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A boy in England has received the first organ transplant that will grow inside the patient's body using their own stem cells.   (Source: PA)
The era of replaceable organs is drawing near

Mankind is close to defying nature and extending human beings' life spans tens of years by using replacement organs.  The key to this progress is stem cells, the same kind of cells that differentiated to form your original tissues.

In England, a 10-year-old boy received a groundbreaking tracheal transplant at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.  The windpipe -- a flexible tube that connects the nose, mouth and lungs -- was replaced with an organ that will grow inside the boy's own body using the boy's own stem cells.

The story began when the boy was born with long segment tracheal stenosis, a debilitating condition that leaves the victim with a 1 mm wide airway, which can lead to suffocation and death.  Doctors tried to treat the condition with stents, but the stents collapsed, cutting off the boy's airflow and damaging his aorta.  After the boy almost stopped breathing, his doctors contacted Paolo Macchiarini, from Careggi University Hospital, Florence.

Macchiarini decided to try an ambitious and risky approach that had never before been successfully performed -- regrowing the organ in the boy's own body using stem cells.  Leading a Italian, British and Spanish team, the researchers first took a donor windpipe and stripped it of all cells to prevent immune response.

The procedure has begun with a successful implant.  Seeded with the boy's stem cells and a cocktail of growth-promoting chemicals, the tissue was implanted into the boy last Week.  The boy responded well, breathing normally and speaking soon after the operation.

Professor Martin Birchall, head of translational regenerative medicine at University College London called the procedure a "milestone moment" and pointed out that by allowing the boy's own cells to regrow the tissue, the cost was dramatically lowered to "tens of thousands pounds rather than hundreds of thousands."  

He states, "We believe it’s a real milestone.  It is the first time a child has received stem-cell organ treatment, and it’s the longest airway that has ever been replaced. I think the technique will allow not just highly specialized hospitals to carry out stem-cell organ transplants. We don’t think it’s going to replace conventional transplants just yet, but already there are certain aspects of conventional transplant surgery it can be applied to. We need to think about how to make regenerative medicine a key part of our healthcare."

The work follows other significant work two years ago in Spain where Claudia Castillo, 30, became the first person to receive a portion of trachea regrown with stem cells.  That transplant, however, was a much shorter tract of trachea and was much more expensive as it was grown outside the body in a special bioreactor.

The researchers are looking forward to advancing the treatment aggressively, perhaps next performing larynx or oesophagus stem cell transplants.

Despite this optimism, it still remains to be seen whether the boy's recovery is as successful as anticipated.  Given Castillo's success, though, the boy is expected to make a full recovery.  And with that recovery mankind will move one step closer to immortality.



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Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By chmilz on 3/22/2010 11:42:57 AM , Rating: -1
Hope we're up to the task of fixing people, for as long as we keep saving the weakest, the overall genetics of humankind will erode.

I really wish medicine would differentiate between fixing healthy people that get broken, and trying to make a genetically inferior person better. We can replace a bad part, but the genes that made them inferior will still be passed on.




RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By MozeeToby on 3/22/2010 11:51:38 AM , Rating: 4
So? If we can keep someone alive today, by the time they have children 20 years down the road we'll be able to treat the condition easily. By the time their children have children we'll probably be able to snip out the problem DNA and replace it with something that works better.

Why reduce human variability for the sake of Eugenics? There is no 'ideal' human genome and I for one certainly wouldn't let a child suffer and die just to try to keep humanity near some imagined ideal. The line between letting 'imperfect' people die and actively killing them off is not as thick as you might think, and it's been crossed once or twice before.


By ClownPuncher on 3/22/2010 1:32:44 PM , Rating: 2
Populism, once again dirtying its hands with "the greater good".


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By Kurz on 3/22/2010 1:40:35 PM , Rating: 4
There is not about imagined Ideal. Its about weeding out genetically inferer genes. He has a point it is weaking our speices genetics by saving everyone even when their genetic make up is the cause of their life threatening illness.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By MozeeToby on 3/22/2010 2:05:12 PM , Rating: 3
There is no such thing as an 'inferior' gene. Many genes that cause problems in some people are useful in others. Sickle Cell Anemia damages the quality of life for thousands of people in the developed world, but it saves the lives of millions of others by granting near immunity to malaria. The genes that cause schizophrenia or other mental issues often also lead to increased creativity and higher IQ.

