9 Reasons You Might Not Die Tomorrow 

Wednesday, Dec 26 2001

1. Beating-heart bypass surgery. Guided by a doctor’s hands, a robot named “Zeus” performs microsurgery on a 63-year-old man through a “keyhole” incision.

2. Artificial blood substitutes. Hemopure, developed by the U.S. biotech firm BioPure from purified cow blood, is approved for use in South Africa and will likely win U.S. approval next year. A second, rival, all-synthetic product, Oxygent, is undergoing safety trials.

3. Deep-level cancer therapy. Gleevec, the first of a new class of drugs designed to target cancer cells more precisely, is approved by the FDA in a record two-and-a-half months. Targeting the signaling proteins that cause cancer cells to divide uncontrollably, Gleevec has an over 90 percent success rate in putting into remission patients in the early stages of chronic myelogenous leukemia.

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4. The self-contained artificial heart. The AbioCor replacement heart is a 2-pound grapefruit-size device powered by a small external battery pack that transmits power through the skin. Though its goals are modest — six-month life expectancy with a reasonable quality of life — the new implant is a major step forward from the clunky Jarvik-7 hearts of the 1980s.

5. Remote robotic surgery. A surgical team in New York performs a gall-bladder operation on a patient 4,000 miles away in France. Robots receive instructions sent through fiber-optic lines across the Atlantic.

6. First cloned human embryo. Announced by Advanced Cell Technology.

7. Parkinson’s cured in mouse studies. Transplanted embryonic stem cells, grafted onto the brains of lab mice, transform into replacement brain cells for those destroyed by the disease. Researchers are poised to begin human trials pending government approval.

8. Human tissue grown from stem cells harvested from fat. Fat removed from a patient’s own body via liposuction could be used to repair injuries or treat diseases — potentially eliminating the need for embryonic stem cells. So far, researchers at UCLA and the University of Pittsburgh have grown these cells into human cartilage, bone and muscle.

9. Lowering body temperature prevents stroke damage.

Reach the writer at galimurung@laweekly.com

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