Monthly Archives: September 2011

The First Political Meeting on Immortality in History

It says: “150 years of life for everyone.” This is one of the posters shown at the meeting on immortality that took place on Saturday, September 24 in the very center of Moscow, right across the street from the famous Bolshoy Theater. It was such a great gathering. I loved the atmosphere. Approximately 100 people came to support immortality, creating new technologies, regenerative medicine, genomic research and everything related to fighting aging and radical life extension. Here are some pictures from this superb meeting that left me with a warm feeling and positive impression.

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SENS5 Conference on Aging and Regenerative Therapies was Fantastic

And here’s why. I wrote some notes about the talks I found interesting. The ones that I haven’t listed were also very exsiting.

1. Bio-electrospraying is a novel method of forming an engineered organ

Dr. Suwan Jayasinghe from the University College London shared the successful work of his scientific group in electrospraying cells to form viable structures. The common methods of creating biological scaffolds with living cells are ink jet printing and electrospraing. Dr. Jayasinghe explained that bio-electrospraying is a quite promising new methods, not only because it doesn’t damage the cells, but also becuase it allows to manipulate with cell drops of smaller diameter than the regular ink jet printing. This technique can be used to produce seeded scaffolds for artificial organ creation and trating damaged or diseases organs, like for example, the heart.

2. Liver regeneration

Dr. Shay Soker from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine pointed out the necessity of creation of artificial organs. Aging, trauma and immune strikes cause severe health problems. We can treat them with organ transplantation, but it’s a zero-sum game. The demand on new organs is huge and growing, but the number of donor organs is tiny. There’s an option – bionic limbs, for instance, but masines wear out too. The better solution is to grow organs from the patient’s own cells.

Organs consist of cells and scaffolds. Scaffolds must:

1. Support 3D structure

2. Mimic the microenvironment

decellularization provides good scaffolds that retain the archtecture of the organ with its blood vessels including the tiny capillaries. Dr. Soker tolld the audience about the seccess in regenerating the miniature liver. They took livers from rats, ferrets and pigs, decellularized them and analyzed the obtained scaffolds. The vasculature was intact. The extracellular matrix proteins, such as collagen 1, 3, 4, laminin and fibronectin, were present. Seeding with cells was done through central and portal veins. Interestingly, seeded scaffolds have anti coagulating features. Researchers were also excited to see that cells can find their own niches. Endothelial cells go to vessels and hepatic cells go to parenchyma. The engineered livers were functional. Urea and albumin were secreted. This is an important step towards human liver regeneration.

3. Lung engineering

Dr. Laura Niklasson from Yale University is working on lung engineering. Human lung is an extremely complicated organ. There’s 23 generations of branching of airways, they are up to 200 microns in diameter. 70 square meters for gas exchange. More than 100 million air sacks all together. Engineered lung must have right mechanical properties, autologous cells, adequate surface area for gas exchange and adequate barrier to prevent flooding of airways with blood constituents after implantation.

Researchers used donor lung scaffolds. They took rat lungs, decellularized them and repopulated with pulmonary cells. The cells were semigeneic, that means they were almost genetically identical rat cells. The lung was cultured in a bioreactor. Besearchers were breating the lung during culturing. They used perfusion system of culture. They seeded pulmonary epithelium and vascukar endothelium cells. When Dr. Niklasson examined the integrity of blood vessels, it was ok. But some of elastin was stil present. And that’s bad so far. Also some of the air sacks got infused with staining, so the result is not perfect just yet. It seems like there are local instructions in the matrix that tell the cells where to land. Endothelial cells form a very dense population in vessels.

Scientists implanted engineered half lung in a rat. It was 95% as efficient as a native lung in terms of gas exchange. But in several hours they got trombosis. Also they saw a little bit of blood cells in airways, so the barrier was not perfect. After being improved this technique can be used to engineering human lungs.

4. Generation of functional thymus ex vivo

John Jackson gave a beautiful overview of thymic involution and told us about the ongoing experiments in the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine on thymus engineering.


5. Zscan4 gene may provide immortality to stem cells

Dr. Minoru Ko is studying immortality of stem cells in the National Institute on Aging. Embryonic stem cells are remarkable, because they are pluripotent, they have self renewal, immortality and genome stability. Immortality is the ability to defy cellular senescence and undergo more than 250 doublings without undergoing crisis or transformation.

Researchers used embryogenomics and systems biology approach to identify differential gene expression in preimplantation embryos and other kinds of cells. They ruled out that the most interesting gene is Zscan4. It is expressed in 5% of the cells in the embryo, it can be turned on and off, but it’s crucial for proliferative potential. Knock down of Zscan4 leads to ES culture crisis by day 8. They have massive karyotype problems, but this can be alleviated. Telomere shortening is one of the mechanisms for karyotype deterioration in Zscan4-knockdown embryonic stem cells. When they turned off telomerase and overexpressed Zscan4, they still could see telomere elongation.

It was telomerase independent telomere elongation.

This gene is colocalized with meiosis-specific homologous recombination proteins on telomeres. Zscan4 may be the master gene that provides immortality among other things in embryonic stem cells. That’s the hypothesis. Researchers can accelerate Zscan4 cycle. Maybe it’s active at first and the cell is an embryonic stem cell, but over time its expression deminishes. But then at some point of time Zscan4 kicks in again and restores things back to normal. Maybe if we can accelerate Zscan4 cycles we could increase proliferative potential of stem cells. Zscan4 expressed constantly blocks proliferation of cells. You need to have it oscilating to keep cells proliferating.

