futuretalk's Blog Posts

Scientists take aim at body's killers

August 08 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 4

By Dick Pelletier

Eliminating the top three major causes of death may sound like science fiction, but revolutionary new medical techniques are being developed that could protect most Americans from these killers by as early as 2020.

In two recent PBS programs, “Innovations” and “Charlie Rose,” experts declared we are at war with the three leading causes of death in America – heart disease, cancer, and obesity. The problems are enormous, researchers said, but all were confident we could win this war. As early as the third decade, they claimed, death from all three of these horrible diseases could be completely eliminated.

Stem cells are rapidly becoming the “magic bullet” of choice in this war. Scientists are identifying the genetic signals that instruct stem cells to grow new tissues in spinal cords, hearts, bones, brains, teeth; even aging skin. U.S. clinical trials are a ways off, but experimentations are already underway in Portugal and China.

Dr. Carlos Lima, at Egas Moniz Hospital in Lisbon and Dr. Hongyun Huang at Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing are treating quadriplegic and heart attack patients today. They harvest stem cells from patients’ noses and transplant them into damaged spinal cord and heart muscle sites. Healing is slow, but as more stem cell “secrets” are unraveled, recovery time will speed up.

False teeth will soon become a thing of the past also, thanks to stem cell research conducted by Professor Paul Sharpe at Kings College in London. Successful tests on mice suggest that people will soon be able to grow new tooth buds. Human trials could begin in two years, and the cost per tooth is expected to be about the same as synthetic implants.

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Nanotechnology: healthier, longer lifespan coming soon

August 11 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

Death could be a thing of the past if certain advances are made.

By Dick Pelletier

The most hyped science of all time – nanotechnology – promises a utopian future with no food shortages or disease, and a world of leisure and unlimited lifespan.

Nanotech’s basic concept is to build things atom by atom using machines called assemblers. Assemblers can make food, or other products, by reassembling atoms from air, dirt, or seawater.

As early as 2025, a nanotech assembler could be sitting on kitchen counters providing food, appliances, or clothing; at little or no cost. In addition, by 2030 or before, nanobots could be roaming through our bodies protecting us from the ravages of disease and aging.

Cryogenic enthusiasts who have their body, head, or cell culture frozen when they die believe that nanotechnology will someday be able to re-create information from their brains, repair their damaged body, or clone a new one, and let them resume their life. Whether this will ever be possible is open to debate, but certainly billions of nano-probes connecting to every cell in our body offers some hope for this way out concept.

Could nanotechnology eliminate death? Today, we consider death as one of the great certainties of life, along with taxes. Taxes have not always existed though, and in the future, they may again be unnecessary. Death statistics are interesting. Over six billion people are alive today, but less than 6 billion have died since our species began. Why, if less than half the people ever born have died, do people say death is certain?

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Exercise pill: burn fat, boost endurance without moving a muscle

August 05 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

For all those who have wondered if they could enjoy the benefits of exercise without the pain of exertion, the answer may soon be yes. Scientists are developing a pill that tricks your muscles into thinking they have just gone through an aggressive workout even though you haven’t left the couch.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have identified two drugs that mimic many of the physiological effects of exercise. The drugs increase the ability of cells to burn fat and are the first compounds that have been shown to enhance exercise endurance.

Both drugs can be given orally and work by genetically reprogramming muscles to maximize energy use. In lab experiments, mice ran faster and longer on treadmill tests. Those that were given AICAR, one of the two drugs, ran an astounding 44 percent longer. The second compound, GW1516, dramatically improved endurance when combined with exercise.

Ronald Evans, the HHMI investigator who led the study, said drugs that mimic exercise could offer potent protection against obesity and related metabolic disorders. They could also help counter the effects of devastating muscle-wasting diseases like muscular dystrophy. Evans and his colleagues at the Salk Institute published their findings July 31, 2008, in the online journal Cell.

While this breakthrough may be especially appealing to couch potatoes, doctors are most excited about the potential benefits to people who aren’t able to exercise due to joint pain, long hospital stays, and other circumstances that keep them from being active.

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Machines will revolutionize education

August 05 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Education   Year: General   Rating: 13 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

By as early as 2010, Microsoft, IBM and others will introduce software enabling students to communicate with computers similar to how we communicate with each other – using words, body language, and gestures.

These sophisticated new computers will understand ordinary everyday spoken words in English, Spanish, Chinese, or any major language, and will use avatars – on-screen images that could appear as Einstein, Columbus, or even a local classroom teacher – to communicate on a personal level with each student.

