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Onstage now is Robert Freitas (who also spoke yesterday). Today he's talking about nanomedicine (abstract here).

Freitas spent a long time talking about the respirocyte. If you'll forgive me for quoting myself, here's a quick description:

Take, for example, the “respirocyte,” an artificial red blood cell about which Freitas has theorized. Respirocytes, capable of delivering oxygen hundreds of times more efficiently than real red blood cells, would be invaluable in the treatment of various respiratory and cardiovascular disorders, or as a substitute for real blood during transfusions. But they would also have “a variety of sports, veterinary, battlefield and other applications”; they could be used to boost a mountain climber’s endurance, to help a diver hold his breath for hours, or to enable a soldier to fight harder.

And the respirocyte is among the simplest medical nanomachines imaginable. Others might be able to repair cells and fix damaged DNA; to remove toxins, clean out cholesterol, and eliminate scar tissue; to destroy cancer cells and fight countless diseases.

Freitas has some interesting animations of respirocytes, which makes them look like mini-Death Stars. I'll try to get some video up soon.

He's also talking about several other kinds of nanorobots used for medicine: the nanosubmarine (for chopping away at deposits that clog arteries), the vasculocyte (a multi-purpose nanobot), the clottocyte (assists in clotting to stopping bleeding), and the microbovore (an artificial white blood cell). He's got some great video showing how these things might look and work. Details on these things can be found in his Nanomedicine books.

Incidentally, Freitas isn't a trained physicist or trained chemist. In fact, he's got a law degree. I mention this because the fellow sitting behind me is going to law school at Georgetown Law, here in Washington. I'm not sure what to make of this.

UPDATE: I was clearly not the first person to note the respirocytes' resemblance to the Death Star. Somebody from Foresight sneaked this slide onto the end of his PowerPoint presentation (the respirocyte is the round blue thing on the left, click to enlarge):


October 23, 2004 in Applications | Permalink


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