The latest issue of AARP The Magazine has a nice round-up of "amazing medical discoveries" that could benefit older adults. Among the advances that made the cut were artificial retinas, transcranial magnetic stimulation for depression and, perhaps the coolest-sounding, "grow your own" organs:
[Anthony] Atala's lab, in the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was the first to build functioning organs from scratch — bladders that were reconstructed in nine children whose own organs did not function properly. In those cases researchers built a biodegradable scaffolding shaped like a bladder, seeded it with bladder and muscle cells from the patient, and implanted it into the child's body. One of the children — now a college junior — was in kidney failure when he got his new bladder 10 years ago. He went on to become captain of his high school wrestling team.
The lab has since expanded its experiments to include more than 30 tissues and body parts...
Growing the organs is a slow and painstaking process, and investigators also need to follow patients over time to confirm the organs' safety and durability. It will likely be a decade or more before these bioengineered organs are commonplace, but Atala is committed: "I've made it my mission to get this technology to patients."