"Quest to grow human organs inside pigs in Japan" -- multiple sources

Quest to grow human organs inside pigs-- the headline says it all. Google those words ,and you'll come on many links to the same research, including Youtube and photos. 

By the way, "chimera" is the term used for human-primate hybrids -- that is chimps and the like, which are around 98% or more genetically similar to humans. I suspect the term chimera is being extended to cover other types of combinations . . . and if you Google onwards you'll see  much more. I'll add some more here another time. Another related term is "transgenic"-- also something for another time. Still another related term is "Radical life extension."

I suspect these human organs "carried" in pigs and other animals are going to become a very big deal for the regenerative medicine industry. I think they are also going to be a much-discussed topic in the area of medical and research ethics.

It's relevant here as my technothriller A REMEDY FOR DEATH begins with the attempted creation of a human-chimp hybrid.  'Nuff said.

Still more on brain cells implanted in mice.

My technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH: Playing God with body, soul and bio-tech begins with a neuroscientist implanting human fetal brain cells in a chimp, Chimp Donnie.  (This is not really much of a plot spoiler, as it's only a springboard into the real --ethically scary! -- stuff in A Remedy for Death.)

Back then, when I first drafted it, the idea of implanting human fetal cells in an animal seemed very far out -- both technically and ethically. And I was advised by early readers -- including some in the New York publishing establishment -- that that idea was "impossible," "out-of-the range of believable, at least for decades."  And so on.

Well, it's happening here and now, as I posted last week in "Scientists enhance intelligence of mice with human brain cells" -- follow-up  and the week before in another post: "Mice given human brain cells become smarter"  (I was commenting on pieces in, respectively, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and Discover Magazine.)

Now Slate has come out with its own take:  Researchers put human brain cells in mice. Why aren't conservatives freaking out?   The Slate article, by Jonathan Moreno, adds a couple of intriguing twists:

(1)  "Lost in the kerfuffle was the fact that many lab mice are already “chimerized” with a small number of brain cells from human sources, generally far less than 1 percent. These animals could provide important clues to the treatment of serious human diseases and to answer the basic question why human cognitive capacity is so much greater than that of other animals."

A "chimera" (like my fictional Chimp Donnie) is formed by implanting human cells in animals. (For a more detailed definition, and how chimeras are different from hybrids, you may want to check the short piece, "About hybrids and chimeras" ) (Blog of the  Center for Genetics and Society)

That piece also touches on some of the ethical concerns:  "Would a human-animal chimera have human rights? Could it be patented and owned? What if it were 99.9% human and 0.1% chimpanzee? What of the reverse situation?"

 (2)   Again from the Slate article:  "The purpose of the study was not to make  [the] mouse perform better in IQ tests but to learn something about the evolution of human cognition."  In other words, the aim wasn't to help mice outwit felines, but rather to help science understand how we 2-legged folk think, and learn to think.  

"Scientists enhance intelligence of mice with human brain cells" -- follow-up

 A post here last week --"Mice given human brain cells become smarter"  linked to a piece in Discover Magazine.

Here's a more extended account of what seems to be the same research.  (I say probably, as it is not clear from the Discover item where the work took place.)

In the work reported in the IEET (Institute for Ethtics and Emerging Technologies), written by George Dworsky    Dworsky IEET report, he writes,

"To conduct the experiment, the scientists created human chimeric mice — mice that were endowed with human glial cells.

("Chimera" --there's that word again, one we're going to be hearing much more of as science moves on.   A chimera, in this context, is a blend of  human with animals of some kind or another, to date mostly chimps and mice.)

"We did this by using a narrow glass micropipette to inject 100,000 human glial progenitor cells into each hemisphere of the developing mouse forebrain," said Goldman. This resulted in the widespread integration of human glia into their brain. Once the mice reached adulthood, a large proportion of their forebrain glia were essentially human.

May I intervene here to (modestly) point out that much the same was done by the fictional neurosurgeon/researcher in my technothriller A REMEDY FOR DEATH in his work with Chimp Donnie?

Back to IEET:

"To mitigate any ethical concerns, Goldman told io9 that the grafts were delivered into postnatal animals, they were of cells that could not be transmitted to offspring, and they did not involve neuronal replacement."

In other words, they made sure that (a) these "ensmartened" mice weren't going to pass on to their babies, and (b) the implanted human cells were not from an aborted fetus, but rather "from human skin cells reprogrammed into induced pluripotential cells." 

Which implies that human skin cells can be reprogrammed into brain cells.  Hmm, does that mean that when you, as the saying goes, "put your foot in your mouth" you are ultimately adding foot cells to augment the brain-power you just failed to demonstrate by what you said? I wonder.

Researchers grow teeth from gum cells

Suppose you could regrow that tooth you lost to (a) a fall, (b) cavities, (c) a bar-room fight?  Well, someday you may be able to do just that.

The BBC  this week reported on work being done at King's college, London . BBC article: Researchers grow teeth from gum cells

Here they took "epithelial" cells from humans --from their gums.  Grew those cells, then mixed them with "mesenchyme" cells from mice.  The result was transplanted into mice, who then grew hybrid human/mouse teeth, with roots. 

"The mesenchyme cells" were cultured to be 'inducing' --they instruct the epithelial cells to start growing into a tooth," says the BBC article.

Alas, this is still early experimental. The process is expensive, and not likely to produce working results in the near future.

You'll see a photo of one of the resulting teeth taken from that chimerical mouse (a chimera is a blend of human and animal elements).

FYI: the researchers do a lot more than this in my technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH" Playing God with Body, Soul, and Bio-tech

And it was just last week that we posted here about human brain cells being implanted into mice. Mice implanted with human brain cells become smarter--Discover Magazine!

