They seem like unlikely partners. YouTube, the San Bruno-based, wildly popular online video-sharing site and UCSF, home to the world's leading center for dementia. But they have joined in a collaborative effort; the first-ever YouTube channel dedicated to debilitating brain conditions.
"We've found a picture is worth a thousand words and video is worth even more than that," said Dr. Michael Geschwind with the UCSF Memory and Aging Center.
Dr. Michael Geschwind says getting the right diagnosis and treatment early is critical when you are fighting diseases that can take lives in mere months. So UCSF decided to get into the business of producing videos for brain disease patients and their families. The UCSF Memory and Aging Center's channel launched last month and is already in the top 100 most-visited on YouTube.
"Wonderful idea, we're behind anything and everything to get the word out there," said Jill Preston, wife of a patient.
Jill Preston's husband Mitch came to UCSF from Florida after a frustrating several months of trying to get the right diagnosis for Mitch.
"March 27th, I had a seizure. I fell in the pool, I was exhausted, went to bed early, and passed out," said Mitch Preston.
"From the second he woke up, there was something different about his personality and about his facial expression," said Jill Preston.
Doctors are testing Mitch for CJD, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease; the focus of several videos on the UCSF-YouTube channel. Other clips talk about various diseases ranging from Alzeimer's to Parkinson's to Frontotemporal Dementia. Patients can learn about symptoms, doctors can get advice on interpreting tests and finding services, and families can get advice on how to take care of their loved ones.
A lot of the funding for this project comes from friends and family members of an early Web entrepreneur who is currently fighting CJD. Mike Homer is a former Netscape executive and a friend of YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley. Hurley says "I hope the UCSF channel will provide scientists, researchers and physicians a valuable communication tool as they search for solutions."
Dr. Geschwind, who treats Homer and Mitch, says the key is to communicate quickly, accurately, and simply.
"Our connections with Silicon Valley have taught us the power of video, the power of the Web, that's changed our way of thinking of how to spread message to the public," said Dr. Geschwind.
UCSF is currently developing YouTube channels for Cancer and AIDS and hopes to launch in a few months. Click here to visit the UCSF Memory and Aging Center's YouTube channel.