Sunday, June 3, 2007

49. Humans themselves as a ‘designed commodity’

(i.e., materials for those of eugenic bent, gene knowledge, etc.; or replaceable human parts whether transplants or cyborg machine substitutes like dialysis machines, artificial hearts, or artificial kidneys, etc.; or ideas of epigenetics and a completely different world of more benign applications)

I. Unsubstantiated Materialist Genetic Dogma Coming out of Eugenics, Versus More Demonstratively Interactive Mind/Body/Gene Epigenetics

I can think of two major categories, two paths if you will, that determine how this category is strategically utilized.

On the one hand there is the materialist view and materialist reductionist dogma of 'the gene as controller' and by association that material issues and material interventions (genetic or machine) can possibly be the only controller. This however is hardly the case (see section two below) since gene expression is regulated by several other variables more mentally biochemical and environmental.

Despite this, the past general construct encourages assuming that enhancements of the human body 'are required to be' all in one materialist category like [1] either those of unethical genetic weeding (forced sterilization, eugenics constructs based on a political program and ideological program instead of truly based some demonstrated 'gene as sole controller' scientific demonstration), or [2] direct material treatments like interventionist 'gene therapy' (based on the false assumption that this is the only route to change the gene expression), or [3] material machine additions for enhancement equally deterministic in their construct views about the body, genes, and where enhancement 'has to' come from.

This general philosophical construct of 'materialism as cause' has mislead us about empirical gene expression instead of enlightened us, because other equally material changes can occur from other routes more amenable to human self-change of their own gene expression.

However, assumptions of genes as sole materialistic directors of the process of gene expression has made up an invasive applied political philosophy and it has sold commodities in this category based on the principle that material interventions are the only manner of gene change as a consequence. Call it the tyranny of a false construct about genes. It created a situation that has been historically an unethical, unequal, and political nightmare.

This materialistic nightmare was in two parts: based on assumptions that only material enhancements and material substractions could change genes. The first, material additions for enhancements, tended to be for the wealthy who could afford them alone. The second, genetic subtractions or even denial of medical care or invasive unwanted 'medical care' led to genetic subtractions either by death of the patient by medical triage or by medical sterilization on the poor of a different skin color by a State that pushed it on them). Both material addition or substraction levels of this nightmare innately challenge and undermine fair play ideas of democratic political equality and equal treatment before the law for all persons.

This material determinism of the gene that started with eugenics gained more status historically in the 1950s by an undemonstrated hypothesis of Francis Crick. Crick was co-discoverer of DNA's double helix form, so his causality musings (and not proof) of gene transmission and how he thought DNA worked carried great scientific status and further solidified the eugenic 'interventionist' dogma. Crick's untested hypothesis was that DNA was probably a deterministic materialist force that was the sole force for cell, protein, and personality expression. This untested idea was liked because it 'fit' the mindset of a material clockwork body, and the eugenic interventionist political philosophies of the 1800s and 1900s. By the 1950s, cloaked eugenicists could claim Crick has provided 'proof' of their material deterministic construct model of the body and could claim that Crick had further legitimated elite desires for eugenic State interventions upon the body.

Before the discovery of the form of DNA, this earlier 1800s-era dogma of a materialist heritability came from the racist-classist British Empire. As the British Empire slowly faded at least formally (instead of informally stayed through investment flows of London banks), it passed the more open imperial baton to its growing partner, the American empire. Once opposed to the British and what they stood for, American elites by the late 1800s started to share in instead of oppose the British political elitist ruling philosophies of eugenics as America moved away from its earlier democratic political ideologies.

Even Germany's racial eugenics were derived from this Anglo-American political philosophy interchange. By the 1930s, Anglo-American ideas of a 'materialistic racial hierarchy' were exported to Germany and even financially derived their backing from Americans--from abroad. [1] [2]

So Germany copied and had transplanted ideas of Anglo-American materialist racial eugenics as a ruling ideology. Germany even copied, word for word, the already existing legal statues from the USA that was forcing eugenic-inspired invasive human sterilization practices by the State against an individual's will. Decades before Germanic eugenic and State-power that put the State in charge of Germans' gene expression, USA's elites had moved away from democracy and had designed a state on these methods (and had designed a postsecondary educational system on these methods, according to John Taylor Gatto's reading of Inglis's views on how an educational institution could be a form of applied eugenics). So both the USA of this period and Germany were based equally on worshiping the 'dogma of materialistic gene as director.'

After WWII, even though these ideas were popularly discredited, in the USA eugenics continued. Some U.S. States (like Virginia) only stopped forcibly sterilizing people as recently as the 1970s mostly in the wake of the Black Civil Rights Movement desires for equal treatment before the law. So almost 30 years after WWII so called "German" eugenics programs were still going on in the USA.

Let's look at what materially, in social life, this dogma of eugenics and the dogma of the deterministic gene brought. Historically, this made this category a fascist nightmare with more perils than promise....however, it fails to stop people pondering bioenhancement or inventing machinery that still slowly colonizes a human body ill at health. Temporary enhancements (to encourage human self-healing, which are then removed--like dialysis machines) do seem ethically sound. However, when the additions or techniques are irreversible we are off into a 'brave new world' of ethical dangers and self-colonization by the selective technological politics of those who invent it and insert things into our bodies.

Then there is the issue of inequalities in availability or access to such material additions on top of that. For instance if materialist techniques, like the below in bodily regeneration, are only available for the rich it would create a class-based hive society:

Alan Russell on regenerating our bodies
19:37 min.

Aubrey de Grey says we can avoid aging
23:31 min.

There are many books on this branch of this topic in my books list. I introduce this category at the link with the following:

HUMAN AS DESIGNED COMMODITY (human materialist ideologies like eugenics, DESIGNING PEOPLE, REPLACING PARTS, CREATING GODS, CREATING SLAVES) Different popularized ideologies about people; or, sculpting people to fit particular frameworks; or, popularizing applications of escaping such frameworks. Many people have attempted to create social movements to engineer people for particular political and ideological goals--mostly around the aristocratic goal of saving some and killing/crippling/monitoring the rest. Will this lead to a 'hive society' that expands existing inequalities and biologically reifies and biologically deifies them--to where elites give themselves immortality while raising mentally and physically neutered human drones with shorter lives as slaves [whether intentionally or simply because they lack access to the technology]? Origins of Social manipulation or monitoring of human genetics seems exclusively European; some machines are sold that already create cyborgs.

This has always been the most frightening category for me, because so many naive people who ponder it innocently, ignore the social caste-like inequalities that typically come from it.

The 'mental improvement' issues of skills like the below can be very damaging socially, though it unfortunately lends itself to people dreaming up intentional brain surgery to create artificially a neuronal link to tie visualization to computation areas of the brain together more securely. At what cost though? Or are the costs removable if you can train yourself to do it--without material interventions required--like the following example shows?

Or just do it in your head with an imaginary abacus:
1:53 min

The above clip on a 'mental abacus' possibility in the human brain comes from this longer film about human mental potential. Typically such savant-like human analytic potential comes at the price of human socialization capacities. However, it seems that if such a 'mental disturbance' occurs after basic childhood socialization and after a stable personality is formed (assumed to be from around age 5) such rewired brains could exist with normal human socialization. Such was the case with this person, 'damaged' into savant-like abilities only after age five and its super-calculation effects have been less extreme and less socially debilitating on him:

The Boy with the incredible Brain
48 min

"In this documentary we see Daniel Tammet undergo many scientific tests. He plays his first game of blackjack in a Las Vegas casino and meets Kim Peek - the real-life inspiration for the film Rain Man - who demonstrates his incredible photographic memory."

Only if such material forced enhancements are [1] entirely opt-in/opt-out, [2] reversible without harm, and [3] equally available would seem to be three critical caveats that avoid any unknown feedback effects associated with the famous phrase "you know, it was a great idea, er, at the time, until..."

Such are the promise and perils of this category of human commodities--or rather this view about the human body expressed in technological and commodity enhancement exclusively as requiring material forced changes to do it.

II. Epigenetic Reality: Virtuous Circles of Mind/Body/Gene Interaction, instead of Genetic Determinism

Updated science has worn away this material 'gene as controller' dogma that rationalized eugenic/genetic State interventions of the past 150 years. We have shown genes don't really work in such a deterministic fashion after all. The fact that the Japanese youth above could train his mind to perform such mental abacus work (without requiring "Daniel Tammet style" material harms or material interventions that set him on that path) shows astounding potentials we already though leave underutilized.

Such virtuous circles of mind/body/gene interactions and mutual causality pulls the pedestal out from under imperial eugenic political philosophies, and they do it ironically on the very issue of material biochemical reality and how it works instead of denying it.

Eugenics had it wrong. Material interventions--State-guided authority over additions and subtractions or assumptions that such interventions had to be material to change genes (an idea that animates lots of current 'gene therapy' for example)--are hardly the only way to change human genetics over time.

Genes seem closer to being part of a system of 'epigenetics.'

This is a more current, and more scientifically demonstrated view of mind/body/gene interactions with mutual causality contributing to virtuous circle expressions of genes instead of deterministic ones. In other words, there is more than genes that determine gene expression. The previous materialistic and deterministic mystification of the gene once appealed to to construct both state regimes of eugenics and appealed to as a 'DNA controller' false dogma of cell expression and body growth, have been tested for 60 years and have been found to be lacking.

Even though the more interactive mind/body/gene expression model is without clear deterministic causality or determinism from any one area, it opens up potentials of conceiving of a 'biochemistry of the mind' and a biochemistry of the cell wall as the main mediations and control over gene expression. This opens up a whole different world, even flowers up a whole different world, that views the material body as the product of an interactive 'biochemical mind' and cell health/cell environment for potential of altering gene expression.

In short, a gene model closer to demonstrated reality is this one of a virtuous circle around protein synthesis that involves several variables instead of only genes. Other variables are far more capable of altering gene expression instead of the deterministic construct view of genes before. Watch these interesting short films:

The New Biology- From Victim to Master of Your Health
7 min 36 sec

"Dr. Bruce Lipton explains how the New Biology will take you from a world of crisis and ill health to another level of masterful control [or at least appreciation of other routes of control and cause/effect--and thus environmental concern over your gene expression and gene change over time]."

Epigenetics: Your Unlimited Potential for Health
2 min 15 sec

"Dr. Bruce Lipton explains how we are not limited by our genes."

Dr. Bruce Lipton, - Biology of Perception 1 of 7
9 min 36 sec

"We have to come to a new way of understanding biology. This 'new' understanding has actually already been in the leading edge of science for 10 years now. It takes at least 10 or 15 years for science to take a fact from its first inception and get it out into the public so that the people can understand it. That means anything in current textbooks is at least 10 or 15 years old. what your going to hear tonight is whats going to be the future textbooks. " -Bruce Lipton in the Biology of Perception

Instead of being limited by your genes, you are limited by people who would manipulate your genes (by environmental and food pollutions for instance, or by exclusive reliance on interventionist gene therapies as the only option or philosophical approach that can change genetic expression. There are many other routes instead of these).

You are additionally limited by your mind, and your training--or expanded because of it--into areas currently hard to describe. For instance, see the material determinism scientists (one a physicist from Albert Einstein Institute in the U.S.) in this film who are embarrassed to discover something outside their limited view of physical reality and human potential right before them.

New John Chang video
9:51 min

Or as He Tieheng said: “The power of the mind is able to conquer natural forces.”


Mark said...

quoting without comment

sense extension

Magneurol Home magnetism and sense extension

Special Magnetic Material Delivers
Powerful Mind Expansion!

Mysterious One-Celled Bacteria discovered to work with magnetic fields!

Unique magnetic material found in animal brains, explaining Extraordinary Animal Sixth Sense,
Now Discovered in Human Cells & Brain!

Use This Discovery to Surpass Current Human Capabilities by 3,000 Years!

Dear Friend,

In 1974 at the University of New Hampshire, Richard Blakemore made a phenomenal discovery. His research would over time push the world into a quantum leap.

What he discovered was that some bacteria create within their single-cell bodies long strings of magnetic crystals called magnetite. These strings of magnetite would grow allowing the bacteria to become better and better at finding their way (using this special "Sensory") to new locations rather than endlessly spinning in circles.

These micro-sized, one-cell bacteria beat humans to the discovery of the magnetic compass by about 3 million years!

Since that time intrigued scientists have discovered micro-bits of magnetite "Special Magnetic Material" inside many other animals such as Dolphins, Sea Turtles, Salmon, Butterflies, Whales, Honeybees and Homing pigeons and a host of others!

Well, this one, tiny, overlooked-as-inconsequential discovery didn't stop there. More...

Magneurol Home magnetism and sense extension


The Missing Link to Mind Expansion!
Unique Magnetic Material Delivers
Powerful Mind Expansion!
Mysterious One-Celled Bacteria discovered to work with magnetic fields!
Unique, Magnetic material found in animal brains, explaining Extraordinary Animal Sixth Sense...
Now Discovered in Human Cells & Brain!
Use This Discovery to Surpass Current Human Capabilities by 3,000 Years!

Dear Friend,

In 1974 at the University of New Hampshire, Richard Blakemore made a phenomenal discovery. His research would, over time, push the world into a quantum leap.

What he discovered was that some bacteria create within their single-cell bodies long strings of Magnetite Strings Inside Bacteriamagnetic crystals called magnetite. These strings of magnetite would grow allowing the bacteria to become better and better at finding their way (using this special "Sensory") to new locations rather than endlessly spinning in circles.

These micro-sized, one-cell bacteria, beat humans to the discovery of the magnetic compass by about 3 million years!

Since that time intrigued scientists have discovered micro-bits of magnetite inside many other animals such as Dolphins, Sea Turtles, Salmon, Butterflies, Whales, Honeybees and Homing pigeons and a host of others!

Whales will migrate over 3,500 miles. Butterflies migrate over 2,796 miles. That distance is roughly 150,000,000 times the average butterfly's body length of 3 centimeters. All of these migratory species demonstrate a mysterious sensory that accurately guides and informs them and they all have magnetite in common!

An article written in 1982 for Science titled, "Magnetic Navigation, an Attractive Possibility" detailed how microscopic examination of the magnetite crystals revealed in nervous system tissue!

Animals use magnetite to read and plug into Earths magnetic fields. With intelligence far below human standards they are able to perform feats practically impossible for any human to perform without the aid of technology.
What Would Happen?

What would happen if you took a human, with an advanced intelligence compared to animals, and gave them the ability to plug into Earths complex magnetic fields?

In 1992 up to 100 million magnetite crystals per gram of tissue were discovered in the human brain! Scientists have noted that the presence of this magnetic material in human brain tissue does allow for the theoretical possibility for us to interact with magnetic fields using the central nervous system.

Humans do not have equal amounts of magnetic material in their brains. This may explain why some people appear to have higher levels of mind-traits such as intelligence, sensory, awareness, stamina, intuition almost naturally.

Magnetism is one of the most pervasive features of the Universe, with planets, stars and entire galaxies all having associated magnetic fields. It is now possible to tap into a unifying universal force!

The potential of this amazing discovery and the realization that we are now able to safely introduce it to our bodies ecosystem creates stunning possibilities to its true application and how it will possibly quantum leap humankind.


Eric Pepin
CEO Remcure Enterprises, Inc.


One of the Greatest Mysteries that has baffled scientists for centuries!
Secret Revealed!
You can Experience it too!
"Animals possess magnetite in their brains and now scientists discover Humans also have it!"

We have known about magnets for a long time. The Chinese and Greeks made the initial discovery of this special, magnetic rock, magnetite, thousands of years ago. Early sea voyagers used the special rock magnetite as a crude compass. We have since learned that the entire planet is embedded with invisible magnetic fields and Einstein said that the entire universe, or reality, is controlled by them!

Animals have been suspected of using some kind of hidden magnetic sensory for migratory journeys. Animal MigrationsIn some cases these migrations span over thousands of miles with the animals displaying astounding and reliable accuracy. This observation created a division between the technology created by humans using magnets and the natural sensory of animals. With the current discovery of magnetic material in both animals and now humans the two worlds suddenly and remarkably have collided! Two small experiments, which were seemingly unrelated, have now exploded into a world of possibilities!
Magnetic Super Food?

It has long been suspected that homing pigeon's magnetoreception may explain how the birds find their way home. A simple homing test was conducted on a group of young birds in a small loft in New Jersey. Researchers were curious to see if any homing anomalies could be observed if the group of birds were fed a blend of food and powdered magnetite designed for them.
The Results were Astounding!

The pigeons were split into two groups. Group one pigeons were fed powdered magnetite only after they were weaned. The second group ate the magnetite mix from their very first day of hatching. All of the pigeons were trained, fed and inoculated identically the same.
Homing Sensory Test

The birds that consumed the magnetite mix after they were weaned experienced 55% losses. 5 out of 9 birds from this group did not successfully return to their loft.

Those that began eating the magnetite mix from birth experienced only 7% losses. Homing PigeonThat's just 1 out of 14 birds! A significant statistical difference!
More Interesting Experiments

Now, you may be thinking, "What does this have to do with humans? What happens to a pigeon doesn't affect me." An experiment at Manchest University may change your mind.

Around 1976, a series of experiments at Manchester University on third-year zoology students appearently proved that humans have a magnetic sense of direction. The students were blindfolded and driven over a complex and winding route until they were between 6 and 52 km away from Manchester University. Each student was asked to point towards the university twice - first, while they were still wearing the blindfold, and secondly, after the blindfold was taken off.

