My recent viewing of Ben Stein's movie, Expelled, coupled with my lighthearted post on nanotechnology this past Tuesday had already put me in a science-y kind of mood when I fell upon the above story that I found in London's Daily Mail.
When looking at the photos it looks impressive but, as is often the case in stories like these which seem too incredible to be true it probably is. (Also any story in which Pixie dust is major factor should probably bring out the skeptic in you pretty quickly.) The problems with pulling off the kind of regrowth seen above are many:
According to Dr Minger, while it could be theoretically possible that a man has regrown his finger by sprinkling it with powdered pig bladder, it seems unlikely.While this story and the accompanying pictures are interesting, the truth is that real clinical tests will be needed to determine what exactly is going on here. Hopefully they'll be done and there will be some follow-up to this story at some time in the not-too-distant future.
The problem is that a fingertip, while appearing simple, is actually a very complex structure. It consists of skin, fat, connective tissue, bone, tendon, nerves and blood vessels as well as the quite complex apparatus which grows the fingernail.
All these complex tissues would have to grow in the right order and in the right proportions and positions in relation to each other.
Somehow, the collagen dust would have to persuade the healing stump tissue not to simply form a scar but to trick it into behaving as it would have done when Mr Spievack's fingers were growing in his mother's womb.
Stories like this one, the nanotech and Intelligent Design stories raise a host of interesting issues that have implications in all sorts of areas, the political, the social, the economic, the religious, etc. If fingers can be regenerated, what about hands, arms, hearts, eyes, whole bodies? And if your body can be regenerated, what does that mean for the average human life expectancy? What if we can live for 100 years? 1,000? Longer? How would that affect society? Our relationships? The fact is that while the above may be mere speculation that never materializes in the real world, other big changes are coming and if they're going to be changes that are beneficial for humanity we need to have some sort of ethical framework in which to deal with them.
I think these are pretty interesting issues and every now and again I'd like to return to them. If they're interesting to you too, let me know. Could be fun.
I'd like to thank Aurora from The Midnight Sun, whose comments on the nanotech post got me to thinking about these issues as much as the stories themselves did. Thanks!
Barking Moonbat howls at this story, too.