Rejuvenating blood by reprogramming stem cells

"Lund University researchers have succeeded in rejuvenating the blood of mice by reversing, or reprogramming, the stem cells that produce blood."-- this from Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence News.

I'll leave it to you to follow the link if you want to know more.  The research is still early, so best to wait and see how things work out.

"Science fiction comes alive as researchers grow organs in lab" -- Wall Street Journal and A Remedy for Death

"Science fiction" and "Wall Street Journal" are terms not often used in the same sentence, but just maybe science fiction is transforming into mainstream science.

The WSJ article this week, "Science fiction comes alive as researchers grow organs in lab" by Gautam Naik, is accompanied by a video, narrated by Mr. Naik, and a clear graphic, "Growing a new heart."

The first section focuses on work done in Madrid by Dr. Francisco Fernandez-Avila: a  human heart, taken from a cadaver has been "cleaned" to clear all the original cells so all that was left was the "scaffold". This builds on the work of American Dr. Doris Taylor at the Texas Heart Institute, in Houston,  who is working with the Spanish team. (For more on her work,  see my post "Reversing the aging process using pig hearts")

The "scaffold," once cleaned of the donor's cells, is seeded with stem cells from a human donor, who will--when the work is final -- be the recipient. (Though there's much more to it than that, needless to say.)  But it's one more instance of how science fiction in these areas is moving into fact.

At University College, London (and the allied Royal Free Hospital),  the WSJ's Mr.Naik describes how the team is working on a variety of kinds of "lab grown" organs to implant in humans, including a new nose for a man who lost his to cancer, new coronary arteries, windpipes, and others.  Dr. Alex Seifalian heads a team of 30 researchers there.

If you're interested in the how-to, they first developed the scaffold -- in this case by molding it with the help of an artist -- then poured the cartilage replacement material into a mold, then "added salt and sugar" to replicate the spongy feel of a normal nose.  (Hmm!)

Of course, using an artist's created mold is not the only way of shaping a lab-created organ. Last fall, another article in the Wall Street Journal (this by Robert Lee Hotz), reported on a method I've heard more and more about since. That article: "Need a new body part? No problem. Just use a bio-printer to produce it."

For still more, see the three-part series the New York Times ran, also last fall:  “Body Builders” by Henry Fountain., consisting of the three articles and the related graphics. 

This earlier blog post of mine will take you to the series:  "Bio-engineering human tissue on an animal scaffold"

"How would you like to invest in immortality?" -- Fortune Magazine

"How would you like to invest in immortality?" is just out in Fortune's on-line tech blog  (and likely in the paper edition when it arrives).

Briefly, this coming June, 32 year -old Russian tech entrepreneur/billionaire Dmitry Itskov will be announcing his launch of a venture to "allow investors to bankroll research into neuroscience and human consciousness..."

The aim is to set up a "push to understand human consciousness and ultimately how to transfer it from human bodies into robotic avatars." (Yes, that does align with Ray Kurzweil's program.)

But, Dmitry, sorry to tell you this, but this has already been done! (Albeit fictionally) in my technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH: Playing God with body, soul and bio-tech.

Only REMEDY does it better (I modestly propose). I mean, who'd want to come back to find their mind transferred into a robot? A robot, good grief!  Wouldn't rich elite folks want to come back into, as one of rich guys in REMEDY puts it, into  "healthy, horny 21-year-old bodies complete with all of our  accumulated savvy from this first lifetime?"

No, seems to me that moving a "brain," a "mind," a "conscious essence" (the jargon  I use in  REMEDY) into a robot or a robotic avatar is not the way to go . . . not with all that's opening up in the fields of bioartificial organs, organ fabrication, regenerative medicine, growing body parts, and even transgenic and transhuman possibilities.

In short, wouldn't those rich elite folks really prefer to come back into a complete new body (as their present  one was in its prime), with all their present learning and experience?

Another thing:  the Fortune article suggests that  Itskov's  methodology will, "by 2025 . . .place a human brain into a working robot and have that person's consciousness (memories, personality, and everything else that makes up the 'self') transfer along with it."

But . . . um . . . how're you going to manage that? Plunking a brain into a robot (or into some kind of tank) is easy enough, but how do you get that -- dare I say the word "person" -- to turn on and come alive?  And how does that brain in the machine get to smell the flowers and do all the other little things that make life worth living?

How?  again, modestly,  I suggest you check out my technothriller A REMEDY FOR DEATH: Playing God with body, soul and bio-tech.  Probably won't get all the questions answered, but I hope it will give food for thought.

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!"

Again! New uses for 3-D printing plus human cells: this time result is a partial human skull to be implanted

It seems that just about every week a report comes in on a new use of 3-D printing of replacement human organs, working from human cells. February 12 we had the post  Creating artificial organs: New 3D printing techniques could speed progress.

Then there was Watch how a lab uses 3D printing plus living human cells to create an implantable human ear (February 22), followed by a different report on the same topic just a few days ago: More on using 3D printing plus human cells

Now this :  3D printed skull implanted in American patient's head. That's from Discover blog, and I'll leave you to the original. The implant was performed only four days ago (March 4).  The firm that developed the implant promises similar replacements for other human bones.

More on using 3D printer plus human cells to create an implantable ear

In a post here couple of weeks ago Watch how a lab uses 3D printing plus living human cells to create an implantable human ear   I first mentioned some interesting novel work being done at Cornell.

Want to know still more? (But you  must promise NOT to try this at home!)  Here's a more extensive report in Singularlity Hub

No doubt about it, regenerative medicine, organ fabrication, bioartificial organs, reversing aging, and much more are very hot in science and medicine these days. (And, ahem, also are front and center in my technothriller, A Remedy for Death: Playing God with Body, Soul and Bio-tech.)

"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,  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