Stem Cells or Cyborgs

Posted by Ralph | 11:27 AM

All over the world people like you and I live with Spinal Cord Injuries and look forward to the Stem Cell as the cure for our condition. I do think that stem cell therapies hold a lot of promise for all disabled people, but not me. Don't get me wrong, I would go through the procedure any day, but I would much rather be bionic.

The media reporting on stem cells is ridiculous. Adult or Embryonic, each term sends the scientists and theologians, politicians and lay people spinning, confusing what the core issue is, improving a paralyzed persons quality of life. What never ceases to amaze me is that people would even debate on the subject of helping us to live, function and walk again. Bionics and prosthetics on the other hand completely eliminate most of those debates.

Stem Cell Therapies are being performed in Portugal, China and other places. Different doctors do different procedures, based on what their cultures dictate to them. Dr. Carlos Lima in Portugal works with the patients own nasal stem cells or OEC's. Dr. Huang Hongyun of Beijing, China is the maverick of the field, working with the ever contoversial fetal or embryonic stem cell. Both have had limited successes, but far more people have left with tens of thousands of dollars for the treatment and come back dissapointed and broke. Stem Cell Therapy is considered the "Grail" of medical science and I'm sure that one day it will be found.

Bionics and the vision of the cyborg are not new ideas either. "This merging of the evolved and the developed, this integration of the constructor and the constructed, these systems of dying flesh and undead circuits, and of living and artificial cells. have been called many things: bionic systems, vital machines, cyborgs. They are a central figure of the late Twentieth Century. . . . But the story of cyborgs is not just a tale told around the glow of the televised fire. There are many actual cyborgs among us in society. Anyone with an artificial organ, limb or supplement (like a pacemaker), anyone reprogrammed to resist disease (immunized) or drugged to think/behave/feel better (psychopharmacology) is technically a cyborg. The range of these intimate human-machine relationships is mind-boggling. It's not just Robocop, it is our grandmother with a pacemaker." [Cyborg Handbook, 322]

In the eyes of the blind a new bionic eye has been developed that will allow the blind to see again. A man who lost both both his arms has received limbs that although crude, function better than nothing. Jesse Sullivan has a video online demonstrating the functions of his new limbs. Claudia Mitchell, a 26 year old U.S. Marine also received a bionic arm from RIC. This arm is controlled by thought alone. Using it Ms Mitchell, 26, can now fold clothes, eat a banana and do the washing up.

At a press conference in Chicago to reveal her new arm to the world, Ms Mitchell said: "I can move my elbow up and down and I can open and close my hand simply by thinking that that's what I want to do."

I worry about what will happen with my body that has been "fixed" with stem cells. I have already broken my neck, drowning face down in a lake while completely conscious and I don't wan't to feel that again. Stem Cells are just as delicate as the cells they are replacing. It might sound crazy to alot of people but I wan't to be a cyborg. Stronger, faster, more durable and impervious to physical pain. The whole concept is awesome and the technologies are growing rapidly.

The person is always more than the sum of their parts but if we could have different parts, parts resistant to the ravages of age, disease and condition we might just be a little better off. What about you? If you could choose, would it be Stem Cells or Cyborgs?

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