Have a heart? Don't let it break. Now they can recycle it!

Intriguing article in MIT Technology Review, “Transplant surgeons revive hearts after death.”

These days, we’re familiar with heart transplants from brain-dead patients into others needing a new, healthy heart.

But in a new experimental breakthrough, successes have been achieved in transplanting the hearts of those not brain dead. Yes, there are procedural and ethical issues involved.

Mind you, this involves actual human hearts, not 3-D printed replacements, or bits of heart tissue grown in labs from human stem cells.

But the possibility raises some issues of medical ethics to be explored: if the donor is not brain dead, when and by what criteria can the heart be removed?

Rather than dig in deeply here, I’ll refer you to the article itself. You’ll see a “reanimated” donated heart actually beating outside the bodies of both donor and recipient.  Here's the link.

"Radical Life Extension and A REMEDY FOR DEATH" -- new book trailer just up on Slideshare

We just posted a new book trailer on Slideshare.  It gives a brief overview on various breakthroughts on what is termed "radical life extension" -- most of which we have posted over the past few years on this site, as we came on news of these various pieces of research, and as they were relevant for the technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH.

You'll find that some of the items in the slideshow echo posts we've made here, and we will continue to add other new findings as blog posts . . .  and maybe include them in the sequel to this slideshow. (When and if there ever is a sequel, as that's is hard work!)

 Among the topics touched on in the slideshow (and in this blog) are these: anti-aging methods, bio-engineering, bio-artificial organs, chimeras (human-animal hybrids), quest for eternal youth, human stem cells, human cell implants, human immortality, medical ethics, organ fabrication, organ harvesting, organ regeneration, regenerative medicine, growing human body parts, tissue engineering, transhumanism, reversing the aging process, 3 D printing of replacement human organs, and more. 

 Here's the link to Radical Life Extension and A REMEDY FOR DEATH

Need a new brain? Why not grow your own?

Well, maybe not quite yet. But work is underway.

In Austria, researchers took both embryonic stem cells (i.e. from human embryos) and adult skin cells, then did some "lab magic" and in about a month the cells grew and self-orgaized into what the researchers termed "brain-like organoids" 3-4mm in size that showed "neural activity".  

Think of it!  A few flakes of skin can become the startings of a human brain. Now that's not to say that these litle bits had consciousness, that's many more steps ahead.

They have survived a year (as of when the article went to publication in the journal Nature,) but have not grown any larger, apparently because at this point there is no blood supply in. (But other research in other labs is focusing on generating bio-artificial  blood vessels.)

This work was reported on in  Britain's New Scientist , BBC News , Washington Post via Reuters , Siongularity Hub  and others .

What about the ethical issues of growing even a tiny  human brain?  The researchers are aware of the issue, and the Austrian team does not want to see larger human brain specimens grown now, as that would be "undesirable."

Gary Marcus, in a New Yorker article, looks at this same research, though taking a much longer look at the implications  of where this kind of work may lead decades or a half-century from now.

 "But we’ll also need to confront immense ethical quandaries. What rights does synthetic brain tissue have? Should a 3-D-printed brain have the right to vote? To an education? To terminate its own life? (Or to not be terminated?) For now, these questions are still just another round of thought experiments. But it’s more likely than ever that such thoughts might some day be held by just another brain in a jar."

Beyond all that, there's still one other big issue: even if we can "grow"  a complete human brain, where is the mind?   That is the biggie we tackle in  my technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH --Playing God with Body, Soul, and Biotech,  . . . though suggesting an approach other than bio-science.

" Organs Made to Order It won't be long before surgeons routinely install replacement body parts created in the laboratory"--Smithsonian

The header tells it all: "Organs Made to Order: It won't be long before surgeons routinely install replacement body parts created in the laboratory"

Smithsonian earThis is from the Smithsonian Magazine, and provides a brief overview of the work being done in human organ regeneration by one of the leaders in the field, Dr. Anthony Atala at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.  You'll pick up a feel for the approach and the terminology, and will also see some excellent photos of the work done, like this regenerated ear-in-progress.

 (Photo courtesy Smithsonian.)

Here's a link to that article


Spraying human stem cells to regenerate severely burned areas--in four days!

Imagine collecting a burn patient's own stem cells from an unburned part of the body, placing them in a growth solution for an hour or so, then spraying that solution of human stem cells onto the raw, burned area . . .  and in four days having the patient's skin looking fully back to normal.

