Artificial Heart, Artificial Intelligence & The Ethics Of Biomaterialisation – Madras Courier News

Kidney failure is treated with dialysis or, in the best-case scenario, a kidney transplant. Unfortunately, only around 10% of those who require a kidney transplant are able to receive one due to a scarcity of organs. The situation is very similar in the event of a heart failure and the organs’ unavailability for even contemplating a transplant. Such a situation leaves those in need of these organs with the option of choosing between death or opting to get an artificial organ implanted in them.
Certain organs in the human body might become damaged and need to be replaced with a synthetic organ or a prosthetic device. These replacement devices are always made of natural or synthetic polymeric materials. These ‘biomaterials’ must be compatible with the blood, bodily fluids, and the tissues they come into contact with. Most of these artificial devices are made entirely or partially of natural or synthetic polymers, partly owing to the broader range of qualities available.
Artificial organs are medical equipment with active mechanical or biochemical activities, such as the heart, lung, kidney, liver, pancreas, or neurosensory organs. They can be surgically implanted or placed extracorporeally (where blood is processed outside the patient’s body for a short period of time). Although the number of artificial organs in clinical use is still limited, much research and development have gone into devices with active biomechanical, biologic, or mass exchange capabilities. These innovations might originate from the domains of ‘machine learning’ and ‘computational intelligence,’ which are both parts of ‘artificial intelligence,’ a branch of engineering concerned with the development of devices that mimic intelligent behaviour.
In laboratories, scientists have successfully found a way to create hearts, livers, lungs, urethras, windpipes, and other organs. Although numerous challenges must be solved before these artificial organs may be used in regular hospitals, incredible medical advances have already been made. In September 2021, The Kidney Project, led by Shuvo Roy of University of California, San Francisco, and William Fissell of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), successfully implanted a smartphone-sized device for preclinical evaluation, combining the two main components of its artificial kidney, the hemofilter and the bioreactor. Another technological miracle, 3D printing, has also made it feasible to create artificial organs. When used in medicine, the technology is known as 3D bioprinting, and the results have already proven impressive.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and associated technologies are becoming more common in business and society, and they’re starting to show up in healthcare. Many elements of patient care may be transformed by these technologies. It is projected that, in the near future, Artificial Intelligence may take over the functionality of these artificial organs and procedures such as 3D bioprinting. Machines and systems are being extensively engineered to precisely reproduce human responses and used in conjunction with artificial intelligence. With such advances in medical technology, surgeons and data scientists are integrating artificial intelligence into modern practice.
Another advance in medical technology is the use of animals as organ donors for humans–a process known as ‘xenotransplantation’–is turning out to be a solution to the ongoing organ shortage. Though xenotransplantation was originally regarded to be a theoretical concept, tremendous progress has been achieved in the study of genetics and the knowledge of the immunological hurdles to the procedure.
According to the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a 57-year-old Maryland man has become the first person to receive a heart grown in a genetically altered pig, marking a medical first after years of research into whether pigs could be used to supplement a pressing shortage of human organs.
David Bennett had a terminal cardiac ailment, and the pig heart was his only alternative at the time. After reviewing his medical data, Bennett was found to be ineligible for either a traditional heart transplant or an artificial heart pump. Bennett recovered quickly following the eight-hour treatment in Baltimore, and this surgery was a groundbreaking step forward in the decades-long endeavour to use animal organs for life-saving transplants. Doctors have been interested in xenotransplantation for a long time in order to fulfil demand, with tests dating back to the 17th century.
But this also raises several questions about ethics. Can humans engineer–read tinker–with nature? Will the collection of data by artificial intelligence devices create a system where biological data is collected and hacked into? Are humans becoming more and more dependent on medical technology for their survival? If so, could it lead to a dystopian situation where humans gradually turn into bio-machines?
These are questions one needs to ponder. But it is equally important not to scuttle the progress in medical advances that enhance the quality of life.
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