First living robots created from frog stem cells


XenobotDouglas Blackiston

Researchers in the US have created the first living machines by assembling cells from African clawed frogs into tiny robots that move around under their own steam…

These are entirely new lifeforms. They have never before existed on Earth,” said Michael Levin, the director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. “They are living, programmable organisms.”…

Roboticists tend to favour metal and plastic for their strength and durability, but Levin and his colleagues see benefits in making robots from biological tissues. When damaged, living robots can heal their wounds, and once their task is done they fall apart, just as natural organisms decay when they die.

Their unique features mean that future versions of the robots might be deployed to clean up microplastic pollution in the oceans, locate and digest toxic materials, deliver drugs in the body or remove plaque from artery walls…

Wow! A dramatic start to an entirely new genre of bio-engineering.

Yes, there’s a chunk of space at the end of the article dedicated to ethical considerations – which may be relevant in a few decades. I’ll leave the navel-gazing to academics. They’ll have enough to deal with – certainly, in the GOUSA, with religious nutters.

Human-Pig chimera is a step towards replacement organs


Human cells (green) differentiated into endoderm progenitors (red)

Every day, 22 people in America die while waiting for an organ transplant. But when scientists can grow replacement livers or kidneys or pancreases inside of animal hosts, medicine’s organ shortage may end. That’s the hope anyway—and this week there’s more reason to hope than ever that it might become reality.

❝ The key to producing human organs in other animals is the chimera, a mixture of cells from more than one species growing together as a single animal. For decades, researchers have struggled to coax Petri dishes of stem cells into functional, three-dimensional tissues and organs, hampered by technical challenges and political stonewalling. Now, two milestone papers have taken two big steps toward solving the chimeric riddle. Will you be ordering up a homo-porcine gallbladder on Amazon this time next year? No. No, definitely not. But researchers have done two things they’ve never done before: 1. Combine two large, distantly-related species into one embryo. And 2. Use organs from one species grown in another to actually treat disease…

❝ With other advances, scientists are hoping to do away with artificial insulin altogether. About 30 million Americans have diabetes; more than 3 million of them rely on artificial insulin to stay alive. Chimeras could potentially help those patients make their own insulin—and Hiromitsu Nakauchi, a stem-cell biologist at the University of Tokyo and Stanford, showed you can do just that in a paper published yesterday in Nature. At least, you can in rats. His team used genetic tweaks to prevent rats from making their own pancreases. Then they injected mouse stem cells (complete with all the necessary pancreas-making genes) into the developing pancreas-less rat embryos. The rats grew normally. The only thing different was their pancreases were made almost entirely of mouse cells.

Then they went a step further. From those rat-mouse chimeras, Nakauchi’s team took out tiny clusters of pancreatic cells that make insulin (called islets) and transplanted them into diabetic mice. The islets settled in and made enough insulin to keep the host mice’s blood glucose levels in a normal range for more than a year. In layman’s terms? The mice were cured. It’s the first time a chimera-created organ has ever treated a medical condition.

❝ …Scientists will have to improve human stem cells’ colonization of their animal hosts. The Salk team’s next hurdle is trying to embed one human cell in 1,000, or even 100 pig cells. “That’s when we can start thinking about practical applications,” says Wu. But that’s also when ethical questions start to become more urgent.

More urgent, that is, for people who consider religious ideology more important than keeping someone alive. Folks more concerned with the creation of new species or sub-species and the uses thereof – instead of reducing numbers in the thousands and more of individuals who have to die – are socially, criminally out of touch with human needs.

Healthy mice born from first artificial lab-grown eggs

❝ The birth of baby mice made from artificial eggs has prompted calls for a public debate on whether the same approach should ever be offered by fertility clinics.

Nearly a dozen rodents were born after scientists created the early-stage mouse eggs from stem cells and nurtured them in the lab until they were mature enough to fertilise with mouse sperm.

The team went on to make hundreds of embryos from the lab-grown eggs and implanted them into female mice, leading some to give birth to apparently healthy mouse pups.