To everybody's shock, they did much better at finding the university when they were blindfolded, when they were following their instincts, instead of trying to work it out from memory or logic. They appeared to have an innate "sense of direction".

The experiment was repeated with the students all wearing little bars of metal on their heads. But the little bars of metal were not all the same, half of them were magnets, while the other half were non-magnetic brass.

The results were impressive.

The students wearing the magnets lost their sense of direction. But the students wearing the non-magnetic brass could still point to the university. Somehow the magnets interfered with their sense of direction. So this means that their sense of direction was, in some way, magnetic!
Human Sensory is altered by Magnetism

If human sensory is altered by magnets then, like the pigeons, it can also potentially be enhanced!

Pigeon racing experts do not allow their birds to race when there are high levels of electro-magnetic interference coming from magnetic storms, sun spots, etc. The pigeon's ability to find their way home is negatively affected. In the same way the students with magnets on their foreheads were affected in their ability to locate the university.

Both humans and pigeons are susceptible to magnetic interference. Both groups can also potentially have this ability enhanced and expanded!
Human Consumption?

A highly refined magnetite with supporting materials could be developed to effect the human brain in the same way the homing pigeons were.

There is much more research being released about the connection of this mysterious sensory demonstrated by animal species and its relation to magnetite.
The Magneurol Connection!

Magnerol has a unique proprietary blend of specific magnetized properties which compliment cells naturally occurring within your body.

Magnetite in CellsThese cells contain within them "Magnetotactic bacteria" which grows magnetic nanoparticles. The particles are then naturally assembled into single or multiple chains and anchored inside the cell, enabling the bacteria to passively orient themselves along geomagnetic field lines.

Cells, nerves and brain synapses also require complex building materials often found in select "Vitamins & Minerals" to achieve this delicate process to its optimal level.

You experience life through your Cells because they work and contribute to maximizing the bodies potential as a whole. What they experience you experience!
There is no product like it on earth!

Mark said...

[Same principles of vibratory or electromagnietic aids to jumpstart 'off' DNA transcription noted in Hans Jenny and Dr. Guy Peter Manners's audial therapies of healing frequencies, known as "The Cymatic Instrument". The Gene Koonce Vibe Machine is an electromatic version of the Cymatic Instrument, in other words, in my view. Both are frequency healings and 'perk up' styles of aid to bodily self-healing.

Smile! A new Canadian tool can re-grow teeth say inventors

Jun 28 4:45 PM US/Eastern
Email this story

Snaggle-toothed hockey players and sugar lovers may soon rejoice as Canadian scientists said they have created the first device able to re-grow teeth and bones.

The researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton filed patents earlier this month in the United States for the tool based on low-intensity pulsed ultrasound technology after testing it on a dozen dental patients in Canada.

"Right now, we plan to use it to fix fractured or diseased teeth, as well as asymmetric jawbones, but it may also help hockey players or children who had their tooth knocked out," Jie Chen, an engineering professor and nano-circuit design expert, told AFP.

Chen helped create the tiny ultrasound machine that gently massages gums and stimulates tooth growth from the root once inserted into a person's mouth, mounted on braces or a removable plastic crown.

The wireless device, smaller than a pea, must be activated for 20 minutes each day for four months to stimulate growth, he said.

It can also stimulate jawbone growth to fix a person's crooked smile and may eventually allow people to grow taller by stimulating bone growth, Chen said.

Tarek El-Bialy, a new member of the university's dentistry faculty, first tested the low-intensity pulsed ultrasound treatment to repair dental tissue in rabbits in the late 1990s.

His research was published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics and later presented at the World Federation of Orthodontics in Paris in September 2005.

With the help of Chen and Ying Tsui, another engineering professor, the initial massive handheld device was shrunk to fit inside a person's mouth.

It is still at the prototype stage, but the trio expects to commercialize it within two years, Chen said.

The bigger version has already received approvals from American and Canadian regulatory bodies, he noted.

AFP 2005

Mark said...

["you know, it seemed like a good idea at the time, until... [insert your favorite image that comes to mind]". Crossed-fingers that sooner than later people will have access to this without dangerous genetic growth side effects that are typically always associated with runaway cancers, for instance.

I once knew a woman who casually remarked that "oh, you know I once had a little finger growing off my fourth finger right here (points to a scar), though I had it removed and I'm fine."

I just stared at her with concern, wide eyed. I said, "there's something seriously wrong with you. You had best see your doctor" if you have such a runaway uncontrolled growth like that, particularly if it starts forming certain parts of your body in the wrong place.

I could tell she didn't want to even think about it, and just went on like it was nothing and didn't want to take it seriously.

Most malignant cancers actually do that, i.e., you can start to grow hair in your stomach, or bone material in your intestine, teeth in your spine. Rightly formed things start to grow in the wrong places--and can kill you by disrupting everything.

What happened to that woman?

Well, she died of massive full body cancer within several years.

What I told her probabaly haunted her. It certainly haunted me that I could diagnose that something was terribly wrong with her and her doctor didn't even know about it. SHEESH! What incompetence.

She lived the last year with her entire digestive tract removed in a vain attempt to just get another year of life, in that very strange state.

So medical forms of magic out of empathy certainly appeal to me as I think they should to anyone. It's when people start turning this toward "perfecting the species to my own little dreams of what that means, and killing everyone else" then you get things like Anglo-American-German eugenics....

Anyway, interesting article:

Science Finding Ways to Regrow Fingers

Feb 18 11:33 PM US/Eastern

AP Science Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Researchers are trying to find ways to regrow fingers _ and someday, even limbs _ with tricks that sound like magic spells from a Harry Potter novel.

There's the guy who sliced off a fingertip but grew it back, after he treated the wound with an extract of pig bladder. And the scientists who grow extra arms on salamanders. And the laboratory mice with the eerie ability to heal themselves.

This summer, scientists are planning to see whether the powdered pig extract can help injured soldiers regrow parts of their fingers. And a large federally funded project is trying to unlock the secrets of how some animals regrow body parts so well, with hopes of applying the the lessons to humans.

The implications for regrowing fingers go beyond the cosmetic. People who are missing all or most of their fingers, as from an explosion or a fire, often can't pick things up, brush their teeth or button a button. If they could grow even a small stub, it could make a huge difference in their lives.

And the lessons learned from studying regrowth of fingers and limbs could aid the larger field of regenerative medicine, perhaps someday helping people replace damaged parts of their hearts and spinal cords, and heal wounds and burns with new skin instead of scar.

But that's in the future. For now, consider the situation of Lee Spievack, a hobby-store salesman in Cincinnati, as he regarded his severed right middle finger one evening in August 2005.

He had been helping a customer with an engine on a model airplane behind the shop. He knew the motor was risky because it required somebody to turn the prop backwards to make it run the right way.

"I pointed to it," Spievack recalled the other day, "and said, 'You need to get rid of this engine, it's too dangerous.' And I put my finger through the prop."

He'd misjudged the distance to the spinning plastic prop. It sliced off his fingertip, leaving just a bit of the nail bed. The missing piece, three-eighths of an inch long, was never found.

An emergency room doctor wrapped up the rest of his finger and sent him to a hand surgeon, who recommended a skin graft to cover what was left of his finger. What was gone, it appeared, was gone forever.

If Spievack, now 68, had been a toddler, things might have been different. Up to about age 2, people can consistently regrow fingertips, says Dr. Stephen Badylak, a regeneration expert at the University of Pittsburgh. But that's rare in adults, he said.

Spievack, however, did have a major advantage _ a brother, Alan, a former Harvard surgeon who'd founded a company called ACell Inc., that makes an extract of pig bladder for promoting healing and tissue regeneration.

It helps horses regrow ligaments, for example, and the federal government has given clearance to market it for use in people. Similar formulations have been used in many people to do things like treat ulcers and other wounds and help make cartilage.

The summer before Lee Spievack's accident, Dr. Alan Spievack had used it on a neighbor who'd cut his fingertip off on a tablesaw. The man's fingertip grew back over four to six weeks, Alan Spievack said.

Lee Spievack took his brother's advice to forget about a skin graft and try the pig powder.

Soon a shipment of the stuff arrived and Lee Spievack started applying it every two days. Within four weeks his finger had regained its original length, he says, and in four months "it looked like my normal finger."

Spievack said it's a little hard, as if calloused, and there's a slight scar on the end. The nail continues to grow at twice the speed of his other nails.

"All my fingers in this cold weather have cracked except that one," he said.

All in all, he said, "I'm quite impressed."

None of this proves the powder was responsible. But those outcomes have helped inspire an effort to try the powder this summer at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, on soldiers who have far more disabling finger loss because of burns.

Fingers are particularly vulnerable to burns because they are small and their skin is thin, says David Baer, a wound specialist at the base who's working on the federally funded project. The five to 10 patients in the project will be chosen because they have major losses in all their fingers and thumbs, preventing them from performing the pinching motion they need to hold a toothbrush, for example.

The soldiers will have the end of a finger stub re-opened surgically, with the powder applied three times a week.

Nobody is talking about regrowing an entire finger. The hope is to grow enough of a finger, maybe even less than an inch, to do pinching.

And it is just a hope.

"This is a real shot in the dark," says Badylak, who's participating in the project. "There's literally nothing else these individuals have to try. They have nothing to lose."

But from a scientific standpoint, he said, "this isn't ready for prime time."

For one thing, it's not completely clear what happened inside Lee Spievack's finger.

The broad outline is pretty straightforward. The powder is mostly collagen and a variety of substances, without any pig cells, said Badylak, who's a scientific adviser to ACell. It forms microscopic scaffolding for incoming human cells to occupy, and it emits chemical signals to encourage those cells to regenerate tissue, he said.

Those signals don't specifically say "make a finger," but cells pick up that message from their surroundings, he said.

"We're not smart enough to figure out how to regrow a finger," Badylak said. "Maybe what we can do is bring all the pieces of the puzzle to the right place and then let Mother Nature take its course."

But "we are very uninformed about how all of this works," Badylak said. "There's a lot more that we don't know than we do know."

Some animals, of course, can regenerate tissue without help from any powder. Badylak and other scientists are involved in a separate, Pentagon-funded project to uncover and harness their secrets. This work might someday lead to regenerating entire limbs.

One animal they're studying is the salamander, a star of the regeneration field. Chop off a salamander's arm, and it will grow back in a matter of weeks.

Why? The short answer is that rather than making a scar to heal quickly, as people do, the salamander forms a mound of cells called a blastema. This is a regeneration factory: If you cut off a salamander hand and transplant the resulting blastema to the creature's back, it will grow out a hand there.

David Gardiner at the University of California, Irvine, is studying the secrets of the salamander by growing extra arms on the creatures. That allows for more controlled conditions than amputating arms and trying to follow what happens, he said.

So how do you make a salamander grow an extra arm? Make a shallow wound on the upper arm. Re-route a nerve to the site so it will pump out critical chemical signals that promote the creation of blastema cells. And insert a tiny piece of skin from the other side of limb you just wounded, to help provide a blueprint for what needs to be done.

The recipe sounds like "you put it in a cauldron under a full moon," Gardiner observed.

The creatures are so lethargic it's hard to tell if they can use their extra arms, he noted. But the research shows that beyond establishing a blueprint for a new arm, this mix of cells sends out a chemical S.O.S. to attract other kinds of cells from the salamander's body to help construct a new appendage.

Just how many chemical signals are involved, and what they are, remain to be discovered.

Then there's the specially bred mouse strain that befuddled Ellen Heber-Katz a decade ago, and has since become a focus of her research.

Heber-Katz, of the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, was using the mouse strain known as MRL in a study of autoimmune diseases. Her team punched tiny holes in the animals' ears as markers. About three weeks later, Heber-Katz noticed a troubling thing.

"There were no ear holes," she recalled the other day. "We ear-punched again, and they closed up and disappeared.... We were just so shocked."

Like salamanders, the mice were growing blastemas instead of scars. They also heal damage to their hearts.

But for regrowing digits, even this mouse falls short. If a toe is cut off at some point other than the tip, the remnant produces a cell mass that looks like a small blastema, but it doesn't grow the missing part back. (An ordinary mouse just develops a scar.)

At least, the MRL mouse "looks like it's trying," Heber-Katz said.

In studying the mice and salamanders, scientists will pursue several questions. What genes rev up to produce regrowth? What biochemical signals are involved? What is the role of specific cells? Can this knowledge be used to regrow a digit on a mouse?

Scientists say it's not clear when this research might help people.

As for Spievack, the model-airplane enthusiast, he's had enough personal experience in this area.

"I don't plan on cutting anything more off to find out if I can grow that back," he said.


On the Net:

Salamander regeneration:

2007 The Associated Press.

Anonymous said...

[here comes the market for used umbilical cords...]

Bionic boom: The miraculous mechanical body parts that are being made in the lab

By Simon Hadlington
Published: 20 June 2007

The cochlear implant was developed in the 1970s. It is a small device placed under the skin behind the ear that electrically stimulates nerves within the cochlea - the part of the inner ear responsible for hearing. Sound is picked up by a microphone attached to the back of the ear, processed by a device located nearby, and signals are sent by an array of up to 24 electrodes into the brain.

Manufacturers are working on improving the implant, including obtaining a closer "fit" between the electrodes and the bit of the cochlea that needs to be stimulated, and measuring the activity of the auditory nerve in the vicinity of each electrode so that the device can be tuned more accurately.


Scientists are working on two types of artificial liver: an external device similar to a kidney dialysis machine to detoxify the blood (an import function of the liver) and a "new" liver grown from human stem cells. In the US, researchers have passed blood through membranes sitting in a suspension of cells from pig livers to demonstrate that the blood is detoxified by the pig cells. It would be used to keep patients alive while they awaited a transplant. In the UK last year, scientists at the University of Newcastle grew sections of human liver from umbilical cord stem cells. Initially such tissue could be used to test drugs, but eventually it may be possible to generate a liver suitable for transplant.


There is as yet no artificial stomach for use in humans, but that's not to say that there won't be at some point. Scientists at the Institute for Food Research in Norwich have built what they believe to be the first prototype, though it's purely for research purposes. The computer-controlled device consists of a chamber that mimics the human stomach, complete with acidic digestive juices and enzymes. It also churns around in the same way. The stomach is fed real food and the scientists observe how the contents are digested and absorbed. The idea is to get a better understanding of the process, which could help in the design of healthier foods and diets.


The kidney is a sophisticated filter that removes toxins from the blood. When this organ fails, the filtration must be carried out artificially - in a process called dialysis - in which blood is drained from the body and passed through a machine. While a dialysis machine, the prototype of which was developed in the 1940s, is, in effect, an artificial kidney, doctors have been attempting to make smaller and more efficient filters, with the ultimate aim of a wearable or even implantable substitute. Researchers at the University of Michigan, for example, are working on new filter systems by precisely controlling the size and shape of pores in the membranes across which the blood is filtered. This would produce a smaller and more efficient device. Yet, while dialysis machines are getting smaller, and some can fit into a suitcase, the prospects of a "wearable" kidney remain some years away.


Artificial skin has been used for several years by surgeons treating people who have serious burns. Normally, if a patient has lost a large amount of skin, the surgeon takes some from other parts of the patient's body to graft over the affected areas. However, in severe cases there isn't enough unaffected skin to take from elsewhere. "Artificial skin" consists of an outer layer of the rubbery material silicone, and an inner layer made from collagen and shark cartilage. This provides a kind of scaffold that the body's underlying cells can recognise, and they soon start to deposit their own skin proteins. Now researchers are working on ways to include growth factors in artificial skin so that it would attract new cells to the growing layer and encourage it to heal faster.


An artificial brain has been one of the staples of science fiction for a hundred years, and is likely to remain so for the next hundred. But researchers are beginning to understand how to wire silicon chips to the brain, with the prospect of artificial implants that can restore lost function. At the University of Southern California, Professor Theodore Berger's team has shown that it is possible for a silicon chip to "talk to" a mammalian brain. In other words, it might eventually be possible to replace damaged areas with a microprocessor implant that could receive and process signals. [or far more sinisterly, create voodoo-like robots.] Ultimately this could "repair" [and/or control from afar] brains in people who have Alzheimer's disease or who have other damage.


In the US, the ambitious research programme the Artificial Retina Project aims to develop a "bionic eye" for people with disease of the retina (the light-processing layer of cells at the back of the eye). It consists of a miniature camera and computer chip mounted on a pair of spectacles, and a small implant behind the ear linked to an array of electrodes attached to the cells of the retina. As an image is picked up by the camera, the information is converted into electronic signals that are passed via the implant to the electrodes on the retina, from where they travel via the optic nerve to the brain. A prototype with 16 electrodes is on trial.


Scientists have been trying for decades to make a blood substitute that can transport oxygen to tissues efficiently and with no dangerous side-effects, and so reduce the need for blood donations. There have been two main approaches. One is to use nature's oxygen-carrying molecule, haemoglobin, found in red blood cells. The other is to use synthetic oxygen-carrying chemicals, such as perfluorocarbon. [!!!]

Pure haemoglobin is difficult to use because it causes complications with the kidneys, but by encapsulating the haemoglobin it may be possible to avoid these problems. Researchers at Sheffield University are now focusing specifically on the portion of the haemoglobin molecule that carries the oxygen, called porphyrin.


