Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Microstory 557: Tissue & Organ Replacement Prices Dropping

A long time ago, scientists and health professionals realized that we were headed towards an unfortunate future when it came to organ health. About the only good thing that comes from anyone’s death is their ability to disseminate their organs and tissues to living patients in deep need of them. But this is not a sustainable method of trade. Unlike the exchange of labor, goods, services, and currency, organ donation inevitably leads to diminishing returns. As advances in science make people healthier, they’re less and less likely to be able to donate their organs after death, and the demand for these organs begin to greatly outnumber the supply. Similarly, we’re making cars and traffic safer, which is great for people on the roads, but not so great for people who rely on those deaths so that they may live. Nor do we want to live in a world where someone has to die in order for someone else to live. We want everybody to live, and if possible, we want them to live forever. So what can we do? Well, the very concept of organ transplantation carries with it significant issues. Humans didn’t evolve to share organs and tissues, or even blood. We are fortunate that it’s even possible in the first place, but no two people (twins notwithstanding) will ever be as compatible as we would like. So we’ve come up with a solution. Let’s cut out the middleman and just grow all the organs we need in a laboratory.

Stem cell research, genetic mapping, three-dimensional bioprinter development, cryopreservation, and other related fields can give us everything we need to provide the population with all the biological parts without the need to grow them in living beings. First, we need to know how to predict, isolate, and treat a given patient’s given disease. Then we need to know how to grow the organ that will need to be replaced in them. Then we just print that part, and store it in a tank, and implant it in their body as needed. Significant strides have been made in these respects. Just last year, the number of lab-grown implants surpassed the number of semicompatible transplantations, either through living donors, or deceased donors. The prices for these implants are dropping significantly month to month, and soon, securing a new organ will be as simple and trivial as purchasing a new land vehicle. In fact, some believe every citizen will one day invest in an organ chamber that keeps one, or possible two, extra copies of each of their own organs, developed by using the exact molecular structure found in their natural biological substrate. Some take it even further, promoting a future where entire replacement bodies are kept in these chambers. When our current body fails, for whatever reason, we’ll simply transfer our consciousness to the replacement substrate, and leave the old one behind entirely. That’s a future that may never come, but for now, we’re happy with just having a way to solve our organ crisis, and make life a little easier for everyone.

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