Human Exceptionalism

Fantastic Voyage-Type Mini Robot in the Bloodstream–For Real

As regular SHSers know, I love non controversial biotechnology. Here’s another good example. If it works, it will be a case of life imitating, well not art exactly, but schlock.

Scientists have invented a mini robot that might be injected into a stroke patient’s blood stream with which to perform delicate surgeries–sort of a Fantastic Voyage without miniaturizing Raquel Welch to the size of a red blood corpuscle. From the story:

A tiny robot which could be injected into patients’ bloodstreams to carry out potentially life-saving operations has been designed by scientists. They hope that the minuscule “submarines”, which measure less than the width of two human hairs, could help surgeons treat stroke patients and those with dangerous heart conditions.

Of course, before something like this can be tested in living human beings, it must be first tried in large animals–after non animal work is completed:

The team has tested the device in human blood and artificial arteries and later this year it will begin experiments in pigs, whose arteries and brains are similar to humans, before proceeding to full-scale human trials. A spokesman for the Institute of Physics, which published the report, said that using the miniature robots could “save lives by reaching parts of the body, like a stroke-damaged cranial artery, that (other instruments) have previously been unable to reach.”

People who oppose animal research on moral grounds deserve our respect. But the cost of their perspective would be to not move forward with potentially life-saving research such as this, since it would be unethical to try it in humans before determining whether it appears safe and efficacious in living organisms. So, that leaves us with the inevitable hard choice: No research on pigs (in this case) or no chance for humans to benefit from this new technology.

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