❝ Though far from ready for use in humans today, the procedure could potentially be improved upon in coming years and eventually made safe enough to treat couples with fertility problems, scientists said. The technology suggests it may one day be possible for doctors to make viable eggs from the skin cells of an infertile woman…

❝ …With stem cell science progressing so fast, some researchers are keen to thrash out the potential implications for humans now. “Ethically, this issue has yet to be discussed fully by scientists and society,” said Azim Surani, a stem cell scientist at the Gurdon Institute at Cambridge University, who was not involved in the latest work. “This indeed is the right time to start a debate and involve the wider public in these discussions, long before, and in case, the procedure becomes feasible in humans.”

❝ Labs around the world are now expected to repeat the experiments before attempting the same procedure in larger animals, such as pigs, sheep and cows. Before it can help humans to multiply, it might benefit other animals. “With such technology we might be able to rewind the process of mammalian extinction,” said Dusko Ilic, stem cell scientist at King’s College London.

If nothing else, this will provide full employment for priests, populist pundits and politicians.

Milestone a’coming: Stem cell repair system

Stem cell therapies capable of regenerating any human tissue damaged by injury, disease or ageing could be available within a few years, following landmark research led by UNSW Australia researchers.

The repair system, similar to the method used by salamanders to regenerate limbs, could be used to repair everything from spinal discs to bone fractures, and has the potential to transform current treatment approaches to regenerative medicine

Study lead author, haematologist and UNSW Associate Professor John Pimanda, said the new technique, which reprograms bone and fat cells into induced multipotent stem cells (iMS), has been successfully demonstrated in mice…

“We are currently assessing whether adult human fat cells reprogrammed into iMS cells can safely repair damaged tissue in mice, with human trials expected to begin in late 2017.”

There are different types of stem cells including embryonic stem (ES) cells, which during embryonic development generate every type of cell in the human body, and adult stem cells, which are tissue-specific. There are no adult stem cells that regenerate multiple tissue types.

“This technique is ground-breaking because iMS cells regenerate multiple tissue types,” Associate Professor Pimanda said.

“We have taken bone and fat cells, switched off their memory and converted them into stem cells so they can repair different cell types once they are put back inside the body…”…

The study’s first author, Dr Vashe Chandrakanthan, who developed the technology, said the new technique is an advance on other stem cell therapies being investigated, which have a number of deficiencies.

“Embryonic stem cells cannot be used to treat damaged tissues because of their tumour forming capacity. The other problem when generating stem cells is the requirement to use viruses to transform cells into stem cells, which is clinically unacceptable,” Dr Chandrakanthan said.

“We believe we’ve overcome these issues with this new technique.”

RTFA for the basic explanation of what the good doctors have accomplished. Bare bones, so far. Interesting that the lead in human trials is considering back and neck pain, spinal disc injury, joint and muscle degeneration. Those bits and pieces which bring major debilitation to life and lifestyle under failure.

Though, whatever we can put back together again – will help.

Osteoporosis in mice reversed with single experimental injection of stem cells

Age-related osteoporosis, where the bone structure deteriorates and becomes more vulnerable to fracture, is said to affect more than 200 million people worldwide. Drugs are available to treat or delay the condition, but a cure has remained elusive. Much-needed help may now be on the way, however, with scientists discovering healthy bone structure can be restored in mice with a single injection of stem cells.

Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Ottawa Hospital had previously found a causal effect between mice developing age-related osteoporosis and a deficiency in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). One of the promising attributes of MSCs is that, while they can grow into different cells in the body just like other stem cells, they can be transplanted without the need for a match…

To put this reasoning to the test, the scientists injected MSCs into mice with the condition. Six months later, which is one quarter of the life span of the animal, they observed a healthy functional bone in place of the damaged one.

“We had hoped for a general increase in bone health,” says John E. Davies, co-author of the study. “But the huge surprise was to find that the exquisite inner ‘coral-like’ architecture of the bone structure of the injected animals – which is severely compromised in osteoporosis – was restored to normal.”

…The team is currently waiting on the results of trials where elderly patients were injected with MSCs to investigate various outcomes. If these show improvements to bone health, the team hopes dedicated trials will commence in the next five years.

