The goal of anti-aging therapy is to prolong a healthy human existence. Replacement and repair therapies are likely to be more successful with organ systems like the kidney, the heart and the lungs which are quite mechanistic in character and lend themselves to piecemeal or whole organ replacement with either biological (cells/tissue) or synthetic parts (mechanical heart pumps).
I anticipate that brain repair or even replacement will be a major stumbling block in attempts to significantly extend good quality human life. It is currently possible to replace some central sensory input to the brain as with artificial vision and hearing systems which are computer chip based with electrodes implanted into specific brain areas. However repair and rejuvenation of these specific areas is still problematic. Dr Robert White , a neurosurgeon, from Cleveland was able to transplant entire brains between dogs and keep them alive. As this was a head transplant, sensations such as vision, hearing and taste were preserved.
However control of the body and feedback from the peripheral senses was lost. Another unsolved issue with significant transfer of replacement brain cells/tissue will be related to the nature of the association between the mind and the brain. Our experience with stoke and head injury has shown that this can be associated with significant changes in an individuals behavior and character. Thus we may be able to repair significant chunks of the human brain with stem cells, but the final product may produce a mind quite unlike the one that was repaired or rejuvenated! Despite this however I continue to believe that advances in cell and computer based technologies will help repair and replace the ravages of stokes, brain injury and dementia. Microsurgical techniques, endoscopic technology, robotics and stereotaxis are available currently for us to safely carry out repair and implantations into the human brain and spine.
The central nervous system also includes the spinal cord and peripheral nerves and future strategies will allow us to repair, replace and rejuvenate this entire system so that we will be able to avoid the fate of Dr White’s dogs. Solving the Mind-Brain interface issues may also allow us to download our personae into sophisticated computer systems either as a temporary storage while a entire new body/brain is being grown or as a back-up in case of sudden destruction of our bodies/brain/minds. It is clearly the beauty of our minds that has to be preserved at all costs as the body can be altered according to the tastes and fads of each new generation.
Presented at the Anti-Aging Conference, (Association of Anti-Aging Medicine) KL , 2006. Invited Speaker.