(Brain) Transplant vs. In Situ Regeneration

Scientists are hard on the trail of lab-grown organs and tissues. They are learning to grow tissues on scaffolding — even brain tissue — and how to print organs in 3D with special printers and inks. Once created, these pristine tissue-matched organs would be surgically implanted into your ageing body — islands of healthy youthful tissue in a sea of slow but steady degeneration. An improvement on the current transplant regimen, but far from perfect.

At the same time, other scientists are developing methods of in situ tissue regeneration, even in the brain.

If you are old, diseased, or disabled enough, you might prefer to swallow a pill before bed and wake up the next morning with a rejuvenated body and brain — if you knew it was safe, and that you would still be “you” the next day. But that scenario is not yet realistic.

It will take some decades or longer for dedicated researchers such as those at the SENS Research Foundation to crack the ageing code, and make total body/brain rejuvenation so easy. But they are working on a number of approaches:

The above approaches should be considered a “bare minimum” approach to engineering a younger body and brain. A number of new techniques for drastically slowing the ageing of new tissue — once replaced and re-engineered — are needed. No one wants to spend half their lives inside a rejuvenation clinic.

In the near future, some combination of organ replacement using lab engineered or printed tissue along with in situ regeneration of organs and tissues, is likely to be used as the best compromise.

The Brain, a Special Case

A young healthy body without a well functioning brain is something of a waste. The dementia epidemic is a mounting crisis worldwide. China and other rapidly ageing nations are particularly at risk.

If you were given the choice between having a brain (head) transplant and undergoing in situ brain regeneration, you would probably go with the in situ approach. After all, if your body received a brand new brain, what would happen to your old brain with all its memories, quirks, and dark secrets? 😉

Just kidding. If you wanted a new brain along with your old memories and thought patterns, naturally some form of “direct personality and memory transfer” device would be necessary. But that is not likely to happen in the next century or more. So the brain is a special case — but then you knew that.

So remember: For your brain, in situ rejuvenation; For the rest of your body, you will have the choice between replacement and in situ approaches. Unless your body feels it is too sexy for your brain. In that case we may have no choice but to remove your old brain and then . . . .

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6 Responses to (Brain) Transplant vs. In Situ Regeneration

  1. Abelard Lindsey says:

    I’m too sexy for my brain…

    Al fin here is one of the few conservative bloggers who supports the development of anti-aging medicine. It seems to me that far too many conservative bloggers express active hostility towards rejuvenation/radical life extension. Such people are utterly incomprehensible.

    • Stephen says:

      It seems to me that a lot of conservatives are Joseph Sobran’s “reactionary utopians”. They honestly seem to think the past was some kind of paradise and fear human beings having the freedom to live and thrive the way such people see fit. Liberals seem to hate the idea that nature prevents a great deal of their social engineering schemes from working and conservatives seem to hate the idea that extremely advanced technology and medicine will allow people to successfully defeat nature in a good many battles.

  2. Will Brown says:

    It was always my impression that SENS was intended to be the development of therapies (that is, a series of on-going procedures) to treat the various symptoms of aging as though they were disease expression rather than entropic inevitability. If that remains true, why would anyone expect not to receive repeated treatments for their various age-related maladies? Presumably these procedures would mostly occur in some description of clinic whether or not the treatment comprised surgical or in situ replacement of failing organs, etc. To the best of my recollection, the “cure” for aging via SENS was never described as being a solution to aging, only a means to control it.

  3. alfin2101 says:

    Will: Exactly right. SENS is a stopgap measure that will prove to be expensive, time-consuming, and treatments are likely to be temporarily debilitating if not temporarily disabling or permanently fatal in some cases. But as things stand, life itself is fatal, so there will be no shortage of willing takers for SENS treatments once available. Availability is likely to arise in China, India, and other “offshore” locations in the beginning.

    Hence the inevitable need for a broader look at.ageing, and the discovery of new ways to significantly slow the processes of ageing, so one will not be forced to spend too many of his remaining years flat on his back in a rejuvenation clinic. 😉

    • Will Brown says:

      Sorry, still don’t see how “… new ways to significantly slow the processes of ageing,” is not a part of SENS. Agreed it isn’t the predominant focus of the initial treatments being mentioned in news reports and such, nor is there quite the rush of investment monies into the more speculative aspects of technologies to achieve negligible senescence. Big surprise, and not at all unexpected to anyone with the slightest familiarity with market development processes (which you have shown yourself to be in past years).

      Remember, what we are seeing mentioned are only the first stages of the treatment development process; what humans are technically capable of today, using existing technology and medical protocols (not to mention legal/financial operating structures). Nobody is going to be able to offer (or even develop, I contend) a more advanced treatment regimen without achieving simultaneous development of all the rest of the social/medical structure within which that sort of activity exists. We can pay to copy all the development effort SENS has put in place so as to organize innovative therapy development research (and then complain about the lack of focus on innovative therapy development), or we can continue to invest in the infrastructure and development funding and marketing efforts under the general SENS proposal (and continue to complain about the lack of focus on innovative therapy development).

      The former option offers the added feature of siphoning monies away from the latter one.

      SENS isn’t magic. It continues to show development of therapies that achieve at least limited satisfaction of the objective. There is research into more innovative (ie: speculative) therapies being funded as a part of the general SENS project. SENS is (and will continue to be for many years still) in the basically flat line section of the development curve. We can continue the development process that shows early signs of making progress, or we can fund magic (see: Clarke’s Third Law).

      • alfin2101 says:

        Thanks for your comment. I understand what you are saying, and have no need nor inclination to change your opinion.

        For what it is worth, I can only say that SENS appears to be functioning as an ice-breaker, opening the route for a lot of other “ships.” I have read de Grey’s “Ending Aging,” and attend gerontological conferences from time to time to keep up on the general thinking in the field. Going out for drinks with selected post-docs or PIs is a good way to get a quick survey of ideas which will not be published for years yet.

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