But the real problem is where you try to decide one disease is caused by someone's genes but another disease isn't. Cancer can be genetic, level of susceptibility to HIV is genetic, depression and suicidal tendencies can be genetic. Should we just let everyone who doesn't have a perfect immune system go without medical treatment to protect some imaginary concept of superior and inferior genes?

Besides, the most healthy gene pool is a large, diverse one. I'd rather humanity's gene pool consist of all the current human race than the 100,000 healthiest people because the diversity of the larger gene pool is what allows it to survive.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 7:06:51 PM , Rating: 1
"There is no such thing as an 'inferior' gene."

I beg to differ. Some genes result in embryos that fail to even reach term, or die soon after birth, despite our best efforts. Are those not inferior?


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 7:19:36 PM , Rating: 2
Just a gene in the wrong place at the wrong time. The genes that give a fish gills instead of lungs would kill a human. Are those "bad genes"?


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 7:43:40 PM , Rating: 3
"Are those "bad genes"?"

In a human-- yes. Would you choose your children to be born with them?


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By Creig on 3/22/2010 2:23:59 PM , Rating: 5
Tell that to Stephen Hawking.


By karielash on 3/24/2010 3:58:18 AM , Rating: 2

This deserves a 6.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By NicodemusMM on 3/22/2010 8:38:15 PM , Rating: 1
Our inferior genes make us the species we are with the immense capabilities we have. The opposable thumb was a genetic defect at one point... as were many other traits we value. Are you so wise that you can see our evolution 10k years down the road? Can you determine with 100% accuracy what will be useful later? Didn't think so. Neither can anyone else. Assuming we make it that long we may be thankful people with your mentality can't make decisions for everyone.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/23/2010 12:11:28 AM , Rating: 5
"The opposable thumb was a genetic defect at one point"

A defect with immediate survival value...which is why it persisted. Are you really going to compare that to a child born with a hole in their heart, no cerebral cortex, and their hanging liver outside their body?

Every gene we have was a mutation -- and thus technically a defect -- at some point. That's given. But to step from that to the belief that no genetic flaw, no matter how serious, should ever be addressed, is a vast leap of illogical, pseudo-religious faith.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By NicodemusMM on 3/24/2010 6:46:09 PM , Rating: 2
Ok.. maybe I should have centered on the core of my statement to avoid "a vast leap of illogical, pseudo-religious faith."

My point was that when you start weeding out genetically inferior genes you have to also address the differences in what people would consider inferior.


By porkpie on 3/24/2010 11:29:21 PM , Rating: 2
Sure, agreed. And allowing the government to make those decisions for individuals is, frankly, a region I hope we never traverse.

Allowing individuals, though, to make their own choice in this matter, is both moral and desired.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By trisct on 3/22/2010 11:54:18 AM , Rating: 2
The goal of modern medicine is not to advance the genetic evolution of our species, but to make it largely irrelevant going forward.

It doesn't matter why you are broken, they fix everyone, and deal with the next generation using better and more efficient tools when that time comes.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By chmilz on 3/22/2010 12:10:32 PM , Rating: 3
I fear a distant future where we need to genetically "scrub" every new human because we didn't let evolution weed out the junk. I'd like future generations to be able to breed naturally and not require technological influence just to be healthy.

It just seems that in our pursuit for perfection, we may be making ourselves weaker as a species.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 12:29:20 PM , Rating: 1
While it's an uncomfortable topic, you have a valid point. Most people don't realize just how fast a species can devolve, in the absence of survival pressure to the contrary.

Yes, there is no "one ideal" genome for the human species. However, some genes are clearly defects, and result in vast suffering and difficulty for those cursed with them.

As medicine advances, there will come a point where either we genetically tailor every new child, or the vast majority of the population will require constant, pervasive medical support just to survive.

Still, its not something we today have to worry about...such a point is several hundred years down the road at least.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By geddarkstorm on 3/22/2010 12:57:13 PM , Rating: 2
One wouldn't have to "genetically tailor" every new child. Once a genetic change is made, it'll propagate to the next generation, and continue till the rate of mutation catches up with it. So, even at worst case, we'd only have to "update" our genomic once every dozens of generations to deep deleterious mutations from becoming to wide spread.

