• U.S.

Can I Replace My Body?

2 minute read
Alice Park


TODAY: Breast are reconstructed with saline sacs or with living tissue, using fat and muscle from the back, buttocks or abdomen

TOMORROW: Breast may be grown in the lab from a patient’s own fat cells and infused back through keyhole slits in the chest


TODAY: Bypasses, angioplasty and transplants to keep blood flowing to the heart muscle. Doctors are beginning to use gene therapy to grow new blood vessels

TOMORROW: Growing functional patches of heart muscle or coaxing existing heart-muscle cells to repair themselves


TODAY: Small slivers of liver tissue can be grown in the lab from one of the many types of liver cells, but they are not yet ready for transplant

TOMORROW: Heart, liver, kidneys grown from stem cells in vitro and transplanted into the body


TODAY: Grown in the lab from pig cells and synthetic-polymer matrix

TOMORROW: Regenerated from stem or precursor cells in the body


TODAY: Prosthetics wired to peripheral nervous system

TOMORROW: Prosthetics wired directly to motor portions of the brain to improve control and simulate the sensations of touch, pain, etc.


TODAY: Penile implants and medication to maintain erection. Surgery to reattach a severed penis; skin grafts to recover urinary, but not sexual, function if penis is not recovered

TOMORROW: Genetically engineered tissue grown in the lab and attached for final growth to form fully functional penis


TODAY: Injection of bone growth factors into jaw and other fracture areas. Researchers can also grow cartilage in the lab in thin sheets, but it’s too weak to be functional in the body

TOMORROW: Coaxing the body to grow bone and cartilage on biodegradable scaffolds infused with a mix of stem cells and growth factors


TODAY: Transplants, hair plugs and scalp grafts

TOMORROW: More permanent approaches, perhaps by stimulating shrunken follicles with growth proteins


TODAY: Laser surgery or implants to correct near- and farsightedness

TOMORROW: Permanent lens implants to correct vision while leaving the cornea intact


TODAY: Cochlear implants to replace damaged inner ear

TOMORROW: Implants that can be adjusted to pick up a wider range of frequencies at longer distances


TODAY: Sheets grown in the lab from human and synthetic-polymer matrix

TOMORROW: Grown by the body from stem or precursor cells and growth factors


TODAY: Grown in the lab from pig cells and synthetic-polymer matrix

TOMORROW: Grown in the lab from stem or precursor cells to avoid rejection by the immune system

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