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December 15, 2012 3:11 AM   Subscribe

Feeling a little bit worn? Need to upgrade your body? We've been doing it for a long time. An overview of more recent advances (PDF) and a near-future timeline.

Check out Upgrade Your Body's catalog of artificial eyes, exoskeletons, hearts (more hearts!), cryonic solutions, augmented reality products, bone repairing, implantable sensors, and more. Why not hack your medical devices or get your own printed prosthetics while you're at it.

FPP background music: Deus Ex, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, System Shock 2, Syndicate, Shadowrun
posted by Foci for Analysis (9 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

I like this. More FPPs should come with their own background music.
posted by Zarkonnen at 3:42 AM on December 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have just bought the original Deus Ex again and am downloading it from This is your fault. :D
posted by Zarkonnen at 4:13 AM on December 15, 2012

Neat bit about the mesoblast and injectable scaffold therapies for aiding osteogenesis.

Fun fact: after adulthood, bone is the only tissue type that will repair damage with new bone, not scar tissue.
posted by clarknova at 6:14 AM on December 15, 2012

Last night (Friday), on the PBS medical show Second Opinion, they discussed the case of a guy with cardiac myopathy. Essentially, his heart was diseased to the point where it could no longer circulate blood properly to all parts of his body. For a number of reasons he wasn't a good candidate for a transplant, also the supply of donor organs is still woefully inadequate. (Sign and carry your organ donor cards, people)

The solution was to install a VAD (ventricular assist device) in his abdomen, which restored his circulation.

Two things amazed me. First, it's not a pumping mechanism, it's just a plain ole DC-motor-driven fluid pump - albeit a very good one - and the patient no longer has a real pulse. The blood just ... circulates. The second thing was that this not some sort of bridge to sustain him til he can get a transplant; this IS the fix. He'll have this for life.

The guy has lived with this unit for a year. There's a wire coming out of his abdomen that goes to a battery pack and controller. The pack contains spare batteries and alarms warn him in plenty of time to swap out the batteries and recharge the dead ones. He claims he hasn't felt this good for years. He lives quite normally for a guy in his 60's, he has resumed teaching at a music college, and he still plays trumpet on regular jazz gigs with his band.

Fucking amazing.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:10 AM on December 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sorry, one more comment: the advances mentioned in the OP are genuinely amazing (I may have said so previously) but the success of these techniques, and most other surgical procedures is tempered by the massive problem of unbeatable "hospital" infections - MRSA, MRSE, VRE, E. coli, and their friends. More and more people are being successfully operated on, only to contract and die from one or more of these infections. My wife and I have witnessed the passing of two parents who survived successful operations only to suffer a protracted illness and death from antibiotic-resistant infection. We know several other people, mostly healthy, who have had to undergo months-long battles with infection that usually required 6 or more weeks of traveling around with a battery-operated IV pump squirting in the usual antibiotic of last resort, Vancomycin.

I think this is one of the most important medical frontiers - the reduction of hospital-caused infection, and the development of effective treatments for antibiotic-resistant pathogens. There's one therapy that I think should be studied more intensely - bacteriophages. This technique was refined behind the Iron Curtain, and is still practiced in Georgia (the country, not the state). The west has not been pursuing this therapy mostly cos antibiotics dominate the field, but also because of antiquated regulations around the approval and use of viral, self-replicating therapies like phages.

Invasive medical techniques will always carry significant infection risk until the infection problem is resolved. i hope some of you young medical geniuses will take this on. Death by 'hospital' infection is a lousy, lingering, miserable process, for everyone involved.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:53 AM on December 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Invasive medical techniques will always carry significant infection risk until the infection problem is resolved. i hope some of you young medical geniuses will take this on. Death by 'hospital' infection is a lousy, lingering, miserable process, for everyone involved.

There's a very simple fix for it: make sure your antibiotics are always newly minted and the immune system of the patient is that of a healthy 20 year old.
posted by clarknova at 1:12 PM on December 15, 2012

Artificial red and white blood cells? Never heard of such an idea before, but they both sound awesome. Imagine getting an injection of artifical red blood cells and then swimming for hours without a scuba tank, or giving Usain Bolt a literal run for his money without any training.
posted by Kevin Street at 8:35 PM on December 15, 2012

I love this stuff: new advances almost every day.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 12:11 PM on December 16, 2012

A pacemaker... created by a virus.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 1:46 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

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