That said, the costs of having medical support are in themselves a selective pressure. People who don't need it, don't have to spend so much resource, time, and energy; thus giving them an advantage. Medicine does not reduce selective pressures on the population, it just changes their context.


By porkpie on 3/22/2010 7:10:48 PM , Rating: 2
"One wouldn't have to "genetically tailor" every new child. "

True in theory. In practice, if we had the technology, parents would almost certainly want to apply it to every child they had. Why risk a severe defect if you can avoid it?

"That said, the costs of having medical support are in themselves a selective pressure. "

No...not until you need so much medical support you can't have sex at all. Since birth control became an option, people limit their birthrate by choice, not by how much "resource, time, and energy" they can devote to having sex.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 3:04:51 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Most people don't realize just how fast a species can devolve

"Devolve" makes about as much sense as "unbreaking a window". You don't "devolve". There's either "evolve to fit your environment", and there's "don't evolve to fit your environment". That latter option can also be read as "extinction".

The notion that we "devolve" implies some sort of inherent environment or state that we "should" be in. Which is rubbish. Evolution is about fitting the resource-users into the resource structure... and the resource structure in the developed world is designed to be adapted for us, not the other way around.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 3:39:34 PM , Rating: 2
"Evolution is about fitting the resource-users into the resource structure."

That's just the point. When you remove evolutionary pressure, the organism no longer evolves to better survive in that environment. It does't remain static either, as genetic drift is a much stronger force than we once thought. There is no such thing as "just not evolving".

Since the vast majority of mutations are deleterious, the lack of survival pressure results in devolution: a species becoming less able to survive.

You cannot remove evolutionary pressure and not face the consequences, no more than you can repeatedly pound a swiss watch with a hammer, hoping it will perpetually survive.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 4:18:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
When you remove evolutionary pressure, the organism no longer evolves to better survive in that environment.

Reverse your statement: When an organism no longer evolves to better survive in that environment (in this case, due to adapting the environment to suit the species), you remove evolutionary pressure. I'm not saying it's a good or bad thing (since, being the first species to have such evolutionary pressure removed, we couldn't possibly know), only that it's the situation our species is in now.

quote:
There is no such thing as "just not evolving".

But there IS such a thing as evolution being dictated by the species, because that's us.

quote:
Since the vast majority of mutations are deleterious, the lack of survival pressure results in devolution: a species becoming less able to survive.

Or the environment has simply changed the survival pressures, and traits that were negative in an earlier environment have become less negative in the current environment. Are birds "less able to survive" than fish?


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 4:46:37 PM , Rating: 3
"since, being the first species to have such evolutionary pressure removed, we couldn't possibly know"

But Spoofe, we do know. The only thing that keeps random mutations from eventually destroying the viability of a genome is the continual weeding out of deleterious mutations. This is basic biology. You can't hammer on a swiss watch forever and expect to to keep working.

We can forever debate semantics about the meaning of "better", "worse", and "evolve" vs. "devolve". But the situation can be put into more concrete terms. Medical treatment requires a certain amount of labor and resources. Over time, the amount the average individual consumes of those resources will increase, and the number of individuals who are not able to produce meaningful quantities of labor or other resources will also increase.

At some point, the expectation value of resources consumed will therefore exceed that of resources produced. At that point, society will be unable to support its citizens, and it will collapse from its own weight.

This conclusion is inescapable, irrefutable...and can only be prevented if we either develop the means to artificially remove genes we deem deleterious, or we reinstitute survival pressure of some sort, even if its only through a form of healthcare rationing.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 6:56:20 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
But Spoofe, we do know. The only thing that keeps random mutations from eventually destroying the viability of a genome is the continual weeding out of deleterious mutations.

Ah, so you agree with me! Yes, this is indeed what I am saying: That we can manipulate our genes faster than our environment can.

quote:
We can forever debate semantics about the meaning of "better", "worse", and "evolve" vs. "devolve".

Just like we can debate forever about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. That won't change the fact that "devolve", in this context, is a nonsensical term. It implies "the opposite of evolution", but there is no opposite: Whether an organism adapts for the better or worse, whether a mutation allows that species to thrive or causes it to go extinct, whether it's adapting to its environment or stagnating and dwindling to nothingness, it's still covered under the umbrella of "evolution".

quote:
Over time, the amount the average individual consumes of those resources will increase, and the number of individuals who are not able to produce meaningful quantities of labor or other resources will also increase.

