Chapter Seventeen

Mark Twain once wrote that “Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.”

Moore’s Law: In 1965, Gordon Moore saw that the number of transistors that could fit on a microchip doubled every two years. In simpler, non-microchip terms, imagine that it looks like this: 2 + 2 = 4, but then two years later, 4 + 4 = 8, 8 + 8= 16, and so on.

Bioengineering: The use of technology to alter biological processes.

Neural Decoding: By using math and computer algorithms, nerve signals can be decoded by taking neural data, looking for patterns in the data, and connecting those patterns to a goal: either movement, stimulus, or disease activity.

Neural Interfacing: The use of technology to record information happening in the nervous system to allow for more targeted electrical stimulation to treat disabilities or diseases where neural function is disrupted. As more research is conducted, eventually there will be a device that can listen in on the immune system and respond to its needs in real-time.

Lab Notes:

If Moore’s Law is applied to bioelectronic medicine, it means that for every advancement in technology and bioengineering and every new discovery of new molecular targets and neural pathways, that knowledge will continue to double rapidly. Devices will get smaller and more precise, and they will have greater physiological outcomes to benefit patients. What’s more, these advancements will allow devices to respond to stimuli in real-time before the stimuli become a symptom.

The vagus nerve is made up of between 80,000 to 100,000 fibers, each sending specific neural signals back and forth between the immune system and the brain. Communicating back and forth between the brain and the immune system, each fiber has a different responsibility: digestion, heart rate, inflammation, insulin, bleeding....

By decoding neural signals, bioengineers use that information to develop devices to manipulate molecular targets. Think of a neural signal as either the nerve itself or a specific fiber in the nerve. An example of a molecular target is inflammation or even insulin. If they know which signal controls inflammation, they can create a device that manipulates both the signal (the nerve) and the target (the inflammation). Another target could be the production of insulin – or even bleeding.

While science advances rapidly at the speed of Moore’s Law, acceptance of progress often follows a longer arc. In 1900, Lord Kelvin announced at the British Association of Science that, “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.”

Meanwhile, in Zurich, Einstein was working out his theory of relativity and spacetime.

While more than a century separates us from those milestones, the bones of dogma haven’t changed much. The idea that humanity has reached its peak follows each generation, yet progress prevails.

Curiosity leads to new knowledge; new knowledge uncovers new questions; new questions advance curiosity; curiosity leads to new knowledge – like a closed-loop device, as is the pursuit of progress.  


CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Uncovered

After the recovery room, I was wheeled back up to my room for a few hours, sore but not feeling too terrible.

The hospitalist on the floor came in and said that I could go home that evening.

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