These future teaching machines will bring education to life. Utilizing virtual reality, they will take students on virtual trips to interesting places and events in the world, fly into space, or wander inside a human cell.

Interactive computers will gather and process video, graphics, and information from anywhere on Earth via the Internet, and reformat this data into words and images that will be clearly understood by each student, regardless of their comprehension level.

These education machines will also become the home of future artificial intelligence that will complement the teacher’s ability, guiding students through course work, supplementing the teacher’s knowledge and answering simple queries to liberate teachers to concentrate on individuals without the rest of the class sitting idle.

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Singularity by 2045 - incredible life in a tamed world

August 04 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Imagine living in an ageless, disease-free body with youthful looks, superhuman strength and a brain that can out-think computers. Now further imagine an affluent, happy, crime-free population residing in a world terraformed for comfort without dangerous storms, tsunamis, or unbearable weather.

This is the vision many forward-thinkers believe humanity can achieve during this century. Although life seems to rush by at rocket speeds today, the future will advance even faster. Author James John Bell, in his Exploring the Singularity article in The Futurist says, “We won’t just experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years.”

Scientists describe the Singularity as a point in time when technological progress becomes so rapid that it radically transforms humankind at a faster rate than anyone alive today can comprehend. Biotech, nanotech, infotech, and cognitive science will all interplay causing us to speed towards this Singularity.

Acclaimed futurist and author Ray Kurzweil argues in his book, The Singularity is Near, that we could experience this Singularity by as early as 2045.

Kurzweil predicts over the next 10 to 20 years, biotech scientists will learn to greatly slow aging and eliminate most diseases. In the 2030s, he says, nanotech will “finish the job” allowing for the redesign of the human body into an almost immortal form.

By mid-2020s, techno-enthusiasts claim pollution-free nano-replicators will be available to provide most food, clothing and household gadgets at little or no cost; and fully immersive virtual reality will create make-believe environments indiscernible from reality to satisfy even the most extreme entertainment desires.

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Chip allows for thought-controlled machines

July 31 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

By 2015, experts believe, tiny microchips placed under our skin will enable us to control consumer electronic devices and browse the Internet with just our thoughts. BT Futurologist Ian Pearson says we could place these chips into the upper layers of the skin and arrange them into useful circuits to power and control our electronic world.

Researchers propose a five layered architecture, referred to as active skin. A master chip, installed deep in the skin, would connect with blood capillaries and nerve endings; and would eventually, as technology develops, exchange data directly with the brain. The master chip would communicate with temporary chips placed higher in the skin that would wash or wear away after a few days.

These non-permanent chips would be created in thin polymer membranes that adhere to the skin like invisible stick-on patches. The combination of layers would allow gadgets to be built linking us to our entire electronic world and the Internet.

Computers, cell phones, music players, and other devices could be implanted on our wrists and hands, with full keyboards. These would remain invisible until our touch made them light up. The circuitry itself would be made of dispersed groups of invisible devices.

Medical sensors could be implanted to stave off heart attacks and strokes, monitor blood chemistry 24/7, and alert hospital computers to any emergency. They could also remotely administer drugs to precise body locations.

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Scientists love time-travel fantasy too; for real

July 31 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 7 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Movies like Time Machine, Back to the Future, Terminator, and “One Moment in Time”: bring out the little child inside us. We love to fantasize about going back in time to see what might have been, or to alter some predicament in our life. Scientists get excited over this fantasy too – some even believe we can turn this fictional genre into reality.

Einstein stated that people traveling at near light speeds would age more slowly than those remaining stationary. Inhabitants of a fast-moving spaceship would experience forward time travel. And if traveling faster than light, they would go backwards in time.

Atomic clocks flown in space proved Einstein correct, and many top physicists now express views that time travel could someday become possible.

Cal-Tech’s Kip Thorne was the first to publish a scientific paper with the words “time machine” in the title. Thorne worried that reporters might ballyhoo the article causing colleagues to ignore it – but instead, his work brought other scientists out in the open.

World famous physicist Stephen Hawking, Cosmologist Igor Novikov, and others began publicly debating the pros and cons of time travel.

Thorne focused on the actual time machine. He suggests that if we create a wormhole, accelerate one end to nearly the speed of light and bring it back, we would have a time machine. We could enter the machine and travel to both past and future.