Except even a casual look at history demonstrates the opposite: The number of individuals required for meaningful labor has dropped precipitously. I think your concern in this one regard is baseless.


By porkpie on 3/22/2010 7:54:43 PM , Rating: 3
"Ah, so you agree with me! "

Don't be coy. I've been very clear from my very first post. Either we turn to intentional manipulation of our genetic code -- eugenics, by a loose definition -- or we will eventually have to ration health care, or deal with social collapse.

"Except even a casual look at history demonstrates the opposite: The number of individuals required for meaningful labor has dropped precipitously"

Look, this really isn't that difficult to understand. Throughout most of past history, our ability to consume resources was --in the words of the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman-- "limited by the size of our stomachs". Agricultural advances reduced the amount of labor needed for us to simply survive ...everything beyond that was a luxury.

Medicine is the game changer, however. With advanced medical technology, a person needs more than just free air and a bowl of raman noodles to survive. They can require enormous amounts of highly complex machines, expensive drugs, and countless hours of highly skilled labor.

Every single year for the past 60, the amount of resources devoted to "keeping us alive" medically has increased. Every year. And as medicine improves, the situation gets worse, not better. New advances mean that much MORE that can be done to keep us alive.

Trying to apply lessons from the preindustrial age to era of high-tech medicine are far off base. Surely you can see that.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By JediJeb on 3/22/2010 4:07:43 PM , Rating: 2
Actually de-evolution has been shown to happen, if you want to call it that. There is a population of lions in Africa that live in an isolated area where they were cutoff from other lion populations and the genetic problems from the inbreeding have almost wiped out that group. They are not evolving to fit their environment, they are slowly dying out inspite of having a good habitat( good except for not having enough genetic diversity).


By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 4:20:16 PM , Rating: 2
Population is a function of the environment. If there's not enough diversity in the population, then the environment is NOT a good habitat. Similarly, overpopulation is also a sign that a species is not in a good habitat.


By MozeeToby on 3/22/2010 5:46:36 PM , Rating: 3
It's generally called genetic drift. The population size is too small for the forces of natural selection to overwhelm the forces of chance. Combined of course with the consequences of inbreeding small populations are in significant danger. Supposedly the number for humans is somewhere between 100 and 500, depending on who you believe.

I understand that it's just semantics but scientists will avoid words like de-evolution because backwards evolution implies forwards evolution implies that evolution has a direction. They don't want people thinking in terms of more or less evolved, there's only more or less fit for the environment.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By yomamafor1 on 3/22/10, Rating: -1
By Cobra Commander on 3/22/2010 1:30:58 PM , Rating: 2
Ah, the profound argument of mediocre science-fiction. Well done, sir, well done. As much as I've enjoyed Gattaca, this is a laughable statement. One might say this thread is devolving rapidly.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 3:15:09 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'm more concerned about all the stupid people who are breeding.

Why? Stupid people have been having smart children for millenia. And smart people have been having stupid (and even dangerously insane) children for an equal period.

I'd rather have a huge diversity of genes spread out among a vast population than a tiny, homogenous sample size that makes it really easy for a single microbe to develop the right mutation and come along and kill us all.


By Thats Mr Gopher to you on 3/23/2010 3:10:46 AM , Rating: 2
Hehe, I can't believe anyone took my comment seriously especially considering the comment it was replying too.
Some Dailytech commenters are far too easily baited by trolls. I was just having a little tease :P


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By mikefarinha on 3/22/2010 1:18:02 PM , Rating: 2
You're ideals are not new or unique. Eugenics and 'Master Race' arguments are quite old. And if we don't learn the lessons from these fallacies we will end up willingly promoting the next holocaust.

Our future viability isn't in our genetics, but rather in our hearts and souls.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 3:07:12 PM , Rating: 3
A wonderful example of the "slippery slope" logical fallacy. Pointing out that medical science may eventually lead to genetic decay does not equate to support for genocide.

"Our future viability isn't in our genetics, but rather in our hearts and souls."

When you say that, I can almost hear Jiminy Cricket singing, "when you wish upon a star..."


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 3:16:45 PM , Rating: 2
Jiminy Cricket also sang, "When you have no point at all..."


