The Blog of Dabido (the Baka one). Everything in this blog is copyrighted. Copyright 2004, 2005, 2006 by D. Stevenson.

17 April, 2005

Interesting Stem Cell Documentary - Why we need to go into space.

I wrote a comment recently on another persons blog regarding stem cell research. The points I made were basically these: 1. They can get stem cells from a persons body (ie nasal cavity and also from the blood/bone marrow etc), as opposed to the ones they get from aborted fetuses. 2. It's only a matter of time before they start doing some amazing things. (That apparently, they are already doing). Today, I saw a documentary which must now be a few years old. For one thing, it was made when Christopher Reeves was still alive, and obviously before he walked again (for those that remember the news, he did walk a few steps). The documentary was using peoples own stem cells in order to repair their spinal chords and heart problems. A lot of the 'right to die' advocates are always making out that people in certain situations are in hopeless conditions, yet we are seeing some of the greatest advances in medical science in recent years. I remember reading years ago a Science fiction novel where people were living extraordinary long lives, but after a certain amount of time, they're nervous systems gave in, as there wasn't a way to repair nerve damage. This Science Fiction piece wouldn't get written today, much less published, because this is exactly what medicine can now do. I'm not having a shot at the author of the piece, as he was spot on with the medical beliefs of his day. Just as per usual, as soon as a scientist says something is impossible it invariably gets proven wrong. One of my old favourites was a Roman General (okay, he's not a scientist), who stated that warfare would never improve past the Roman Legion. He felt that the pinnacle had been reached, and there would never be anything to surpass what they then had. Imagine if we could bring him forward in a time machine and show him the equipment of a modern army. Or even better, send him into our future. Some of the things they are working on now are even more impressive. Powered armour and invisibility are two which have had recent break throughs (not to mention robotic warriors). The 'Right to die' faction have a lot in common with the Roman General. They are ignoring possible future advances which will change the face of the earth forever. Soon, there won't be disabled people. They'll become a thing of the past. (Future saying, "Special Olympics ... what the HELL was THAT?") I'm going to go out on a limb, and predict it will happen in my life time. (Provided of course I live to a standard sort of age ... or even better, well into my hundreds thanks to new science). Actually, I'm not out on a dangerous limb at all. In the last hundred years we have seen the advancement of science so much, that for me to be wrong would require some pretty devestating things to happen. We'd have to start going backwards in a lot of things. With the ability for mass destruction by some armies of the world, it is highly possible. We'd have to blow ourselves back to the stoneage or dark ages. I am taking the gamble that it isn't going to happen. One of the good things I saw in the documentary was a lady who'd been run over. (That's not the good thing ... wait, I'll get to it). She'd basically been crushed by an SVU. Her entire insides had been damaged along with her spine and her blood vessels in her eyes had burst, making her temporarily blind. She'd told her father that she wanted to die, as she didn't want to live paralysed and blind. Her father talked her out of it. She said it was a good thing too. (That's the good thing. After all that, she hadn't really wanted to die at all. In fact, she was extremely happy that her father had talked her out of wanting to die). Her eyesight came back after the blood vessels repaired themselves. She also has regained some of the movement in the lower half of her body. It was amazing to see her go for a swim and actually move her legs. Something which had been impossible, till she had surgury to implant some of her own nasal stem cells into her spine where the break had occurred. Remember, this documentary is a few years old. I was left wondering where they are up to now. The unfortunate thing was, that the surgury wasn't available in the US (or UK or most countries at that stage). It's also only at a trial stage. The Doctor who was performing this surgury was interviewed. As he pointed out, though most never fully regain their ability to move and things like they used to have, there is a substantial improvement none the less. As he said, going from not being able to do anything, to being able to flick switches and so forth, makes the surgury worth while. The patients spoke about no longer requiring other people to help them. They now had their independence again. One of the other things they'd done, was release stem cells (from a persons bone marrow) into the heart. This was to help people whose heart muscles had been damaged (or were born with problems in their hearts). The stem cells repaired the damaged muscle and the heart was back to a normal healthy heart. I can see this really helping people, so that heart transplants will no longer be needed in the future. (At least not for those with damage to the heart muscles.) I was left wondering if people are going to be using this technology (or are already using it) to repair kidneys, livers and other organs. Will it be the cure for diabeties? They can already reproduce skin (and print it off by the metre) just using two centimetres square of a persons own skin. I wonder if they'll be able to make these stem cells grow and reproduce them by the litre, from a small sample of a persons nasal stem cells. It will remove two of the most contraversial issues which plagued social discussions at the end of last century (and beginning of this century). The first, is the 'right to die' issue. With cures around the corner for almost every physical ailment, from nerve damage to heart disease to brain damage, there will be no reasons to let anyone die. The second, is the issue concerning stem cell research using aborted embrios. With most of the advances using peoples own stem cells (after all, the body won't reject it's own stem cells), the reasons for needing the other stem cells won't be nessecary. The main reason, from what I was told, has to do with human cells only being able to split seventy times. It was one of the reasons Dolly the cloned sheep had some problems. Her cells were as old as the sheeps she'd received them from. From what I understand, scientists are close to being able to find the trigger to this, and turn it off in cells. That means, that after a cell splits for the seventieth time, it'll be able to keep growing and splitting. We are on the verge of immortality (or close to it). Which, I beleive, will bring up the next major issues for this coming century. What are we to do with the amount of human population that will then exist? The first world has been seeing declines in population growth, with most first world nations actually experiencing negative growth. If this can be extended to other second/third world nations, we'd have a solution, for a short time. Getting to and terraforming Mars would be the next major step. Of course, we'd then be looking to stepping outside the solar system and exploring other worlds. In the meantime, there is the problem of retarding the second/third world population growth and convincing the human race that working together to get to Mars is a good thing. There are still short sited people who still question the reasons for even going to the Moon. One of my previous flatmates used to think it was "Anti-God" to go into space. He claimed there is only lifeless rocks out there, and we shouldn't go. I'm glad to say, that most Christians don't hold the same view as him. I am sure though, that there will be other's though, and many from other religions who still hold similar views. My response to them is, "Good, you can stay here." Reasons I can see for going into space: 1. It eliminates a possibilty for extinction of humans due to a world wide disaster. (Think dinosaurs) 2. It removes the pressures of over population 3. It gives us more possibilities for science: a. Easier to contain potential disasters by performing dangerous experiemnts in issolated locations. After all, a dangerous experiment performed on a moon of Saturn is less likely to effect the human race on other worlds b. Trying to get to Faster Than Light Speeds will probably require a nice lot of space for potential run ups and slow downs. After all, light gets from Earth to the moon in about half a second (or so) and from the Sun to the Earth in eight minutes. Even other experiements requiring speeds close to C (the speed of light) would need these distances. c. Different conditions (like weightlessness) can aid in some experiments. d. I'll add a "other things I haven't even thought of yet" here ... as there probably are a lot.