Sometime around Christmas Mikhail Batin, President of the Science for Life Extension Foundation, and I gave talks at the headquarters of one quite famous journal called Science and Life. This journal is sort of like a Russian version of Popular Mechanics or Scientific American. The idea of this “media club” is to enlighten the journalists about emerging technologies like personalized genomics, synthetic biology and possible life extension therapies. This meeting was about regenerative medicine. My talk was a brief overview of the field, what it consists of and when and which organs were engineered in the lab. Here’s the presentation I showed to the audience. You are most welcome to download and use it in the way you like.
Category Archives: Regenerative medicine
It seems to be an extremely interesting conference. Just to highlight a couple of talks: Engineering functional liver tissue, Nanofibers and iPS cells for neural regeneration, Exploring stem cell niche interactions at single cell resolution. Take a look at the whole program. I believe it’s worth visiting, because regenerative medicine is one of the ways of life extension.
Regenerative medicine has the potential of being the first solution to the problem of aging. In several years we’ll be able to repace damaged or diseased organs with the new grown ones. The video shows how it can be done. I found the story about the decellularized rat heart scaffold amazing. They actually show what a scaffold looks like and it’s beautiful.
Over a 16-year period, Panagiotis Tsonis at the University of Dayton, Ohio, and colleagues removed the lenses of six Japanese newts (Cynops pyrrhogaster) 18 times. After each excision, the lenses regenerated. They did so not from remaining lens tissue, but from pigment epithelial cells in the upper part of the iris. There was no documented decline in regenerative capacity neihter due to aging, nor to repetition.
The paper published in Nature Communications reports: “In addition, despite beliefs that aged animals regenerate less efficiently than young ones (also discussed by Darwin), our experiments show that this is not the case in the newt. As regenerative medicine has entered a new era, the knowledge that aged tissues possess robust regenerative capabilities should provide the impetus to identify mechanisms underlying this capacity in the newt and compare them with strategies being employed to promote mammalian regeneration, such as the creation of iPS cells.”
Unfortunately, the authors don’t discuss possible mechanisms underlying such an extraordinary capacity. This absolutely has to be studied, because these mechanisms, when identified, may shed light at how we can manipulate mammalian and human cells in order to trigger at least somewhat similar effects. I find restoration of own regenerative capacity to be a very potent way of extending our lives, therefore this work in newts and other animals with fantastic regenerative abilities has to be continued and multiplied. Any ideas about how this may be done are welcome.
DARPA‘s budget for next year includes funding for all kinds of wild new medical technologies for military medicine, from electromagnetic tissue regeneration to a machine that can suck your blood out, clean it, and then fill you back up.
DARPA is making a major push to try to reduce battlefield casualties, and they’re pouring a lot of money into new technologies to help soldiers recover from injury. The blood-sucking machine is part of a ‘Dialysis-Like Therapeutics’ program designed to combat sepsis, which is caused by toxins in the blood. Basically, DARPA is looking for a system that can filter up to 5 liters of blood at a time, identifying and removing bacteria and viruses and poisons and other toxic stuff and then returning clean blood back into the body.
Also on the table are new autonomous diagnostic sensors that can detect both known and unknown diseases and come up with fast and effective treatments, and tissue regeneration technology that uses hordes of individually magnetized cells controlled by electromagnetic fields to encourage natural ‘scaffolding’ to promote the rapid healing of wounds.
One other exciting little nugget that somehow falls under the medical category for DARPA is the creation of artificial eyes that see as well as the biological eyes of animals. From the sound of things, the end result of the Neovision2 program will be little electronic eyeballs that can learn and recognize objects as quickly as we can, that can be tossed into dangerous situations and report back what they see. Plus, throwing disembodied eyeballs around just generally sounds like a good idea and a lot of fun!
Surgeon Anthony Atala of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center used lab-grown urethras to treat patients with damaged urinary tracts.
Five boys aged 10 to 14 were involved in the study and it took place at the Federico Gomez Children’s Hospital in Mexico City. Basically, Atala took each patient’s bladder cells and grew the cells on a scaffold. After about four to seven weeks, the cells grew into an ideal structure on the mesh-like tube and soon enough, the cells were ready for implantation.
At that point, the damaged tissue was removed and surgically replaced with the regenerative tissue custom-made for each patient. The urethra function in the male patients returned to normal and it only took three months. Even six years in, the tissue appeared to be working normally. Currently, treatment for damaged urethras involves skin grafts – but the failure rate of skin grafts is about 50 percent.
Researchers, working with mice, found that a portion of the heart removed during the first week after birth grew back wholly and correctly – as if nothing had happened.
“This is an important step in our search for a cure for heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the developed world,” said Dr. Hesham Sadek, assistant professor of internal medicine and senior author of the study available online in the Feb. 25 issue of Science. “We found that the heart of newborn mammals can fix itself; it just forgets how as it gets older. The challenge now is to find a way to remind the adult heart how to fix itself again.”
Previous research has demonstrated that the lower organisms, like some fish and amphibians, that can regrow fins and tails, can also regrow portions of their hearts after injury.
For the Science for Life Extension Foundation the main result of the year was the first in Russia unique transplant surgery of a trachea grown from the patient’s own stem cells inside her body. The surgery based on Professor Paolo Macchiarini’s technique was carried out in December in the Petrovsky Research Center of Surgery of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences in Moscow.
The Foundation spent a full year and a half in order to bring this technology to Russia. We fully financed this project and organized the work between all the collaborators – Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Petrovsky Research Center of Surgery, Careggi University Hospital in Florence, pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers of biomaterials. The total cost of the project was $330, 000.
