March 27 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Biotechnology Year: General Rating: 10
By Dick Pelletier
The surge of innovation that has given the world everything from iPods and cell phones to HDTV is now turning inward to our bodies. In 2001, more than 80,000 Americans needed organ transplants, fewer than 24,000 got them, and 6,000 died waiting. Of those receiving organs, 40 percent died within three years. Scientists believe that stem cell therapies will one day eliminate cruel deaths like these.
Stem cells possess an almost magical quality. They have the potential to differentiate and grow into any body part – teeth, hair, skin, hearts, or other organs. By 2020 or before, doctors will be able to replace many failing parts of an aging or sick body with this revolutionary medical technology.
In an Argentine project, 85 percent of type 2 diabetes patients given stem cells were able to stop taking insulin-producing drugs. The team, headed by Roberto Fernandez Vina, was also the first to heal damaged hearts with these biotech wonders.
And in a recent Highlights of Stem Cell Research article, National Institutes of Health officials describe how researchers will soon be able to create skeletal, muscle, heart, and lung tissues; and specific neuron types by using embryonic stem cells.
Stem cells have the potential to restore perfect health to aging bodies and could one day extend our lifespan indefinitely, says stem cell biologist Atilla Chordash. By mid-2020s, these wonders could eliminate all diseases – even aging. In the future, the leading causes of death will be accidents, crime, and wars; and world death rates could drop from 50 million annually today, to less than a million by 2030.
How about today’s humans – will this wonder technology arrive in time to benefit us? In Fantastic Voyage, author and futurist Ray Kurzweil explains how we can “bootstrap” our way to an indefinite lifespan by maintaining good health today, then let stem cells rejuvenate our bodies over the next two decades.
The following scenario illustrates an example of tomorrow’s stem cell future:
A monthly body scan reveals damaged heart muscles, placing you at risk for a heart attack. No problem; your doctor prescribes a ‘supersonic drug gun’ that propels regenerative protein molecules into the bloodstream. The new materials immediately bind to damaged heart muscle cells, touching off a chemical reaction that prompts your body to make new cells, quickly restoring you to perfect health.
Although this scene may sound futuristic, Hydra Bioscience’s Glen Larsen says his company has “already demonstrated successful experiments of this procedure with rats, and they hope to one day launch human trials.”
Could an indefinite lifespan become reality? Experts say it can. Life-extension is the natural progression of medicine, from slowing down diseases and the effects of aging, to preventing them altogether. It even follows instructions laid down by most religions that, “Human life is sacred and should be preserved.”
Longevity experts predict that because of stem cell therapies, by 2020, we will add more than one year of life expectancy to our lives each year. This means that most people alive today could achieve an indefinite lifespan. So the message is clear: take care of yourself the old-fashioned way now; then get ready to enjoy this “magical future.”