For people with serious chest diseases, an infection could prove deadly as their lungs could fail, so an "artificial lung" can be a lifesaver. One of these, developed around five years ago, consists of a bunch of thin, hollow polymer fibres. The patient's blood is diverted out of the body to flow around these fibres, which absorb the oxygen and unload carbon dioxide. Yet the devices are inefficient and need a lot of blood. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have now shown that, if the fibres are coated with an enzyme, the device can be much more efficient, reducing clotting and inflammation. Artificial lungs, around the size of a CD case, are already used in emergencies.


The development of an artificial heart that can function indefinitely without being rejected by the body has proved elusive. The first patient to receive an implanted artificial heart, in the US in 1982, survived for 112 days. They are now used in a small number of patients who are awaiting a transplant. So far the longest that someone has survived with an artificial heart is just over 20 months. An artificial heart typically weighs a kilogram and is made of metal and plastic and powered by external batteries. Researchers in Texas have been working on a "non-beating" heart that pumps blood continuously. The idea is that these are more durable and can be made smaller.


People with diabetes need constantly to check the levels of glucose in their blood and, when necessary, inject themselves with insulin. Now researchers are hoping that an "artificial pancreas" will do this job automatically. The technology aims to combine two existing devices - a glucose monitor and an insulin dispenser - in a single, wearable, unit. Blood glucose would be continuously monitored by a sensor placed on or just beneath the skin. The readings would be fed into a microprocessor that would calculate any trends in its rise and fall. When a particular dose of insulin was required, a signal would be sent to the dispenser to deliver the appropriate amount of the hormone. Prototypes of the system are undergoing preliminary trials, though it's too early for researchers to give an indication of when it may be widely used.


More than two million transplants are carried out worldwide each year to replace damaged or diseased bone. Usually a portion of bone is taken from the patient, but this is not always straightforward, so an "off-the shelf" substitute is a Holy Grail for surgeons. A bone substitute must have the correct porous structure to allow blood vessels and cells to infiltrate it and grow, and must have the appropriate mechanical strength to help support weight. One recently developed process involves taking sea-coral and treating it chemically to convert the coral to hydroxylapatite - the main mineral component of bone - leaving the porous structure intact. Researchers at the University of Illinois are now developing polymers that can "bleed" a type of glue when they are damaged and, effectively, heal themselves; these might one day be incorporated into artificial bone.

Mark said...

sense extension

Mind over matter' no longer science fiction

General Science : June 09, 2006
Newsletter Print Email Blog It Font size: - N +

Peter Brunner demonstrating the BCI

Sitting stone still under a skull cap fitted with a couple dozen electrodes, American scientist Peter Brunner stares at a laptop computer. Without so much as moving a nostril hair, he suddenly begins to compose a message -- letter by letter -- on a giant screen overhead.

"B-O-N-J-O-U-R" he writes with the power of his mind, much to the amazement of the largely French audience of scientists and curious onlookers gathered at the four-day European Research and Innovation Exhibition in Paris, which opened Thursday.

Brunner and two colleagues from the state-financed Wadsworth Center in Albany, New York were demonstrating a "brain computer interface (BCI)," an astounding technology which digitalizes brain signals emitted as electrical impulses -- picked up by the electrodes -- to convey intent.

[Peter Brunner demonstrating the BCI]
Peter Brunner demonstrating the BCI
While no spoons were bent, this was definitely mind over matter.

Without recourse to nerves or muscles, BCI "can provide communication and control to people who are totally paralyzed" and unable to unable to speak or move, explains researcher Theresa Sellers, also from Wadsworth.

Dr. Sellers estimates there are some 100 million potential users of BCI technology worldwide, including 16 million sufferers of cerebral palsy, a degenerative brain disease, and at least five million victims of spinal cord injury. Another 10 million people have been totally paralyzed by brainstem strokes, she said.

Scientists have been experimenting with ways to translate thought directly into action for nearly two decades, but BCI has only recently begun to move out of the laboratory and into the daily lives of those trapped inside bodies that no longer respond to their will.

Possible applications extend beyond the written word into physical movement -- it is only a matter of time, Sellers says, before the same technology is used to operate motorized wheel chairs. "We can do already. But it is a complex problem, and for now it would be unsafe," she says.

The frightful condition of being "locked in" came into the public eye in the late 1990s, when French journalist and Elle Magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, after suffering a massive stroke, painstakingly "dictated" a beautiful and moving memoir by blinking his left eyelid.

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," published two days before he died, became an international bestseller.

Had BCI technology been available to him, Bauby would almost certainly have been able to write his book unassisted, and in a fraction of the time.

The Wadsworth system, one of several that detects electroencephalographic (EEG) activity, is based on an algorithm that analyzes the brain waves and identifies peaks in activity that correspond to particular mental efforts.

As Dr. Brunner concentrates on the "B" of "bonjour" in a keyboard-like grid of letters and symbols taking up half the screen, a computer randomly highlights lines of characters in rapid succession.

Each time the row -- vertical or horizontal -- containing the letter "B" is illuminated, Brunner's brain emits a slightly stronger signal. It takes the computer about 15 seconds to figure out what letter he is looking at. The system is doubly adaptive, with both the software and the person using it becoming more efficient over time.

"It may not sound very practical, but for someone who is paralyzed it can make all the difference in the world," says Sellers.

Indeed, for at least one 48-year old neurobiologist in the United States stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- an invariably fatal degenerative disease that attacks nerve cells -- the Wadsworth BCI technology has make it possible not only to communicate but to continue working, even though he can no longer even move his eyes.

"He writes grant proposals, sends e-mails and can use the keyboard of a computer at home," Sellers said of the man, whom she did not identify in order to protect his privacy.

He even wrote a message for the exhibition in Paris, which Sellers projected onto a screen.

"To Altran," he began, referring to the French innovation consulting firm that sponsors an annual competition for public service innovation, won in 2005 by the head of the Wadworth Center, Jonathan Wolpaw.

"I am a neuroscientist wHo couldn't work without BCI," the message read, typo and all. "I am writing this with my EEG courtesy of the Wadsworth Center Brain-Computer Interface Research Program."

2006 AFP

Mark said...

Stem Cell Treatment Cures Multiple Sclerosis Patient

Stem cell op helps woman to stand again

Jun 22 2006

A WOMAN confined to a wheelchair for the past five years has told of the miracle moment she stood up after revolutionary stem-cell treatment.

Julia Sandeman, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, paid £13,500 for the make-or-break operation in a Dutch clinic.

After the procedure she regained sensation in her limbs and is now able to balance upright in a therapy pool, sparking fresh hope she will one day walk again.

Julia, who lives in a carer-assisted home in Stanley Street, Caterham, said: "I had tears in my eyes the moment when I was holding up my own body weight for the first time in years.

"Not only do I have some sensation I now believe I might regain full use of my legs."

Story continues Continue story

The 33-year-old, who was a talented dancer before being diagnosed with MS eight years ago, said she dreams of walking hand in hand alongside her five-year-old daughter Jenna.

She said: "It felt like climbing Mount Everest when I stood up. My dream is to one day walk along a beach with Jenna.

"I just hope the stem cells keep on doing their work."

Julia suffered blurred vision and a loss of sensation in her limbs as the disease began to take hold of her body and she was forced to use a wheelchair.

In desperation she resorted to having cells from the umbilical cords of new-born babies injected into acupuncture points in her body.

The radical treatment, which took place in February at a Rotterdam clinic, is untried in this country but has seen Julia achieve incredible results.

So far she has completed simple but farreaching goals such as lifting her foot several times in succession and steadying her trembling hands enough to send a text message.

This week her father Peter, 68, told the Mirror he is so happy with her progress he is prepared to sell beloved photographs of him with his late friend John Lennon to help fund it further.

He said: "Julia has made a heck of a lot of progress. "We're so pleased with her and hope that one day she'll walk again.

"I'm very encouraged. Just her regaining bladder control was worth the price of the treatment alone. This operation has given us hope where we had none before." Amazing results: Julia Sandeman with her father Peter

Mark said...

Freaking brilliant

12 incredible, past-annihilating, future-inaugurating, possibly planet-saving scientists and the freaking brilliant inventions they're creating right here, right now.
By Jonathon Keats

Call it the post-biotech revolution. Here in the Bay Area, some of the world’s most open minds are enlisting the working secrets of nature’s cells and ecosystems to develop technologies so novel they make genetic engineering look like animal husbandry. In labs at Stanford, UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, teams of scientists from a galaxy of backgrounds are building machines with the filtration capabilities of the cell or the energy efficiency of the brain. Others are cleaning up the environment with microbes, even generating unimaginably inventive ideas using Darwinian evolution. Will the 12 technologies in these pages save the world? Who knows? But working with nature rather than trying to overcome it, their inventors are far less likely than their predecessors to destroy it.

Bionic legs

WHAT IT IS: An automated exoskeleton that endows the wearer with the superior strength of a robot

LEAD INVENTOR: Roboticist Homayoon Kazerooni, UC Berkeley

SNAPSHOT: Powered by electricity, Kazerooni’s metal-frame exoskeleton straps onto the back and legs, reinforcing the wearer’s step and strength like a turbocharged orthopedic brace, facilitating effortless travel even with a pack full of gear.

FANTASY APP: A lightweight exo for the wheelchair-bound that would put them on their feet again

THE STORY: Athletes may relish fitness and dancers may cherish balance, but few people admire the human body as deeply as roboticists, who strive to build automatons that do the work of men and women. Spend a few years trying to make a machine as efficient or coordinated as a living being, and you’ll appre­ciate how ingeniously the body is designed. Many engineers have tried and failed to imitate the human gait by programming biped robots to mimic everything known about human movement. Kazerooni, 49, purposely leaves that intelligence out of his robotics. Rather than try to make an awkwardly autonomous walking machine, he builds exoskeletons that lend robotic power and endurance to the people harnessed inside them.

Kazerooni, who directs the Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory at Cal, has invented an external set of muscles that can be donned as easily as a pair of ski pants. The 100-pound motorized aluminum and titanium frame straps onto the wearer’s legs and back, where an electric power supply drives hydraulics running through every joint that amplify the body’s exertions.

While the machine is still bulkier than a space suit, it can already support a nonathletic student running across campus with a 70-pound backpack. Within the next two years, Kazerooni and his crew will double that capacity, giving soldiers and rescue workers the ability to haul 150-pound loads over miles of rugged terrain with no more effort than it takes to carry a fanny pack down a country road. One day the exos will be able to brace people now confined to wheelchairs, exercising their muscles and potentially rehabilitating them.

The key to his system, which Kazerooni figured out as a child making go-carts in Tehran, is to keep the robotics as modest as possible. For instance, unlike most robots the exo has no balancing mechanism. It moves quickly enough and is sensitive enough to follow the wearer’s movements as he reflexively tries to right himself if he’s falling. The machine has a virtual nervous system of about 40 sensors embedded in the frame from waist to foot that can pick up on every quiver of a moving body. Networked into a microcomputer, those sensors control the hydraulic muscles that mirror the body’s movements with a lag time of a couple of microseconds. In other words, the connection between the robotic suit and the human body, between brawn and brains, is seamless. The capabilities of both machine and wearer are leveraged to the fullest.

Mark said...

A brain on a chip

WHAT IT IS: A model of the brain’s pathways on a computer chip

LEAD INVENTOR: Bioengineer Kwabena Boahen, Stanford

SNAPSHOT: To make computers as powerful and efficient as the human brain, Boahen is developing ways to base the design of electronics on our mental circuitry. His circuits combine hardware and software such that the wiring can self-adjust to “learn” new functions. He has already recreated the networks of the retina.

FANTASY APP: Because Boahen’s electronics work like the brain, they may one day form the basis of a prosthetic cortex—yes, an artificial brain.

THE STORY: When Boahen, 41, got his first computer as a teenager in Ghana back in the ’80s, he was appalled to learn how it worked. “To do anything interesting was so complicated,” he says. “I figured there has to be a better way.” He doesn’t have a much higher opinion of today’s computer technology. While exponentially faster and more powerful than his first machine, even the latest supercomputers are woefully inefficient when compared to the one mechanism that really impresses him: the brain. Running on a mere 10 watts of power, the brain performs calculations that would require millions of Pentium processors and consume a gigawatt of power.

Rather than compete with biology, Boahen, a professor of bioengineering, seeks to emulate it on a chip. The physical realities are daunting: the brain is composed of a trillion neurons connected in a web so fine that a single cubic millimeter of cortex contains four kilometers of wiring. Moreover, the pattern in which the neurons are connected is constantly changing as we learn.

So Boahen has begun his research on a network similar in design and function to those of the brain proper, yet more self-contained and much simpler: the retina. Using transistors, he has built a circuit on a computer chip that measures light in the way that a real retina does. Instead of measuring lighting conditions at every point in its field of view, the retina compares light levels at many points and registers the contrasts. Greater efficiency means lower power consumption, resulting in a chip that can be used as a retinal prosthesis without overheating the eye.

Boahen is seeking to build a partial cortex on a circuit board within the next few years. He can imagine neurologists, soldering irons in hand, experimenting on this silicon brain with a directness that could never be attempted on a living organ. Insights from these experiments may allow surgeons decades from now to replace damaged areas of a real brain with silicon. In the meantime, Boahen’s brain-inspired electronics are demonstrating ways in which computer design can be smarter, one day allowing handheld devices to become smaller and to run for longer on less power.

Mark said...

A virtual heart

WHAT IT IS: Three-dimensional computer simulation of body parts—for starters, the human heart

LEAD INVENTOR: Computer scientist Katherine Yelick, UC Berkeley

SNAPSHOT: Yelick and her colleagues have developed a computer language that will eventually allow hospitals to create virtual copies of your organs, allowing doctors to test their treatments online, without jeopardizing the patient.

FANTASY APP: Prostheses and drugs custom designed to meet a patient’s specific needs

THE STORY: A technique that saves 99.9 percent of patients may kill or damage the remaining 0.1 percent. The only way to be certain that a drug or medical procedure will cause an individual less harm than good would be to test it first on a virtual doppelgänger.

Yelick, 46, a professor of computer science, is working one organ at a time to invent such an avatar. Using Titanium, a programming language of her own design, she has simulated the three-dimensional dynamics of a beating heart. Her programming allows her to parcel out the organ’s intricacies over many computers running in parallel, handling muscle contraction, for in­stance, on one set of machines and valve closure on another. (Others in her research group have applied the simulation technique to other body parts, most successfully the inner ear.)

The challenge of making a heart beat on a computer screen suggests how difficult creating a fully functioning avatar will be. While fluids move through a rigid machine in a relatively straightforward way, the muscle fiber of the heart is elastic, constantly changing in shape as the blood moves through it. Yelick began working on her computerized heart in 1993; eventually, using an IBM supercomputer, she was able to simulate one heartbeat every 24 hours.

Fortunately, there’s no need for a naturalistic 60-beat-per-minute pulse to test, for example, how an artificial valve will function in a damaged heart. Yelick believes that once Titanium can precisely simulate a deformity, doctors will be able to build custom prostheses, such as heart valves, rather than rely on one-size-fits-all components. Simulating an individual body’s chemistry will likewise be helpful, eventually allowing doctors to experiment with potent drug cocktails or even to custom-design pharmaceuticals for the rarest of ailments. Having an artificial patient online, biologists will be able to move beyond the observations of medical imaging and try experiments that would never be permissible on a living being.

Mark said...

A bug-eyed lens

WHAT IT IS: A minuscule wide-angle lens based on the anatomy of an insect’s eye

LEAD INVENTOR: Bioengineer Luke Lee, UC Berkeley

FANTASY APP: Artificial retinas that bring sight to the blind

THE STORY: Thousands of microscopic lenses, each set at a unique angle and peering in a direction slightly different from the rest, provide insects a remarkably broad range of vision. Lee saw how nature’s design specs could improve lenses in items such as surgical endoscopes and ultracompact cell phones. Now able to mold arrays of 8,700 microscopic lenses, all bunched together in a drop of polymer resin, his lab is poised to enter the cell-phone and surveillance-camera markets in the next few years.

Mark said...

Brain Device Moves Objects by Thought
Hiroko Tabuchi, Associated Press

June 22, 2007 — Forget the clicker: A new technology in Japan could let you control electronic devices without lifting a finger simply by reading brain activity.

The "brain-machine interface" developed by Hitachi Inc. analyzes slight changes in the brain's blood flow and translates brain motion into electric signals.

A cap connects by optical fibers to a mapping device, which links, in turn, to a toy train set via a control computer and motor during one recent demonstration at Hitachi's Advanced Research Laboratory in Hatoyama, just outside Tokyo.

"Take a deep breath and relax," said Kei Utsugi, a researcher, while demonstrating the device on Wednesday.

At his prompting, a reporter did simple calculations in her head, and the train sprang forward — apparently indicating activity in the brain's frontal cortex, which handles problem solving.

Activating that region of the brain — by doing sums or singing a song — is what makes the train run, according to Utsugi. When one stops the calculations, the train stops, too.

Underlying Hitachi's brain-machine interface is a technology called optical topography, which sends a small amount of infrared light through the brain's surface to map out changes in blood flow.

Although brain-machine interface technology has traditionally focused on medical uses, makers like Hitachi and Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co. have been racing to refine the technology for commercial application.

Hitachi's scientists are set to develop a brain TV remote controller letting users turn a TV on and off or switch channels by only thinking.

Honda, whose interface monitors the brain with an MRI machine like those used in hospitals, is keen to apply the interface to intelligent, next-generation automobiles.

