Tag Archives: tissue regeneration

DARPA wants machine to suck all your blood out, other fun stuff

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!

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Filed under Article, Artificial Intelligence, Immortalism, Life Extension, Tissue rejuvenation

Newborn heart muscle can grow back by itself

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have discovered that the mammalian newborn heart can heal itself completely.

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.

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Filed under Life Extension, Regenerative medicine, Tissue rejuvenation

US Pentagon funds technology that uses a patient’s own skin cells to generate living, tissue-engineered skin

A biotechnology company just got a cool $18 million from the US Defense Department for its PermaDerm™ product – an engineered skin substitute grown from a patient’s own skin cells!

Regenicin Inc., a New York unit of the Lonza Group, specializes in the development of regenerative cell therapies to restore the health of damaged tissues and organs.

According to Regenicin:, “PermaDerm allows a small harvested section of the patient’s own skin to grow to graft an area 100 times its size in as little as 30 days. The living, self-to-self skin graft tissues are intended to form permanent skin tissue that won’t be rejected by the immune system of the patient, a critical possibility in porcine or cadaver skin grafts.”

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Woman gets new windpipe grown from her own stem cells

In a pioneering operation, a British teenager has received a new windpipe grown from her own stem cells and has now been discharged after the procedure in Italy. This actually saved her life as she was suffering from a rare form of tracheal cancer.

“The patient was able to speak again only a few days after the surgery”, said Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, professor of surgery at the University of Barcelona in Spain and the head surgeon in the case.

Macchiarini and his team regenerated tissue from the patients nose and bone marrow stem cells to create  a trachea biologically identical to her original organ. The girl’s stem cells were grafted on to the cartilage of donor trachea that had been stripped of its own cells. Because the new trachea contained no cells from another person, no anti-rejection drugs were needed.

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Filed under Regenerative medicine

Biotechnology Company Receives Grant to Develop Regenerative Membrane for Oral Surgery

Agenta Biotechnologies, Inc., a private biotechnology company, announced that it has received a $1.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIH/NIDCR) for the further development of a biologically activated membrane to improve soft tissue healing associated with oral surgery.

The firm is exploiting its Customized Therapeutic Proteoglycan Delivery (CTPD) platform to develop proteoglycan-based therapies for tissue regeneration and healing. Agenta claims the technology allows for the precise control and manipulation of proteoglycan DNA sequences for development of products with potential applications in a wide range of regenerative uses including healing bone, cartilage, skin, and spinal discs and as coatings for vascular stents and implants.

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Biosynthetic cornea stimulates regeneration in damaged eye tissue

A recent study from researchers in Canada and Sweden has shown that biosynthetic corneas can help regenerate and repair damaged eye tissue and improve vision in humans.

This study is important because it’s the first to show that an artificially fabricated cornea can integrate with the human eye and stimulate regeneration,” said senior author Dr. May Griffith of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, the University of Ottawa and Linköping University. “With further research, this approach could help restore sight to millions of people who are waiting for a donated human cornea for transplantation.”

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Filed under Regenerative medicine

Discovery in Salamanders Could Lead to Human Limb Regeneration

By tracking individual cells in genetically modified salamanders, researchers have found an unexpected explanation for their seemingly magical ability to regrow lost limbs.

Rather than having their cellular clocks fully reset and reverting to an embryonic state, cells in the salamanders’ stumps became slightly less mature versions of the cells they’d been before. The findings could inspire research into human tissue regeneration.

“The cells don’t have to step as far back as we thought they had to, in order to regenerate a complicated thing like a limb,” said study co-author Elly Tanaka, a Max Planck Institute cell biologist. “There’s a higher chance that human or mammalian cells can be induced into doing the same thing.”

Thinkers from Aristotle to Voltaire and Charles Darwin have been fascinated by salamander regeneration, though they barely understood it. (Aristotle even confused salamanders with snakes, attributing to the latter the power of growing new eyes.) But only in the last few decades have scientists been able to study the phenomenon at high resolution.

They found that salamander regeneration begins when a clump of cells called a blastema forms at the tip of a lost limb. From the blastema come skin, muscle, bone, blood vessels and neurons, ultimately growing into a limb virtually identical to the old one.

Researchers, many of whom hoped their findings could someday be used to heal people, hypothesized that as cells joined blastemas, they “de-differentiated” and became pluripotent: able to become any type of tissue. Embryonic stem cells are also pluripotent, as are cells that have been genetically reprogrammed through a process called induced pluripotency.

Such cells have raised hopes of replacing lost or diseased tissue. They’re also difficult to control and prone to turning cancerous. These problems may well be the inevitable growing pains of early-stage research, but could also represent more fundamental limits in cellular plasticity.  If Tanaka’s right that blastema cells don’t become pluripotent, then the findings raise another possibility — not just for salamanders, but for people. Rather than pushing cellular limits, perhaps researchers could work within nature’s parameters.

“People working on stem cells are trying to de-differentiate cells in an artificial fashion,” said Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute stem cell biologist who was not involved in the study. “It will be very important for the regenerative-medicine community to take stock of what’s going on in the salamander, because they’ve been doing it for 360 million years, and found a natural way to de-differentiate their tissues.”

Having first added a gene that makes a fluorescent protein into the genomes of axolotl salamanders, Tanaka’s team removed from their eggs the cells that would eventually become legs. They fused the cells into new eggs; when these matured into adult salamanders, cells in their legs glowed under a microscope.