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 4:48:22 PM , Rating: 2
I thought I made the point rather obvious. Appeals to emotion are no substitute for logical reasoning.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 7:00:21 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Appeals to emotion are no substitute for logical reasoning.

Logical reasoning would lead one to conclude that a myopic focus on our "genes" is ridiculous. Our minds - and the "need for the pack" that is present in most samples of our population - are what drives our species to greater achievement and longer survival. Solid, robust genes in one individual don't do the species much good, and without the rest of the species no genetic superman will have any impact.


By porkpie on 3/22/2010 7:56:18 PM , Rating: 3
"Our minds - and the "need for the pack" that is present in most samples of our population - are what drives our species to greater achievement"

And where do you think our minds and our social instinct derive from, if not our genetic code?


By MrDiSante on 3/22/2010 11:56:11 AM , Rating: 2
Thanks Hitler.
Yes, yes I know, Godwin's law and all that, but he was really asking for it.


By SublimeSimplicity on 3/22/2010 11:56:21 AM , Rating: 2
We can't go zero to Gattaca overnight.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By redbone75 on 3/22/2010 11:57:34 AM , Rating: 5
Some genetically inferior people have made extraordinary contributions to mankind and its advancement. I don't know all their names, but a couple that jump to mind are Isaac Newton (possibly bipolar and schizophrenic, according to some historians) and Stephen Hawking (ALS). I'm assuming you are "genetically superior" so tell me, what have you attributed?


By Chocobollz on 3/22/2010 12:35:10 PM , Rating: 3
LOL Good point! What we could learn here is, don't judge a book by its cover, or in this case, its DNA :P They might have an inferior DNA but history have shown us that people with disabilities often surpassed those who don't. Maybe because of their disabilities, they tend to work harder. Body has a limit while your mind isn't.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By fic2 on 3/22/2010 2:23:58 PM , Rating: 2
Another would be Kim Peek who was a megsavant but had developmental disabilities. He was the inspiration for the movie Rain Man.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Peek


By ClownPuncher on 3/22/2010 3:47:55 PM , Rating: 2
RIP


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 3:23:21 PM , Rating: 2
" I don't know all their names, but a couple that jump to mind are Isaac Newton (possibly bipolar and schizophrenic, according to some historians) and Stephen Hawking (ALS)."

Neither of which required advanced medical technology simply to survive, which makes them irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

You may not like the harsh reality, but society only survives because of one factor: the average person produces more than they consume. No other situation is viable. You can't continually pull money from an empty bank account.

Today, we can afford to spend tens of millions of dollars on medical services for people that will never have a productive day in their life, simply because such people are a tiny percentage of the total population. But as time passes and medical science progresses, that will eventually change. No amount of wishful thinking can change the laws of nature. Mutations are common, and the vast majority of such mutations are detrimental, not beneficial.

At some point in the distant future, either we will be forced to manually alter our own genetic code, or reintroduce survival pressure of some sort -- or society will eventually collapse under its own dead weight. There is no other alternative.

Personally, I believe technology will give us the key to do so, long before such a collapse is imminent. But that does not change the basic equation.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 3:28:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You may not like the harsh reality, but society only survives because of one factor: the average person produces more than they consume.

Sure, on average, but you omit another aspect of this "harsh reality" that you seem such a fan of: In today's world, a single person can generate resources for a hundred people. That's why we have so much leisure time. That's why some actors are stupidly wealthy. That's why the video game business is worth billions of dollars. That's why people spend a hundred and fifty bucks on Dom Perignon.

"Harsh reality" arguments are completely laughable when the REAL harsh reality was two hundred years ago. Get with the times, man, you're a dinosaur.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 5:49:48 PM , Rating: 2
" In today's world, a single person can generate resources for a hundred people. "

Huh? Mean income in the US is $35K per person...but that's calculated over your working lifespan. Over your total lifespan, it's less than $25K per year.

On healthcare alone , per-capita spending is some $8K per year. Meaning that, even if we ignore food, clothing, housing, transportation, education, and all other expenses, we are already to the point where one working person can only support 2 others.

Now, what happens when healthcare spending outstrips average income? In other words, when the average person doesn't even produce enough resources in his or her lifetime to cover what they consume in healthcare?

It's an honest question. Don't shy away from it.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 7:09:56 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Huh? Mean income in the US is $35K per person...but that's calculated over your working lifespan. Over your total lifespan, it's less than $25K per year.