The technology could one day replace remote controls and keyboards and perhaps help disabled people operate electric wheelchairs, beds or artificial limbs.
Initial uses would be helping people with paralyzing diseases communicate even after they have lost all control of their muscles.

Since 2005, Hitachi has sold a device based on optical topography that monitors brain activity in paralyzed patients so they can answer simple questions — for example, by doing mental calculations to indicate "yes" or thinking of nothing in particular to indicate "no."

"We are thinking of various kinds of applications," project leader Hideaki Koizumi said. "Locked-in patients can speak to other people by using this kind of brain machine interface."

A key advantage to Hitachi's technology is that sensors don't have to physically enter the brain. Earlier technologies developed by U.S. companies like Neural Signals Inc. required implanting a chip under the skull.

Still, major stumbling blocks remain.

Size is one issue, though Hitachi has developed a prototype compact headband and mapping machine that together weigh only about two pounds.

Another would be to tweak the interface to more accurately pick up on the correct signals while ignoring background brain activity.

Any brain-machine interface device for widespread use would be "a little further down the road," Koizumi said.

He added, however, that the technology is entertaining in itself and could easily be applied to toys.

"It's really fun to move a model train just by thinking," he said.

Anonymous said...


Scientists Invent Novel Hydrogels For Repairing And Regenerating Human Tissue

Close-up of University of Delaware hydrogel.
by Staff Writers

Newark, DE (SPX) Jul 20, 2007

University of Delaware scientists have invented a novel biomaterial with surprising antibacterial properties that can be injected as a low-viscosity gel into a wound where it rigidifies nearly on contact--opening the door to the possibility of delivering a targeted payload of cells and antibiotics to repair the damaged tissue.

Regenerating healthy tissue in a cancer-ridden liver, healing a biopsy site and providing wounded soldiers in battle with pain-killing, infection-fighting medical treatment are among the myriad uses the scientists foresee for the new technology.

The patented invention by Joel Schneider, UD associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Darrin Pochan, associate professor of materials science, and their research groups marks a major step forward in the development of hydrogels for medical applications.

Formulating hydrogels as delivery vehicles for cells extends the uses of these biopolymers far beyond soft-contact lenses into an intriguing realm once viewed as the domain of science fiction, including growing bones and organs to replace those that are diseased or injured.

"This is an area that will be exploding over the next decade," Pochan said.

Hydrogels are formed from networks of super-absorbent, chain-like polymers. Although they are not soluble in water, they soak up large amounts of it, and their porous structure allows nutrients and cell wastes to pass right through them.

Schneider and Pochan and their research teams have been focusing on developing peptide-based hydrogels that, once implanted in the human body, will become scaffolds for cells to hold onto and grow--cells such as fibroblasts, which form connective tissue, and osteoblasts, which form bone.

"They're like rebar when you're building something with concrete," Schneider said. "They give the cement something to hang onto."

The basis of UD's hydrogels is "MAX1," a self-assembling peptide that the scientists designed six years ago and named after Pochan's son, Max.

Peptides are short chains of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Different amino acids are bonded together to form chains, which then fold up into more compact shapes with specific functions.

The peptide that Schneider and Pochan and their research teams designed undergoes triggered "self-assembly," meaning that the peptide will fold automatically into a specific shape in response to a particular trigger, or environmental stimulus, such as exposure to light. After folding, it self-assembles, affording the hydrogel.

Using "MAX8," the eighth iteration of their original peptide, Lisa Haines-Butterick, a doctoral student in Schneider's group, figured out how to encapsulate living cells in the hydrogel and then inject the gel into secondary sites without harming the cells.

"Although we have currently only demonstrated this capacity of our gels using simple models, we envision that when injected into the body, the cells encapsulated in the gel can go about their business in restructuring the tissue," Schneider explained.

UD's peptide-based hydrogels display several novel features. Not only are they cytocompatible, meaning that they are not toxic to the living cells they are enlisted to deliver, but some of the gels are inherently antimicrobial, killing certain gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, a characteristic the research team currently is exploring.

The UD hydrogels also can be freeze-dried into a powder and reconstituted into a solution for use. They can be injected from a syringe, offering a minimally invasive approach to medical treatment, as well as a targeted, "leak-proof' way of potentially delivering cells and drugs to a wound or diseased organ.

Collaborations with physicians at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Del., may lead to future developments for the hydrogels. Schneider recently began working with Dr. Joseph Bennett, a surgeon at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center who resects liver tumors.

Both Schneider and Pochan attribute this new collaboration to the Center for Translational Cancer Research, a collaboration of Christiana Care Health System, A. I. duPont Hospital for Children and UD, including the University's Delaware Biotechnology Institute. The center is under the direction of Mary C. Farach-Carson a professor of both biological sciences and material sciences at UD.

"You know, the liver is an amazing organ," Schneider said. "It has the ability to regenerate itself quite easily. If almost 70 percent of it is lost to disease and removed, that remaining 30 percent can grow back, affording a functional liver. We want to use the hydrogels to deliver hepatocytes to the liver," he noted. "These could be used to beef up the liver's function prior to surgery if, for example, someone had hepatitis, or drank a lot, factors that would normally limit the amount of cancerous liver that can be removed."

While Schneider and Pochan aren't Felix and Oscar in The Odd Couple, they do work in very different scientific disciplines, and they have an easy banter.

Both scientists joined the UD faculty in 1999. They met during new faculty orientation at the president's house, seated at the same table.

"Serendipity can really be your friend," Pochan said.

Besides learning about each other's research, Pochan and Schneider also found out they lived in the same neighborhood in Philadelphia, although at different times (Schneider during postgraduate research at the University of Pennsylvania, and Pochan during his first years at UD), and even had some of the same mutual friends there.

"What are the odds?" Schneider said.

Both scientists have since gone on to win the National Science Foundation's prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Award in 2004 and the DuPont Young Professor Award (Pochan in 2002 and Schneider in 2005). Schneider also received the Francis Alison Society's Young Scholars Award in 2003, and Pochan is this year's recipient of the American Physical Society's John H. Dillon Medal.

"The thing is, he used to throw these things away," Pochan said, referring to the hydrogels and pointing his thumb at Schneider.

"For the research I was working on when I was a graduate student a long time ago, the last thing I wanted to make was hydrogels," Schneider explained, "so when that's what I ended up with, I'd throw them out. Then Darrin said to me, 'You know, these things are really pretty interesting....'

"It's been a very successful collaboration," Schneider added. "A whole host of terrific students and other people on- and off-campus have helped this come to fruition," he noted. "Without these students and collaborators, this work would be impossible."

Schneider and Pochan's most recent hydrogel study is reported in the May 8 (print) edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their research is funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Mark said...

Is Resveratrol the Modern-Day Fountain of Youth?

Resveratrol, a chemical found in red wine, made headlines when it seemed to slow down the aging process of white mice in studies.

Now, the company Sirtris Pharmaceuticals is trying to develop medicines for humans that have the same effects.

If Sirtris is successful, it could produce medicines to halt the onset or progression of age-related diseases including diabetes, Alzheimer's, and cancer.

These medicines could even extend the human lifespan.

Sirtris has already developed "high throughput" screening tests to quickly analyze nearly 500,000 compounds for resveratrol-like activity. This allowed them to identify molecules that may replicate resveratrol's health benefits at much smaller doses. The company has also begun testing a resveratrol-based drug. January 19, 2007

Wired January 23, 2007

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

Resveratrol is one of the most exciting antioxidants out there. If Sirtris develops a drug that could slow down all diseases, it would be an "FDA-approvable blockbuster of unprecedented scope."

It appears that resveratrol does have the power to extend life, just as the less-desirable method of calorie restriction does.

Most experts agree that calorie restriction does extend life; studies have found that reducing normal calorie intake by about one-third extends animals' lifespans by 30 percent or more.

However on a practical level most people are not willing to go through that kind of deprivation.

So even though this is a tried and true strategy it is a dismal failure from a practical perspective.

That is where reserveratrol comes in as it appears to produce the same benefits as calorie restriction and even works on similar mechanisms, but it does it without any of the pain and suffering of depriving oneself of food.

While this new research is exciting, I wouldn't put my hopes of a long, healthy life into the hands of a pharmaceutical company, as the odds are overwhelmingly against you and for their bottom line.

Fortunately, you don't have to wait for any drug company to produce this product as there are a number of different companies that produce this right now.

If you want to boost your consumption of resveratrol it is important to focus on products that have the WHOLE grape skins and seeds.

This will be FAR more effective than obtaining it from red wine as some people suggest.

Meanwhile, if you have any interest in extending your lifespan, you will want to watch the Nova video above, which reviews the incredible work of a Harvard researcher who is performing much of the pioneering work in the field.

On Vital Votes, biochemist Russ Bianchi from Soquel, California says:

"Be careful what one wishes for, as the old saying goes ...

"I do not disagree in any way with this good news on resveratrol, I merely would like to point out that it must be in a form that is bioavailable, for metabolic utilization.

"Also dosage WILL VARY in each, or specific, individuals, with specific needs or predispositions, in specific dosages, based on their age, body weight, etc.

"Additionally, dosage must be over a measured time period, coordinated with all other caloric intake or exercise regiment (if any) that may, or may not, assist, or inhibit, effective utilization of the resveratrol.

"Americans love their magic silver bullets ... or what a friend of mine calls the 'yo-yo syndrome'... eat a quart of ice cream, and then think something can counter it without ... consequences.

"Common sense goes a long way in assisting on a healthy lifestyle also."

Other responses to this article can be viewed at Vital Votes, and you can add your own thoughts or vote on comments by first registering at Vital Votes.

Related Articles:

Grape Skin Protein Kills Cancer Cells

Grapes May Prevent Alzheimer's

Molecule in Red Wine May Activate ?Longevity Gene?


Mark said...

A new Canadian tool can re-grow teeth say inventors, with ultrasound treatment

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 (AFP)

Snaggle-toothed hockey players and sugar lovers may soon rejoice as Canadian scientists said they have created the first device able to re-grow teeth and bones.

The researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton filed patents earlier this month in the United States for the tool based on low-intensity pulsed ultrasound technology after testing it on a dozen dental patients in Canada.

"Right now, we plan to use it to fix fractured or diseased teeth, as well as asymmetric jawbones, but it may also help hockey players or children who had their tooth knocked out," Jie Chen, an engineering professor and nano-circuit design expert, told AFP.

Chen helped create the tiny ultrasound machine that gently massages gums and stimulates tooth growth from the root once inserted into a person's mouth, mounted on braces or a removable plastic crown.

The wireless device, smaller than a pea, must be activated for 20 minutes each day for four months to stimulate growth, he said.

It can also stimulate jawbone growth to fix a person's crooked smile and may eventually allow people to grow taller by stimulating bone growth, Chen said.

Tarek El-Bialy, a new member of the university's dentistry faculty, first tested the low-intensity pulsed ultrasound treatment to repair dental tissue in rabbits in the late 1990s.

His research was published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics and later presented at the World Federation of Orthodontics in Paris in September 2005.

With the help of Chen and Ying Tsui, another engineering professor, the initial massive handheld device was shrunk to fit inside a person's mouth.

It is still at the prototype stage, but the trio expects to commercialize it within two years, Chen said.

The bigger version has already received approvals from American and Canadian regulatory bodies, he noted.


Mark said...

commenting on the PRINCIPLE to make it clear:

This gives a whole new meaning to tickling DNA with frequencies to make it activate or to self-heal. This dentists invention may turn out to be a key general technology for bodily regrowth applications. Implications of bodily regrowth (of anything 'you're not supposed' to have extra sets of) shows the body has the potential to regrow virtually anything if stimulated. I have read that sometimes people have regrown third sets of teeth naturally after very severe mouth trauma, showing that something bodily occurred to 'click' this on on the body without external sonics.

The technology implications for us mere mere mortals lends toward conceptions of immorality...

I can picture adapting such ideas of this mere tooth regrow application with the cymatic specific frequencies of particular organs already tabulated out by Yale University researchers by the 1970s. What that means is what if you could regrow or be aided in regrowing your own diseased organs simply by tickling your DNA sonically to make another organ on demand in the right place?

After all, DNA houses your whole blueprint. DNA replication over time is like a xerox machine though, copies of copies of copies increasingly blurry and indistict and full of errors in the copying process itself. Digitizing DNA information for individuals for later 'recouperation' of youthful organs from 'better copies' might increasingly be part of this technology as well? Making medicine entirely individualized INSTEAD of a commodity form that leads to corruption?

The applications of this tooth-specific technology opens a whole novel realm of healing and self-healing without commodity based allopathic medicine, exactly like all the other machines mentioned above.

Mark said...

Stem-Cell Therapy in China Draws Foreign Patients

by Louisa Lim

Jena Teague and Terry Williams brought their 7-month old baby Laylah to China for treatment.
Louisa Lim, NPR

Jena Teague and Terry Williams brought their blind, 7-month-old baby Laylah to China for an experimental stem-cell treatment. Laylah has optic nerve hypoplasia, an incurable condition. Chinese doctors say they see signs her therapy is working.

Other Possible Treatments

Some U.S. experts say there's no evidence that the stem cell therapy being offered in China will work in one of the most common causes of childhood blindness, optic nerve hypoplasia (ONH).

Dr. Mark Borchert, head of the vision center at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, weighs in on the debate and possible treatments.

Read that story.

Morning Edition, March 18, 2008 · China is gaining popularity among a new breed of travelers: patients with incurable conditions who are visiting the country to receive experimental stem-cell treatments not offered in the United States.

One company is now claiming a medical breakthrough, advertising that its treatments are restoring vision to blind children. It has ignited a firestorm of controversy in both China and in the U.S.

Giving Parents a New Option

Jena Teague and her husband Terry Williams are among these new visitors. They traveled to China to seek stem-cell treatment for their blind, 7-month-old baby daughter, Laylah. She was born with optic nerve hypoplasia, or ONH — when the optic nerves fail to develop properly in the womb. Conventional medicine offers no treatment and no cure.

But Teague came across a Web site about stem-cell treatments offered by Beike Biotechnology in China and decided to try it — against advice from specialists at home in Georgia.

"None of the specialists had heard of the stem cells, of what they're doing here. They didn't believe it would work. They told me not to expect anything to happen out of it," Teague says.

Nonetheless, the family traveled to the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, where Beike is based. They are spending $23,000 for Laylah to have infusions of stem cells harvested from umbilical cords — not the more controversial embryonic stem cells. In the U.S., cord blood stem cells are used for treating blood diseases, but are not used for treating other conditions, such as Laylah's vision problem.

Treatment Seems to Yield Positive Results

After three sessions, Teague and Williams say the therapy is already working.

The doctors have told Laylah's parents that the baby now sees light through one eye, while the other eye is dilating almost to the point where she can see light.

So far, 10 patients suffering from ONH have received the same stem-cell treatment in China, and doctors there claim that the vision of all 10 improved after the therapy.

At age 5, Rylea Barlett also received the stem-cell treatment. She, too, had been blind before.

Dr. Shalesh Kaushal, an eye specialist at the University of Florida, examined Bartlett, who is now 6, after she returned to the U.S.

"This child had essentially no light perception, and upon returning she's had a gradual improvement — so much so that at our exam it appeared that she had formed vision," he says. "That is to say that she could at least recognize large letters."

Kaushal concluded that the stem-cell therapy was the only clinical explanation for her improvement. Some infants with ONH gain more vision spontaneously over the first few years of life, but Barlett was already too old for that.

Kaushal is now evaluating other patients before and after the stem-cell treatment. But he is not recommending that patients go to China; he says much more research needs to be done.

"It's clearly a provocative result. … If this is a real, reproducible observation or effect in other patients, one may consider it as a fundamental breakthrough," says Kaushal.

Reasons for Improvements Remain a Mystery

Dr. Sean Hu, the 40-year-old chairman of Beike Biotechnology, is a medical doctor-turned-entrepreneur with a doctorate in biochemistry from a Swedish university.

Less than three years ago, he set up Beike. Since then, 3,000 patients — most of them from China — have received Beike's stem-cell treatments for a wide range of conditions. He says 70 percent have seen improvements, but he admits he can't explain why.

"In the clinical areas, we know there are improvements. We don't know the mechanism behind it," Hu says.

That raises many concerns. Any improvement could be due to the placebo effect — or other factors besides the stem-cell therapy — and may not lead to longer-term functional gains. No rigorous, controlled clinical trials were carried out before the treatment was offered to patients. No research has yet been published in established peer-review journals overseas. And no one knows for sure what the possible risks might be.

But Hu isn't worried by the ethical implications of what he's doing.

"I can say I changed the life of these patients. Now they get their vision back. They went from completely blind, now they can see stuff. You think that's ethical or nonethical?" he asks.

Therapies Criticized as 'Extreme Nonsense'

Beike claims to treat a wide range of conditions with stem-cell therapy — from spinal-cord injuries to epilepsy to cerebral palsy to neurodegenerative disorders. But critics have their doubts.

Bruce Dobkin is director of the neurologic rehabilitation and research program at the University of California, Los Angles. In response to questions from NPR, he writes in an e-mail that "it is extreme nonsense to think that cells can be incorporated into the complex nervous system and do so much, when we cannot even get cells in mice and rats to do very much."

Chinese scientists are worried, too.

Dr. Naihe Jing is the deputy director of one of China's top stem-cell research labs and a member of the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences. He fears Beike could ruin the reputation of China's entire biotech industry.

