of Marketing and Communications. Tom emailed right back, “Cool, huh?” Lori wrote back, “Thanks Riva!”

Yes, it’s ever so cool seeing a conversation about our lives coming out of the mouths of Dr. Bailey and her team over at Seattle Grace Hospital.

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