Can we delay death with technology?

By now, you pretty much know how a heart attack happens: Plaques build up in the walls of your arteries and, like obstructions, obstruct blood flow by narrowing these passages. Eventually, the arteries become so narrow that the heart cannot get enough blood. Oxygen is cut off and a heart attack or stroke occurs.

There are ways to treat a heart attack by clearing or rerouting the arteries through stents or bypasses. But these procedures come at a heavy cost: catheterization, open-heart surgery, extensive rehabilitation, compromised circulatory system. But new technologies (such as plaque-removing nanobots) are being discovered to help us live longer and healthier lives.

Here are some future developments.

Organ or tissue regeneration

A Harvard professor is working on a technique that will allow him to heal his torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL); Instead of being replaced with a tendon belonging to another human or animal or somewhere else in the patient’s own body.

This technique involves inserting an hourglass-shaped sponge filled with the patient’s blood and growth factors and stem cells to act as a bridge between the torn two pieces. This bridge grows and the tear disappears; As a result, it is not necessary for the patient to go for invasive treatment using other soft tissues. This treatment may prevent future joint inflammation, which is often a side effect of current ACL repairs.

Future technologies of heart surgery
Heart surgery on humans will one day be revolutionized by the use of robots that move arteries and destroy plaques.

Artificial limbs

We are probably inching closer to what is the gold standard of life-long advances: a genetically engineered heart, or artificial heart. Cleveland Clinic researchers believe that with an unlimited budget, they can produce a heart in less than three years and place it inside the human body.

We are already witnessing that body parts are printed in 3D; By producing mechanisms and materials that can act like a tissue (even lung-like tissues that are infected with Covid-19 like normal lungs and can be used to study potential antivirals and treatments). An Australian company has recently developed a robotic tool that prints a person’s skin cells and can be used to regenerate skin damaged by wounds or burns.

Imagine a computer code for all the parts of your body stored in a cloud, and you can use that information to make 3D copies that will be placed in your body when needed. Remove the cancerous bone and replace it with a new bone of the same shape, size, and strength, with the same connections to ligaments, joints, and other bones. This will be possible in the next 10 years.

Manipulation of proteins

What if you could engineer an organ or part of the body to regrow or manipulate the way the body normally works? For example, in South Korea, researchers are testing anti-aging drugs that change the activity of proteins in earthworm cells; They tell the body to convert sugar into energy as cellular energy is depleted. Lucky worms got longer life span with this technology.

Nano robots in the vein
In this computer simulation, a nanobot in the vein finds and removes plaque.

Repair tools

A good way to think about the benefits of technological advances over the lifespan is to consider the progress we’ve made in heart valves that wear out over time. About 10 percent of people ages 85 to 95 (and a higher percentage in older adults) will need heart valve repair or replacement, while 25 percent of people over age 65 will experience some type of change in their valve function.

The valve replacement procedure involved open heart surgery, which was high risk due to the need to stop the heart and use a pump for blood circulation. Six months after open heart surgery, 18% of patients had brain function deterioration.

Today, with minimally invasive surgical methods, a valve can be replaced by inserting it into the heart through the blood vessels. It’s still a heart operation and still serious, but this common procedure has a much faster recovery period. If people are going to live 20 to 30 years longer, we need to replace many more valves.

Advanced toys

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, new technologies, improved data collection and the like will also transform the way we think about health and what we can do. We already have apps that connect us to doctors for instant consultation; Long-range medicine that was necessary during the quarantines of Kovid-19. These apps enable remote medical care (which was previously impossible).

But what will happen if next-generation technologies come into play? Better data collection can lead to better drug development. Wearable technologies can not only track what you have done, but also predict your future. AI can predict when a valve will wear out before you have any problems. More accessible diagnostic methods can mean delaying future health problems.

A Yale University genetics researcher has developed a handheld ultrasound device. Although this $2,000 device does not have the high accuracy of a $100,000 ultrasound machine, it can make scanning a simple and common procedure during medical visits. This type of scan can help doctors know who to push for prevention and who to motivate to make healthier choices.

Knee ligament regrowth technology
This knee has undergone multiple ACL reconstructions and surgical pads have held the ligament grafts in place. Maybe one day we will be able to use our body to grow new ligaments without using raw materials.

Delayed death, for sale

We will see explosive growth in all corners of the technology industry. A new report from CNBC says that the “death delay” market is expected to grow by $600 billion, with an emphasis on things like big data, artificial intelligence, gene editing, food engineering and disease-curing drugs (or “moon medicine”).

While the initial costs of these “death-postponing” revolutions will be high, as with past innovations, their actual cost will decrease rapidly over time. What was once science fiction becomes an expensive reality and then a widespread and economical practice.

These changes will extend our healthy lifespans, improve our quality of life from middle age onward, and most likely at least double our youthful years. We may not arrive at a magic pill or a store to buy prolonged youth, but the combination of all these advances will contribute to a comprehensive approach to prolonging life.

You never know which new technology or breakthrough will be the one that will save and change your life and help you stay younger today.

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