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.


“How tiny lab-grown HUMAN BRAINS are giving big insights into autism”—Singularity Hub

We’ve been hearing a lot recently about how tissues and organs from aborted human fetuses are valued for medical experiments. (More on that another time here.)

Those “harvested” tissues are useful, but come from aborted fetuses . . . an issue which raises a host of legal and ethical issues, and offends many people. 

What if there were a way to generate human brain tissue, not from a fetus, but from stem cells generated from healthy adults?

In other words, suppose you could let a lab technician take a small sample of the flesh on your hand, and, hey presto! you might soon have small globules of brain tissue for researchers to work with.

But then the question, Why would you want a brain in a jar? One reason, among many: if you or your children were suffering from neurological disorders or brain abnormalities, such as autism. Then there might be no need to take actual brain samples . . .  or to wait while those abnormalities are studied in experimental animals (which may or may not provide results transferable to humans).

It’s not happening full-out just yet, but the work is underway at Cambridge University by Dr. Madeline Lancaster and team. Here’s the link to the article at Singularity Hub

Another question that may come to mind: How does the possibility of growing replica human brains tie in with my medical bio-technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH: Playing God with body, soul and biotech?  

Excelloent question! You'll find the answer at the top of this blog, or you can can check it out on Amazon.  I hope you will.


Big step taken toward achieving the "Holy Grail" of regenerative medicine

British scientists have now taken cells from a mouse embryo and, "flipped a genetic switch" in the DNA, and then injected the product into another mouse with a defective organ, where those injected cells grew into the whole organ of another mouse. (In that case, it was the thymus, which relates to  the immune system.)

The work was done under the lead of Prof. Clare Blackburn, of the Medical Research Council / Center for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. The most complete article I've found is by Rebecca Smith, medical editor of London's Daily TelegraphHere's the link

You can also find a shorter piece by Pranav Dixit in Gizmodo. Here's that link

 If you've keeping up with this blog, you'll have seen other stories about growing replacement organs. So what's distinctive about this?  This is reportedly the first time the organ has been grown inside the target creature.

When can we expect to find something like this happening for humans?  According to one scientist, maybe ten years and tens of millions of pounds for research. But by then, odds are the products will relate to other elements in the quest for radical life extension.


"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

 


"'Transhumanists' are planning to upload your mind to a memory stick…"-- London Telegraph

I'll leave you to the full article (link is below), but here are a couple of excerpts to give the flavor of the Transhumanist concept:

 "As the name implies, Transhumanists are people who want us to become "beyond human". It’s an umbrella term for a broad family of ideas united by the vision that technology now, or at least soon will, allow us to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.  That means everything from bionic limbs to uploading our entire brains on to memory sticks and carrying them around with us as back-up."

 Well, while there are times I'd like to have my, uh--what's the word? Ah, memories!-- on a stick, the reality is I'd probably forget where I put it.

Here's another excerpt, this looking at some of the down-sides:

"The whole project throws up very difficult ethical and philosophical challenges. Is an uploaded mind still human? Should we give "human rights" to an artificial intelligence with a superior intellect to a human? Then there’s the bread-and-butter social problems. Presumably, human enhancement technologies would be disproportionately available to those with greater financial resources, creating a genetic divide. And if you lived forever, are you taking up the place of another generation? What about the more mundane things: what would be a fair prison sentence for murder if we could all live for 200 years? Or the right retirement age. I’m guessing it won’t be 70 if we can all make thirty score and ten. Above all: are we happy about all of this, and can we stop it?"

Here's the link to the Telegraph article.   It's by Jamie Bartlett, Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think tank Demos.


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!