Tag Archives: stemcell

10 Emerging Technologies

Technology Review is doing their annual coverage of 10 emerging technologies.

They are up to eight now. The other two will appear in due time to make the list complete.

So far, they have articles on:

  1. Epigenetics
  2. Nuclear Reprogramming
  3. Universal Authentication
  4. Cognitive Radio
  5. Diffusion Tensor Imaging
  6. Nanobiomechanics
  7. Comparative Interactomics
  8. Nanomedicine

Which are about:

  1. Detecting cancer early by looking at genetic changes.
  2. An ethical way of deriving stemcells, thereby resolving the embryo debate.
  3. Internet security.
  4. Avoiding future wireless traffic jams.
  5. Brain imaging to understand schizophrenia.
  6. Measuring tiny forces on cells and learning more about diseases.
  7. Creating maps of the body’s complex molecular interactions to find drugs more easily.
  8. Guiding drugs directly into cancer cells.

Also recently posted by Technology Review:

Do-It-Yourself Nanotech

A simple new method could allow students to build complex molecule-scale structures — and lead to advanced nanoelectronics.

Mini Robots For Nano Construction

Tiny robots can operate on single cells and assemble microelectronics — and could lead to cheap nanoscale manufacturing.

I meant to make individual posts about those two, but things are moving so fast these days (way faster than when I started this blog, not even one year ago) that I’m having a hard time keeping up.

So many things to write about, so little time…

Such is the life of a technology freak. *sigh*

So I’m just lumping them into this post.

Printing Organs

Changing The World With A Printer:

What if the tens of thousands of people waiting for organ transplants in the United States didn’t have to wait? What if burn victims could replace their scars with skin that was indistinguishable from their own? What if an amputee could replace an entire limb with one that felt, looked and behaved exactly as the original?

In what could be the first step toward human immortality, scientists say they’ve found a way to do all of these things and more with the use of a technology found in many American homes: an ink-jet printer.

Researchers around the world say that by using the technology, they can actually “print” living human tissue and one day will be able to print entire organs.

“The promise of tissue engineering and the promise of ‘organ printing’ is very clear: We want to print living, three-dimensional human organs,” Dr. Vladimir Mironov said. “That’s our goal, and that’s our mission.”

The concept behind organ printing is one that’s been used in the manufacturing world for years, “rapid prototyping.”

“Rapid prototyping is nothing more than layer-by-layer deposition of any materials,” explained Mironov. “What is new is that instead of ceramic, instead of polymer, instead of some other nonorganic stuff, we use living tissue and living cells.”

Rapid prototyping is the process of quickly turning product designs into actual samples. Using a computer and a rapid prototype machine, one can build almost any object — limited only by size, complexity and material.

Even though the scientists behind this are obviously not aware of the implications of exponential acceleration in technology (predicting whole-organ printing timelines such as 50 years, which is ridiculously conservative), you have to praise them for inventing such a neat technology that will be very beneficial to humanity.

Though we may be half-a-century away from being able to print entire organs, scientists say we’re likely much closer to applications that will affect everyone’s life.

Boland is working with colleagues at the Medical University of South Carolina to build tissue to repair a heart that’s been damaged.

“The problem with heart tissue is that you can’t generate your own heart cells anymore,” explained Boland. “You’re born with a number of heart cells — maybe a billion or so — then, that’s it.”

Mironov said there were researchers working with two-dimensional bio-printed materials for work with drugs and toxicity.

Imagine living patches of skin that could be used to test medicines or even cosmetics.

Indeed as scientists and researchers work to make organ printing a reality, Mironov knows full well the potential implications for all of mankind.

“This could have the same impact as Guttenberg’s press,” he said.

These scientists are going to have to keep in mind that everything they are doing right now can also be done with stemcell technology.

I wonder which one will first get to the level of producing complete organs. Not that it matters anything to the people who will actually end up making use of the technology. But hey… competition is a good thing, right?

Scientists Grow Stem Cells In New Medium

Scientists have managed to grow stem cell cultures that are free of animal cells.

The new work, reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology, is a crucial step in stem cell research because it will allow growth of these cells without using animal products that can harbor viruses and other potential sources of problems.

“This is the first time is has been possible for us to derive new cell lines in completely defined conditions in medium that completely lacks animal products,” said James Thomson, senior author of the new study and a UW-Madison professor of anatomy who seven years ago was the first to successfully grow human embryonic stem cells in the lab.

This is good because…

Many scientists worry that animal viruses and other agents might be taken up in the human cells and could infect human patients if those cells were to be used for therapy.

“All of the concerns about contaminating proteins in existing stem cell lines can essentially be removed using this medium,” wrote Ludwig in the Nature Biotechnology paper.

All in all yet more progress for stem cell research.

Top 10 Tech Trends 2006

Ten predictions on top tech trends of 2006 are available on Mercury News. It’s interesting to read because you can definately tell the people who wrote this have done their research.

The 10 tech trends 2006:

  1. Video will come to the big screen in your living room and to the small screen on your cell phone.
  2. Cell phones do everything
  3. Internet phone calls become more popular
  4. The office moves to the web
  5. Stemcell research advances
  6. Biotech targets flu vaccines
  7. Small start-ups go global
  8. Video comes to the blog
  9. On-demand video everywhere
  10. Clean technology investment increase

For details, read the article.

The Future Health Of Our Brains

If science has anything to say about it, humans won’t be suffering from any brain diseases (Alzheimer, Parkinson, schizophrenia, etc.) in the near future.

As I have already explained in my Singularity FAQ for Dummies, science has already clearly demonstrated that it is perfectly capable of understanding how our brains work. In fact, the reverse engineering of our own brains has been going on for quite a while. And in the near future, it’s about to hit new heights.

For example, take a look at the article ‘Computer Scientists To Copy Brain Of Mammal‘. It’s obvious that science will learn a great deal from simulating whole brains ‘in silico’. This will lead to more effective cures, that are finetuned to how our brains work. Also be sure to take a look at the official site of the Blue Brain Project.

You need a lot of processing power, in order to run simulations like these. But if we extrapolate into the future a few years, we see that processing power will not be a limiting factor.

Simulating whole brains gives us ever more knowledge of them, which in turn leads to better cures. Using the knowledge we already have today, efforts are underway to have our brains repair themselves by activating the stemcells that are present there, but currently inactive. This is done with the use of nanotechnology, which delivers therapeutic genes exactly where we want them. You will be hearing a lot more of nanotechnology, and nanotech-aided cures in particular, in the coming years.

More on future nanotech-cures can be found in an article entitled ‘Nanotech Moves Closer To Cure‘. Not directly related to brain health, but not exactly excluding it either.

Science will one day, in the not too distant future, be capable of growing new organs for our bodies on demand, through therapeutic cloning. But the brain cannot simply be replaced like any other organ, when it gets ill (for obvious reasons, methinks). The brain is the only organ in our bodies that needs repairs ‘in situ’.

Thanks to advances like the ones mentioned above, we can all look forward to much healthier bodies and brains for ourselves, our family, our friends, and our future children.

[update]

Scientists Create Working Brain Cells