Polymer is the New Morph
Body transformation figures prominently in such fairy tales as “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Juniper Tree.” New medical technologies may not change boys into birds or the monster-laden into attractive spouses, but they can radically transform both the quality and life expectancy for people suffering from a variety of ailments. Since 2008, several patients have had damaged windpipes replaced with new organs via stem cells, donated cartilage and 3-D printed bioplastics. Amazing, how the same science that gave us packing peanuts can rebuild a throat.
Since the first face replant in 1994, the first partial transplant in 2005, and the first full transplant in 2010, options for those with badly disfigured faces have expanded. The transformations, most often performed in the United States, Turkey, France and Spain, have become more natural looking. The longest of these surgeries lasts 36 hours, the shortest, eight. All this points to the day when additional breakthroughs will allow for head-to-toe reconfigurations on a whim.
Human life expectancy has nearly doubled over the past 100 years. Scientists are looking to prolong the typical human lifespan to 120 years or more by postponing frailty, disease and other ravages. The recent launch of efforts like geneticist J. Craig Venter’s Human Longevity, Inc. and Google’s Calico (California Life Company), LLC have transformed life extension research from a fringe project into a mainstream goal.
Not quite Methuselah, but still…
This edition of Fairy-Tale Files is brought to you by Fairy Tale Review intern Richard Leis and poetry editor Jon Riccio.