Geekend: Pardon Me, Is That A Nose On Your Arm? - InformationWeek

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1/3/2015
07:06 AM
David Wagner
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Geekend: Pardon Me, Is That A Nose On Your Arm?

Do we really need to grow replacement noses on arms and foreheads and other bizarre places? With 3D printing we could just order replacement body parts from Amazon.

There's an old joke that's in danger of becoming extinct. It goes: "I have a dog with no nose." The other person exclaims, "No nose? How does he smell?" The punchline: "Awful." Soon, no one, not even dogs in bad jokes, will have to go without noses or other parts because stem cell research is growing noses and using nasal cells to help the body heal elsewhere.

In the last year or two, scientists have shown success in multiple ways at regrowing noses. The first news came from England where stem cells were used to regrow a man's nose on his arm. The man was losing his nose to skin cancer. Doctors made a mold of the nose and grew a new one in the mold using stem cells. Three months later the man had a new nose (which, sadly, regulators have not yet allowed him to use).

Shortly after this came news from China where doctors regrew a man's nose on his forehead.

It's a little bizarre, sure. I bet these guys would rather have a nose in the traditional place for no other reason than finding a shirt that's "breathable" must be difficult. On the other hand, having no nose at all is both a cosmetic problem and a health issue. You'd probably be willing to grow a nose anywhere it took to have one again, too.

Recently, the same scientists who grew the arm nose have been able to grow noses, ears, and other small organs in the laboratory. They've implanted windpipes and tear ducts, but they're still waiting for regulatory approval to attach the nose.

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Assuming it all works, it's great news for victims of violence, soldiers, and others who have suffered facial injuries.

The nose is at the center, so to speak, of stem cell research in general. Stem cells from the nose have been used to repair other parts of the body. Nasal stem cells have been used to cure spinal injuries and Parkinson's Disease, for instance.

Why nasal stem cells? They are easier to harvest and less controversial than embryonic stem cells. They are literally the leftovers we throw away after sinus surgery. Adult stem cells like those from the nose (and from fat and blood and other locations) can replicate themselves.

There is a downside, though. Stem cell research, while amazing, still has some unknown long-term effects that require further study. For instance, a woman who was implanted with nasal stem cells eight years ago in an attempt cure her spinal injury not only did not recover from her injuries, but she discovered a mass growing in her back. When doctors removed the mass they found it was a nose. Not a complete nose, but enough of one to produce mucous.

On the bright side, 11 of the doctors' 20 patients showed improved mobility and feeling in their lower extremities after the nasal stem cell therapy.

Unfortunate situations like the nose on the back call into question whether we even need bodies to grow stem cells. Maybe we should choose 3D printing instead. Printed noses -- and other organs such as kidneys and livers -- are quite amazing. These organs also require stem cells but are built as whole units outside of the body, meaning they are less likely to produce unexpected body parts.

3D printing just might make stem cell research more palatable to regulators and those who are uncomfortable with stem cell therapies for religious or philosophical reasons. By combining the two we might reach the point where we can print and grow our own replacement parts just like we machine a new transmission for a model T.

Your next nose might come from a factory, fully grown, in a box shipped to you by Amazon and attached by your local surgeon. You might even grow a whole new face for yourself if you don't want to look like you anymore. And that might just be what you want to do, because if we can machine replacement parts, we're probably going to live a long time. We might want a change of face after a few centuries. You might get tired of looking at yourself in a mirror.

What do you think? Will we see the day of 3D-printed replacement body parts? How does your dog smell? Sound off in the Comments section.

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David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
2/3/2015 | 11:15:45 AM
Re: When will regulations catch up?
@kstaron, interesting point as technology do changes rapidly and legal regulation playing catchup... with it...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
2/3/2015 | 11:14:28 AM
Re: When will regulations catch up?
@Dave interesting point Dave make me think about history old question alive or not soul or soulless...
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/16/2015 | 5:09:32 PM
Re: When will regulations catch up?
A Person? See, now that's an interesting step. Because I'm pretty sure a surgeon right now could take a foot from one person, a hand from another person, a heart from someone else, and catalog all the different body parts and so them all together. I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have a person at the end of that exercise.

There's some sort of "spark of life" at the end of all these parts. I'm not going to call it a soul. I won't even call it a mind. But there's some condition that separates a collection of body parts that's alive from one that is dead. I think there's the trick we're not close to figuring out.
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
1/16/2015 | 4:17:20 PM
When will regulations catch up?
I remember when they were growing ears on mice, now we can grow our own noses (even if we can't attach them yet). Though I imagine 3D printing won't make the opponents of stem cell research any less nervous. Because if you can make an organ, eventually you can make a whole person and then you have a whole slew of ethical issues to wade through. How long do you think before the regulation catch up to the science so people can get the noses attached in the traditional place?
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
1/12/2015 | 8:20:33 AM
interesting
@Dave, interesting to know... it like asking are we changing technology or technology changing us... we are living in interesting times
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
1/7/2015 | 6:09:08 AM
Re: Into the future
Brian, 

Fascinating, indeed. It makes sense to me that technology, instead of medicine, is the one that will cure cancer and other conditions. If medicine didn't get a cure by now it probably won't. The nanobots coming to the rescue remind me of the movie Fantastic Journey. A group of scientists in a submarine were minitaturized and injected into the patient's blood stream because only being within the body they could perform a surgery he needed. 

Interesting. Yes, there is still a great pontential in 3D printing.

-Susan
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
1/6/2015 | 7:46:14 PM
Re: Into the future
Susan, great explanation of a series of events!

I had always assumed that medicine might be the only cure for cancer, but the way technology is progressing it seems that silicon could cure cancer.

Yes, I was referring to 3D printers that are used to printer tattoos. Technology has an overlapping aspect to it. 3D printers might help the creation of advanced precision control catheters that can help doctors to preform heart surgery, etc., until the Nano-bots arrive.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
1/6/2015 | 7:10:58 PM
Re: Into the future
Brian, 

Yes, around 2030 is what they said. Nanobots will help fight cancer and other conditions. If there is a nanobot already ready in your system by the time the first cell with cancer appears and then it's exterminated it's the end of it. 

You mean 3D printed tattoos? 

-Susan
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
1/6/2015 | 6:56:45 PM
Re: Into the future
Susan, if 2030 is a reasonable time-frame then, it will be interesting to see firsthand the advance of technology in the next 200 years, because Nano-bots should extend life by that amount of time at a minimum.

And speaking of needles, I have seen some great art work that has been applied to the human body using 3D printers. Artists sometime get the final result wrong -- 3D printers are good in this regard as well.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
1/6/2015 | 6:15:28 PM
Re: Into the future
Brian, 

We can have them by around 2030, according to what I have read. I almost got an NFC chip implanted last month at a bio-hacker summit. :D I changed my mind when I saw the needle. 

-Susan
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