Well, you don't have to imagine it, it's not future science fiction, it's here and now, as reported by National Geographic

Mind you, growing human flesh to put over burned areas is not new--among others, Organogenesis has been producing that kind of regenerated skin since the 1980s. Trouble is, that method takes weeks, and to protect the patient against infections, an "immediate" new skin is better. And it's here, though still experiemental.

Here's the link to the   National Geographic video  (via the site Big Geek Dad, which is a great source for all sorts of interesting, sometimes off-beat stuff).


Printing human tissue: moving toward 3-D printing of replacement human organs

It seems that few days  pass that I don't come upon some article or TV/web news report on topics relating to  my techno-thriller A REMEDY FOR DEATH (Playing God with Body, Soul and Bio-tech). Here are a few examples of what's turned up recently:

Example: about a week ago, the Wall Street Journal ran a  short piece  by Daniel Akst, "Tissue that's fit to print" on some  new work at Harvard (and a book describing that work) on the subject of using 3-D printing to create layers of tissue based on human cells.  The difficulty, until this work, has been in printing a vascular system to nourish the new tissue.

Another example: yesterday I was reading through Bloomberg Business Week (March 24-31, 2014) and came on Caroline Winter's article "Printing Medicine" on Andrew Hessel and his work at Autodesk, where theyare designing software that may help bring about cures for cancer . . . and who knows what beyond. Part of the work is done in conjunctioin with a startup named Organovo, which "uses bioprinting technology to manufacture human tissues" (see paragraph above).  

Sorry, at this point I am unable to find the online link to the article (I read it in my old-fashioned print copy!)  but I expect it will be up on Google or Bing before long.

BUT as I looked for it via Google and "printing medicine + bloomberg," I came upon not only pages upon pages of relevant articles, but particularly this one from a month or so ago, further making my opening point.  This, from Bloomberg  (that's only Bloomberg, not Bloomberg Business Week), I came on this article:  "3-D technology may someday print up new livers: health.)  

I'm running short of time at the moment, but plan in another post here to make the  link between my technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH,  and how it integrates much of this new medical technology. (If I may modestly say so, the early drafts of REMEDY had concepts that pre-figured what we're reading now!  And there is still stuff in REMEDY that is way ahead of the curves of bio-tech, human stem-cell technology, the mystery of consciousness, neuroscience, tissue engineering , synthetic biology, regeneratiove medicine, the quest for immortality-- and the ethical and legal implications of putting all those pieces together.

A Remedy for Death and "Billionaires as patrons of science"-- New York Times

"Billionaires with big ideas are privatizing American science" -- the headline of an article in the New York Times

Well, billionaires with VERY big ideas along with  a sense of elitist entitlement, and a drive for life extension (for themselves and themselves only) ,are subsidizing the fictional Hauenfelder Clinic in my technothriller,   A REMEDY FOR DEATH

Not to spoil the plot, just to say that it's about a bunch of rich old guys (yeah, just guys) who're funding a kind of Jurassic Park for  "select" humans--themselves and other elitists.  It gets into bio-tech, bio-artificial organs, organ harvesting and regeneration, regenerative medicine, and, ultimatelym,into the quest for eternal youth and immortality.

Here are some sample chapters. Hope you're intrigued!

"Bioengineer: the heart is one of the easiest organs to bioprint, we'll do it in a decade"--Wired UK

Organ regeneration, bioartificial organs, regenerative medicine, and the related possibility of 3-D printing of replacement human organs are all grist in my science technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH: Playing God with body, soul, and biotech.

The artitle, "Bioengineer: the heart is one of the easiest organs to bioprint, we'll do it in a decade"--in Wired UK, by  Liat Clark, focuses on work led by Dr. Stuart K. Williams at the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute at the University of Louisville. The team has already bioengineered arteries and other blood vessels within the heart. Now they are at work on producing a complete heart, which he estimates can be done within a decade.

Here's his overview of the process (as it would work a decade or so from now):  "a patient enters the operating room and tissue is removed (we think fat is the best source) and regenerative cells isolated. The cells are then mixed with solutions that contain extracellular matrix molecules and other factors and placed in the bioprinter. The bioprinter then prints the heart."
A week or so later the bioprinted heart is ready to be implanted in the patient.
We've alredy written in these pages about other ways in which 3D printers are being used to print replacement human organs.
Here's one article, which also internally links to a second
Also, check "Categories" in the sidebar of this blog to see several other posts here to bio-printing human body parts, as well as the use of human stem cells as one of the input materials.

