As we baby boomers confront various health issues as we age, it’s good to keep abreast of medical advances that may offer us hope or, in some cases, maybe just a dose of amusement.
Interestingly, some of these developments were the stuff of science fiction when we were growing up. Take a look:
Surgeons want to transplant a human head
A Russian tech geek, a Chinese surgeon and an Italian neurosurgeon walk into an operating room…sounds like the opening line of a joke, right? Well, according to an article in the Washington Post, these three folks want to be involved in the first human head transplant (the Russian is volunteering his head because he’s got a fatal genetic disorder). The neurosurgeon says the transplant could happen as early as this year (probably in China since it’s unlikely to get US or EU approval) and has a “90 percent plus” chance of success. It would require 80 surgeons (none named Frankenstein) and cost tens of millions of dollars. I’m still wrapping my head around this one…
Robot to care for the elderly at home
Remember Rosie, the household robot from The Jetsons? Well, researchers at Rice University and IBM are working on an in-home assistant for elders who wish to age in place named MERA—the Multi-purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant. MERA will monitor an individual’s heart rate and respiration, and can detect if someone falls, automatically calling a caregiver or 911. People using the device can also ask it health-related questions—like what are the signs of a stroke or heart attack—and MERA shares these messages with caregivers or providers. The device is powered by Watson, IBM’s artificial intelligence and analytical software—and Jeopardy champion. Wonder if MERA plays any games…
Part-human, part-pig creature grown in lab
Remember “The Island of Doctor Moreau,” or Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly?” Well, according to STAT, a national medical newsletter from Boston Globe Media, scientists recently announced they produced a human-pig “chimera”—a hybrid created by fusing a sperm and egg from different species. The researchers injected pig embryos with human stem cells, and the chimeras began to grow organs containing human cells. These creatures weren’t allowed to develop past the fetal stage, but the experiment suggests hybrids might someday be used to grow organs for transplant, easing a dire shortage. Hmm…ethical considerations aside, what human-animal combos would you like to see?