"We think money is mainly behind this," he says, adding that he is concerned that one company's pursuit of profit will create a bad reputation for the whole country.

Providing Help, Providing Hope

Already, 600 foreigners have come to China and paid about $20,000 each for the stem-cell therapy, while even more Chinese patients are flocking for treatment.

The venture capital is flooding in, too. Hu, Beike's chairman, says he has raised about $15 million in funding, although NPR could not verify the claim. He admits making a calculated decision to go into stem-cell research: As he puts it, you have to choose the area with the best return.

"Obviously, [stem-cell research] is the most important area in biotech research in the future, because it's going to create a huge market, even bigger than the whole pharmaceutical industry. Stem-cell and regenerative medicine is the future of medicine," Hu says.

And parents continue to bring their children to Beike in the hopes of finding a cure for their ailments.

The results of Beike's experimental therapy may be uneven and unproven. Yet for patients and their families, hope is, perhaps, the most important commodity on sale in China — even if it costs tens of thousands of dollars.


Mark said...

Want to see your 100th birthday? Be like the French and drink red wine

* The French recipe for a longer life
* Leading article: Secrets of a good – and long – life]

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
Saturday, 5 April 2008

In the battle of the centenarians, it is an unequal contest. France and Britain have near identical populations, yet today 20,000 French citizens are aged 100-plus against 11,000 people in Britain.

The increase in the very old is happening across the Western world but the number in France has soared, according to the National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies in Paris, which published the figures.

They show French centenarians have risen from 3,760 in 1990 to 20,115 in 2008, a more than five-fold increase. In Britain, centenarians are the fastest growing section of the population, yet we still trail our continental cousins. What is the secret of the French success?

France still holds the record for the world's longest lived person – Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 aged 122 years, five months and 14 days. She attributed her longevity to a diet rich in olive oil, regular glasses of port and an ability to "keep smiling".

With her keen interest in good food and drink and zest for life she was the perfect advertisement for the health-giving properties of la vie française. Despite the French passion for cream, eggs and foie gras, le digestif after a meal, and an addiction to Gitanes cigarettes, they have half our obesity levels, less than half our death rate from heart disease and lower rates of cancer in women (but not men). They play boules and cycle, even in their dotage, which keeps them active enough to enjoy lunch.

And lunch they take very seriously – a proper, sit-down, three- or four-course meal from an early age.

The biggest puzzle is how the land of Escoffier, with its love of rich food and creamy sauces, has managed to avoid an epidemic of heart disease. The French and British diets contain similar quantities of fat, at around 40 per cent of total calories, yet French rates of heart disease in the under-75s are less than half those in Britain.

Kay Tee-Khaw, professor of clinical gerontology at the University of Oxford, said: "France's high number of centenarians is interesting. A major cause of death in middle age is heart disease. Life expectancy from age 65 is substantially better in France, because they have substantially lower rates of heart disease. It is better in Crete and Greece, too.

"We know this must be due to lifestyle because the time trends are so clear. There have been massive changes [in longevity] and it has happened so fast it must be due to lifestyle but we have not been so good at understanding what aspects. I think red wine has something to do with it."

The low rate of heart disease in France, despite its rich diet, is the French paradox which has puzzled medical researchers for decades. US scientists have suggested the explanation could be the French habit of eating everything, but less of it.

Like Britain, the country has a north-south divide, with cream cheese and cider dominating menus in Normandy and fish, fruit and vegetables and olive oil rather than butter featuring more prominently close to the Mediterranean. Death rates fall as the consumption of fruit and vegetables increases.

Then there is the wine. There have been rapid increases in wine sales in the UK in the past decade, yet British consumption at 27 litres a head per year still has a long way to go to match the French at 64 litres.

Despite drinking in greater quantities, the French drink more moderately, with meals, as opposed to binge drinking in Britain.

Red wine is thought to be good for combating heart disease. But Roger Corder, professor of experimental therapeutics at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, and author of The Wine Diet, believes the explanation is more complex. He observed that the Gers region close to the Pyrénées in the south had twice the national average of men aged over 90.

When he analysed the Madiran wine, made with at least 40 per cent Tannat grapes grown in the region, he found it had among the highest levels in any wine of a plant chemical, procyanadin, which has a beneficial effect on the blood vessels.

"The wines to look for containing high levels of procyanadins are those with firm tannins made in the traditional way. It is not just about Madirans. There are plenty of choices out there."

He added: "But it is not just about wine. The French spend more on food and eat better quality and more variety. It is about a lifetime's habit. Cut out all this dieting nonsense and just eat healthily and exercise. The French join cycle clubs – and then go for fantastic lunches."

The French recipe for a longer life

The Germans have a saying: "Happy like God in France". A modern version might be "Happy like a wrinkly in France".

The explosion in the numbers of very elderly French is something of a mystery to the French themselves. And a bit of a worry. By mid-century, at the current rate, there could be 170,000 French centenarians.

The best guess of French researchers is that there is something in the French climate and diet which is conducive to long life. But climate and diet have been roughly the same for years. The proliferation of French centenarians, three quarters of them women, is explained by advances in medical treatment, and the generally lavish provision of good-quality healthcare since the 1940s.

A decade ago, American researchers discovered something that they called the "French Paradox". French people lived longer and were healthier even though they consumed many things – especially large quantities of red wine – which were supposed to inflict bodily harm.

The true paradox of French longevity is more complex than that. It is a series of interlocking paradoxes.

First, there are regional differences. Expectation of life is higher in the south of France than in the north, and especially high in the south-west. If you truly wish to live to be 100, you could try the red wine, olive oil, poultry, fish and haricots of the typical French south-western diet.

[Or look up the Hunsa dietary regime as well, in the Himalayas.]

Secondly, longevity is supposed to be a sign of contentment. Yet polls and anecdotal evidence suggest the French are a naturally cantankerous and discontented people.

Finally,the French are no longer eating and drinking like the French. Medical researchers worry they have moved to a more Anglo-Saxon diet: more fat, more processed foods, more beer.

Perhaps there will not be a great great granny-boom in mid-century France after all.



Leading article: Secrets of a good – and long – life

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Which European country offers its citizens the best chance of surviving to a ripe old age? France, with 20,000 centenarians in a population of 60 million, must surely have a strong claim to the crown. The total of French people who survive to reach 100 is almost twice that of the UK, which has a population of a similar size.

Yet just a year separates the life expectancies in the two countries.

A child born today in France can expect to live to 80 while one born in the UK can expect to live to 79.

The point is that life expectancy at birth does not tell us about the survival of the old because it is disproportionately affected by deaths in infancy.

A better guide is life expectancy at age 65, 70 or 80 – it is here that France scores so highly. And the chief reason why France has so many very elderly citizens is because it has very low rates of heart disease, which carries off the middle aged. If you survive heart disease, your chances of passing 100 increase dramatically.

Heart disease deaths have more than halved in the UK in the past 20 years. Yet cross the channel and they halve again. The difference, doctors say, is in the lifestyle, though precisely which aspects are so crucial is less clear. Red wine plays a part, as does diet – the diet based on fish, fruit and vegetables which is associated with the Mediterranean coast.

But it is not only the components of the French diet that are important. It is also the style in which they are consumed – in several courses, accompanied by wine, salad and fruit, by diners seated around a table. Despite their appetites, the French manage to stay slimmer than we do; they remain more active, and they give every appearance of enjoying life.

There are signs that the increase in French life expectancy has accelerated in the past five years.

One study suggested the cause might lie with the August 2003 heatwave which, though it killed 15,000 mainly older people, galvanised the nation to take better care of the elderly.

If so, this can only add to the attractions of a country that already exerts a powerful hold over the retirement fantasies of middle Britain.

When the virtues of the French health system, with its responsive service and absence of waiting lists, are factored into the mix, France has all the elements of a country in which it could be a pleasure to grow old – even to live to celebrate one's 100th birthday.


Mark said...

[Another story of tissue regeneration in humans, like the introductory TED video describes, though a different technique.]

The amazing 'pixie dust' made from pigs bladder that regrew a severed finger in FOUR weeks

By MICHAEL HANLON - More by this author » Last updated at 01:15am on 2nd May 2008

Sponges can do it and so can starfish. For flatworms it is no problem, and both lizards and salamanders can pull off the same trick.

The trick in question is regeneration, the almost magical property possessed by some animals to regrow whole limbs, tails, other body parts or organs if they are lost in an accident.

This spontaneous regeneration has only recently begun to be understood and it involves an incredibly complex interplay of genes and tissues.

What is known is that regeneration does not - except to a very limited degree - occur in humans or, indeed, in any mammals. Cut off a man's leg or a rabbit's foot and the best you can hope for is a scar covered stump.

Cut off a finger-tip and, unless you find a surgeon to sew it back on again promptly, you will simply have to put up with one digit shorter than the rest.

That is, if reports are to be believed, unless you are Lee Spievack, a model aircraft enthusiast from Cincinnati in the U.S. who, in 2005, accidentally sliced an inch off the tip of his index finger with a model aeroplane propeller.

He was offered a tissue graft but refused when his brother Alan, a physician who has been researching tissue regeneration, persuaded him to sprinkle what is being termed "pixie dust" on the stump.

The dust, actually a collagen powder derived from pigs' bladders, appeared to provide a suitable "matrix" or framework, stimulating regrowth of the tissues and division of the cells, to enable Mr Spievack's finger to grow back - in just a month.

And not just a stump - flesh, tendon, skin, fingernail, fingerprints and all.

It is an extraordinary story because, if it can be confirmed, it will point the way to a breakthrough in one of medical science's greatest problems: the inability of humans to regenerate lost tissue.

One organisation with a keen interest in tissue regeneration is the U.S. Army. Military researchers are reported to be working with University of Pittsburgh scientists who developed the pixie dust to find a way to allow injured soldiers to regrow lost fingers, skin, and even whole limbs.

With hundreds of U.S. soldiers coming home injured from Iraq every month, such an advance would be leapt upon by the Pentagon.

Dr Stephen Badylak of the University of Pittsburgh is the scientist who developed the pixie dust. It consists of a mixture of protein and connective tissue which is already used by surgeons to repair tendons.

The U.S. Army has invested millions of dollars in regenerative medicine, and Dr Badylak - and Mr Spievack's brother - could become very rich men.

The powder, he has said, "tells the body to start the process of tissue regrowth".

But can it really be the case that a small and hitherto unknown team of medics has made a breakthrough that has had the world's mainstream researchers baffled for decades?

Or has something less dramatic happened? Could Mr Spievack's fingertip simply have been damaged badly, but not beyond repair?

Scroll down for more...

Pain plane: Lee Spievack's model aircraft which was responsible for his injury

"It does all sound terribly anecdotal," says Dr Stephen Minger, an expert in tissue regeneration and stem cells at King's College in London. "We simply do not have enough information to know exactly what they have done."

According to Dr Minger, while it could be theoretically possible that a man has regrown his finger by sprinkling it with powdered pig bladder, it seems unlikely.

The problem is that a fingertip, while appearing simple, is actually a very complex structure. It consists of skin, fat, connective tissue, bone, tendon, nerves and blood vessels as well as the quite complex apparatus which grows the fingernail.

All these complex tissues would have to grow in the right order and in the right proportions and positions in relation to each other.

Somehow, the collagen dust would have to persuade the healing stump tissue not to simply form a scar but to trick it into behaving as it would have done when Mr Spievack's fingers were growing in his mother's womb.

Salamanders can do this. After losing a leg, say, skin grows over the stump, forming a cap which protects the regrowing tissue underneath.

What is effectively embryonic tissue - a "blastema" - starts to grow in the stump, activated by the same genes that 'told' the cells in the growing salamander to turn into skin, or bone, or muscle.

Nerves, muscles and blood vessels grow into the new limb and in a matter of a few weeks the animal is in possession of a perfect new limb.

This doesn't generally happen in mammals because, for unknown reasons buried in our evolutionary past, we have lost this mechanism to reprogramme cells in the body and make them able to form any tissue.

There is a strain of mouse, called the Murphy Roths Large, which appears to have retained some of the regenerative abilities of more primitive animals, capable of growing replacement skin and cartilage if damaged to an extent not seen in other mammals and certainly not in people.

But humans can regenerate some tissues. Skin and hair follicles are constantly growing, and the liver can completely regenerate itself even if three quarters of it is lost.

However, to regrow a human finger or leg without completely reprogramming the genetics of the tissue that forms the cut surface of the stump, you would need to provide some sort of matrix, an artificial scaffold to allow the cells to grow.

This has been done for some tissues: sheets of bladder tissue and heart valves have been grown in the laboratory.

Experimental biodegradable "scaffolds" have been made to encourage the growth of bone tissue and even form new joints.

But nothing as complex as a fingertip has been regenerated in a human. It is possible that the scientists who developed the powder which apparently repaired Mr Spievack's finger have stumbled upon an extraordinary breakthrough.

The fact that the U.S. military is pursuing this line of research - using the same Pittsburgh team involved in Mr Spievack's case - means that this story cannot be dismissed out of hand.

What is needed now are clinical trials and cases properly written up in medical journals which can be verified and replicated in other patients.

Only then will we know that human beings have finally managed to copy a trick learned - and lost - by our watery ancestors countless millions of years ago.


Mark said...

Agent in red wine found to keep hearts young

June 4, 2008

by Terry Devitt

How, scientists wonder, do the French get away with a clean bill of heart health despite a diet loaded with saturated fats?

Photo of a glass of red wine

The answer to the so-called "French paradox" may be found in red wine. More specifically, it may reside in small doses of resveratrol, a natural constituent of grapes, pomegranates, red wine and other foods, according to a new study by an international team of researchers.

Writing this week (June 3) in the online, open-access journal Public Library of Science One, the researchers report that low doses of resveratrol in the diet of middle-aged mice has a widespread influence on the genetic levers of aging and may confer special protection on the heart.

Specifically, the researchers found that low doses of resveratrol mimic the effects of what is known as caloric restriction — diets with 20-30 percent fewer calories than a typical diet — that in numerous studies has been shown to extend lifespan and blunt the effects of aging.

"This brings down the dose of resveratrol toward the consumption reality mode," says senior author Richard Weindruch, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of medicine and a researcher at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital. "At the same time, it plugs into the biology of caloric restriction."

Previous research has shown that resveratrol in high doses extends lifespan in invertebrates and prevents early mortality in mice given a high-fat diet. The new study, conducted by researchers from academia and industry, extends those findings, showing that resveratrol in low doses and beginning in middle age can elicit many of the same benefits as a reduced-calorie diet.

"Resveratrol is active in much lower doses than previously thought and mimics a significant fraction of the profile of caloric restriction at the gene expression level," says Tomas Prolla, a UW-Madison professor of genetics and a senior author of the new report.

The group explored the influence of the agent on heart, muscle and brain by looking for changes in gene expression in those tissues. As animals age, gene expression in the different tissues of the body changes as genes are switched on and off.

In the new study — which compared the genetic crosstalk of animals on a restricted diet with those fed small doses of resveratrol — the similarities were remarkable, explains lead author Jamie Barger of Madison-based LifeGen Technologies. In the heart, for example, there are at least 1,029 genes whose functions change with age, and the organ's function is known to diminish with age. In animals on a restricted diet, 90 percent of those heart genes experienced altered gene expression profiles, while low doses of resveratrol thwarted age-related change in 92 percent. The new findings, say the study's authors, were associated with prevention of the decline in heart function associated with aging.

In short, a glass of wine or food or supplements that contain even small doses of resveratrol are likely to represent "a robust intervention in the retardation of cardiac aging," the authors note.

That finding may also explain the remarkable heart health of people who live in some regions of France where diets are soaked in saturated fats but the incidence of heart disease, a major cause of mortality in the United States, is low. In France, meals are traditionally complemented with a glass of red wine.

The new resveratrol study is also important because it suggests that caloric restriction, which has been widely studied in animals from spiders to humans, and resveratrol may govern the same master genetic pathways related to aging.

"There must be a few master biochemical pathways activated in response to caloric restriction, which in turn activate many other pathways," explains Prolla. "And resveratrol seems to activate some of these master pathways as well."

The new findings, according to Weindruch and Prolla, provide strong evidence that resveratrol can improve quality of life through its influence on the different parameters of aging such as cardiac function. However, whether the agent can extend lifespan in ways similar to caloric restriction will require further study, according to the new report's authors.

The work of the Wisconsin team was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and DSM Nutritional Products of Basel, Switzerland.


Mark said...

Red wine may 'curb effects of ageing'

Published Date: 04 June 2008
By John von Radowitz

RED wine may be the next best thing to the fabled elixir of youth, new research suggests.

A compound in the skin of red grapes has been found to curb the effects of ageing, even when taken in tiny doses.

Scientists believe the discovery, made in mice, may explain the so-called "French paradox".

Experts have long wondered why people in regions of France where food is rich in saturated fat have astonishingly healthy hearts and arteries.

Plant chemicals in red wine, which often accompanies French meals, have been suggested as an explanation.

The new study highlights one compound, resveratrol, which is known to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

Experiments with mice indicated that low doses of resveratrol mimic the effects of calorie restriction to combat ageing.

Previous research has shown that reducing dietary calories by 20-30 per cent can extend lifespan and prevent genetic changes linked to ageing in a range of animals.

Resveratrol appears to influence the same biological pathway, say the scientists.

Professor Tomas Prolla, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US, senior author of the research published today in the online journal PLoS ONE, said: "Resveratrol is active in much lower doses than previously thought."