"Science fiction comes alive as researchers grow organs in lab" -- Wall Street Journal and A Remedy for Death

"Science fiction" and "Wall Street Journal" are terms not often used in the same sentence, but just maybe science fiction is transforming into mainstream science.

The WSJ article this week, "Science fiction comes alive as researchers grow organs in lab" by Gautam Naik, is accompanied by a video, narrated by Mr. Naik, and a clear graphic, "Growing a new heart."

The first section focuses on work done in Madrid by Dr. Francisco Fernandez-Avila: a  human heart, taken from a cadaver has been "cleaned" to clear all the original cells so all that was left was the "scaffold". This builds on the work of American Dr. Doris Taylor at the Texas Heart Institute, in Houston,  who is working with the Spanish team. (For more on her work,  see my post "Reversing the aging process using pig hearts")

The "scaffold," once cleaned of the donor's cells, is seeded with stem cells from a human donor, who will--when the work is final -- be the recipient. (Though there's much more to it than that, needless to say.)  But it's one more instance of how science fiction in these areas is moving into fact.

At University College, London (and the allied Royal Free Hospital),  the WSJ's Mr.Naik describes how the team is working on a variety of kinds of "lab grown" organs to implant in humans, including a new nose for a man who lost his to cancer, new coronary arteries, windpipes, and others.  Dr. Alex Seifalian heads a team of 30 researchers there.

If you're interested in the how-to, they first developed the scaffold -- in this case by molding it with the help of an artist -- then poured the cartilage replacement material into a mold, then "added salt and sugar" to replicate the spongy feel of a normal nose.  (Hmm!)

Of course, using an artist's created mold is not the only way of shaping a lab-created organ. Last fall, another article in the Wall Street Journal (this by Robert Lee Hotz), reported on a method I've heard more and more about since. That article: "Need a new body part? No problem. Just use a bio-printer to produce it."

For still more, see the three-part series the New York Times ran, also last fall:  “Body Builders” by Henry Fountain., consisting of the three articles and the related graphics. 

This earlier blog post of mine will take you to the series:  "Bio-engineering human tissue on an animal scaffold"

"How would you like to invest in immortality?" -- Fortune Magazine

"How would you like to invest in immortality?" is just out in Fortune's on-line tech blog  (and likely in the paper edition when it arrives).

Briefly, this coming June, 32 year -old Russian tech entrepreneur/billionaire Dmitry Itskov will be announcing his launch of a venture to "allow investors to bankroll research into neuroscience and human consciousness..."

The aim is to set up a "push to understand human consciousness and ultimately how to transfer it from human bodies into robotic avatars." (Yes, that does align with Ray Kurzweil's program.)

But, Dmitry, sorry to tell you this, but this has already been done! (Albeit fictionally) in my technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH: Playing God with body, soul and bio-tech.

Only REMEDY does it better (I modestly propose). I mean, who'd want to come back to find their mind transferred into a robot? A robot, good grief!  Wouldn't rich elite folks want to come back into, as one of rich guys in REMEDY puts it, into  "healthy, horny 21-year-old bodies complete with all of our  accumulated savvy from this first lifetime?"

No, seems to me that moving a "brain," a "mind," a "conscious essence" (the jargon  I use in  REMEDY) into a robot or a robotic avatar is not the way to go . . . not with all that's opening up in the fields of bioartificial organs, organ fabrication, regenerative medicine, growing body parts, and even transgenic and transhuman possibilities.

In short, wouldn't those rich elite folks really prefer to come back into a complete new body (as their present  one was in its prime), with all their present learning and experience?

Another thing:  the Fortune article suggests that  Itskov's  methodology will, "by 2025 . . .place a human brain into a working robot and have that person's consciousness (memories, personality, and everything else that makes up the 'self') transfer along with it."

But . . . um . . . how're you going to manage that? Plunking a brain into a robot (or into some kind of tank) is easy enough, but how do you get that -- dare I say the word "person" -- to turn on and come alive?  And how does that brain in the machine get to smell the flowers and do all the other little things that make life worth living?

How?  again, modestly,  I suggest you check out my technothriller A REMEDY FOR DEATH: Playing God with body, soul and bio-tech.  Probably won't get all the questions answered, but I hope it will give food for thought.