Friday, January 18, 2008

Today in Weird Science

Interesting video from Reuters, discussing cutting edge science in everything from really, really thin laptops, to re-animating dead hearts after 4 days.

What caught me most about this string of scientific projects was the heart. Using stem cells, scientists were able to reanimate a heart after 4 days of death. They removed the heart, cleaned it, introduced young heart cells, and the heart sprang back to life...

What if this technology can be used in humans? Put a patient in need of a heart transplant on bypass for some time, remove the heart, clean and fix it with healthy heart cells, give it time to regain strength and youth, replace it in the body, and voila... you have a new heart.

But I bring up a morality and ethics question with the advancement of science... it is one that I often pose to my wife when she is watching shows about curing one disease or another... At what point do we stop, and accept death?

I was at a seminar being presented for Chiropractic Health, and it was reported that a University of Texas group has predicted that by 2050, over 800,000 Americans will be living between the ages of 100 and 150. Can you imagine? 150 years old. Not just that, but almost one million people over 100 years old! What is the quality of life going to look like? How much can we re-engineer our bodies to withstand the tests of time? And at what point do we stop trying to cure ailments?

We have beaten plagues, the pox, and now organ failure... we are working to cure cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and many others... This is pushing the life expectancy further up into old age... but when is it too much?

I suppose that the answer is directly related to the quality of life that we will experience into the old age. If we are defunct by 95, but life for another 10, 20 or even 30 years... what is the use of living? We need mobility, security, and the ability to be active in our community (as opposed to being a drain on society/community). What is the purpose of life if it can not be lived to the fullest?

Perhaps I am internalizing this a bit... I am trying to picture what my limit would be, how I would want to live... what would be acceptable to me in that age...

But then I pose another question. If we are able to stop death, or prolong it extremely... what is the purpose of reproduction?

Needles to say... there are a lot of questions that go with the new territory that we are exploring in science today!

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