Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, April 23, 2007

Nanotech Cures Paralyzed Mice

The Chicago Tribune today reports another step forward in the use of nanotechnology to grow new tissue in the human body. Northwestern University researcher Samuel Stupp, director of the school's bionanotech in medicine institute, "will present results showing paralyzed lab mice that have regained mobility through nanomaterial treatments."

The demonstration, set for Monday in Washington, is intended to underscore nanotech's potential as outlined in a new report, Nanofrontiers, sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Pew Charitable Trusts. The report, which grew out of an earlier meeting of scientists sponsored by the National Science Foundation, is restrained, talking about results that may occur decades hence.

In Stupp's research, material designed to self-assemble was injected by syringe into mice with severed spinal cords. The nanomaterial grew into nanofibers that repaired damaged neurons, enabling the mice to again use their hind legs about 1 1/2 months after initial treatments.

The same work has implications for treating Parkinson's and Alzheimer's patients.

"This research provides an early glimpse into the new and exciting places where nanotechnology can take us," said David Rejeski, director of the Wilson Center's emerging nanotech project.

Some nanotech enthusiasts believe that medical applications will become available much sooner than the Nanofrontiers report predicts.

In his book, "The Singularity is Near," Ray Kurzweil, an inventor, entrepreneur and writer, argues that nano-based therapies to regenerate failing tissue will help extend the lives of Baby Boomers so most may live until more advances will enable them, essentially, to avoid traditional death altogether.

Stupp said he thinks that Kurzweil's optimism has some basis. Working with animals now, the Northwestern researcher said he hopes within three years, researchers will obtain regulatory approval to begin studies using nanomaterials to regenerate tissue in humans.

"Regenerating bone and cartilage are our first targets," Stupp said. "That would be very important to Baby Boomers who value their quality of life. We are also working with regenerating blood vessels to address damage from heart attacks. [Nanotech] will first aid in diagnosing illness, but it also will provide therapies to alleviate or cure."

This is such a brief, beneath-the-fold, story that most people will miss it, which illustrates why the rapid acceleration of technological evolution has not yet been noticed by the public. It's all happening below the radar. If you are paying attention, however, you will be able to watch as it comes into view. Stay tuned.

(Original Story)

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