After the researchers amputated their salamanders’ legs, the legs regrew! Cells in the new legs also contained the fluorescent protein and glowed under a microscope, so the scientists could watch blastemas form and legs regrow in cell-by-cell detail.

Contrary to expectation, skin cells that joined the blastema later divided into skin cells. Muscle became muscle. Cartilage became cartilage. Only cells from just beneath the skin could become more than one cell type.

“People didn’t know if the salamanders were special because they forced adult tissues to become pluripotent, and whether we should look for factors that did that — or if, as we find now, we actually shouldn’t try to force cells back to a pluripotent state,” said Tanaka.

Whether this striking absence of pluripotency is universal is still unknown. The experiment needs to be replicated independently in other salamander species.

Experiments underlying the pluripotency hypothesis “have been reproduced by multiple labs,” said Sánchez Alvarado. “There’s definitely something to them. But the results from Elly’s lab seem solid. There’s clearly a paradox here.”

According to Sánchez Alvarado, those earlier experiments labeled cells with dyes that may have bled into other cells, creating the illusion of pluripotency. It’s also possible that the axolotl’s mechanisms are different from other salamanders.

If Tanaka’s findings hold, they suggest a relatively new avenue for stem cell research. Bodies might find it easier to accept cells that have been only partially reprogrammed, like those in the axolotl’s blastema, than embryonic or fully reprogrammed cells.

“The salamanders are dialing the timeline back a few steps,” he said. “They don’t go all the way back and ask a cell to catch up,” said Sánchez Alvarado.

This approach has shown promise in the lab of Harvard Stem Cell Institute co-director Douglas Melton, who last year used partial reprogramming on pancreas cells that subsequently formed other pancreas cell types.

“This represents a parallel approach for how to make cells in regenerative medicine,” said Melton at the time. “If you’ve got extra cells of one type and need another, why go all the way back to a stem cell?”

Tanaka next hopes to decipher the genetic instructions governing blastema formation. But however the pluripotency–versus–partial-reprogramming debate turns out, her team’s development of a genetically modified axolotl as a model organism for regenerative research is significant.

Read more about the study and human tissue regeneration

Maria Konovalenko


Filed under Article, Life, Regenerative medicine, Science, Tissue rejuvenation

Reverse Aging of Human Muscle Tissue

In this article, we re-examine a study by scientists from the University of California, Berkeley that had identified critical biochemical pathways linked to the aging of human muscle. By manipulating these pathways, the researchers were able to turn back the clock on old human muscle, restoring its ability to repair itself!

The study shows that the ability of old human muscle to be maintained and repaired by muscle stem cells can be restored to youthful vigor given the right mix of biochemical signals. Professor Irina Conboy, a faculty member in the graduate bioengineering program that is run jointly by UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco, is the head of the research team that conducted the study.

Previous research that Conboy had done in animals, revealed that the ability of adult stem cells to repair and replace damaged tissue is governed by the molecular signals they get from surrounding muscle tissue, and that those signals change with age in ways that preclude productive tissue repair. Those studies also demonstrated that the regenerative function in old stem cells can be revived given the appropriate biochemical signals!

What was not clear until this study was whether similar rules applied for humans.  Unlike humans, laboratory animals are bred to have identical genes and are raised in similar environments.  Moreover,  the typical human lifespan lasts seven to eight decades,  while lab mice are reaching the end of their lives by age 2.

Working in collaboration with Dr. Michael Kjaer and his research group at the Institute of Sports Medicine and Centre of Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, the UC Berkeley researchers compared samples of muscle tissue from nearly 30 healthy men who participated in an exercise physiology study. The young subjects ranged from age 21 to 24 and averaged 22.6 years of age, while the old study participants averaged 71.3 years, with a span of 68 to 74 years of age.

The researchers discovered that in the legs that remained immobile, mature stem cells used for repairing muscle tissue and restoration were present in quantities of roughly half as much in older muscle tissue as they were in the youthful samples. The variance was even more wide spread when the exercise period was factored in. The youthful tissue had approximately four times the amount of redevelopment cells that would vigorously mend damaged tissue when evaluated against the aged muscle tissue that contained vigorous stem cell activity.

The researchers further examined the response of the human muscle to biochemical signals. They learned from previous studies that adult muscle stem cells have a receptor called Notch, which triggers growth when activated. Those stem cells also have a receptor for the protein TGF-beta that, when excessively activated, sets off a chain reaction that ultimately inhibits a cell’s ability to divide. The researchers said that aging in mice is associated in part with the progressive decline of Notch and increased levels of TGF-beta, ultimately blocking the stem cells’ capacity to effectively rebuild the body.
This study revealed that the same pathways are at play in human muscle, but also showed for the first time that mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase was an important positive regulator of Notch activity essential for human muscle repair, and that it was rendered inactive in old tissue.

MAP kinase [or MAPK] is commonly known to biologists in the developmental field due to it being an essential enzyme where organ growth is concerned in various species, some as atypical as nematodes, fruit flies and rodents. For aged muscle in humans, MAPK quantities are reduced so the Notch connection corridor remains un-stimulated and the stem cells don’t carry out the muscle restoration work as preprogrammed.

Conboy says: “Thanks to these discoveries, we now know that the MAPK pathway plays a key role in regulation and aging of human tissue regeneration. In practical terms, we know that to enhance regeneration of old human muscle and restore tissue health, we can either target the MAPK or the Notch pathways”

Read more about the Berkely study and the reverse aging of human muscle tissue.

Maria Konovalenko


Filed under Article, Science, Tissue rejuvenation