Money and resources are not synonyms. The percentage of the population that works to generate food, fresh water, utilities, medicine, all the "necessities" of life, has become stupidly small versus earlier ages. If you want to talk about how much money people make per year, you're including designer clothes, Gucci bags, Ray-bands, Mercedes SLK's...

quote:
On healthcare alone , per-capita spending is some $8K per year. Meaning that, even if we ignore food, clothing, housing, transportation, education, and all other expenses, we are already to the point where one working person can only support 2 others.

You're observing a bunch of particulars without establishing these things as inherent aspects of existence. Housing? Didn't we just suffer a crash because of the real estate bubble? Yeah, people buying overpriced homes they can barely afford for trendy and superficial reasons says a whole lot about evolution and our genes, doesn't it?


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 7:14:05 PM , Rating: 2
"Money and resources are not synonyms. "

Money is a metric we use to measure resources. A rough metric at times, but that doesn't change the point.

None of the rest of your doublespeak post has any bearing on the conclusion. You also shied away -- yet again -- from answering my question. Why are you afraid of it? What happens when the amount of resources the average citizen generates is less than what they require in health support? Does everyone then still "deserve" unlimited health care?


By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 7:32:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Money is a metric we use to measure resources.

And by using that metric you only help my point: That artificial criteria, created by the environment of our societies. You are only observing the factors that have resulted in our direct hand having a greater role in our species' development than the evolutionary forces that initially created us.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 7:15:01 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Now, what happens when healthcare spending outstrips average income? In other words, when the average person doesn't even produce enough resources in his or her lifetime to cover what they consume in healthcare?

Then people become more conducive to the real reforms that can drive costs down. There's no "natural" rule that says health care costs X. The environment we live in involves the rules, laws, and regulations we live by, and we can change those.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 7:28:26 PM , Rating: 2
"Then people become more conducive to the real reforms that can drive costs down"

Sidestep. You're still running from the real point. If a person requires round-the-clock nursing, then they require it, period. You can pass a law to change prices, but you can't reduce the actual amount of labor and resources they need.

Dialysis, most surgeries, MRI machines, pacemakers, chemotherapy, drugs that are difficult and time-consuming to manufacture -- these all take resources, time, and labor. When medicine advances further, and we can build or grow replacement organs, the amount of resources a sick person can theoretically consume is nearly infinite.

I recognize the emotional aura that surrounds glowing statements like "no price is too high for a human life" - but you can't change the laws of nature with wishful thinking. At some point (luckily in the dim future) we'll need to either begin scrubbing the human genome, or rationing health care. There is no other alternative.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By epobirs on 3/23/2010 4:16:12 AM , Rating: 2
You seem to assume that medicine can never cure, only treat. This is just silly.

When I was six years old, my appendix went kablooey. I started having pain in the late morning and was in surgery by early evening. That was it, done, finito, over. It has not been a problem again in 40 years. Not one cent of expense has been incurred due to my appendix after I left the hospital, even though leaving it untreated would have been fatal.

The fact is, when you can cure a problem with finality, you're making an investment in the lifetime value of that person. Many of those cures promise to become far more cost effective as our ability to diagnose and treat improves. There is no reason to believe that the creation of a replacement organ, say, a kidney, will not eventually be automated to the point it becomes vastly more cost effective than a lifetime of dialysis.

Medicine as a genuine science is scarcely more than a century old. The tools have been pretty crude for most of that time. We've only gotten serious about genetics very recently and our understanding is moving at a rapid pace. A few decades from now the gulf between our medical capabilities in 2010 will likely seem absurdly primitive. I'm confident this will lead to far more focus on actual cures rather than treatment and that will make things far more cost effective.

Unless, of course, you regard life itself as a chronic illness.


By porkpie on 3/23/2010 10:52:44 AM , Rating: 2
"You seem to assume that medicine can never cure, only treat"

I said no such thing, nor is the distinction even relevant in this case. A one-time cure still costs resources...and in fact can cost as much or more than some ameliorative lifetime treatments.

Take the case of Type II Diabetes, for instance. At some point we'll be able to cure it...possibly with newly grown (or manufactured) organs. Will that cure be less costly than a lifetime of cheap insulin? Impossible to predict.

