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March 29, 2006

Other tech: Regenerative medicine, artificial organs and emergency medicine developments

Researchers have achieved success in reversing paralysis in rats using hydrogels which had stem cells mixed in and the material placed into the space of the spinal cord gap. Hydrogels resemble the soft tissue that surrounds a human spinal cord as it develops in the womb. The researchers estimate gel-based spinal cord repair clinical trials will begin within the next five years, but it's too soon to predict whether the treatment will translate into humans. They have started conducting hydrogel experiments in five pigs with injured spinal cords. The results suggest the gel implants may scale up better than expected. Several other stem cell-based techniques have cured rats of paralysis, but scientists have yet to try the techniques in humans. Some clinical trials could start in 2007. Newly injured patients will be first as older injuries have more hurdles to overcome. Researchers at Harvard are also working on regenerating muscle using cells on scaffold techniques

Drugs are in the pipeline that induce significant regeneration of heart muscle over 40-60 days

At Rice University, they have achieved success growing knee cartilidge outside the body that could then be surgically implanted. Clinical trials for bladders grown outside of the body from a patients own cells could begin later this year.

This site tracks many of the projects for artificial replace organs and tissues

Again one of the leading avenues for regeneration are the MRL mice which can regenerate limbs and heart tissue If this were possible for humans then one might regenerate a leg in a few months.

For immediate treatment of injured there are several fast clotting agents that are proving effective Emergency medicine is also being helped by advances in artificial blood such as Polyheme

The superiority of todays medicine and its improvement over time can be seen by US casualties in different wars In world war II, there were 2.3 combat wounded :1 combat dead. For the Vietnam war it was 3.28:1. In the current Iraq war, it is about 9.5 to 1 (WIA returned + WIA not returned) /KIA). Better battlefield medicine and armor that protects vital organs combine to reduce the death rate.

The possibility is that in 10-15 years, medical advances would allow recovery within a couple months to one year from any injury that did not kill you outright.

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