With life expectancy predicted to exceed 76 years by 2050, scientists are investing a lot of time and effort in understanding the determinants of healthy aging, the basic biological mechanisms and age associated diseases as well as the factors which can lead to a better quality of life in older ages in the various cultural, socio-economic and environmental situations.
Medical technology is undoubtedly one of the key factors determining longevity patterns. The healthcare industry has increasingly become a technology-rich environment, with technology supporting many parts of our lives, such as reminding people when to take treatments or when it is time to monitor one's vitals supporting behavior change, resulting in healthier diets or in better management of chronic diseases. Of course, the possibilities of what technology can do are endless and many of them are still under investigation.
One of the most interesting and promising technological advances so far is three-dimensional bioprinting, an evolving field of tissue engineering which aims in supplementing and upgrading our age-old biology by manufacturing new organs to support failing body parts.
The particular technique uses the patient's own cells and is based on computer-controlled printers which aim to reproduce body parts including skin, cartilage and bone. Such a process is not free of technical challenges, of course, as complex organs with lots of internal structures, such as the heart, have great printing difficulty. However, important steps have been taken so far including lower jaw and ear regeneration, and more recently, for the first time, lab-grown mini-livers which can actually perform most functions of one the most complex human organs.
This short video shows slivers of tissue that mimic human livers to improve drug testing, bringing lab-grown organs for transplant a step closer.
With all these important advances taking place how far do you think we are from a "mature" biotechnology?
Category: Funding longer lives: Health/medicine