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Reaching Beyond the Frontiers with Technology

Technology is not only changing the way we live, it is also changing the way we die. With medical science progressing in giant strides, a lot of sicknesses that led to death with aging in the world, have been stopped in their tracks. People today are living longer than any other generation before. As wealth management expert Charles Hamowy, said, “The good news is people are living longer, and the bad news is people are living longer.”

Even as things stand today, Millennials are on the road to becoming the oldest and even the most important generation ever. Chances are great that they will not fade as other generations have done, but will be around as seniors, influencing several younger generations.

As frontiers in technology are crossed with invention ideas, and ailments and aging are seen as problems to be solved, a new generation of inventions are brought forth. The natural wear and tear of the human body, irreparable for the most part, is becoming repairable. Billionaires are pouring money into research to help break barriers in hitherto unsolvable medical issues.

There is, for instance, the unimaginable impact of 3D printing on medicine that could revolutionize healthcare. 3D printing has the capability, in time to come, to become a viable alternative to organ transplant. Currently, 3D printing is vital for prosthetics for children, to make replacement parts as kids mature. Surgeons use 3D printing as an invaluable aid in reconstructive surgery, while orthopedists use it to fix broken bones with screws and plates, and dentists make crowns and dentures with its help.

Progressing along these lines, scientists at the University of Oxford have invented a way to form living structures by 3D-printing of laboratory-grown cells. This invention could be a revolution in prolonging healthy life and beating death at its door, by enabling the creation of healthy tissues and cartilage to repair diseased and damaged areas of the body. People who would have otherwise died, will now be able to recover and carry on with their lives, which was, up to now, confined to the realms of science fiction. Oxford Synthetic Biology (OxSyBio) lead author and 3D bio printing scientist, Dr. Alexander Graham, said, “We were aiming to fabricate three-dimensional living tissues that could display the basic behaviors and physiology found in natural organisms. To date, there are limited examples of printed tissues, which have the complex cellular architecture of native tissues. Hence, we focused on designing a high-resolution cell printing platform, from relatively inexpensive components, that could be used to reproducibly produce artificial tissues with appropriate complexity from a range of cells including stem cells.”

Apart from the physical decline in aging, contemporary society is challenged by the disruptions to daily living caused bymental decline of seniors. The surge in the desire to know what is going on in the brain as human beings age, led researchers at the Cambridge Babraham Institute and Rome’s Sapienza University, to compare active brain cells in old mice with the brain cells of young mice.  According to co-lead scientistDr. Peter Rugg-Gunn, understanding aging in mice would help scientists to devise ways to identify decay in neural stem cells. He said, “Eventually, we may find ways to slow or even reverse brain deterioration – potentially by resetting the epigenetic switches – helping more of us to stay mentally agile for longer into old age.”

One of the main findings of the research was altered activity of a gene called Dbx2. Scientists made young brain stem cells grow more slowly by increasing Dbx2 activity. The new stem cells were not identical to the old stem cells, but there were similarities. Sapienza University’s Dr. Emanuele Cacci, said, “By studying these genes more closely, we now plan to try turning back the clock for older cells. If we can do this in mice, then the same thing could also be possible for humans.”

As inventions lead the world deeper into intervention in medical science, they have also brought about the CRISPR technology, a simple but powerful method to edit genomes. The natural defense mechanisms of bacteria and single-cell microorganisms in warding off attacks by viruses and other foreign bodies were used in the creation of the CRISPR technology that allows researchers to effortlessly change DNA sequences and modify gene functions. This process can be used in correcting genetic weaknesses, treat and halt the spread of diseases and help improve crop yield. The technology was discovered in the early 1990s, and, seven years later, was first used in biochemical experiments. Since then, it has become the most popular gene-editing method among researchers in human biology, microbiology and agriculture.A research team led by Mikihiro Shibata from the Kanazawa University and by Hiroshi Nishimasu from the University of Tokyo, on November 10, 2017, showed the world, for the first time, what it is like to see the CRISPR technology in action. Scientists are continuing to focus on how CRISPR can bring positive changes to life on earth.

As inventions forge ahead, British-American author Simon Sinek’s words appropriately reverberate, “What good is an idea? Try. Experiment. Fail. Try again. Change the world.”

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