OZY on Biomedicine + Biotechnology
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because bioscience is making incredible strides in medicine — and giving humans their stride back via bionic legs. Plus, studying bioscience isn’t just for the supersmart anymore.
Today just as many Americans would like to think we represent the only frontier of medical innovation and bioscience. But that would be Falsch! The country that brought us Mercedes, Audi and BMW is attracting attention — and millions of American dollars — for its cutting-edge medical care. Such advances have caused a huge boom in the number of medical tourists traveling to Germany, nicknamed “the hospital of Europe.” Just ask a professional athlete. For those whose bodies are their livelihoods, Germany is the medical destination of choice. The country’s recent advances in medicine and medical technology are nothing short of astounding.
When 32-year-old Zac Vawter lost his right leg in a motorcycle wreck in 2009, the simple act of climbing stairs became a tricky balancing act. To avoid falling, he had to go up each step with his left leg first, hoisting his stiff, prosthetic leg behind him. Now, not only can the Seattle father of two climb stairs, but he also can scale a ramp and kick a soccer ball with ease — thanks to his bionic leg, which can produce a full range of ambulatory movements by reading his intention to move from a bundle of nerves just above his knee. We’re looking at a future in which bionic limbs might restore mobility. Soon after, minds will move objects. Before you know it, you’ll be sending that text or email with just your thoughts.
If you think that science happens only in shiny biotech companies and solemn university labs, think again. Genspace is only one of about 40 DIY biology (DIYbio) hackerspaces around the world, open to entrepreneurs, artists, students and pretty much anyone curious about biology. Their mission? To democratize biology, making it less the privilege of biotech and academia and more an enterprise accessible to anyone who wants to get their hands wet. After training new members in basic lab safety, hackerspaces provide access to equipment and reagents, training in scientific concepts and techniques, and, most of all, a supportive community.