Terrific news for many of my fellow grayheads.

A milestone in regenerative medicine

Cambridge University researchers have made an incredible breakthrough that could one day transform the way the scientific community approaches regenerative medicine. A group of researchers became the first in the world to successfully derive naive pluripotent stem cells from human embryos.

These incredibly early-stage human cells are one of the most flexible of all stem cell types, with the ability to develop into any other form of human tissue.

The team behind the landmark achievement believes it to have potentially significant ramifications for future research into regenerative medicine, along with the treatment/prevention of conditions like Down’s syndrome…

Pluripotent stem cells are obtained in two ways – skin cells that have been induced into becoming stem cells and embryonic stem cells derived from fertilized eggs discarded during IVF procedures – though in both instances the cells’ development has been predetermined.

Naive pluripotent stem cells are different in that their development has not yet been determined, hence the rather unusual name…

Senior study author, Dr. Jenny Nichols, spoke of how the breakthrough could hold real significance in the study and treatment of disorders that arise from cells that contain an abnormal number of chromosomes.

“Even in many ‘normal’ early-stage embryos, we find several cells with an abnormal number of chromosomes,” Dr. Nichols explained.

“Because we can separate the cells and culture them individually, we could potentially generate ‘healthy’ and ‘affected’ cell lines,” she continued. “This would allow us to generate and compare tissues of two models, one ‘healthy’ and one that is genetically-identical other than the surplus chromosome. This could provide new insights into conditions such as Down’s syndrome.”

Bravo! A few more years down the road this might save me the surgery I’m potentially approaching in a few weeks. Seeing the doc on Saint Pat’s Day to determine if it’s finally time to deal with cataracts in my eyes. Just read, this morning, about researchers who have implanted stem cells to regrow the eye’s lens in cataract patients. Something that will be especially beneficial for juvenile patients with genetic disorders causing their cataracts.

Stem cell treatment for Parkinson’s moves closer to reality

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for true size

In a major breakthrough for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, researchers working with laboratory rats show it is possible to make dopamine cells from embryonic stem cells and transplant them into the brain, replacing the cells lost to the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the gradual loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. Dopamine is a brain chemical that, among other things, helps regulate movement and emotional responses.

There are no cures for Parkinson’s disease; there are drugs that ease symptoms, but none that slow it down. Deep brain stimulation can alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s in certain patients.

Human embryonic stem cells – precursor cells that have the potential to become any cell of the body – are a promising source of new dopamine cells, but they have proved difficult to harness for this purpose.

Now, a breakthrough study from Lund University in Sweden shows it is possible to get human embryonic stem cells to produce a new generation of dopamine cells that behave like native dopamine cells when transplanted into the brains of rats…

The team says the new cells show all the properties and functions of the dopamine neurons that are lost in Parkinson’s disease, and the potentially unlimited supply sourced from stem cell lines opens the door to clinical application…

Study leader Malin Parmar says – “These cells have the same ability as the brain’s normal dopamine cells to not only reach, but also to connect to their target area over longer distances. This has been our goal for some time, and the next step is to produce the same cells under the necessary regulations for human use.”

The team hopes the new cells will be ready for testing in human trials in about 3 years.

Fortunately these researchers don’t have to worry about the direction of their research being interrupted by elections. Scandinavia has their share of idjit parties; but, so far none of those espousing government by Christian Sharia has shown any sign of coming close to legislative dominance.

Anyone who has provided care for someone close, a family member, knows what a debilitating disease Parkinson’s becomes. We can only hope this will be one of those breakthroughs that provides a solid medical answer to despair.

Thanks, Mike

Stem cells used to repair damaged hearts


In what could mark a significant breakthrough in the treatment of heart disease, researchers at the University of Washington have successfully repaired damaged tissue in monkey hearts using cells created from human embryonic stem cells. The findings demonstrate an ability to produce these cells on an unprecedented scale and hold great potential for restoring functionally of damaged human hearts.