Whether or not resveratrol can extend lifespan will require further study, say the authors.

The compound is produced naturally by plants under attack from bacteria or fungi.

It is abundant in the skin of red grapes. Its concentration in red wine varies greatly depending on the grape variety.

Smaller amounts are also found in blueberries, bilberries, cranberries and peanuts.


Mark said...

Eating tomatoes is the best way to avoid sunburn and wrinkles

By John von Radowitz
Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Scientists believe the antioxidant that makes tomatoes red can protect the skin against burning

Eating pizza topped with tomato paste can help prevent sunburn and premature wrinkles, new research suggests.

A study found that volunteers who ate helpings of ordinary tomato paste over a 12-week period developed skin that was less likely to burn in the sun.

Researchers at the University of Manchester found that the test subjects were 33 per cent more protected against sunlight than another group who were not given tomato paste.

The effect of eating tomatoes was equivalent to slapping on a factor 1.3 sunscreen. Changes were also seen within the skin of the volunteers that counteract the appearance of ageing.

Scientists think an antioxidant, lycopene, which gives tomatoes their colour, can neutralise harmful molecules produced in skin exposed to the sun's ultra-violet rays. Damage inflicted by the free radical molecules on skin structures and DNA can lead to premature ageing and skin cancer.

Previous research has shown that cooked tomatoes contain higher levels of lycopene than raw tomatoes.

Tomato paste of the sort used to make pizza toppings is rich in lycopene.

Skin levels of procollagen, which helps the skin stay supple and youthful, were also boosted by the tomato diet.

At the same time tests at the University of Newcastle showed that lycopene reduced sun damage to mitochondrial DNA in the skin – DNA in tiny powerplants in cells called mitochondria. Its disruption is also associated with skin ageing.

Professor Lesley Rhodes, at Manchester University, said: "The tomato diet boosted the level of procollagen in the skin significantly. These increasing levels suggest potential reversal of the skin ageing process."


Mark said...

Researcher Uses Bioprinter To Print Three-Dimensional Cellular Structures

ScienceDaily (Feb. 18, 2004) — Thanks to a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher, his colleagues, and a very special printing device, artificially manufacturing an organ compatible with the organism that will receive the organ is one step closer to reality.

Gabor Forgacs, a biological physicist at MU, and his research team found that given the right cues, cells will self assemble into an organ module. Forgacs’ work is documented in the article “Engineering Biological Structures of Prescribed Shape Using Self-Assembling Multicellular Systems,” which appears in this week’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Forgacs’ lab used specially designed printing devices loaded with spherical cell aggregates (i.e. multicellular assemblies) as drops of “bio-ink” to create tubular structures. The printer first drops the aggregates in a circular shape onto a layer of gel. Another layer of the gel is added on top of the first, and the printer then repeats the process, stacking the aggregate rings. Later, the aggregates fuse to form the tube.

“A large part of the body is made of tubes,” Forgacs said. “We can now make 3-D hollow biological tubes and organ modules, which potentially could be used as grafts, or for doing research on a particular drug using an organ substitute and thus avoiding any hazard. The next step is the construction of functional organ modules, prepared outside of the living organism and then implanted into the organism.”

Forgacs says the chances of a body rejecting the new organ constructed this way would be removed because it would be assembled from the body’s own cells. The work also proves the process does not require a complete “manual” to build potential replacement organs.

“It is far too complex to build a biologically fully functional organ,” Forgacs said. “This study suggests you have to provide the proper environment and place the cell aggregates in the correct geometrical shape. After that, the biological system takes over and completes the structure.”

The researchers’ next steps are to obtain a patent for the bio-ink as well as further funding for the research. An industrial partner to help provide the printer needed to conduct future research is also needed.

More information on Forgacs’ lab can be found at


Mark said...

Stem cells apparently cure boy's fatal disease

The treatment uses umbilical and marrow cells to help develop normal skin.

Doctors say it may move his genetic disorder, recessive epidermolysis bullosa, 'off the incurable list' for other patients.

By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

June 7, 2008

Using stem cells from umbilical cord blood and bone marrow, researchers have apparently cured a fatal genetic disease in a 2-year-old Minneapolis boy, which could open the door for other stem cell treatments.

For the first time in his life, Nate Liao is wearing normal clothes, eating food that has not been pureed, and playing with his siblings.

"Nate's quality of life is forever changed," said Dr. John Wagner of the University of Minnesota Medical School, who performed the treatment. "Maybe we can take one more disorder off the incurable list."

The team later treated Nate's 5-year-old brother, Jacob, and is preparing to treat 9-month-old Sarah Rose Mooreland of Folsom, Calif. Hopes are high for them as well.

Nate suffers from recessive epidermolysis bullosa, which affects 1 in 100,000 children.

They lack a critical protein called collagen type VII that anchors the skin and lining of the gastrointestinal system to the body.

Their skin is extraordinarily fragile. Tearing and blistering occur with minimal friction, leading to painful wounds and scarring. Solid food produces erosion of the esophagus. Death usually results from malnutrition, infections or aggressive skin cancer.

The only treatment previously has been to wrap the skin in bandages.

The idea of using circulating stem cells to treat the condition was developed by Dr. Angela M. Christiano of Columbia University Medical Center. This is the first time that cells from bone marrow and cord blood have been used to treat a condition that does not involve blood.

Seven months after treatment, Nate's body is making collagen type VII, Wagner said at a news conference Tuesday.

His face has plumped up and he has fewer blisters. "I have watched Nate improve every day," said his mother, Theresa.

The results will be published in a future issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.


Mark said...

New Medical Implants Should React With The Body, Not Seek To Be Inert, Expert Says

ScienceDaily (July 5, 2007) — A world leader in medical implants calls for a rethink in our approach to building medical implants.

See also:
Health & Medicine

* Disability
* Medical Imaging
* Bone and Spine

Matter & Energy

* Materials Science
* Civil Engineering
* Weapons Technology


* Materials science
* Artificial heart
* Tissue engineering
* Breast implant

Currently so-called biomaterials are chosen because they are reasonably successful at hiding from the body's immune system, and are consequently not rejected. All the same, within a month of implanting them, the body isolates implants by wrapping them in a collagenous, avascular sac. Materials are considered to be 'biocompatible' if this sac is not too thick.

"That's not very clever," says Professor Buddy Ratner, Director of the University of Washington Engineered Biomaterials, in Seattle, USA. In a commentary published in Polymer International, he says that it is time to take a more intelligent approach.

Rather than building implants out of materials that try to hide from the body's systems, he believes that we should be creating them from materials that are specifically designed to engage with biological processes. This could take the form of materials made with specifically sized pores that encourage small blood vessels to actively grow through the implant, or implants coated with DNA that specifically prevents formation of the collagenous capsule.

Both of these let the implant and the body actively work together, rather than simply try to prevent them fighting against each other.

Ratner looks forward to an exciting future. "These sorts of ideas will lead to a new biomaterials science that will permit us to make materials for medical devices that function better, last longer, encourage healing and provide enhanced patient satisfaction," says Ratner.


Mark said...

Bonelike Coating For Dental Implants Makes Everyone Smile

ScienceDaily (Apr. 7, 2008) — Research present in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Nanomanufacturing from Inderscience Publishers suggests that coating dental implants with a synthetic bone material prior to implantation allows such implant to become incorporated much more successfully into the jaw, leading to smiles all round.

See also:
Health & Medicine

* Bone and Spine
* Dentistry
* Disability
* Women's Health
* Immune System
* Menopause


* Breast reconstruction
* Artificial heart
* Bone fracture
* Breast implant

Titanium is the material of choice for many dental and medical implants. However pure titanium has a biologically inert surface, which makes it biocompatible and so it does not trigger an unwanted reaction from the immune system. However, this inertness also means the metal does not initiate new bone and blood vessel growth around the implant, so it is not necessarily incorporated into the implant site as well as it might be.

Researchers have tried to address this dichotomy of the retaining the benefits and avoiding the disadvantages of biological inertness in implant materials. One approach involved the development of various coating materials for the implants that would not trigger an immune response and so lead to rejection but would lead to better incorporation by living tissue at the implant site.

An example of such a coating material is the commercially available composite materials, such as "Bonelike" which is a synthetic bone material, hydroxyapatite reinforced with tiny glass particles. This material can be used to provide a layer on the surface of pure titanium that its developers hoped will lead to better incorporation of any implant.

Now, J.D. Santos of the Biomedical Engineering Institute in Porto, Portugal, and colleagues have investigated how well 27 titanium implants coated with Bonelike were incorporated. The implant rods, 10 mm long and almost 4 mm in diameter were placed in the maxilla (18) and mandible (9) of seven patients, ahead of attachment of an artificial tooth.

X-rays before and after implant at three and six months allowed the team to assess how well the implants had grown in and showed new bone growth around the implants and no bone loss in surrounding regions of the jaws. "The Bonelike-coated dental implants proved to be highly bioactive with extensive new bone formation and attachment," the researchers say.

Additionally, one implant had to be removed at three months because of bad positioning. This provided the researchers with an ideal opportunity to use light and electron microscopy to study the effects of Bonelike on the implant.


Mark said...

The good news in our DNA: Defects you can fix with vitamins and minerals

General Science / Biology

As the cost of sequencing a single human genome drops rapidly, with one company predicting a price of $100 per person in five years, soon the only reason not to look at your "personal genome" will be fear of what bad news lies in your genes.

University of California, Berkeley, scientists, however, have found a welcome reason to delve into your genetic heritage: to find the slight genetic flaws that can be fixed with remedies as simple as vitamin or mineral supplements.

"I'm looking for the good news in the human genome," said Jasper Rine, UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology.

"Headlines for the last 20 years have really been about the triumph of biomedical research in finding disease genes, which is biologically interesting, genetically important and frightening to people who get this information," Rine said. "I became obsessed with trying to decide if there is some other class of information that will make people want to look at their genome sequence."

What Rine and colleagues found and report this week in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) is that there are many genetic differences that make people's enzymes less efficient than normal, and that simple supplementation with vitamins can often restore some of these deficient enzymes to full working order.

First author Nicholas Marini, a UC Berkeley research scientist, noted that physicians prescribe vitamins to "cure" many rare and potentially fatal metabolic defects caused by mutations in critical enzymes. But those affected by these metabolic diseases are people with two bad copies, or alleles, of an essential enzyme. Many others may be walking around with only one bad gene, or two copies of slightly defective genes, throwing their enzyme levels off slightly and causing subtle effects that also could be eliminated with vitamin supplements.

"Our studies have convinced us that there is a lot of variation in the population in these enzymes, and a lot of it affects function, and a lot of it is responsive to vitamins," Marini said. "I wouldn't be surprised if everybody is going to require a different optimal dose of vitamins based on their genetic makeup, based upon the kind of variance they are harboring in vitamin-dependent enzymes."

Though this initial study tested the function of human gene variants by transplanting them into yeast cells, where the function of the variants can be accurately assessed, Rine and Marini are confident the results will hold up in humans. Their research, partially supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Army, may enable them to employ U.S. soldiers to test the theory that vitamin supplementation can tune up defective enzymes.

"Our soldiers, like top athletes, operate under extreme conditions that may well be limited by their physiology," Rine said. "We're now working with the defense department to identify variants of enzymes that are remediable, and ultimately hope to identify troops that have these variants and test whether performance can be enhanced by appropriate supplementation."

In the PNAS paper, Rine, Marini and their colleagues report on their initial analysis of variants of a human enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, or MTHFR. The enzyme, which requires the B vitamin folate to work properly, plays a key role in synthesizing molecules that go into the nucleotide building blocks of DNA. Some cancer drugs, such as methotrexate, target MTHFR to shut down DNA synthesis and prevent tumor growth.

Using DNA samples from 564 individuals of many races and ethnicities, colleagues at Applied Biosystems of Foster City, Calif., sequenced for each person the two alleles that code for the MTHFR enzyme. Consistent with earlier studies, they found three common variants of the enzyme, but also 11 uncommon variants, each of the latter accounting for less than one percent of the sample.

They then synthesized the gene for each variant of the enzyme, and Marini, Rine and their UC Berkeley colleagues inserted these genes into separate yeast cells in order to judge the activity of each variant. Yeast use many of the same enzymes and cofactor vitamins and minerals as humans and are an excellent model for human metabolism, Rine said.

The researchers found that four different mutations affected the functioning of the human enzyme in yeast. One of these mutations is well known: Nearly 30 percent of the population has one copy, and nine percent has two copies.

The researchers were able to supplement the diet of the cultured yeast with folate, however, and restore full functionality to the most common variant, and to all but one of the less common variants.

Since this experiment, the researchers have found 30 other variants of the MTHFR enzyme and tested about 15 of them, "and more than half interfere with the function of the enzyme, producing a hundred-fold range of enzyme activity. The majority of these can be either partially or completely restored to normal activity by adding more folate. And that is a surprise," Rine said.

Most scientists think that harmful mutations are disfavored by evolution, but Rine pointed out that this applies only to mutations that affect reproductive fitness. Mutations that affect our health in later years are not efficiently removed by evolution and may remain in our genome forever.

The health effects of tuning up this enzyme in humans are unclear, he said, but folate is already known to protect against birth defects and seems to protect against heart disease and cancer. At least one defect in the MTHFR enzyme produces elevated levels in the blood of the metabolite homocysteine, which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, conditions that typically affect people in their post-reproductive years.

"In those people, supplementation of folate in the diet can reduce levels of that metabolite and reduce disease risk," Marini said.

Marini and Rine estimate that the average person has five rare mutant enzymes, and perhaps other not-so-rare variants, that could be improved with vitamin or mineral supplements.

"There are over 600 human enzymes that use vitamins or minerals as cofactors, and this study reports just what we found by studying one of them," Rine said. "What this means is that, even if the odds of an individual having a defect in one gene is low, with 600 genes, we are all likely to have some mutations that limit one or more of our enzymes."

The subtle effects of variation in enzyme activity may well account for conflicting results of some clinical trials, including the confusing data on the effect of vitamin supplements, he noted. In the future, the enzyme profile of research subjects will have to be taken into account in analyzing the outcome of clinical trials.

If one considers not just vitamin-dependent enzymes but all the 30,000 human proteins in the genome, "every individual would harbor approximately 250 deleterious substitutions considering only the low-frequency variants. These numbers suggest that the aggregate incidence of low-frequency variants could have a significant physiological impact," the researchers wrote in their paper.

All the more reason to poke around in one's genome, Rine said.

"If you don't give people a reason to become interested in their genome and to become comfortable with their personal genomic information, then the benefits of much of the biomedical research, which is indexed to particular genetic states, won't be embraced in a time frame that most people can benefit from," Rine said. "So, my motivation is partly scientific, partly an education project and, in some ways, a partly political project."

Marini and Rine credit Bruce Ames, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of molecular and cell biology now on the research staff at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, with the research that motivated them to look at enzyme variation. Ames found in the 1970s that many bacteria that could not produce a specific amino acid could do so if given more vitamin B6, and in recent years he has continued exploring the link between micronutrients and health.

"Looked at in one way, Bruce found that you can cure a genetic disease in bacteria by treating it with vitamins," Rine said. Because the human genome contains about 6 billion DNA base pairs, each one subject to mutation, there could be between 3 and 6 million DNA sequence differences between any two people. Given those numbers, he reasoned that, as in bacteria, "there should be people who are genetically different in terms of the amount of vitamin needed for optimal performance of their enzymes."

This touches on what Rine considers one of the key biomedical questions today. "Now that we have the complete genome sequences of all the common model organisms, including humans, it's obvious that the defining challenge of biology in the 21st century is not what the genes are, but what the variation in the genes does," he said.

Rine, Marini and their colleagues are continuing to study variation in the human MTHFR gene as well as other folate utilizing enzymes, particularly with respect to how defects in these enzymes may lead to birth defects. Rine also is taking advantage of the 1,500 students in his Biology 1A lab course to investigate variants of a second vitamin B6-dependent enzyme, cystathionine beta-synthase.

He also is investigating how enzyme cofactors like vitamins and minerals fix defective enzymes. He suspects that supplements work by acting as chaperones to stabilize the proper folding of the enzyme, which is critical to its catalytic activity. "That is a new principle that may be applicable to drug design," Rine said.

Source: University of California - Berkeley


Mark said...

Scientists Create Blood From Stem Cells

By Brandon Keim EmailAugust 19, 2008 | 11:36:04

Scientists have used embryonic stem cells to generate blood -- a feat that could eventually lead to endless supplies of type O-negative blood, a rare blood type prized by doctors for its versatility.

"We literally generated whole tubes in the lab, from scratch," said Robert Lanza, chief science officer at Advanced Cell Technologies.

People usually require blood transfusions that match their own blood type: A mismatch can be fatal. Type O-negative can be safely transferred into anyone, but is only possessed by about 7 percent of the population, leaving supplies perpetually short.

The new technique, devised by Lanza and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic and University of Illinois, is still preliminary. Its safety hasn't yet been proved in animals, much less humans.

But because blood cells are short-lived and cannot divide, there's reason to believe that stem cell-derived blood cells could pose fewer complications than other therapeutic stem cells, which can divide unpredictably.

"The beautiful thing is that you start with one line, expand them indefinitely and generate as many as you want," said Lanza. "It's a literally inexhaustible source of cells for therapy."

