Popular Mechanics: The Upgradable You

The May 2006 issue of Popular Mechanics has a number of articles on the theme: Redefining the Human: The Upgradable You. Some excerpts:

“Evolution has done its best, but there’s a limit to how many plug-and-play neural implants, supercharged blood cells, strong-as-steel bone replacements and mind-controlled PCs you can expect from randomly colliding natural forces. Wanna be Superman? Better call the engineers…

“Robert Freitas, a research fellow at the Institute of Molecular Manufacturing, has published a detailed blueprint for an artificial red blood cell, which he calls a respirocyte. Injected into the bloodstream, these superefficient oxygen-grabbers could put the scuba industry out of business.

“As Freitas envisions it, each respirocyte–a ball measuring a thousandth of a millimeter across–is a tiny pressurized gas tank. Inject the balls and they course through the blood vessels, releasing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide in the body’s periphery and recharging themselves with oxygen in the lungs. Freitas says respirocytes would transport oxygen 236 times more efficiently than red blood cells–and a syringeful could carry as much oxygen as your entire bloodstream.

“It seems like an oddball idea, but Freitas actually has some competition. A group of NASA-funded bioengineers at the Universities of Pennsylvania and Minnesota have created double-walled artificial cells, called polymersomes, that can potentially float through the bloodstream loaded with cargo: cancer-zapping drugs, imaging agents–and, yes, extra oxygen…

“NANOBOTS: THE TINIEST DRIVETRAINS

“One day, tiny robots may roam the body, cleaning cholesterol from arteries, attacking tumors, even penetrating cells to repair DNA. Surprisingly, the toughest challenge will be finding ways to propel and power the biobots. Here’s what’s taking shape in labs” followed by descriptions of magnetic torpedoes, battery-powered crawlers, bacteria in harness, and stealth polymers.

Don’t miss this on the first page: “click here to see additional photos and some animations of nanobots in action.” See also the large graphic (600 KB pdf) on prospects for human lifespan and body enhancement through 2050. (Credit: Instapundit) —Christine

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