Theoretical Physicist Dr. Michio Kaku (author of the non-fiction book Hyperspace) hosts Visions of the Future, premiering this week on the BBC. The show takes a look at the real direction of science and talks with some of the current pioneers. Dr. Kaku offers us a sneak peek into the show and the technology behind it, with a focus on growing human organs:
But one highlight of the trip was a visit to Dr Anthony Atala’s lab in Wake Forest University, North Carolina, where he is unleashing a revolution in medicine: growing entire organs of the body from your own cells.
In the future, we might very well have a “human body shop” that can replace ageing and diseased organs at will.
Dr Atala first creates a plastic sponge-like mould of the organ. Then he inserts cells from our own body into the mould, which are then treated so they grow into the scaffolding.
After the organ is fully grown, the plastic scaffolding dissolves, leaving a perfect organ. Already, skin, cartilage, bone, blood vessels, wind pipes, heart valves, ears, and noses have been grown.
Dr Anthony Atala; Tissue engineering a bladder (BBC)
Tissue engineering promises “off the shelf” organs
His lab made headlines last year when he grew the first human bladder, which was inserted into seven patients suffering from deformed bladders.
Dr Atala told me: “What we can foresee in the future is having a ready-made supply of human organs off the shelf that you can simply plug in, as needed.”
This is way cool. We’re witnessing the stuff that used to be science fiction. The implications of such technology could mean longer life spans and a radical change to our way of life. I love Kaku’s question about using “the wisdom of Solomon to control this power.”
I wonder…can organlegging (as envisioned by Larry Niven in his Known Space stories) be far behind? At least growing them artificially solves the problem of the decreasing supply of donors….
Science and Technology