New technologies and 3D printed human organs can contribute to mankind’s longevity, as scientists have been adding three months to the average life span annually, experts said.
Speaking during the second day of the Knowledge Summit, scientists and medical professionals said while improving quality of life and leading healthy lifestyles contributes to longevity, continuous technology development will help increase life spans.
Raymond McCauley, co-founder of BioCurious and a biotechnology scientist, said advanced cell replacement, repair and genetic editing combined with 3D-printing can extend life spans past the 120-year barrier. The average now is between the 80s up to 120 in developed countries.
“Demographically, we can make a good case that the future belongs to the old. Just last year, we passed a milestone where there are more people over 65 now than there are under 16, for the first time in human history.
For people working in different fields, the number of people on earth over 65 represents a global market bigger than China,” said McCauley.
John Nosta, founder of NOSTALAB, said while the body sees major weaknesses after age 40, technology will help build new muscles to overcome the loss of muscle mass, for instance. “The path to longevity is not wellness or prevention, it’s an earlier technology-mediated disease detection,” Nosta said, adding if cancer could be predicted before it even happens, it means that technology shares a border with prevention.
“We can leverage technology, in the form of stem cells or collagen repair mechanisms or 3D-printed organ replacement. Longevity lies close to technology because it shares a border with prevention,” he said.
Currently, a girl born in the UK has a one in three chance of living till 100. Nosta said that with a growing aging population lies more opportunities for economic and social development, which will also impact gross domestic product and achieve higher levels of productivity.
“We will see someone with the wisdom of 70 or 80 years apply that to a business or educational dynamic; that’s the game changer,” he said.
Meanwhile, Shafi Ahmed, co-founder of Virtual Medics and Medical Realities, said 3D-printing will help in organ transplantation in the long run. In the US, one person is added to the waiting list for organ donation every 14 minutes. While an average of 17,000 receive transplants, 20per cent die before the organ implanted becomes effective.
“That’s where the question comes in: would you rather wait four years and die without finding one? Or have a chance to get an organ printed and inserted right away,” said Ahmed. But 3D-printing of organs must be tackled from a humane point of view and considered if it will help people.
“It’s not about expanding lifetimes but the quality of life that has to be built around wellness,” he said.
Where does 3D printing of organs stand?
And while there has not been a single printed organ yet implanted, Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, said experts implanted engineered tissues into patients.
“We implanted organs into patients that have been created by hand, and it took ages several decades to create tissues and organs to implant back into patients. We did that by using patient’s own cell, creating the tissue and putting it back,” said Atala.
Though there hasn’t been an actual bone implant or viable tissue placed in a human, medicine will “need a while before printing large number of organs into a patient,” said Atala.
While modern technology could be expensive and out of reach for majority, the experts predicted it will be affordable on the long run like any other technology that starts high then reduces its price.
“When the first mobile phone came out, it exceeded $10,000 and now it’s a few dollars. Technology strats high but becomes affordable with time,” said Ahmed.