I once heard that the average life-span of a rock star is 37, or thereabouts. So I suppose we might consider those decades older who are still successfully plying their trade, what… survivors? And, unless cynically treading the nostalgia lucre, we might also admire their longevity. After all, what’s a professional musical entertainer supposed to do? I mean, it would be difficult, after all that adulation, to re-train for a more, err, prosaic occupation, wouldn’t it?
Fame and fortune nearly didn’t happen for left-handed, often underrated guitarist Tony Iommi. Over forty years ago, just as he was poising himself to become a full-time musician, an industrial accident deprived him of the tips of two fingers of his right hand. Undeterred, he improvised himself a couple of plastic and leather replacements, and the rest is history (well, most of it, anyway).
Now, in his early sixties, Iommi has reached another decisive crossroads. With painkillers and anti-inflammatories no longer alleviating the pain of repetitive strain injury, he has, in a bid to regenerate his shot digital cartilage, opted to undergo treatment with (and inevitably become celebrity endorsement for) adult stem cells.
Well, as one who possesses copies of much of his catalogue, I hope it goes well. However, I wonder where he’s had this done, and specifically how, and with what cells? Because the word on this street is that this is not yet a clinically validated treatment, with a quick reading around of the state of play regarding stem cell treatment for osteoarthritis (which sounds similar; ie, disintegration of cartilage) suggesting more relevance to football-worn knee types like me.
But I can’t afford it.
I suspect you will be able to afford it, sooner or later.
But you are right, these treatments are entirely experimental, still, although of course in clinical trials for a while.
Now that I see the clinical side from the inside as it were, I’m always a little taken aback at the blithe desire to experiment on people that doctors have – at least, those who want to cure patients. Sometimes that enthusiasm needs to be kept in check, but sometimes it probably gets them over obstacles that to a scientist, would appear insurmountable.
For example, for a developmental biologist, injecting multipotent stem cells grossly into a cavity and expecting that cavity some forty- to seventy-odd-years later to still be the kind of environment that would not only condition the cells to become cartilage but the right shape of cartilage seems premature at best. But then you’ll see, a doctor who knows a lot less about stem cells and developmental biology will try it, it will work, and no one will care much how it happened – at least, not until they develop a chondroosarcoma.
not until they develop a chondroosarcoma
That sounds painful, in any language. Tony could possibly have avoided all his problems by taking a leaf out of Django Reinhardt’s book.
Yeah. Chatting here with someone whose bag this is, we were wondering where you’d stick them for fingers; knee, yes (big cavity)??
Ahh, two fingers Django – brilliant! Or even better – cut down to one-string, a la Seasick Steve.
I suspect it wouldn’t take a lot of cells (so, fingers are still fair game), but then it might take a bit of time, I suppose.
I put one too many "o"s in chondrosarcoma for those of you quick on the draw.
I also have limited sympathy for creative types who can no longer exercise their art (well, not right away, but for those who can never adapt to the new life). It’s eminently possible to convert to another creative outlet. Probably that applies to creative scientist-types as well, but I’m not a good example of that right now. Check in when I’m blind, for example.
Hmmm. Not sure I’m totally with you there. It must be bloody hard, if it’s been your livelihood (and life) for a long time. And sometimes you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. However, I’m sure if and when he has to quit, there’ll be a book to be written.
Okay, so I was a bit harsh. It’s just that the ones we notice, are the ones who were successful at some point, and about whom one can say “how the mighty are fallen”. They probably have a lot to live on, and sufficient support to make that conversion into another artistic activity. What about a mediocre sitar player from Bhiwani, who just scrapes by and then starts in with the debilitating arthritis? I suspect it is not the same story, and the person will have to convert into something much further from their first professional career.
The advantages of wealth – you can also afford to sue if the treatment goes wrong.
“I once heard that the average life-span of a rock star is 37, or thereabouts”
But rock hasn’t been around that long, and many of the first rock stars are still alive! The ones that have died may have died young, but you can’t properly calculate until some of them at least get a chance to die of old age. (David Bowie seems to not age at all, though, so it might take a while.)
On the subject of tissue engineering, I saw some surprising results in a PNAS paper (careful how you pronounce that) yesterday.
Quite right, Eva (you are a scientist); it should read average age at death of dead rock stars, or something like that. Whatever, the ‘n’ is high; they were all sinners, apparently.
Who’d have thought rabbits needed any help, eh? Slipping bromide in their tea might be more apt.
@Frank – chuckle.
@Lee – good point.
@Eva – same for David Byrne – though he’s not exactly ancient yet, just getting on a bit.
I think the key issue is the definition of “rock star”. Depending who you count, that average age could vary widely.
Jane Wiedlin (sp?) also had issues with RSI or carpal tunnel syndrome, as I recall. I could be mis-remembering though.