But a recent Better Humans article suggests our frail bodies could not stand up to wormhole pressures. Solution: upload our mind and travel as information; then reassemble on arrival using nanotechnology.

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Glowing future predicted by UN "State of the Future Report"

July 30 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other   Year: 2008   Rating: 4 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

We’ve seen the future … and we may not be doomed. The just published 2008 United Nations report, with input from 2,500 experts from around the world finds life is improving for people worldwide – but governments are failing to grasp the opportunities offered.

“This is a unique time in history. Mobile phones, the Internet, international trade, language translation and jet planes are giving birth to an interdependent humanity that can create and implement global strategies to improve its prospects,” the report states. “It is increasingly clear that the world has the resources to address our common challenges. Ours is the first generation with the means for many to know the world as a whole, identify global improvement systems, and seek to improve them.”

The world is about to enjoy a prosperous future with an unprecedented ability to extend lifespan and increase the power of ordinary people. The life extension movement is growing exponentially and could be the next significant field targeted by venture capitalists as alternative energy and clean tech wane.

Made possible by soaring healthcare costs, unfunded Medicare-type liabilities in every industrialized nation, and the demographic aging of populations, the rapidly expanding life extension industry encompasses the commercialization of scientific findings from stem cell, genetic engineering, regenerative medicine, human enhancements, and other areas of health research.

“Advances in science, technology, education, economics, and management,” the report continues, “seems capable of making the world work far better than it does today.” Medical breakthroughs are offering the hope of defeating inherited diseases, tailoring cures to individual patients – and even creating replacement body parts.

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Genetic Engineering Promises "Designer Body" Future

July 28 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Other   Year: General   Rating: 4 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

“DNA scientists are moving ever closer to the day when genetically engineering people will become commonplace and easily affordable,” begins narrator Jeff Goldblum in a recent DNA series on PBS.

But some say this is no big deal. DNA has been making changes in every life form on earth throughout history. Plants and animals survived the ice age because nature changed their DNA to make them stronger. And prior to ancient Egyptian times, man began to influence DNA changes in plants, livestock, and pets with selective seeds and breeding.

In 1865 Gregor Mendel published the basic principles of genetics. By the early 1900’s, farmers from around the world began using Mendel’s techniques to improve crops by splicing genes from one strain into another.

Theodore Friedmann of UC San Diego says that although current gene transferring technology cannot do much, methods will almost certainly be developed in the near future that can modify most human genetic traits.

DNA’s power is nothing short of amazing. It enables life to begin as a tiny clump of atoms and grow into a human, animal, or plant. But sometimes, this mighty chemical makes mistakes – and cancer, heart disease, or other terrible sicknesses result.

The Human Genome Project has given scientists a better understanding of how mutated or damaged genes do their dirty work. Doctors can now correct genetic injustices like Down Syndrome, cystic fibrosis, mental illnesses, and other diseases, and scientists are finding more cures every day.

Massachusetts General Hospital researchers recently engineered mice to produce the beneficial fat found in salmon, and they claim this can someday be duplicated in humans. Instead of buying fish at the market to acquire this valuable nutrient, we will simply produce it in our body.

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Drug tries to offset 10,000 years of evolution

July 28 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Health & Medicine   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

Squirting a little nasal spray up the nose before mealtime is helping obese people shed an average of 50 lbs in a year. Nastech Pharmaceutical Company of Bothell, WA said its compound, known as PYY, addresses obesity and other ailments suffered by overweight patients – diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.

Statistics show that 65% of Americans are overweight and nearly half of them are considered obese. In an Associated Press interview, Nastech CEO Steven Quay stated that in tests, PYY reduced patients’ daily calorie intake by 30 percent.

PYY is a naturally occurring hormone that our body sends to the brain 45 minutes after eating to tell us we’re full. This mechanism kept our ancestors from eating too much, but it doesn’t kick in fast enough for people eating today’s high-calorie, high-fat foods. Obesity, researchers say, is a direct result of our inherited genes.

Diet expert S. Boyd Eaton in his book, The Paleolithic Prescription: A Program of Diet and Exercise and a Design for Living claims you are what you eat; and more importantly you also are what your ancestors ate. Millions of years of evolution shaped our need for specific nutrients.

Genes control every function of our body, and are essentially the same as those of our early ancestors. Feed those genes well, and they do their job – keeping us healthy. Give those genes nutrients that are unfamiliar or in the wrong ratios, and they speed up aging and lead to disease.

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