Monday, April 6, 2009

Stem cell targeting with magnets

I wish I'd thought of this. A team at Keele University, England, is experimenting with treating stem cells taken from a patient's bone marrow with magnetic nanoparticles. The advantage? They can guide the stem cells exactly where they want them without invasive surgery. Currently, according to this article on the BBC's website, they're using it to grow new bone and cartilage in mice. They're talking five years until they can use it in humans.

Prediction: If this works, it will revolutionize the treatment of brain damage, and there will be very real moral and legal questions about how much of your brain can be replaced with new neurons and leave the essential "you" intact.

Also, I need to check, but I'm pretty sure Masamune Shirow predicted this in the original Ghost in the Shell manga, although as a method to control the implantation of nanomachines, rather than of stem cells.

Friday, April 3, 2009

1980s high tech military - today's toy isle

I ran across these toy infrared goggles in the toy section in Walmart today. For those too young to remember, light amplification and infrared illumination were two of the most important technologies used in combat in Operation Desert Storm (August, 1990 - through Feb, 1991), as they made night fighting much more feasible. Today, basic infrared goggles can be had for $80 in the toy isle. We live in interesting times, certainly. :)

I'm terribly amused. Not amused enough to part with $80 for them. Yet.


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Nanotech, brought to you by viral assembly...

Drexler predicted that as the nanotech revolution proceeded, it would be intertwined with biotech, as cells do a great deal of the very kinds of nanoassembly the technology depends on already. Given this article, I would say we've begun reaching into that era. It seems scientists at MIT have engineered a bacteriophage - a virus that attacks bacteria - that assembles the anodes and cathodes of lithium ion batteries. The technology is in its infancy, but technologies grow up fast these days. I wonder if we'll begin seeing devices like batteries with a living pocket of viri in them that rebuild the anode and cathode over time, as it is the deterioration of these structures that limits the lives of these batteries.

Looking forward, I have to wonder how long it will be before we begin making micro-cyborgs - naomachines implanted into individual cells? Another longstanding prediction in science fiction. To be honest, I have to wonder how you'd draw the distinction by the time that becomes feasible?


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