This research isn’t something that might happen in the distant future. It’s being used today to grow fresh organs, open up new ways to study disease and the immune system, and reduce the need for organ transplants. Organ-farming laboratories are popping up across the planet, and showing impressive results. Here we look at the state of the union of a rapidly advancing field called tissue engineering: what’s been accomplished so far, and what’s right around the corner.
Patients who undergo organ transplants require loads of toxic drugs to suppress their immune systems; otherwise their body might reject the organ. But tissue engineering could make organ transplants a thing of the past. By using a patient’s cells to grow new types of tissue in the lab, researchers are finding new ways to custom-engineer you new body parts by using your own cells.
At the cutting edge of organ engineering is Tengion, a clinical-stage biotech company based outside of Philadelphia. Their most successful research to date led to the creation of the Neo-Bladder. Tengion takes some of your cells and grows them in culture for five to seven weeks around a biodegradable scaffold. When the organ is ready, it can be transplanted without the need to suppress the patient’s immune system (because the organ was grown from the patient’s own cells, it carries no risk of rejection). Once the organ is in, the scaffold degrades and the bladder adapts to its new (old) home.
So it is true! Peter Diamandis, Chair and CEO of the increasingly mighty X-Prize Foundation, and some high-level folks are working on something big called a “Singularity University.” Who else could be involved? It seems like Ray Kurzweil would be a prime candidate, especially considering their back-to-back presentations at today’s Summit.
Might this be a first step toward a Singularity X-Prize? 🙂 What do you think a “Singularity University” might consist of?
A Northwestern University research team has developed a promising nanomaterial-based biomedical device that could be used to deliver chemotherapy drugs locally to sites where cancerous tumors have been surgically removed.
The flexible microfilm device, which resembles a piece of plastic wrap and can be customized easily into different shapes, has the potential to transform conventional treatment strategies and reduce patients’ unnecessary exposure to toxic drugs. The device takes advantage of nanodiamonds, an emergent technology, for sustained drug release.
The researchers demonstrated that the device releases the chemotherapy agent Doxorubicin in a sustained and consistent manner — a requirement of any implanted device for localized chemotherapy. The results of the study are published online today (Oct. 2) by the journal ACS Nano.
“The thin device — a sort of blanket or patch — could be used to treat a localized region where residual cancer cells might remain after a tumor is removed,” said Dean Ho, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, who led the research.
If a surgical oncologist, for example, was removing a tumor from the breast or brain, the device could be implanted in the affected area as part of the same surgery. This approach, which confines drug release to a specific location, could mitigate side effects and complications from other chemotherapy treatments.
I hope Intel warned the Luddites and pessimists away at the door, because the chipmaker had a lot of bullish statements Thursday about its belief that computers will become smarter than humans.
At the Intel Developer Forum here, Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner showed off a number of technologies in computing, robotics, and communication that he cited as evidence that Ray Kurzweil’s concept of “singularity,” when machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence, is impending. Demonstrations spotlighted the wireless transmission of electrical power, dextrous robots with new sensory abilities, a direct interface to the brain, programmable materials that can be used for shape-shifting devices such as resizable cell phones, and silicon photonics that enables chips to communicate with photons rather than electrons.
“We’re making steady progress toward Ray Kurzweil’s singularity,” Rattner said.
Intel of course remains at its heart a chipmaker, and Rattner began with a brief tour, assisted by Mike Garner, senior technologist for Intel’s emerging materials group, of various successors to the current complimentary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) process used to make processors. Future ideas that pack ever more computing capacity into a given volume include spintronics, quantum computing, carbon nanotubes.
It’s good to see a big name such as Intel take seriously Kurzweil’s ideas on accelerating progress, the Singularity, etc.
The more people are working towards a common goal, the better.
Researchers at St. Andrews University, Scotland, claim to have found a way to simulate an event horizon of a black hole – not through a new cosmic observation technique, and not by a high powered supercomputer… but in the laboratory. Using lasers, a length of optical fiber and depending on some bizarre quantum mechanics, a “singularity” may be created to alter a laser’s wavelength, synthesizing the effects of an event horizon. If this experiment can produce an event horizon, the theoretical phenomenon of Hawking Radiation may be tested, perhaps giving Stephen Hawking the best chance yet of winning the Nobel Prize.
So how do you create a black hole? In the cosmos, black holes are created by the collapse of massive stars. The mass of the star collapses down to a single point (after running out of fuel and undergoing a supernova) due to the massive gravitational forces acting on the body. Should the star exceed a certain mass “limit” (i.e. the Chandrasekhar limit – a maximum at which the mass of a star cannot support its structure against gravity), it will collapse into a discrete point (a singularity). Space-time will be so warped that all local energy (matter and radiation) will fall into the singularity. The distance from the singularity at which even light cannot escape the gravitational pull is known as the event horizon. High energy particle collisions by cosmic rays impacting the upper atmosphere might produce micro-black holes (MBHs). The Large Hadron Collider (at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland) may also be capable of producing collisions energetic enough to create MBHs. Interestingly, if the LHC can produce MBHs, Stephen Hawking’s theory of “Hawking Radiation” may be proven should the MBHs created evaporate almost instantly.
Hawking predicts that black holes emit radiation. This theory is paradoxical, as no radiation can escape the event horizon of a black hole. However, Hawking theorizes that due to a quirk in quantum dynamics, black holes can produce radiation.