Stem Cells Are Sweet


My dad says that he likes Rush Limbaugh. Honestly, I don’t believe him when he says it, but I want it to be perfectly clear that when I poke fun at Rush Limbaugh, it isn’t that I hate him (I don’t; it’s impossible to hate someone so stupid) it’s because it gets a rise out of my dad. I do it because, someday, my dad might take an interest in my blog and read this and we can have one of those political arguments where we both pretend to get angry but really it’s all in good fun. It’s mostly for his benefit. I’m not even sure if the image above is funny. It probably isn’t. But it was a fun photoshop job, nonetheless.

Anyway, there is this Futurama episode where all the characters get a tax rebate, and Professor Farnsworth spends his rebate on a vat of stem cells which cause him to look cosmetically younger. The image is of the old man dumping a whole jar of it on his head and instantaneously growing younger. Later, he learns that the true path to happiness is not in physical appearance, but in sex. It’s a great episode.

And this is what reminded me of it. Holy crap. Here’s the rundown: three patients had suffered extreme corneal damage and had lost their vision. What did the doctors do? Harvest some stem cells from the patients’ eyes, grow them in a culture, and then smear them on the damaged cornea. Almost exactly like the Futurama episode.

I mean… that’s what they did! Okay, sure, it’s a little bit more complicated than that, but essentially, that’s the basic gist. Here’s a quote from the surgeon: “The procedure is totally simple and cheap.” Since when to surgeons talk that way? Since stem cells got totally sweet, that’s when.

I can see it now. The future. Where all you have to do to live forever is let them scrape some skin cells, grow what amounts to a sort of jelly-like sludge out of your own living tissue, and then either use it as lotion or maybe even eat it. Does that amount to cannibalism if you’re eating your own cells? I don’t know if it even matters.

Here’s my big question: How did this get so easy? What happened to angioplasty? What happened to neurosurgery? The doctors of the future are going to be glorified appliers of lotion. All they’ll need is the patience of sourdough baker! Because that’s basically what they’re doing. They’re making the cellular equivalent of a sourdough culture and then smearing it on you.

It’s awesome and absurd at the same time to think that a solution so simple and so obvious too this freaking long to discover.

I was going to write about my take on Buddhism today. Maybe it’ll have to wait till Monday.

I am too stunned for words.