I know there's a lot of worry going around about what if computers got smarter than us humans and took over.  But now I'm REALLY worried about mice that are too smart for our good!

(By the way, for a cracking-good, very intelligent technothriller about computers, try THE FEAR INDEX, Robert Harris.)


"Mice given human brain cells become smarter" --Discover

A "chimera" as the term is used in the fields of regenerative medicine, bio-artificial organs, organ regeneration, and others, is a combination of humans and primates (or, now, humans and other animals).

So now we have a report via Discover Magazine that human brain cells from an aborted human fetus have now been implanted in mice . . . and it seems "the presence of human cells made the mice's brains function better". 

Just what that means is still being determined. No reports of whether these mice are smarter than cats.

Joking aside, I am very aware of the legal and ethical implications of taking human brain cells and implanting them in a creature of another species.

Quite some time back,I started what became my technothriller A REMEDY FOR DEATH with a scene of a neurosurgical researcher planting aborted human brain cells into a chimp to see if that would increase language abilities.

This was my fiction, and seemed  to be so extreme that it would set up the legal/ethical situation.  I wanted to shock, to get readers thinking, This should not be!

My agent at the time sent it to some New York publishers, and the most memorable reply came from a well-respected editor who said, in effect, "This is totally impossible." Times have changed.  

Interestingly, in that Discover piece you'll see some back-and-forth comments by readers on the two related issues of (a) taking cells from aborted / deceased human fetus for the sake of research; and (b) the ethics and implications of moving human brain cells to non-humans, thereby creating chimeras.

As one of the characters in A REMEDY FOR DEATH puts it, "You're opening very dangerous doorways! Once they're open, there's no stopping what may come through from the other side!"

"Reversing the aging process by using pig hearts"

"Reversing the aging process by using pig hearts" is a post I put up yesterday on my main blog, MichaelMcGaulley.com.  For some reason, I am unable to easily link it across, so I'll do it the hard way, because it's very relevant to  this blog, and the related technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH.

Among the related topics are reversing the aging process, bio-tech, bio-artificial organs, chimeras-- human-animal hybrids, the use of human stem cells, medical ethics, organ harvesting, and organ regeneration-- among others.

To go to that other post, and the related article

Continuous supply of rejuvenated stem cells seen as path to radical longevity

Interesting article in Next Big Future on the stem cells, longevity and theFoxO gene, which is particularly active in centenarians (people 100 years or older) AND in a certain kind of fresh-water polyp.  (Not up on polyps? Think of it as a tiny freshwater squid.)

For some reason (being researched) human stem cells become fewer and less active with age ... except in those certain centenarians.  AND also in these polyps, which don’t show signs of aging. The link appears to be that FoxO gene, or some shared commonality around it.

What does this have to do with this blog, and with my technothriller A REMEDY FOR DEATH? I dunno, the article just intrigued me.  And at the risk of giving away the plot, I can tell you that there are no freshwater polyps playing a role in the plot of A REMEDY FOR DEATH.

(Though, come to think of it, that would be a creepy scene, wouldn’t it? Somebody tossed into a pool of tiny immortal squid-like things! Oooh, creepy! Maybe my next book.)

"Cloning scientists create human brain cells," reports the London Observer

 "We can take a skin sample, make stem cells from it and then direct these stem cells to grow into brain cells. Essentially, we are turning a person's skin cells into brain. We are making cells that were previously inaccessible. And we could do that in future for the liver, the heart and other organs on which it is very difficult to carry out biopsies."

--- This from Professor Charles ffrench-Constant, director of the Roslin Institue at Edinburgh University, where sheep Dolly was cloned 16 years ago.

This work does not rely on using embryos at all; instead the cloning or regeneration comes from scraps of a patient's own skin.

Sounds like something from a Michael Crichton thriller? I hope so, but it's not from Crichton's, but rather from one of mine.

I won't spoil the plot of my speculative thriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH, by pointing out how this work ties in with what is done in the fictional clinic in the book. But it does, and that part of the book was written way back even before Dolly saw the light of day.

The article is by Robin McKie in the Observer of January 28, 2012. Here's the link

Human embryonic stem cells successfully implanted in chimps

First readers of my  medical techno-thriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH, questioned the real-world likelihood of implanting the brain cells from a human fetus into Chimp Donnie.  "Too far out!" they said. "Probably too far out even for a Michael Crichton thriller.")

Well, now the future far-out is happening, and happening in the real-world, not just in my thriller. I could cite several reports on how human brain cells have been implanted in the brains of both humans (and animals, earlier, to test the procedures).  The aim is to treat conditions including stroke, Parkinson's, tumors, Traumatic Brain Injury, and ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

Here's one news report to get you started: London Guardian: Stem cells transformed into brain cells to treat Parkinson's disease

PLOT ADVISORY re: A REMEDY FOR DEATH:  The experimental implantation of brain tissue as done by Dr. Daulby (with the assistance of Chimp Donnie) is not performed for any of the treatment purposes mentioned above.

"Chimpanzees seem to know what's on other chimps' minds," suggests study reported in London Guardian

"Humans may not be alone in having insight into the minds of others, a chimpanzee study suggests."  You'll find the link to that article in the London Guardian below.

I'm including that link as background here in this post as "Chimp Donnie" plays a role in two aspects of my speculative scientific thriller, THE LIFE AFTER LIFE CONSPIRACY.  You'll meet Chimp Donnie is the chapters "Cannibals, "Chimera," and "Chimp Donnie," which you'll find in these sample chapters. (In the book, Donnie is a chimera, a hybrid of human and primate.)


And for the link to the Guardian article on  mind-reading chimps:

London Guardian article: chimps as mind-readers?