DeFlip Side #78: TALES FROM THE 21st CENTURY!!!!!


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Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

And tonight I bring you TALES FROM THE 21St CENTURY!!!!

It’s so easy to overlook what amazing times we live in. We’re especially lucky as Science Fiction fans, because the bright bold future so often bandied about in our genre is no longer the stuff of pulp speculation. That future is now. I once heard Sir Arthur C. Clarke say live to 2000, and live forever. He also said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Makes you think of hovercraft on the moons of Saturn or something.

So who could have guessed that the truth of both of those maxims would be borne out by something as primitive as pig bladders, and in Pittsburgh of all places? Doesn’t sound very futuristic. But hobby shop owner Lee Spievack would probably disagree. Spievack lost the tip of his finger to a model airplane propeller, hacked right off down to the base of the nail. Luckily for him, his brother was working with researcher Stephen Badylak at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburg. And Dr. Badylak happened to have just the thing: a magic powder that would grow the finger back. No kidding. The entire tip of Spievack’s finger grew back, like new, nail and all, in about four weeks. In fact, the restored nail still grows twice as fast as the others.

And that magic powder? It’s called extra cellular matrix and it’s made from pig bladders. What they do is take the pig bladders and scrape them down to the connective tissue. Once you wash away the last of the pig cells, you’re left with an ultra thin, ultra tough sheet of collagen that you can mold into any shape you like, or—as in Spievack’s case—grind down into a powder. You then implant or apply in the damaged area and the collagen acts as kind of a scaffolding where your body can form new cells. As Dr. Badylak explains in this interview with CBS News:

“It tells the body, start that process of tissue re-growth…  It will change the body from thinking that it’s responding to inflammation and injury, to thinking that it needs to re-grow normal tissue.”

The prospects of this regenerative technique are so promising that the government has sanctioned trials on returning veterans who have lost fingers. Dr. Badylak is also advocating the use of extra cellular matrix to repair the esophagus in the event of esophageal cancer. He feels that the therapy will go mainstream within the next five to seven years, depending on the success of these early trials. And the innovation doesn’t stop there. Badylak’s colleagues are developing regenerative applications to heal burn wounds, with the hopes of re-growing healthy skin and eliminating the need for skin grafts. Others regenerative researchers are pursuing advances in cardiac care. The implications are truly astounding.

And most astounding of all, the scientists say they really have no idea how it all works, how the extra cellular matrix galvanizes the body into repairing itself. In other words, it’s sufficiently advanced as to be indistinguishable from magic.

Now once they really get cooking on this, re-growing limbs and skin and organs on demand—in other words, when this miraculous medical technique renders man immortal—it should make you happy to know that we can bring man’s best friend along for the ride.

That’s because a South Korean biotech company named RNL Bio has just taken its first order to clone a pet dog. Yes, as surely as Russian dogmonaut Laika ushered in the space age with her 1957 flight aboard Sputnik 2, so will the age of commercial cloning be heralded by the second coming of a Pit Bull Terrier from California named Booger. Yep. Booger. Booger won’t be the first cloned pooch, of course. That distinction goes to an Afghan hound named Snuppy, successfully cloned by the same Korean company in 2005.

But Booger is the first dog that a private citizen is shelling out good hard cash to re-create—$150,000, in fact. The big spender is a California woman named Bernann McKunney. Booger actually died about a year-and-a-half ago, and McKunney had part of the pit bull’s ear preserved by an American biotech firm in the hopes that she would one day be able to welcome home Booger, version 2.0.

And why is McKunney so attached to Booger that she’s willing to part with 150 grand just to see him again? Well, part of the reason, she said, is because Booger saved her life when another dog attacked her and bit off her arm.

I kid you not. Bit off her arm. Maybe while she’s waiting on the Korean scientists to make with the goods, she can go visit Dr. Badylak at the center for regenerative medicine in Pittsburg. By the time he’s done with her, she’ll be able to greet the new Booger with open arms.

At one time I no doubt would have called Bernann McKunney nuts. 150 g’s for a lousy dog? Please. But then a little white furball came along and drowned out all of my reason.

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This is my dog, Lily, giving me what I’ve come to regard as the news from the south. This litany of inquisitive and expressive barking greets me every night when I come home from work. It may sound like yapping to you, but she’s really telling me about her day: the bones she’s been chewing, the squirrels she’s chased and all the countless life-threatening dangers she’s warded off while on perimeter duty in the backyard. It’s just one of her countless little personality quirks that I have come to love so much. This in itself is a shock, because before Lily, my motto was “Pets: You don’t need ’em.” Now I can’t bear the thought of life without her. And I routinely tell my wife that we can never get another dog once she’s gone, because it wouldn’t be fair to the new dog—they could never live up to the Lily standard in my eyes.

But now that new dog can be the old dog. And I’ll be able to love her with all of my freshly regenerated heart. Astounding? Amazing? Nope. It’ll be just another of the countless TALES FROM THE 21ST CENTURY.

Science Fiction ain’t got nothing on the real thing.

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