Stem cells promise eternal youth for 'boomers, seniors

June 09 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 11 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Over the next 12 years, biotech and stem cell research could enable doctors to replace aging skin, bone, and organs on demand, thus restoring many ‘boomers and seniors alive today to a healthy, more youthful state.

Already successful in replacing damaged heart tissue, stem cells might also tip the scales in the war against cancer. Scientists recently discovered that these proliferating wonders are the source of most cancers. At the heart of every tumor lie a handful of aberrant stem cells that feed malignant tissues.

Whitehead Institute’s Robert Weinberg believes this explains why tumors often reappear after chemotherapy and radiation seemingly destroyed them. It also suggests new strategy for developing anti-cancer drugs: focus more on attacking cancer stem cells and not, as at present, killing just any cells to shrink tumors.

On another front, Indiana University’s Dr. Michael Murphy uses stem cells to treat a debilitating cardiovascular condition called peripheral arterial disease, which causes poor blood circulation in the legs, resulting in sores, ulcers; even amputations.

He and his colleagues use adult stem cells to create healthy cells in the lining of blood vessels. They extract cells from bone marrow, then process and inject them into patients’ legs. Every patient in the tests experienced positive benefits. (cont.)

However, all is not rosy for stem cell science. The Bush administration’s prohibition on government funding for research with new embryonic stem cell lines has weakened the U.S. position as world leader in medical breakthroughs.

This research needs greater federal funding in order to succeed. Unless congress wants Americans to purchase all their pharmaceuticals from other countries, the way we rely on the Middle East for oil, the Chinese for manufactured goods, and the Indians for IT needs, the government might want to re-examine its stance.

But this controversy will not end anytime soon. Many religious doctrines state “life begins at conception”. When researchers clone an embryo and extract its stem cells, its activities cease. This, opponents say, is destroying a potential human life. Advocates counter that the embryo does not achieve “personhood”; it is only a medical tool created to save human lives.

Bioethicist Arthur Caplan, normally a strong anti-technology voice, described his view towards embryonic stem cell research by relating this hypothetical scenario: “A building is burning down. Several small children are inside screaming for help. The building also contains a freezer storing a dozen or so frozen embryos. Which do you save first”?

When facing death, some people search for help abroad. Singer Don Ho recently underwent stem cell therapy in Bangkok to correct cardiomyopathy, a serious heart disease. At 75, he joked and said he was not ready to quit life; he wants to be around for at least another 30 years.

Suffering from late-stage cancer of the esophagus and given only months to live, retired engineer Hashmukh Patel flew to Beijing for the world’s first commercially available gene-therapy drug, Gendicine. It’s a bit pricey at $20,000 for the two-month treatment, he said, but when death is the alternate, the decision was easy.

Stem cell research promises huge benefits. It will vanquish many of our ills and provide great health as we head into what surely will be considered a “magical future”. Comments welcome.

Will science help us achieve eternal youth; if so, when?

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Comment Thread (12 Responses)

  1. I voted for the fourth option, between 2050 and 2100. But even that to me is slightly optimistic.

    Posted by: adbatstone80   June 10, 2008
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  2. I believe we will achieve eternal youth by early 2040s, when we possess advanced molecular nanotechnology, and greater than human intelligence AI. Let’s put it this way strong AI is our brain, and advanced moleculat nanotechnology is our body.

    Posted by: JHE   June 10, 2008
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  3. JHE, you are probably correct, but I hope that life extension technologies will evolve aggressively in the 2010s and 2020s and by 2025 – when yours truly reaches 95 years of age – nanobots will be whizzing through my body keeping me disease-free and in perfect health; and the main concerns would be to avoid accidents and violence.

    If this be the case, then with a little good fortune I could look forward to the wondrous 2030s when merging with machines would offer opportunities for me to achieve indefinite lifespan enabling me to live through this wild 21st century and experience the time when humanity becomes a Type I Civilization – 2100 to 2150?

    Will this optimistic ‘dream’ become reality? I certainly hope so, but I guess time will tell.

