Redefining Bionics Again

For those of us of a certain age, the word "bionic" will always be associated with enhanced mechanical limbs. If other organs are bionic, then they had better be devices of chrome and ceramic, electrically powered, and the sort of thing turned out by a high-tech workshop. But the usage of "bionic" or "bionics" in medical technology is much broader than this, and often altered. Consider, for example, that a living, beating, recellularized heart is just as much an artificial, engineered construct as the latest type of electromechanical heart replacements being tested today. Under the dictionary definition of bionic, both of these items are bionic technologies.

On this topic, and via researcher Leonid Gavrilov's blog, I see that one of the folk involved in recellularization work likes the use of the term "bionic" for what he is doing:

"Bionics in medicine of the future" - this is the title of a public lecture by Spanish transplantologist Paolo Macchiarini, which will be held on February 24, 2010 in the conference hall of the rector's building of the Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy. The lecture is organized by Dmitry Zimin foundation "Dynasty", in collaboration with research foundation "Science for life extension", at whose invitation Paolo Macchiarini will visit Russia for the first time.


In 2008, Professor Macchiarini led an international team of scientists who performed the transplantation of patient trachea grown out of her own stem cells on donor scaffold in bioreactor. Four days later the trachea has taken root so well, that it was difficult to distinguish it from adjacent sections of the respiratory tract. Just a month later, this trachea brought up its own network of blood supply.

Another unique operation was held in October 2009 - this time the organ was formed inside the patient's body without the use of bioreactor.

Professor Macchiarini is convinced that the regeneration of organs, the formation of an entire organ or a part of it inside the human body can solve almost all problems that modern medicine still can not resolve. In his opinion, this will become possible very soon - within five years. In order to do this, we must create an infrastructure that would integrate scientific research in this area with medical practice. That is he is actively engaged in, promoting achievements and opportunities of regenerative medicine, as a scientist and a surgeon in one person.

If you're of a mind to read scientific papers, you might look up Macchiarini's publications on PubMed and dig in. His proposed timeline is enthusiastic, but for transplants involving recellularization of simpler organs like the heart or trachea, probably on the ball. The roadblocks here are regulatory bodies, as is always the case, and the fact that a donor organ is still required.

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