Micro Life Zone
Asked by ultimatezeus to Dirk, Elise, Janette, Renee, Yusuf on 17 May 2012.
Keywords: organ, regen, replace, technology
Depending on the organ I think we could. If we treat the body as a machine then there are solutions. Some organs like the liver, pancreas and brain, however, would be hard to replace with technology. But if on the other hand one could (re)grow a custom organ through a form stem cell technology then I think we could.
The brain is still a tough one in my opinion, because how do you replace the consciousness of an individual into something like an empty brain. We barely understand where consciousness comes from or sits let alone how we could copy it. And I mean copy. You are not going to be able to “move” it. And if you cannot move it what would be the point …?
We do already have artifical hearts, but they are not a long term solution, only used to try to make sure that patients waiting on transplant lists can wait for a matching organ. We have artificial voice boxes for people who’ve had throat cancer. We have dialysis where we can filter the blood outside the body and then run it back into the body in people who have damaged kidneys and we can also build bone and skin from synthetic scaffolds, which behave in the same way as the original organ but are actually a combination of man-made technology and our organs. I guess we are moving towards being able to grow organs in the lab but I don’t think it is so much ‘technology’ that will replace organs, but technology will help us to grow them from stem cells or grafts from an individual’s own original organ.
There are several organs which can be replaced with an artificial substitute including hearts, lungs, kidneys, eyes, ears, bladders… the list goes on and is constantly being added to. They all vary in the amount of time they can be feasible replacements, whether they are established or experimental and how successful they are as replacement organs.
One of the pioneers (pionears?) of bionic body parts is an Australian, Professor Graham Clark. He invented the cochlear implant or bionic ear which has allowed hundreds of thousands of deaf or partially deaf people to hear.
Brains will be the last to be replaced, but we will replace the organs one by one. After all, an organ is nothing more than a biomechanical machine. Your stomach gets food, processes it, filters it and disposes the parts it cannot deal with.
Like the other scientists have answered, it is already happening – bionic ears, dialaysis and artificial are all technology that are frequently used to mimic or replace organs. However I agree with Elise, I think we will see more of ‘growing’ actual organs in the laboratory. We can use the individual’s cells rather than implant foreign material or organs, and this will mean hopefully less issues with immune responses to the organ/implant. When people have foreign material or organs put in their body, the body can recognise that it is foreign and will mount an immune response to it, which can make the person very ill or even kill them. In regards to technology scientists and doctors use material that minimises the immune system causing problems, but this is costly and the risk is not entirely removed.
Plus if you use technology you need to power it, usually through batteries, that need a place to be stored, and need to be accessed to be replaced. If you use organs grown from stem cells, they don’t require an external power source.
By BRIDGE8 under license from Mangorolla CIC 2020