It Sounds Like A Sci-Fi Movie
Doctors Growing Body Parts To Cure Our Ills.
It sounds like a sci-fi movie – doctors growing body parts to cure our ills. But thanks to incredible breakthroughs, bionic repairs for humans are fast becoming a reality.
Experts yesterday revealed they are perfecting “off the shelf” blood vessels, which could revolutionise treatment of heart attacks and strokes.
If the Cambridge University blood vessel team is successful, patients could be spared major operations. The test tube vessels may also treat kidney dialysis patients and repair injuries.
And because the patient’s own skin cells are used, there is less chance of rejection.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “This is very advanced. Growing blood vessels means they could be used off the shelf and be put into patients who need bypasses in a leg or heart, which is currently done using their own veins.”
Here are other ways science is giving nature a helping hand…
Experts are working on a cure for blindness – and have taken huge strides towards their goal.
Miikka Terho, 46, from Finland, who suffered an inherited form of blindness called retinitis pigmentosa, was fitted with an experimental chip behind his retina in Germany. It works by converting light that enters the eye into electrical impulses fed into the optic nerve, restoring some vision.
Bionic ears are transforming the lives of patients. They send sounds from a microphone through a metal coil to electrodes inside the inner ear.
A seven-year-old boy, Troy Probert, who was left deaf after seven meningitis bouts, was able to hear again thanks to computer-activated cochlear implants.
Patients whose windpipes are ravaged by cancer can have new ones grown in the lab. Scientists at University College London crafted a fake windpipe filled with cells taken from a patient’s own bone marrow. Once fitted, the cells divided and grew to make an organ indistinguishable from a normal one.
Brain “pacemakers” are being developed to treat conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.
Patients with the implants, which send electronic impulses deep inside the brain, reported fewer tremors and stiffness. It involves inserting a wire with electrodes at its tip, which is connected to a small “neurostimulator” unit.
A liquid that can be injected into the face is being developed to help treat disfigured people. Surgeons could use it to rebuild areas damaged by disease or injury.
The liquid, created by Alexander Hillel and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, US, can be massaged into shape and set using a special light beam.
Amputees could be given a new lease of life with bionic limbs. Livingston-based Touch Bionics’ prostethic arm allowed Patrick Kane, 13, who lost his arm through meningitis, to squash grapes between his fingers.
When he tenses a muscle, tiny pulses of electricity from nerves beneath the electrodes cause the hand to close – and the same process applies for opening his fist.
Paralysed people have been given hope of using their legs again thanks to research using electrodes.
Baseball star Rob Summers, who was told he would be wheelchair-bound after being hit by a speeding car in Portland, Oregon, US, made medical history as the first person paralysed from the chest down to stand and take a step unaided.
Summers’ legs were able to move because of electrical stimulation from a device implanted in his lower spine.
Artificial skin used to heal wounds has been developed by UK researchers.
Writing in the journal Regenerative Medicine, UK-based company Intercytex said it had produced promising results in early trials. The skin is made from fibrin gel, a blood clotting protein, and fibroblast cells found in human skin.
A prosthetic leg that can be programmed for different types of activity and adjusted by Bluetooth has developed by a UK firm.
The limb, which was designed by Otto Bock Healthcare and fitted by ProActive Prosthetics in Elstead, contains a micro-processor which can differentiate between 10 types of activity.
Amputee Matthew Newbury, who is said to be the first person to have the limb fitted, said: “I don’t have to think about every step and therefore I’m not tiring myself out.”
An artificial pancreas has been developed that could be a major advance in the treatment of diabetes.
The metal pancreas, which holds a supply of the hormone insulin kept in place by a gel barrier, could lead to daily insulin injections to control blood sugar levels being unnecessary in the future.
Invented by Professor Joan Taylor at De Montfort University in Leicester, it could move to clinical trials within the next few years.
Doctors are developing artificial wombs in which embryos can grow outside a woman’s body.
Embryos successfully attached themselves to the walls of these laboratory wombs and began to grow. However, experiments had to be terminated after a few days to comply with in-vitro fertilisation regulations.
Scientists are working on providing replacement muscles for people who suffered serious sporting injuries or damaged limbs in accidents.
They are using gels that expand and contract in response to small electrical currents to create synthetic muscles for replacing heart valves. Scientists at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena are aiming to develop an arm powered by bionic muscles made from these “electroactive polymers” that would be capable of winning an arm-wrestling contest.
Artificial blood created from stem cells could soon be tested on Britons.
The Edinburgh and Bristol university scientists behind the research, which could provide industrial-scale quantities of blood, believe it will transform transfusions by preventing hospital shortages and save thousands of lives on battlefields and at the scene of car crashes.
If they crack the recipe, just one human embryo could theoretically provide all the cells ever needed for Britain’s blood supply.
Scientists have managed to produce a small-scale version of a human liver in the laboratory using stem cells.
The success increases hope new transplant livers could be manufactured, although experts say this is still many years away. UK researchers said it was an “exciting development” but insisted it was not yet certain a fully-functioning liver was possible.