Surgeries are not a Desirable Goal for Rejuvenation Therapies

The present work on tissue engineering of large structures, such as printing blood vessels and organs, or creating patient-specific organs for transplant using decellularization, will produce end results that rely on surgery - major surgical procedures in the case of organ transplants.

The trouble with surgery is that it is risky: major, involved surgeries bear a non-trivial risk of death even in the most advanced clinical surroundings, and that risk grows with age. Old people suffer a general frailty due to the damage of aging that makes it progressively less likely for them to survive any given surgical procedure. When you consider that every major organ is going to have issues if we live long enough without access to general biological repair technologies that remove the cellular and molecular damage that lies at the root of tissue dysfunction in aging, that's a bunch of major surgeries to look forward to.

So I believe we should look on the forthcoming phase of tissue engineering as a transitional period: organs will be built from scratch and transplanted until such time as the state of the art allows our existing organs to be incrementally repaired and rebuilt in situ instead. Eliminating the need for surgery is a big deal, and so in the long term I think that the future belongs to the branch of regenerative medicine that delivers populations of tailored stem cells into damaged tissue. As the research community becomes every better at precisely controlling the behavior and activities of cells, even that step of delivering new cells into the body may go away, to be replaced with adaptive drug-like therapies that issue commands to the body's existing cells through signaling pathways or induced epigenetic alterations, and which react to guide the ongoing state of repair.

Either way, surgery is not a desirable outcome - it's a least worst path at the best of times. In the future of medicine and aging, everything that can be achieved without surgery should be achieved without surgery, and we'll all be better off for it.


Not only that. But surgery is inherently expensive and we want rejuvenation to be cheap.

Posted by: Abelard Lindsey at October 26th, 2011 10:57 AM
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