Photograph: Dan Saelinger
What was once the stuff of science fiction is now turning into fact. Thanks to remarkable advances in scientists' understanding of stem cells, genes, bioengineering, and molecular pathways, we may soon be able to keep ourselves in tip-top shape for longer than we ever thought possible. Take a peek at your future self.
These "eyes" have restored partial vision to people with deteriorating retinas. The imitation peepers involve an implanted device that receives input from a tiny camera and a transmitter mounted on a pair of glasses. Images from the camera are converted into signals that the implant uses to stimulate retinal cells—allowing the brain's vision center to, in essence, see a rough version of what the camera sees. The device could be, for many people, a chance at second sight.
How Soon: Testing is under way at several universities. Early results are promising, and the technology could be available within a year.
Haircolor that Lasts
In June scientists from NYU Langone Medical Center announced their discovery that specialized signaling molecules can dictate the color of hair cells. Once they learn more about this process, they hope to develop a treatment for gray hair.
How Soon: Difficult to predict at this point, since this finding is just a first step.
Real Replacement Teeth
Dentists at Columbia University were able to grow new teeth in rats by implanting a tiny scaffold in the socket left empty by a lost tooth, then saturating the space with dental stem cells and growth factors (substances strained from the blood and jawbone that promote tissue growth).
How Soon: The technique could be ready for the public in about five years, pending FDA approval.