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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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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.


"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il














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