Last summer when we learned about the unique surgeries done by Macchiarini, we went to Barcelona where he was the Head of the Thoracic Surgery Department in the Hospital Clinic. We agreed to have him visit Moscow to share his experience with Russian specialists. In February 2010, Paolo gave a master class in the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. It was at that time when an agreement was reached on introducing his technique in Russia.
In August 2010 Macchiarini came to Russia again to sign the research and clinical collaboration contract with the Petrovsky Research Center of Surgery. Earlier this fall the Foundation organized the training for the employees of the Petrovsky Center in the Department of Regenerative Surgery and Bio-transplantation at the Careggi University Hospital in Florence, where Professor Macchiarini is the current department head.They studied the process of trachea preparation for transplantation and could watch the surgery live. Previously, there had been seven other tissue engineered trachea transplants that were performed in Western Europe and none in the US.
So, on December, 7 such a surgery was carried out in Moscow. The patient was a 26-year old woman. In 2006 she was hit by a car where she sustained very serious injuries, went through a clinical death and stayed comatose for several months. She was unable to breathe on her own and had a tube in her trachea for a long time. As a result the trachea was damaged. Doctors in Kazakhstan, Israel and China couldn’t help the girl breathe normally. She required constant medical attention and was forced to permanently live in a clinic with frequent surgical interventions..
Then the patient’s mother took her to Moscow, so that she could undergo surgery using Macchiarini’s technique. The technology is as follows: a trachea taken from a dead donor is treated with special compounds until there’s no donor cells left, which elliminates the rejection problem and there’s no need to supress the patient’s immune system. Before the transplantation, the obtained scaffold is treated with the patient’s bone marrow cells and also cells from the mucosa, so that the inner mucosa of the treachea can be formed afterwards. Plus the growth factors are added. There’s also a biodegradable stent placed inside the new trachea. The patient’s body in this case plays a role of the bioreactor, inside of which the new healthy organ is formed during a couple of weeks.
Right now the patient is ready to be discharged – she can talk, breathes much better, is able to walk and undergo a physical load.
This surgery is a great beginning to the implementation of regenerative medicine technologies into human clinical practice. These technologies provide a wide perspective for treating severe illnesses associated with loss of vital organs and tissues and also has let Russian research and clinical institutions become a major player in the international consortium for regenerative medicine.
Researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have recently made functional human intestinal tissue from pluripotent stem cells. The researchers project that this will push the boundaries of research into how the intestines develop and work. It will also help with understanding the diseases that affect this organ and aid in producing intestinal tissues for transplant.
The study’s senior investigator, James Wells, Ph.D, stated that this was the first time cells in a petri dish were programmed to efficiently mimic the cell structures of human intestinal tissue. Regarding the future applications of this find, he said, “The hope is that our ability to turn stem cells into intestinal tissue will eventually be therapeutically beneficial for people with diseases such as necrotizing enterocolitis, inflammatory bowel disease and short bowel syndrome.”
Funding of life extension research is extremely close to zero. It lookes like there’s just a couple of men interested in their own lives. The rest seems to want to die. One of those few smart businessmen, Jason Hope announced a half a million dollar donation to the SENS Foundation, a California-based non-profit organization that works to develop, promote and ensure widespread access to rejuvenation biotechnologies which comprehensively address age-related diseases.
“I have had great interest in the SENS Foundation and Dr. Aubrey de Grey’s work for some time now. I believe their work is essential to the advancement of human medicine and their approach to the overall problem of human aging and its associated diseases (Alzheimer’s, Atherosclerosis, Diabetes, etc.) is the only way to go. Their work and the work of others that they support will drive the complete redefinition and reshaping of the healthcare, pharmaceutical, and biotech industries as we know them today. The advancement of rejuvenation biotechnologies is not only extremely important, but it is the future. I am honored to support the SENS Foundation in its efforts, and hope my support helps drive faster results for all of humanity,” said Jason Hope.
The donation was announced by SENS Foundation CEO, Mike Kope, at Tuesday’s ‘Breakthrough Philanthropy’ event hosted by the Thiel Foundation, in the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco – an event that was covered here on my blog this past week.
“We need to create an entirely new biotech industry. That’s why we created SENS Foundation: to be a credible catalyst for change; to be a public research and outreach organization devoted to the creation of a new field- rejuvenation biotechnology. To that end, we are proud that our projects are capturing the imaginations of top tier collaborators in biotech and regenerative medicine. Jason Hope’s donation is a major contribution, enabling us to build on our existing collaborations in 2011, and accelerating our progress in the fight against age-related disease,” said Mike Kope
“I enjoyed hearing a lot of great presentations at the Breakthrough Philanthropy event,” said Thiel Foundation chairman Peter Thiel. “But for me, the highlight of the whole evening was hearing about Jason’s bold commitment to defeating aging.”
SENS Foundation CSO, Aubrey de Grey, described the use to which Hope’s donation will be put:
“Arteriosclerosis – hardening of the arteries – is the main cause of increased blood pressure (hypertension) in the elderly, which in turn exacerbates major aspects of aging such as diabetes. It is caused largely by the unwanted accumulation of molecular bonds between the proteins that hold the cells of the artery in place – the extracellular matrix. The same process causes long-sightedness (presbyopia) and contributes to skin aging. I am delighted that Jason’s donation will fund our work on the pharmacological breaking of these unwanted molecular bonds, and the restoration of elasticity to the body’s extracellular matrix.”