Sunday, October 23, 2011

Regenerative medicine and longevity

When I first heard that Steve Jobs had pancreatic cancer I remember hoping to myself that the cancer was discovered early. I knew that survival rates for this type of cancer were low, but this guy was wealthy and could afford the world's best treatment. Little did I know what was revealed this week in Jobs' official biography by Walter Isaacson, that Jobs refused conventional treatment for nine months: "Instead of opting for surgery, he took on a vegan diet, acupuncture, herbal remedies and other treatments he found online, and even consulted a psychic." That revelation diminishes the respect I had for his genius, but not for his accomplishments.
People are funny that way, I guess technological and marketing savvy don't go hand-in-hand with scientific good sense. Maybe it wouldn't have made any difference but you would think the odds favoured the team with the best performance on the field, that is the medical scientists versus the herbalists and psychics.
Medical science of course is part of the reason for the increasing human life span, though most people fail to appreciate that the biggest advances came with the introduction of what is unfortunately called "public health." Simple things really, like separating sewage waste from drinking water, that was huge. Mass vaccination of populations was also huge. Death rates really dropped when those two practices became widespread.
But the big improvements of yesteryear have been replaced by medical tinkering in more recent years, even though the technology exists for human lifespans to take another great leap foreword. See that ear growing from the mouse's back? That's not a new story, that story goes back more than 20 years now - replacement parts.
Below is a recent video from ReasonTV that presents a new book by Sonia Arrison author of 100 Plus: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith, "because everyone has an interest in living healthier longer." The book purports to show how replacement parts may change things.
After watching the video think about the major impediments to some of this work, especially for the people that really need and want it. This is likely to be expensive treatment and with all of the regulatory barriers set up by various governments, it will become more expensive, not to mention hard to get (probably impossible in Canada unless drastic changes take place). Imagine being given the choice possibly between life and death, as the author describes in the video, and then being told treatment is disallowed by some government rules or bureaucrats? Not funny, right?
The expense side of organ replacement is also interesting and recalls a movie I saw recently called Repo Men. In that movie, people buy artificial organs on credit then fail to make regular payments. The movie puts a whole new spin on "repossession."    

1 comment:

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