The researchers were exploring ways of restoring human hearts damaged by myocardial infarctions, a common type of heart attack that blocks major arteries and prevents oxygen from reaching the heart muscle. This lack of oxygen in turn causes damage to the muscle tissue and impacts the ability of the heart to pump blood. The researchers are aiming to restore these hearts to full functionality using cells grown from human embryonic stem cells…

Over the following weeks, the injected cells infiltrated the damaged tissue, maturing to form new muscle fibers and beat in synchrony with the heart. Three months after the injections, the cells appeared fully integrated with the original tissue.

The researchers say that the injected stem cells regenerated 40 percent of the damaged heart tissue, though some side effects were observed. In the first weeks after the injections, the team reported occurrences of irregular heartbeats, also known as arrhythmias. However, the problem subsided after two to three weeks once the cells had matured and become stable.

From here, the researchers will work to reduce the risk of arrhythmias and also to clearly demonstrate that the cells are capable of substantially improving the functionality of a damaged heart. They are hopeful the approach will be ready for clinical trials in humans within four years.

Please, please, let us hope that in the interim – the American electorate in their infinite wisdom doesn’t accidentally put a government in place once again that thinks modern biological advances like this are the work of Satan.

Mini-kidney grown from stem cells

Instead of having to wait for one of the limited number of available donor kidneys, patients in need of a transplant may eventually be able to have a new kidney custom-grown for them. That possibility recently took one step closer to reality, as scientists at Australia’s University of Queensland successfully grew a “mini-kidney” from stem cells.

The researchers created a proprietary new protocol, that prompts stem cells in a petri dish to self-organize into a miniature kidney. “During self-organization, different types of cells arrange themselves with respect to each other to create the complex structures that exist within an organ, in this case, the kidney,” says project leader Prof. Melissa Little…

Little points out that while the work is indeed promising, human trials with full-size lab-grown kidneys are not likely to be happening anytime soon. In the meantime, however, the mini-kidneys could be used to test drug candidates without exposing human test subjects to harmful side effects.

Earlier this year, scientists at the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Regenerative Medicine created a functioning rat kidney. In their case, however, they did so by stripping the cells from an existing kidney, then “reseeding” the resulting collagen scaffold with endothelial cells.

Additionally, a team from Italy’s Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research has created kidney-like “organoids” that perform the same functions as kidneys when implanted in rats.

We’re getting better and better, closer and closer to being able to grow replacement organs. Maybe I’ll get to live as long as some sci-fi writers think we can?

I like the approach from the Mario Negri Institute best of all. Just because we’re at a certain point in the evolution of organs that mature inside this meat machine we inhabit doesn’t mean it’s the most advanced, best design possible. I like the idea of throwing new design muscle at a task like this – and perhaps coming up with better function and durability.

Japan approves landmark stem cell trials

Japan’s government has given its approval to the world’s first clinical trials using stem cells harvested from a patient’s own body.

Health Minister Norihisa Tamura signed off on Friday on a proposal by two research institutes that will allow them to begin tests aimed at treating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common medical condition that causes blindness in older people, using “induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells”…

The tests will be jointly conducted by the Riken Center for Developmental Biology and the Institute of Biomedical Research and Innovation (IBRI) Hospital in Japan.

Riken will harvest stem cells, using skin cells taken from patients, a spokesman said…The trial treatment will attempt to create retinal cells that can be transplanted into the eyes of six patients suffering from AMD, replacing the damaged part of the eye…

Groundbreaking work done in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University, a Nobel Laureate in medicine last year, succeeded in generating stem cells from adult skin tissue.

Like embryonic stem cells, iPS cells are also capable of developing into any cell in the body, but crucially their source material is readily available.

The question of how much freedom scientists should be allowed to carry out research on embryonic stem cells is considered one of the great ethical issues of our time.

The research is controversial because it requires the destruction of the embryo, a process that religious conservatives, among others, oppose.

This is not a difficult or controversial question among scientists or most medical professionals. Focusing on efforts to provide the greatest good for the greatest number is sufficient. The rest of the crap arguments follow their own convoluted path through the byways of brains accustomed to considering the number of angels that fit on a pinhead roughly equivalent to or greater than, say, aiding starving children or preventing the spread of dangerous disease.