A team of scientists have created the first modular body—a living, organic being that isn’t alive and is powered by technology. The organism, named OSCAR, was created by biologist Cornelis Vlasman. It is a proof-of-concept for his theory that an organism can comprise multiple parts that work together to form a single entity. The idea behind this experiment is that scientists will one day be able to grow organs from different sources and then connect them together to create a new organism.
Meet OSCAR: The Fictional Modular Body
Biologist Cornelis Vlasman, in a fictional experiment, created OSCAR – a living, organic being formed from his own cells and powered by technology. He is what they call a “modular body“. The experiment was meant to illustrate how science is blurring the lines between life and non-life. (1)
“We believe this technology will one day be used in the medical field,” said Vlasman. “For example, if someone needs an organ transplant but does not have the time or resources to wait for it, we could take all of their cells and grow them into an organ.”
How They Did It
Vlasman’s team grew OSCAR by taking some of his own stem cells. They then used a 3D printer to create a scaffold made of biodegradable material. The stem cells were placed inside the scaffold, where they grew and multiplied into billions of cells. They then added an artificial heart pump, which circulated fluid through OSCAR’s body so that his organs could form properly.
“We also had to make sure that all of the blood vessels within OSCAR’s body would work like they do in real life,” said Vlasman. “This meant pumping blood through these vessels until they formed correctly.”
OSCAR has no brain or nervous system—it is just a body—but it can be hooked up to an artificial heart pump and an artificial lung to keep it “alive“. The researchers hope that their technology will one day be used in humans. They say it could help children with disorders like Down syndrome, who are born with underdeveloped organs and have a very short lifespan. (2)
Applications of OSCAR
There are many potential applications of modular bodies like OSCAR. These can help when it comes to human health, healing diseases, and testing drugs and treatments for various diseases, illnesses, and conditions. The applications of modular bodies include:
- Testing drug safety and efficacy in a human-like model, which could speed up the development process for new drugs.
- Studying how organs interact with each other and respond to different drugs and conditions.
- Researching the effects of aging and disease on organs that are relevant to humans.
- Conducting research on rare disorders like Down syndrome, which can have implications for other diseases.
- Studying how the body reacts to infection, which could lead to new treatments for diseases like tuberculosis.
- Research on how organs react in different environments, such as space or on another planet.
- Studying the effects of radiation and other adverse conditions, which could lead to new treatments for cancer or other diseases.
- Studying how organs react when transplanted into different animals and vice versa.
This Was Only Fictional
Now, it is important to note that this was purely a fictional experiment. The purpose of it was to push the boundaries between traditional thought and what we might actually be capable of creating. If scientists are able to successfully create “living” modular bodies, the applications could be massive. People involved in traumatic accidents could have better outcomes, those suffering from various diseases could suffer no longer – the possibilities could quite literally be endless. It will certainly be interesting to see how this science progresses in the next few years.
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- “The Modular Body.” Next Nature
- “Scientists Have Built the First Modular Body—a Living Being That Isn’t Alive.” Popular Mechanics. Tim Newcomb. February 1, 2023.