Lanza's team allowed a small culture of embryonic stem cells -- naturally capable of becoming any other type of tissue in the body -- to divide until it numbered a few billion cells. These they treated with a chemical cocktail that coaxed the cells into whatever type they wanted: A, B or O.

If they'd started with a type O-negative line, said Lanza, they could just as easily have made that, too.

Tests showed the blood cells to be identical to each other, and able to carry oxygen as efficiently as their natural counterparts.

The Red Cross described the work, published today in Blood, as "pioneering." However, they warned against premature celebration.

"At this stage, the work is very promising, but has not progressed to the stage where the cultured cells are fully equivalent" to natural cells, said the organization in a statement. "Much more work will yet be needed before this becomes a practical reality."

The most pressing uncertainty is safety: Embryonic stem cells are sometimes unpredictable and can develop genetic mutations during chemical reprogramming, leading to future side effects.

Blood cells, however, don't have any DNA -- they lose their nuclei as they develop from stem cells -- and don't divide, instead being broken down by the body when their four-month life cycle ends. That, said Lanza, should reduce the possibility of complications.

"You don't have to worry about anything lifelong," he said. "They'll be gone no matter what."

The ethics are potentially problematic, as embryonic stem cells ultimately originate in an embryo that is destroyed during their harvest -- a process that some religious conservatives equate with murder.

But Lanza said his technique could also work with stem cells produced by de-differentiation, a new and ethically trouble-free process during which adult cells regress into an embryonic state.

De-differentiated cells have a tendency to go cancerous -- but because blood cells are DNA-free, said Lanza, they could be safe in this particular application.

If Lanza's technique works, it will be a boon wherever blood transfusions are needed, but especially in places where type O-negative blood is not immediately available, such as emergency rooms and battlefields.

"There's always a great demand for type O blood," said Red Cross spokeswoman Molly Dalton. "It's always a worry that we don't have enough."

Biological properties and enucleation of red blood cells from human embryonic stem cells [Blood]

Image: WikiMedia Commons

Correction: I originally stated that Lanza's team made type O-negative blood; it was type O blood that they made -- still versatile, but not quite the universal grail of type O-negative. However, Lanza said that the technique could just as easily make O-negative, provided one started with an O-negative stem cell line -- something they did not possess (and does not appear to exist in any of the embryonic stem cell lines currently eligible for federal research funding.) "As soon as you get one line, it's immortal," he said.

My apologies for this mistake.


[If they can make this without the embryonic stem cells, this avoids the ethical issues of consuming our young--making a market in (incentive to kill embryos in) cannibalism.]

Mark said...

Stem cell technology may make blood donations thing of the past

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Last Updated: 6:01am BST 20/08/2008

Blood donations could one day become unnecessary, after the discovery of a way to grow potentially unlimited supplies of blood in the lab.

An American team has found a way to turn the parent cells of other types, human embryonic stem cells, into significant quantities of functional oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

Tests could start on patients by the end of next year and the advance holds out the promise that one day "blood farms" could provide a versatile source.

The research, which appears in the journal Blood, was carried out by Advanced Cell Technology, Worcester Massachusetts, and its collaborators at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois, shows for the first time that the oxygen-carrying capacity of these blood cells is comparable to that of normal blood transfusions.

And it should be easier to ensure that blood created this way is free of contamination by disease agents, such as Aids and variant CJD.

"Limitations in the supply of blood can have potentially life-threatening consequences for patients with massive blood loss," said Dr Robert Lanza, Chief Scientific Officer at ACT, and senior author.

"Embryonic stem cells represent a new source of cells that can be propagated and expanded indefinitely, providing a potentially inexhaustible source of red blood cells for human therapy. We can currently generate 10 to 100 billion red blood cells from a single six-well plate of stem cells."

He added that, if his company can obtain sufficient resources and depending on the outcome of safety studies, "we could be in a position . . . to begin clinical trials by the end of next year."

The breakthrough by a team that includes Dr Shi-Jiang Lu raises the prospect of mass-producing supplies of the "universal donor" blood type O-negative, which can be safely transfused into any patient, whatever their blood group, he said.

The team achieved the feat by exposing the embryonic stem cells to a cocktail of factors, turning them into blood cell precursors and then the cells themselves.

Importantly, they expelled their nuclei, the structure in cells that holds dna, as happens in the body. "We show that up to 65 per cent of the blood cells underwent multiple maturation events that resulted in the extrusion of the nucleus," said Dr Lanza.

This also bolsters confidence that the cells would be safe to use because it means that the cells cannot divide and become cancerous. [er, only 65%? What about the 35%!]

The team is also working on the new embryo-free method to make stem cells from patients themselves, so called iPS cells, as well as conducting further tests in animals.

"Although more work is required before it can move into the clinic, it is clear from the rapid progress that stem cells could serve as an unlimited source of blood for transfusion in the future," said Dr Lanza.

Dr George Daley, who works at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, commented that it is a "very nice proof of principle."

A spokeswoman from the American Red Cross told New Scientist the work is "an important step towards the possibility of growing transfusible red blood cells in the laboratory".


Mark said...

Scientists uncover secret of eternal youth

Last Updated: 12:01am BST 23/05/2008

A new scientific study has uncovered the secret of eternal youth. Roger Highfield reports.

The secret of eternal youth, at least at the cellular level, has been uncovered by scientists.

The work is of fundamental importance for understanding the self renewing properties of embryonic stem cells, "parent cells" in the early embryo that have the potential to turn into more than 200 specialised cell types, which are being studied by many groups worldwide as the basis of new treatments for a vast range of conditions, from Parkinson's Disease to stroke.

Studies are now under way to back the hope that the fundamental discovery will help to grow them in the laboratory and to improve an embryo free method of making stem cells, developed in Japan, to make sure that adult cells, for instance skin cells, can be turned into an embyronic form so patients can be treated with their own cells.

The new work focuses on a special property of stem cells from the early embryo: they grow indefinitely in the laboratory, so that one embryo could in theory provide cells to treat generations of patients.

Only when various proteins and other factors are added do they turn into one particular type, whether nerve or heart cells.

Now Prof Austin Smith's team at Cambridge University reports in the journal Nature that blocking the activation of a molecule called ERK, by another given the name FGF4, is the secret of how embryonic stem cells stay youthful so they do not turn into other types, overturning current understanding and shedding light on the origins of some kinds of cancer.

In the three decades since these stem cells were first described, various combinations of feeder cells, growth factors, hormones and serums have been used to maintain them in their embryonic state in the lab, suggesting that embryonic stem cells required signals from their environment to keep them youthful.

But the opposite is the case: these conditions inhibit certain signalling molecules that make the stem cells mature to form other types, such as bone, brain and liver.

"Our study suggests that what we believe about how embryonic stem cell self-renewal is controlled is wrong," says Dr Qi-Long Ying of the University of Southern California, USC, lead author.

"Our findings will likely change the research direction of many stem cell laboratories."

In other words, Dr Ying, working with Prof Smith, Jason Wray and colleagues at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research show that by inhibiting molecular factors that turn stem cells turn into other kinds, notably two called ERK1 and ERK2, a process called differentiation, they can be kept in a permanent embryonic state.

With better understanding of the multiplication process of embryonic stem cells, researchers also have a new insight into tumour cell growth as these cells share similar qualities.

"Our study reveals part of the little known process of how embryonic stem cells multiplication is regulated. This is important for us in understanding how to control tumour cell growth moving forward in cancer research," says Ying. [tumors have a great deal to do with the lack of the 'off switch' chemical that is B17, in almonds, apricots, and other nuts, etc. Particularly strong in apricot pits.]

The team believes the discovery is of fundamental importance to understanding the special properties of embryonic stem cells, and will aid the development of methods to grow them in the laboratory, and from a range of species.

"This study presents a completely new paradigm for understanding how to grow embryonic stem cells in the laboratory," comments Dr Martin Pera, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC.

"The discovery has major implications for large scale production of specialized cells, such as brain, heart muscle and insulin producing cells, for future therapeutic use."


Mark said...

Dolly creator Prof Ian Wilmut shuns [adult-cell based] cloning [for non-embryonic stem cell creation methods]

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Last Updated: 6:30pm GMT 16/11/2007

The scientist who created Dolly the sheep, a breakthrough that provoked headlines around the world a decade ago, is to abandon the cloning technique he pioneered to create her.

Prof Ian Wilmut's decision to turn his back on "therapeutic cloning", just days after US researchers announced a breakthrough in the cloning of primates, will send shockwaves through the scientific establishment.

He and his team made headlines around the world in 1997 when they unveiled Dolly, born July of the year before.

But now he has decided not to pursue a licence to clone human embryos, which he was awarded just two years ago, as part of a drive to find new treatments for the devastating degenerative condition, Motor Neuron disease.

Prof Wilmut, who works at Edinburgh University, believes a rival method pioneered in Japan has better potential for making human embryonic cells which can be used to grow a patient's own cells and tissues for a vast range of treatments, from treating strokes to heart attacks and Parkinson's, and will be less controversial than the Dolly method, known as "nuclear transfer."

His announcement could mark the beginning of the end for therapeutic cloning, on which tens of millions of pounds have been spent worldwide over the past decade. "I decided a few weeks ago not to pursue nuclear transfer," Prof Wilmut said.

Most of his motivation is practical but he admits the Japanese approach is also "easier to accept socially."

His inspiration comes from the research by Prof Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University, which suggests a way to create human embryo stem cells without the need for human eggs, which are in extremely short supply, and without the need to create and destroy human cloned embryos, which is bitterly opposed by the pro life movement.

Prof Yamanaka has shown in mice how to turn skin cells into what look like versatile stem cells potentially capable of overcoming the effects of disease.

This pioneering work to revert adult cells to an embryonic state has been reproduced by a team in America and Prof Yamanaka is, according to one British stem cell scientist, thought to have achieved the same feat in human cells.

This work has profound significance because it suggests that after a heart attack, for example, skin cells from a patient might one day be manipulated by adding a cocktail of small molecules to form muscle cells to repair damage to the heart, or brain cells to repair the effects of Parkinson's. Because they are the patient's own cells, they would not be rejected.

In theory, these reprogrammed cells could be converted into any of the 200 other type in the body, even the collections of different cell types that make up tissues and, in the very long term, organs too. Prof Wilmut said it was "extremely exciting and astonishing" and that he now plans to do research in this area.

This approach, he says, represents, the future for stem cell research, rather than the nuclear transfer method that his large team used more than a decade ago at the Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh, to create Dolly.

In this method, the DNA contents of an adult cell are put into an emptied egg and stimulated with a shock of electricity to develop into a cloned embryo, which must be then dismantled to yield the flexible stem cells.

More than a decade ago, biologists thought the mechanisms that picked the relevant DNA code that made a cell adopt the identity of skin, rather than muscle, brain or whatever, were so complex and so rigidly fixed that it would not be possible to undo them.

They were amazed when this deeply-held conviction was overturned by Dolly, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell, a feat with numerous practical applications, most remarkably in stem cell science.

But although "therapeutic cloning" offers a way to get a patient's own embryonic stem cells to generate unlimited supplies of cells and tissue there is an intense search for alternatives because of pressure from the pro-life lobby, the opposition of President George W Bush and ever present concerns about cloning babies. [additionally, adult nuclear-transfer clones have HUGE HEALTH DIFFICULTIES, CLONES FROM ADULT CELLS ARE HARDLY IDENTICAL CLONES, THEY ARE AT MOST 'HALF-LIFE CLONES,' SO TO SPEAK.:

Title: Cloned Meat is NOT a clone: up to 5% expressed differently, clones more deformed, cancerous
Author: repost
Date: 2007.02.16 06:31
Description: [adult nuclear transfer] Clones cannot be perfect copies, and health difficulties arising from clones get transferred into the food chain: you. Yet another open air experiment on your health, thanks to the corrupt FDA, just like their corrupt open air experiment without notification concerning GMOs. "...clones are far from perfect copies. All clones are defective, in one way or another, with multiple flaws embedded in their genomes. Rudolf Jaenisch, a geneticist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, estimates that something like 4-5% of the genes in a cloned animal's genome are expressed incorrectly. These often subtle genetic defects can have tangible consequences. Cloning produces an extraordinarily high number of deaths and deformed animals. Some clones have been born with incomplete body walls or with abnormalities in their hearts, kidneys or brain function, or have suffered problems like "adult clone sudden death syndrome" and premature ageing."...who knows how this is transferred to YOU. Nothing has been done in research on these issues of long term exposure. Cloned animals demote biodiversity and in practice would yield more health dangers to you from wider 'monocropped animals' in factory farm conditions, with more loads of crowd diseases risk, stress, and antibiotics given to them all the while, which gets transferred to you as well, as well as leads to pathogens becoming immune to antibiotic treatment. Cloned meat is anti-consumer and anti-animal on every level.

Title: Contact FDA to Stop Sale of Dangerous Cloned Milk & Meat! during public comment period
Author: Family Farm Defenders
Date: 2007.02.22 09:31
Description: It is so disturbing to hear about the FDA's Dec. 28, 2006 determination that cloned livestock byproducts are claimed to be "substantially equivalent", a scientifically discredited "analogy" myth already disproven in their previous attempt to use this myth with rBGH, Monsanto's Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, in the milk supply. [Which Monsanto recently gave up on and sold to Eli Lilly.] Instead of "equivalent", it led to human cancer spikes and human reproductive damage. FDA first unveiled the commercially motivated lie of "substantial equivalence" back in 1993 when it railroaded through approval of recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Now we know from a real scientific study (May 2006 Journal of Reproductive Health) that milk induced through genetic engineering is NOT the same...but, because of FDA's irresponsible rubberstamping, U.S. consumers now suffer reproductive problems from...rBGH dairy products with elevated levels of Insulin Like Growth Factor - 1 (IGF-1). False statements by government officials and biotech apologists that cloned animals are "simply genetic twins" is a commercially motivated lie, instead of a public health statement. They ignore numerous studies showing cloned animals suffer higher than normal morbidity & deformity rates. According to leading cloning researcher, MIT Prof. Rudolph Jaensich, "You can not make normal ["equivalent"] clones...." --- Average clone never sees the light of day, since 90% of cloned fetuses die before birth--along with up to 25% of the forced surrogate mothers. To keep damaged genetic clones alive along with forced surrogate hosts that naturally attempt to reject them bodily, "cloning" really is a covert process of using (and selling) higher than usual animal hormone and antibiotic treatments--with damages passed on to YOU. Deadline for public feedback: April 2nd, 2007. Refer to Docket 2006P-0145.


Prof Wilmut's decision signals the lack of progress in extending his team's pioneering work on Dolly to humans.

The hurdles seem to have been overcome a few years ago by a team led by Prof Hwang Woo-Suk in South Korea, with whom he set up a collaboration.

Then it was discovered Prof Hwang's work was fraudulent. "We spent a long time talking to him before discovering it was all a fraud," he said. "I never really got started again after that."

And Prof Wilmut believes there is still a long way to go for therapeutic cloning to work, despite the headlines greeting this week's announcement in Nature by Dr Shoukhrat Mitalipov and colleagues at Oregon Health & Science University, Beaverton, that they cloned primate embryos.

In all Dr Mitalipov used 304 eggs from 14 rhesus monkeys to make two lines of embryonic stem cells, one of which was chromosomally abnormal. Dr Mitalipov himself admits the efficiency is low and, though his work is a "proof of principle" and the efficiency of his methods has improved, he admits it is not yet a cost effective medical option.

Cloning is still too wasteful of precious human eggs, which are in great demand for fertility treatments, to consider for creating embryonic stem cells. "It is a nice success but a bit limited," commented Prof Wilmut. "Given the low efficiency, you wonder just how long nuclear transfer will have a useful life."

Nor is it clear, he said, why the Oregon team was successful, which will hamper attempts to improve their methods. Instead, Prof Wilmut is backing direct reprogramming or "de-differentiation", the embryo free route pursued by Prof Yamanaka, which he finds "100 times more interesting."

"The odds are that by the time we make nuclear transfer work in humans, direct reprogramming will work too.

I am anticipating that before too long we will be able to use the Yamanaka approach to achieve the same, without making human embryos. I have no doubt that in the long term, direct reprogramming will be more productive, though we can't be sure exactly when, next year or five years into the future."

Prof Yamanaka's work suggests the dream of converting adult cells into those that can grow into many different types can be realised remarkably easily.

When his team used a virus to add four genes (called Oct4, Sox2, c-Myc and Klf4) into adult mouse fibroblast cells they found they could find resulting embryo-like cells by sifting the result for the one in 10,000 cells that make proteins Nanog or Oct4, both typical markers of embryonic cells.

When they studied how genes are used in these reprogrammed cells, "called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells", they were typical of the activity seen in an embryo. In the test tube, the new cells look and grow like embryonic stem cells.

And they were also able to generate viable chimaeras from the cells, where the embryo cells created by the new method could be mixed with those of a mouse embryo to grow into a viable adult which could pass on the DNA of the reprogrammed cells to the next generation.

None the less, there will have to be much work to establish that they behave like embryo cells, let alone see if they are safe enough to use in the body. Even so, in the short term they will offer an invaluable way to create lines of cells from people with serious diseases, such as motor neuron disease, to shed light on the mechanisms.

Given the history of fraud in this field, the Oregon research was verified by Dr David Cram and colleagues at Monash University, Melbourne. "At this stage, nuclear transfer to create pluripotent stem cell lines remains an inefficient process," said Dr Cram.

