Medicine that might have once been deemed science fiction is now becoming a reality. In his most recent medical accomplishments, Dr. Anthony Atala, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has successfully created cells, tissues and organs for patients by using the patients’ very own cells to create new body parts.
Atala and his team of researchers have produced about two-dozen different body parts, including muscle, bones and a working heart valve.
“Right now, of course, we have a limited life span because your parts are breaking down. But imagine a time in the future when once those parts start breaking down you can just plug a new one right in,” said Atala.
In this complex, regenerative process, the first step is building a mold of the body part. It is then seeded with live cells and finally placed in an incubator where the cells multiple and grow. Upon completion, the body part is implanted into a human where it operates as any healthy body part would.
This medical breakthrough is something that will save the lives of countless people.
Take a person with heart failure, for example. The wait list for receiving a heart transplant is miles long. A person could die waiting in line for a heart donation. But what if you could generate a healthy, working heart from a patient’s very own cells within weeks? Will replacing deteriorating body parts become as commonplace as replacing a light bulb when it burns out?
This advancement in medicine also means that human longevity could be increased by decades. Combining a healthy lifestyle with regenerative medicine, people may be able to add 120 to 130 years onto their life, said Atala.
How will this change the world if the average lifespan of a person becomes 200 instead of 80? With a world full of energizer bunnies, will an already overcrowded planet reach its maximum capacity?
If we have advanced this far in medicine in 2009, is it only a matter of time before immortality is only a credit card swipe away?