‘TechSci’ Column: We’re Going to Live Forever

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Welcome to the final stretch of the semester. While you struggle to remain focused and care about your classes, you have exams and papers and more exams, and you will all feel as if you are slowly going insane. Do you know what effects elevated stress can bring? Basically just death. Google it, I promise elevated cortisone levels in the body can only lead to bad things. Heart attacks, weight gain, disease and more lovely things.

Jackie Peterson, B&W Staff

But, I’m sure you’re happy to hear, the medical field is only growing. Soon, the numerous heart attacks caused by your stress will be fixed with an implanted “dead” heart. Yeah, doctors can now take a heart that has stopped beating while still inside the donor, put it in a box, and then put it inside of you. By the way, the interim box is called “heart-in-a-box,” and revives the dead organ by pumping warm blood into it. You can’t make this stuff up.

This is actually a huge deal as a medical first, by the way, because it eliminates the need for a brain-dead donor whose heart is still beating, and significantly raises the future number of available hearts for transplant.

Or, if it isn’t your heart that’s failed but your liver (common in Lehigh alumni, I’m sure), you can utilize a “Super Teeny 3-D Printed Liver.” These teeny, tiny lab-grown livers are made with three different types of cells that are actually found in human livers. The company responsible, Organovo, took advantage of 3D printing technology to create the tiny livers one cell at a time.

These livers are currently on sale for pharmaceutical companies, who will use them to test drugs. Since these are, for all intents and purposes, mini human livers, they should be a huge asset to the pharma industry and the medical field as a whole. Organovo conducted a test on these mini livers with a drug that has been approved by the FDA but then recalled due to its effects on the liver. No petri dish or lab animal tests showed these adverse liver effects, but Organovo’s tiny livers did. These little breakthroughs could have a very positive affect on not only humane drug testing, but safe drugs available for consumption.

If none of your organs have failed, but you still have to get needles stuck in you, you can avoid having a panic attack at the doctor’s by using a needle-covered pill that stabs you on the inside instead of the outside. Much better!

These pills are made of stainless steel, with a pool of drugs on the inside and needles on the outside which pump the drug into the stomach, intestines and colon over a week’s time. So that you don’t have to stab yourself in the mouth and throat, the pill is covered in a material that allows it to be swallowed smoothly and dissolves in stomach acid. The researchers cut open the pigs that they had used for testing after they took the pills, and there was no internal damage—but, thankfully, they hope to make a sugar-based model to cut down the risks even further. Saving people from hyperventilating at the doctor’s office isn’t the main goal of the pill, though. Apparently insulin injected via the new pill has a much larger affect than the insulin shot through the skin.

And then there are the people who are in absolutely perfect health and should be put in a museum for others to gawk at. For these people, there is BitBite. Instead of fixing your dead organs or shooting drugs into your intestines, BitBite tells you how to chew better. It’s a bluetooth device that is inserted into your ear whenever you eat or drink. It then sends data to your phone’s app, which generates pretty graphics to tell you whether or not you’re eating healthy, consuming a good amount of calories, and chewing correctly. If you really want to know how well you eat and chew, you can buy BitBite for $159 in June 2015.

Another recently developed device is called HELP (Human Echo Location Partner), and uses sonar and vibration inspired by bats and moths to let the blind navigate more easily. It’s only $60 and includes sonar distance sensors and two vibrating cell phone motors. The sonar sensors measure the distance between the user and objects around them, and the vibrations tell the user how close they are to those objects by increasing vibration the closer the object gets.

Whether your organs are failing, your eyes don’t work, or you’re just fine, the health sector is growing. And soon, we will all be immortal. Or grow humans like cows to harvest their organs, on the order of “Never Let Me Go”—which is a wonderful movie, by the way, and will make you cry.

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