(Columbia) May 21, 2003 - Michael Lysaght, who has been developing artificial organs for more than 30 years, says he's seen advances like artificial heart valves and joints go from rare to routine, "Overall organ replacement technology now benefits 25 million patients on a worldwide basis."
Lysaght, a tissue engineer at Brown University, says artificial hearts, ears, kidneys, vertebrae, hips and skin already exist, and eyes, voice boxes and livers are being developed. His group is also working on a bioartificial pancreas, "What you're going to see is the introduction of biological function into organs where artificial kidneys will have kidney cells, artificial hearts will have living cardiac cells."
Kelly Conlin, who's waiting for a lung transplant, says, "I've actually had dreams that I get the phone call and getting all ready to go to the hospital, so I just want it done and over with at this point."
She's first on the waiting list for new lung's. If researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are successful, others like Kelly won't have to wait. The new device will do the work their lungs can't.
Lysaght says, "It's going to be a replaceable you in the future, and I don't think any part of it is really sacrosanct. ... You will see vision for the blind. You will see neuroprosthetics, and, just like you can substitute for kidney function, you will be able to substitute the function of the brain."
John Chapin, a neuroscientist at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, is already working on technology that would allow a paralyzed person to move, "And, the person would think about moving his arm to pick up this glass of water on the shelf, and the thought would be actually executing it."
Chapin currently tracks brain activity in rats with electrodes held in place with dental cement. Eventually, as the rat's arm moves, so does the robot arm. Ultimately, the rat moves the robot arm through thought alone.
Chapin says, "You can hold it in your mind that it's feasible to do something like this, but, when it actually happens, when you see it actually working, it still amazes you."
Other body parts like nerves and bones may never be replaced by synthetic ones, but researches are looking for ways to naturally regrow them.
by Dawn Mercer
posted 11:22am by Chris Rees
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