What it WILL mean, though, is more and more people born with diabetes. At some point a few hundred years from now, the average child will be born with several conditions that, without treatment of some sort, will be immediately or ultimately fatal.


By JediJeb on 3/22/2010 4:45:49 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Personally, I believe technology will give us the key to do so, long before such a collapse is imminent. But that does not change the basic equation.


With the current economic situation a total collapse looks more eminent than the great technological discovery that will take us beyond it.


By ChrisHF on 3/22/2010 11:58:57 AM , Rating: 2
That would be a tough sell, ethically. Perhaps more feasible would be a campaign to encourage adoption by those with significant genetic deficiencies.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 12:25:13 PM , Rating: 2
Mankind has stepped outside the food chain and the conventional constraints of evolution: We adapt our environment to suit us rather than us adapting to suit our environment. Our genetic and biological future is in our hands alone; in some regards, that's kinda what sentience is all about.


RE: Medicine or de-evolution of our species?
By Jaybus on 3/22/2010 1:37:28 PM , Rating: 2
There is a difference between evolution and technological advance. The evolutionary advantage is that humans have a cognitive ability vastly superior to other species. We pass down knowledge and technology to the next generation, and each generation adds to the knowledge base. We have been doing so for hundreds of thousands of years. We know from mitochondrial DNA that humans have been knocked down to near extinction by past natural disasters. If such would happen again, most of the knowledge and technology would be lost, yet humans would still have their cognitive ability and would immediately start rebuilding the knowledge base all over again. However, such a natural disaster could also bring about the rise of a new species that is better at technology than we are, and advances faster that we do. We could be supplanted by such a new species. So I maintain that we have not in any way stepped outside of the constraints of evolution. To say otherwise is to say that we are the ultimate result of evolution, or the "master species", and I can find no reason to believe that is the case.


By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 3:24:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
There is a difference between evolution and technological advance.

Yes, technology advances far, far faster than evolution has to date.

quote:
If such would happen again, most of the knowledge and technology would be lost

That is not at all a given, and if it were to happen, that would simply be a change in the environment, ie - the environment's adapting to suit us simply diminishes.

quote:
yet humans would still have their cognitive ability and would immediately start rebuilding the knowledge base all over again.

In other words, humans would immediately start adapting their environment to suit themselves. Again.

quote:
However, such a natural disaster could also bring about the rise of a new species that is better at technology than we are,

One doesn't need a natural disaster for that to happen. If a species comes along that is better at adapting its environment then we are, that is not an aspect of evolution, but technology. And as you aptly pointed out, "There is a difference between evolution and technological advance[sic]".

quote:
So I maintain that we have not in any way stepped outside of the constraints of evolution. To say otherwise is to say that we are the ultimate result of evolution

Rubbish and nonsense. I only said that we can change our genes faster than our environment can. That is why we have stepped outside of the historical trends of evolution.


By icanhascpu on 3/22/2010 1:11:14 PM , Rating: 1
Define superior genes. Ones that allow someone to live longer?

Mutation ironically is where that sort of thing comes from. The people more likely to have mutations in their offspring are those people you're assuming inferior. There is no law saying a mutation will be bad or good. Its going to be as random as random can get.

If we did shit your way, we'd have a planet full of a quickly growing sterile populous that lives for a decade or two more. The way that, thank god, humans with more than half a brain unlike you are doing it is going to get human lifespan in first world countries up over 100 and over 80 in third world all the while researching everything the universe can toss at our biology, fortifying or immunizing it, and not being a race of ignorant gits that would have an epidemic if the common cold broke loose.


By epobirs on 3/23/2010 3:57:23 AM , Rating: 2
You're making a fallacious assumption. This sort of condition can be caused by a variety of things besides genetics. My niece was born with an incomplete esophagus. There is no indication of this being due to a genetic defect rather than an in utero event such as chemical exposure to my sister.

My niece is now 18 and doing pretty well. A section of colon was used to replace her missing tissue but this solution may eventually fail. Having the technology to grow the real thing for her would be a terrific advance.

What if she wasn't born that way? What if she received severe esophageal damage from an accident? Would this make her retroactively defective? You really need to think about how you regard other people. Everyone has genetic features that can go awry if they live long enough, such as a predisposition to Alzheimer's. Do you really think we shouldn't develop treatments for that, just because those people were born with the genetics that cause disability after decades of functional life?


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