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by: futuretalk   June 10, 2008
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  4. Obviously a lot depends on your definition. As Kurzweil points out, there are bridges along the path to some type of eternal youth. I think that JHE’s distribution is an interesting one, though advanced molecular nano will have brain implications too. It certainly seems that we’ll be able to significantly retard the aging process by the 2020s. When (and how) will we be able to reverse it?

    Posted by: Field of Memes   June 10, 2008
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  5. Today, when a cell is damaged, doctors rely on drugs to instruct the cell to repair itself; a hit-or-miss process that often fails. With nanobots, damaged cells are completely rebuilt one atom at a time, creating a flawless, brand new, youthful cell.

    Institute for Molecular Manufacturing's Robert Freitas believes that, "when nanorobotics becomes reality, which could happen as early as mid-2020s, it will not stop at eliminating disease; it will actually improve on nature. Bones would become stronger and muscles more powerful."
    In addition, Freitas says, "this potential draws the curtain on one of the most dramatic possibilities of all: eliminating aging. Most scientists believe aging results from cell malfunctions. Thus, if nanorobotics can correct cellular problems, middle-aged and even elderly people should be able to regain most of their youthful health, strength, and beauty, and enjoy an almost indefinite extension of life."

    Posted by: futuretalk   June 10, 2008
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  6. “by 2025 – when yours truly reaches 95 years of age – nanobots will be whizzing through my body keeping me disease-free and in perfect health”

    This is just so ill-informed it’s laughable.

    Posted by: adbatstone80   June 10, 2008
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  7. It is true, that the medical “miracles” of the 2020s will help us reach 2030s, when according to many experts around the world, we will merge with machines. This would finally give us an indefinite life-span.

    Posted by: JHE   June 11, 2008
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  8. “when according to many experts around the world”

    The only “expert” I know of saying this stuff (merging with machines by the 2030s) is Ray Kurzweil…who is completely off his loaf.

    Everyone else thinks it will be a century or more before we begin to merge with advanced technology, because they are right. From reading his book “The Singularity is Near”, my impression is that Kurzweil grossly underestimates the complexity of human biology and uses dubious data to his advantage.

    The truth is that we are absolutely nowhere near reverse-engineering the human brain. Period.

    Posted by: adbatstone80   June 11, 2008
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  9. adbatstone80, you consider the law of acceleration and Moore’s law when you tell me, that merging with advanced technology begins a decade later than Kurzweil predicts? Moore’s law states, that the number of transistors, that can be inexpensively placed on an integrated circuit doubles every two years. That means, that by 2030 the number of transistors has doubled eleven times from that of today. Considering that human knowledge doubles approximately every seven years, our level of knowledge has doubled three times from what of today by 2029 (And the time gap will shorten in the future.).

    When we add in the decelopment of internet, we will reach unimaginable level of intelligence by 2030. It may have taken us long to leave from the safety of Africa, but experts predict that during this century we will make more progress, than during the last 100000 years.

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by: JHE   June 11, 2008
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  10. “adbatstone80, you consider the law of acceleration and Moore’s law when you tell me, that merging with advanced technology begins a decade later than Kurzweil predicts?”

    I said a century later. I don’t think the 21st Century will be advanced enough for transhumanist technology to be properly developed at all.

    I wish people here would read Slashdot comments about Kurzweil. He’s not a scientist at all, but a businessman and inventor. He’s saying this stuff because he’s convinced himself that he’s going to make it to the Singularity in time (he’ll be 80 in 2028). He’s overestimated the rate of progress in the past (Age of Spiritual Machines) and did it again with his latest waste of trees.

    Posted by: adbatstone80   June 11, 2008
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  11. adbatstone80

    Sorry, my mistake. But that makes my point even clearer. Nikolai Kardashev rated civilization by their energy consumption. Type I civilization is collecting and using all of Sun’s energy that hit Earth. And we are supposed to reach Type I by 2100, three decades earlier, than you predict we will start merging with machines. Many people (And experts) rely on the accuracy of the theory. Please read “Parallel Universes” by Michio Kaku.

    Again comments welcome.

    Posted by: JHE   June 12, 2008
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  12. Just a little add. Slashdot is a technology based, not science based site. I do read slashdot.

    Posted by: JHE   June 12, 2008
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