Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who Wants To Live Forever?

Did you know regenerative medicine has advanced to the point where you can grow your own organs outside of your body?! I know it sounds kinda freaky, science fiction tv show-ish but the future presented on shows like Star Trek is available now. Using your own blood and cells, doctors can make a mold to grow a replacement organ or tissues in a matter of weeks!

Yesterday's Oprah episode covered ways to improve your life expectancy. One technique is following a diet that restricts calorie consumption which forces the body to use its cells more productively. Now being on the youngish side of the age pendulum I would usually gloss over this as something for the elders, but I'm not so young anymore. When you have nieces who will be 16 then I guess not. 

Now it is all about preventative techniques to avoid illnesses or boost quality of life. We're all not going to be young forever! Plus with so much plastic surgery being performed like it's a visit to the dentist it's more difficult to actually see and experience people aging naturally without looking like frozen statues. 

The Department of Health and Human Services has a report on The Future of Regenerative Medicine that states: 
Regenerative medicine is the next evolution of medical treatments. Derived from the fields of tissue engineering, tissue science, biology, biochemistry, physics, chemistry, applied engineering and other fields, regenerative medicine is the first truly interdisciplinary field that utilizes and brings together nearly every field in science. This new field holds the realistic promise of regenerating damaged tissues and organs in vivo (in the living body) through reparative techniques that stimulate previously irreparable organs into healing themselves. Regenerative medicine also empowers scientists to grow tissues and organs in vitro (in the laboratory) and safely implant them when the body is unable to be prompted into healing itself.
The benefits of regenerative medicine are endless! From helping people with life-threatening illnesses, to reducing the demand of organ and tissue donations this is the right direction for medicine and it returns it to its origins of doing no harm. It will also reduce the overall costs for care - which will be a welcome relief to millions who either have had HMO plans that denied them adequate care, no health coverage at all or to those that have filed bankruptcy as debt relief from huge bills.

What does regenerative medicine do? First and foremost, it cures by either encouraging your body to create undamaged tissues or by accepting transplanted tissues or organs. The difference is that the transplant will NOT be from a matched donor that your body may later reject, but it's your own. 
Collectively, these treatments allow for two substantial advances over current medicine. The first advance is the potential to in vivo (in the living body) regenerate currently irreparably damaged tissues so that they return to full functionality. The second advance is to be able to produce tissues in vitro (in the laboratory) to be used for transplantation purposes when regeneration is not possible. This technology has the potential to cure diseases ranging from diabetes (through regeneration of islets) to the repair of cancerous tissues (by replacing the removed cancerous tissue with externally grown healthy tissue). By creating these “tissues for life,” regenerative medicine treatments will undoubtedly lead to a tremendous improvement in quality of life and healthcare.
President Obama's support of stem cell research  - which he again mentioned during his second press conference last night - is vital. With regenerative medical techniques those that want to object over the use of embryonic stem cells won't have a leg to stand on because it won't be an issue. Of course I suspect some people will never be satisfied and always find something to protest. 

Here's a report on CBS. It's not CGI either!

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