6. Non-aging regeneration system in the brain

I personally found the talk by Dr. Charles Greer the most fascinating one. Aparently, there is a subsytem in our brain that is constantly regenerating. The rate and quality of this regeneration process doesn’t decline with age. It’s the oldfactory system. Sensory neurons in olfactory system die every 6-8 weeks. Neurogenesis is constant. New neurons come from the subventricular zone. It’s like a river of migrating neurons to olfactory bulb. The number of newly formed neurons a day is amazing – 10,000.

Vascular organization is the framework of migration. If we turn off VEGF with siRNA then there will be no migration. There are no changes in size of glomeruli with aging. Cell number, cell dencity doesn’t go down with aging too. The question is why is this system so special? What factors play the role in maintaining such an exeptional regenerative capacity thoughout life?


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George Church and Personal Genome Project

Open genetic data combined with medical and phisiological information will change the way medicine works – treatments will be personalized and more effective, plus there will be new therapies created specifically for particular patiens. This will significantly improve and prolong our lives. George Church started the Personal Genome Project wich has this exact goal.

I enjoyed the Technology Review interview with Dr. Church about the future of induced pluripotent stem cells. Loved the quote:

“I’m thinking a lot about using regeneration as the key to treatments and keeping people healthy.”


Filed under genomics, Regeneration

We Need More Books Like 100 Plus by Sonia Arrison

Wall Street Journal reviewed “100Plus” – a book that argues for longer life, regenerative medicine, aging research and the future of our health. I wish there were more books like this one that promote transhumanism and show that longer lives mean healthier and hapier lives. We need more books that tell the audience how we can achieve life extension. There should be more books and articles that talk about what exactly each person can do to help depending on their occupation, social status and other factors.

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TED Talk: Richard Resnick on Genomic Revolution

Massive genome sequencing holds promise for entirely changing our society. Cancer genome sequencing already proved to be effective, we’ll find out a lot about our disease risks and causes and we’ll be able to cure and prevent deleterious diseases. That all will prolong our lives. Plus we’ll be able to find all sorts of new links between our genomes and behaviour like the “cheating” gene.

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Integrated System of Aging Biomarkers – My Talk at SENS5

We can prolong lives of millions of people right now if we create the Integrated System of Aging Biomarkers. Collection, classification and comparison of research data, clinical data from electronic medical records and personal genomics data will give us new corellations and causal relations that would lead to new therpies against aging and age-related diseases. These therapies will be personalized, hence much more effective. The key to true personalized medicine and large scale longitudinal studies on people lies in creating the database on aging biomarkers.


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Biomedical Illustration – a Way to Explain the Beautiful Complexity of Our Body

Nature Journal highlighted biomedical illustration as an exsiting field, which helps researchers show the beauty of the work they are doing. Animations make complex things much easier to comprehend. The future of biology can’t be seen without substantial progress in biomedical illustration.


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Randal Koene on Substrate-Indipendent Minds via H+ Magazine

H+ Magazine has got some very interesting articles. One of which I liked in particular since I’m keen on the advances in Substrate-Indipendent Minds, aka mind uploading. Read this extremely informative interview with Randal Koene led by Ben Goertzel. I’d like to just highlight the quote, which is an outline of researchers who are now working in the field of Substrate-Indipendent Minds:

  • Ken Hayworth and Jeff Lichtman (Harvard) are the guiding forces behind the development of the ATLUM, and of course Jeff also has developed the useful Brainbow technique.
  • Winfried Denk (Max-Planck) and Sebastian Seung (MIT) popularized the search for the human connectome and continue to push its acquisition, representation and simulations based on reconstructions forward, including recent publications in Science.
  • Ed Boyden (MIT) is one of the pioneers of optogenetics, a driver of tool development in neural engineering, including novel recording arrays and a strong proponent of brain emulation.
  • George Church (Harvard), previously best known for his work in genomics, has entered the field of brain science with a keen interest in developing high-resolution large-scale neural recording and interfacing technology. Based on recent conversation, it is my belief that he and his lab will soon become important innovators in the field.
  • Peter Passaro (Sussex) is a driven researcher with the personal goal to achieve whole brain emulation. He is doing so by developing means for functional recording and representation that are in influenced by the work of Chris Eliasmith (Waterloo).
  • Yoonsuck Choe (Texas A&M) and Todd Huffman (3Scan) continue to improve the Knife-Edge Scanning Microscope (KESM), which was developed by the late Bruce McCormick with the specific aim of acquiring structural data from whole brains. The technology operates at a lower resolution than the ATLUM, but is presently able to handle acquisition at the scale of a whole embedded mouse brain.
  • Henry Markram (EPFL) has publicly stated his aim of constructing a functional simulation of a whole cortex, using his Blue Brain approach that is based on statistical reconstruction based on data obtained from studies conducted in many different (mostly rat) brains. Without a tool such as the ATLUM, the Blue Brain Project will not develop a whole brain emulation in the truest sense, but the representational capabilities, functional verification and functional simulations that the project produces can be valuable contributions towards substrate-independent minds.
  • Ted Berger (USC) is the first to develop a cognitive neural prosthetic. His prosthetic hippocampal CA3 replacement is small and has many limitations, but the work forces researchers to confront the actual challenges of functional interfacing within core circuitry of the brain.
  • David Dalrymple (MIT/Harvard) is commencing a project to reconstruct the functional and subject-specific neural networks of the nematode C. Elegans. He is doing so to test a very specific hypothesis relevant to SIM, namely whether data acquisition and reimplementation can be successful without needing to go to the molecular level.


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