"De-differentiation may indeed prove to be more efficient method but there is still much research to do to optimise nuclear transfer and de-differentiation and demonstrate genetic normality after these manipulations."

Prof Robin Lovell-Badge of the National Institute of Medical Research, Mill Hill, said the overall success rate of 0.7 per cent reported by the team Oregon "is still too low to be used in human studies, especially given the difficulty in obtaining eggs for research.

"I do think de-differentiation is very likely to be the future - once this has been shown to work in humans (I hear rumours that it is) and to work well with a reliable cell source (that is, without too many mutations, and so on)".

Britain's new Nobel prize winner and pioneer of stem cell research, Sir Martin Evans of the Cardiff School of Biosciences, commented on the Japanese work: "This will be the long-term solution."

The news that Prof Wilmut is to abandon cloning was welcomed by Josephine Quintavalle on behalf of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, which is against the use of human embryos in research.

"At last scientists are starting to see reason and we are going to have fact and reality, rather than hype. It could not come at a better time with the new Human Tissue and Embryos Bill having its second reading in the Lords on Monday. It is a gift to us all. We are at last going to see some common sense coming into the debate."

She added this work could mark the end of proposals to create animal human hybrid embryos too, to overcome difficulties obtaining enough human eggs, since this now seems irrelevant.

"If people are doubting the straight cloning process, what on earth are they are going to say about combining two different species."

She is aware of the Japanese work and said it was given a cautious welcome at a recent meeting in the Vatican.

"A lot of people who have looked at it with more scientific expertise than me said it is very convincing and very interesting."

She added that this approach would attract more investment because it is not burdened with the ethical issues of creating and destroying embryos.

Quintavalle said that the Oregon work was much more disappointing than suggested by newspaper headlines.

"We read that 15,000 monkey eggs were used in order to develop the new protocol; that the current application of this protocol required 304 eggs to derive 2 embryonic stem cell lines, one of which was chromosomally abnormal, delivering an extremely low success rate of 0.7 per cent.

"The researchers acknowledge that they have little idea of what separates the successes from the failures, and whilst it might be theoretically possible to repeat this research in humans it is unlikely that anybody could obtain the number of eggs necessary for such experiments.

"It is also noted that the embryos created were morphologically poor and attempts at pregnancy on 77 occasions were all unsuccessful. Shoukhrat Mitalipov, the lead scientist is quoted as saying, 'No pregnancy made it even to day 25.'"


Mark said...

Stem cells 'created from teeth'

Japanese scientists say they have created human stem cells from tissue taken from the discarded wisdom teeth of a 10-year-old girl.

The researchers say their work suggests that wisdom teeth could be a suitable alternative to human embryos as a source for therapeutic stem cells.

Research involving stem cells is seen as having the potential to treat many life-threatening diseases.

But some people believe using human embryos is ethically controversial.

The researchers, based at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), say it will be at least five years before their findings result in practical medical applications.

Dual benefit

Stem cells have the ability to develop into other kinds of human cells, and experts believe they may eventually lead to treatments for some of the most intractable conditions, such as cancer and diabetes.

The AIST researchers said they had identified a form of stem cell in the wisdom teeth which had the capability to develop and be grown successfully into other forms of cell outside the body.

The cells they harvested continued to grow in the laboratory for just over a month, they added.

The leader of the team, Hajime Ogushi, said the research was significant in two ways.

"One is that we can avoid the ethical issues of stem cells because wisdom teeth are destined to be thrown away anyway," he told the AFP news agency.

"Also, we used teeth that had been extracted three years ago and had been preserved in a freezer. That means that it's easy for us to stock this source of stem cells."

In the US, dentists are starting to offer to store stem cells taken from wisdom teeth and from baby teeth, another potential source, for therapeutic purposes in the future.

Last year, a team of US and Japanese scientists announced they had managed to produce stem cells from skin.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/08/22 10:45:59 GMT

Mark said...

Cure for deafness now within reach

Last Updated: 7:01pm BST 27/08/2008

Deaf people could one day have their hearing restored through a groundbreaking gene therapy technique, a new study suggests. By Roger Highfield.

# Regeneration of inner ear cells 'could prevent deafness'
# 'Gene hairs' could cure deafness
# Britain's stem cell projects

The transfer of a specific gene is shown today by a milestone experiment to trigger the growth of new hair cells in the inner ear - the usually irreplaceable sensory cells that pick up sound vibrations and that are lost as a result of ageing, disease, certain drugs, and by excessive exposure to loud sound.

The approach, which one day could help millions of people worldwide with deafness and inner-ear disease, is made possible by a technique that is demonstrated in the journal Nature by an American team lead by Dr John Brigande of the Oregon Hearing Research Centre, Portland, who himself is profoundly hard of hearing.

Dr Mark Downs, Director of Science at The Royal National Institute for Deaf People, RNID says: "This is an exciting development which completes another important piece of the jig-saw in understanding how we might use gene therapy to eventually restore hearing loss."

However, he would not be drawn on when the first trials could start in patients.

"Together with the very positive early signs from other potential treatments, such as stem cell therapies, it is no longer just a pipe-dream to talk about cell and drug based solutions to restore hearing. There is a long way to go, but the journey towards new treatments is certainly under way."

Named for the hair-like projections on their surfaces, hair cells form a ribbon of vibration sensors along the length of the cochlea, the organ of the inner ear that detects sound.

Receiving vibrations through the eardrum and bones of the middle ear, hair cells convert them to electrical signals carried to the brain.

People, like all mammals, are not able to regenerate hair cells when they are damaged or lost. Dr Brigande and colleagues show in Nature that by implanting a gene that regulates hair cell growth, Atoh1, into the mouse inner ear while the mouse is still in the womb, new hair cells are made.

Dr Anthony Ricci, a collaborator at Stanford University, showed that the newly formed hair cells function as well as normal hair cells.

As for human tests, Dr Brigande says that the work is at too early a stage to say when they can start: "There is no present plan for tests in humans. The next step is to restore hearing in a deaf mouse.

"Only after this can we start experiments that will teach us if the approach might work in humans. So there is an enormous amount of work to do.

"The exciting news for those of us with hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is that we now have hope of having our hearing restored someday."

He said that some deaf people will reject the offer of gene therapy. "If a person is born without hearing, they are "Deaf" and that is a unique culture into itself. Many Deaf individuals highly value their deafness and do not wish to be hearing.

"I was born hearing, and began to lose my hearing in grade school," he adds. The cause is unknown.

"My hearing loss is progressive, so I need to think about other options in the very near future."

Would he offer himself for the first experiments on patients? "I have never considered self-experimentation to treat my hearing loss. I hope to contribute to an effort that helps define suitable therapies, which may one day be offered in the clinic. That's the right way to go about this."

Normally, humans are born with about 12,000 hair cells in each ear and the death of the cells accounts for most types of acquired hearing loss.

Overall, the steady loss that accompanies the wear and tear of ageing produces significant hearing deterioration in about a third of the population by the age of 70.


Mark said...

Cleaning Infected Blood
Biologists Develop Machine To Remove Viruses From Blood

June 1, 2008 — Infectious disease experts designed a machine called the hemopurifier. It works much like a dialysis machine, using thin fibers to capture and remove viruses from the blood it filters.

The machine requires the drawing of blood through an artery, which is sent through a tube into the machine, then back into the body. It can treat a number of illnesses.

a breakthrough -- a machine that could clean blood, keeping more and more people alive longer.

"It's designed to mimic the natural immune response of clearing viruses and toxins before cells and organs can be infected," Jim Joyce chairman and CEO of Aethlon Medical in San Diego, told Ivanhoe.

Developed by infectious disease and biodefense experts, the hemopurifier works like a dialysis machine. Antibodies on these spaghetti-like fibers capture and remove viruses as blood filters through it.

"Your entire circulation flows through the cartridge about once every eight minutes," Joyce explains. The entire process takes less than a few hours. It could help patients infected with HIV, hepatitis C, as well as people with the measles, mumps and the flu. "The cartridge is able to selectively capture viruses."

A larger version of the machine would be used in a hospital, but a smaller one could be taken to emergencies. It could be a life-safer against the avian flu or bio-weapons like Ebola and small pox, giving people a chance to survive a deadly attack, whether it's from a terrorist or a virus.

REMOVING VIRUSES FROM BLOOD: The hemopurifier uses antibodies to remove viruses as blood filters through it. It is designed to filter out viruses and toxins before they attack organs. The method is very similar to dialysis, and can be used to help patients with ... Hepatitis C, the measles, mumps, the flu, and more.

It can also begin working before doctors identify the cause of the illness.

WHAT IS DIALYSIS? Hemodialysis is often used as a treatment for end stage renal disease (ESRD), or kidney failure, in which blood is removed from the body, filtered through an artificial kidney and then the cleaned blood is returned to the body.

In the US, hemodialysis is the most common treatment for people who have kidney failure. However, dialysis is also a painful, expensive procedure, and while it cleans the blood well enough to maintain existence, it does little to improve a patient's overall quality of life. Also, data shows that if patients get a transplant before they get to the point of dialysis, they do better in the longer term.


Mark said...

Model For Automated, Wearable Artificial Kidney Designed

ScienceDaily (July 12, 2008) — Two researchers from UCLA and the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System have developed a design for an automated, wearable artificial kidney, or AWAK, that avoids the complications patients often suffer with traditional dialysis.

The peritoneal-based artificial kidney is "bloodless" and reduces or even eliminates protein loss and other dialysis-related problems.

UCLA--VA has also signed an exclusive licensing agreement with the Singapore-based company AWAK Technologies Pte. Ltd. to develop a commercial wearable kidney based on the design by Martin Roberts, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a dialysis consultant with the VA Healthcare System, and David B.N. Lee, a professor of medicine at the Geffen School and a consultant nephrologist at the VA.

Around 1980, an artificial kidney machine was built that incorporated many of the principles on which the new technology relies, according to Roberts.

But that machine, while portable, was not wearable.

The new technology would allow patients to go about their regular business while undergoing dialysis.

"What's really new about it is the patient's freedom," Roberts said. "To me, as the inventor, the most important thing for the patients is their freedom. The next important thing is that because it's working all the time instead of intermittently, you can do a much better job of treating the patient. So we expect the patient to feel better and live longer."

Kidneys remove metabolic wastes from the body and regulate fluid volume and distribution on a continuous, around-the-clock basis. With traditional hemodialysis, patients are hooked up to a machine for four hours, three times a week. Their blood is filtered through the machine to remove toxins and is then pumped back into the body. What hemodialysis can't do, however, is provide cleansing and fluid balance on a continuous basis; therefore, toxin levels and fluid volume tend to fluctuate, causing "shocks" to the patient's system. The same is true of standard peritoneal-based dialysis.

In addition, hemodialysis uses anticoagulants to prevent the blood circulating outside the body from clotting. But this, too, can cause complications. Work on other wearable kidneys has been based on this hemodialysis or hemofiltration model.

The AWAK, on the other hand, would function continuously, as natural kidneys do, eliminating patient "shocks." And because it does not involve blood circulation outside the body, it is "bloodless."

It also regenerates and reuses fluid and protein components in the spent dialysate -- the fluid that has abstracted toxins from the patient's blood and which is discarded in current practice -- making it waterless and minimizing or eliminating protein loss.

"Dialysis-on-the-go, made possible by AWAK's 'wearability' and automation, frees end-stage renal failure patients from the servitude that is demanded by the current dialytic regimentations," Roberts and Lee write in the journal article.

Working out of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Roberts and Lee funded their research that led to the invention.


Mark said...

From The Times
October 28, 2008

Scientists develop artificial heart that beats like the real thing [tested only in sheep, only expected to be ready hypothetically (2013 is mentioned, though that's entirely conditional on more funding)

a mechanical heart

Adam Sage in Paris

An artificial heart that beats almost exactly like the real thing is to be implanted in patients within three years in a trial that may offer hope to heart disease sufferers unable to receive a transplant.

The device, which uses electronic sensors to regulate the heart rate and blood flow, was developed by Alain Carpentier, France's leading cardiac surgeon, and engineers from the group that makes Airbus aircraft.

Presented yesterday, it was described by its inventors as the closest thing yet to the human heart. “If you show the graphs to a cardiac surgeon, he will say it's a human heart,” Professor Carpentier said. “But no, it’s not a human heart, it’s the prosthesis.”

He said that he had spent two decades on the project because “I found it intolerable to see young people - aged 40, 45 or 50 - dying of massive heart attacks without having a prosthesis available to replace their hearts”.

The French announcement is the latest in a race by doctors to produce a device that could be fitted into the 20,000 patients a year worldwide who are unable to receive a life-saving heart transplant because of a shortage of donors.

Two artificial hearts have been invented in the US, the Jarvik 7 and the AbioCor, but both have drawbacks, according to Professor Carpentier’s team: the first has wires that protrude through the skin, and the second can produce blood clots that can lead to strokes, they said.

Carmat, the company founded by Professor Carpentier and EADS, Europe’s aerospace and defence giant, says that it is close to overcoming these hurdles.

Sensors in the artificial heart will automatically regulate the heart beat, detecting the body’s needs: increasing the rhythm when patients are walking, for instance, and slowing it when they are resting.

“If you get up in the middle of the night to go to the loo, you need the artificial heart to know immediately or you’ll collapse on the floor,” said Philippe Pouletty, an immunologist whose private equity firm, Truffle Capital, has invested €5 million (£4 million) in the project.

Professor Carpentier said that he had reduced the risk of clots by creating the heart with a “pseudo-skin” of biosynthetic, microporous materials. “This has been the essential problem until now,” he said.

Two options are under study for the power supply, which remains a significant hurdle. One involves implanting a titanium receiver in the skull that would channel energy sent through the skin - without piercing it - from a battery outside the body to the heart. [that's a 'solution'? What if you lose your battery or it breaks? Could be connected to the movement of the skin innately (see ideas in energy storage category), though there's difficulties with that when you might die.]

The second would work by a similar method: getting electricity through the skin between two transformers, one inside and one outside the body. Carmat says the battery could last for between 5 and 16 hours, after which it would have to be recharged to prevent the artificial heart stopping.

The artificial heart has been tested successfully on calves and sheep, according to Professor Carpentier, and will be implanted in patients with terminal heart failure for a clinical trial in two or three years’ time. If that is successful - and if Carmat can find about €100 million in funding - the French artificial heart will be available as an alternative to transplant in 2013.

“These are tremendous advances,” said Leslie Hamilton, consultant cardiac surgeon at Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne.

“Transplantation is limited to a fixed number of patients. But for artificial hearts, the sky’s the limit.” He added that the French device needed to undergo trials before it could be used in hospitals, which may take many years.

Smart heart

As the artificial heart’s motors compress the left chamber and open the right one, oxygen-rich blood from the left chamber is pumped out into the body and blood lacking in oxygen fills the right chamber.

The left chamber is then opened while the right chamber is compressed, pumping the deoxygenated blood from the right chamber back to the lungs and drawing a fresh supply of oxygen-rich blood from the lungs into the left chamber.

Unlike previous artificial hearts, this one detects the body’s activity level (and therefore how much oxygen it requires) and changes its pace accordingly.


Mark said...

[The stem cells of the patient's body were grown into a donor's organ which has led to a durable acceptance of their foreign organ without anti-inflammatory or anti-immune drugs. The body accepts the foreign organ as its own, with a little 'salting' preparation from the patient's own stem cells first. The procedure literally could make novel organ transplants or replacements far more durable and less risky.]

Transplant of windpipe grown [partially] from stem cells heralds new era in medicine

The transplant of a human windpipe grown from stem cells is a surgical breakthrough of almost limitless potential

By Roger Highfield
Last Updated: 7:42AM GMT 20 Nov 2008

The science of healing is developing so quickly that it has become almost a cliché to describe a particular operation as a "breakthrough".

Yet there is no doubt that the first successful transplant of a human windpipe, constructed partly from stem cells, is an astonishing milestone – one that could indeed mark the start of a new era in medicine.

At long last, the glint in a researcher's eye has been turned into a significant advance in the clinic. Forget all the fuss about embryos and angst about playing God: this is unadulterated good news. We have proved that scientists can now fashion organs using a patient's own cells, eliminating the problems with rejection that have always plagued transplants. Today it is a trachea – tomorrow it could be a colon, even a heart.

The venture was a textbook example of international collaboration, drawing on the talents of teams in Spain, Italy and Britain. To recap; the operation, on 30-year-old tuberculosis patient Claudia Castillo, took place in Barcelona, where doctors also had collected a three-inch segment of trachea from a 51-year-old donor who had died of a cerebral hemorrhage. They used a technique developed in Padua to strip the windpipe of its donor's original cells, a procedure that took six weeks, to create a "scaffold". At the same time, a team in Bristol used a "bioreactor" dreamt up in Milan to grow stem cells removed from Castillo's bone marrow. These cells were "seeded" into the donated windpipe, disguising the 'foreign' tissue that remained so Castillo's body would accept it as her own.

There is a desperate need for this kind of advance. In Britain, about 8,000 people are on the waiting list for an organ transplant. Around 3,200 such operations are carried out every year – but roughly 1,000 of those on the list will die before they get a transplant. And that is only the start of the problem: after a transplant, there is a high risk of rejection as the recipient's immune system reacts against the donor organ. Immunosuppressant drugs are used to limit this but their side-effects include high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney failure, vulnerability to infections, osteoporosis, and cancer. In all, the drugs cut life expectancy by an average of 10 years.

As we now know, Claudio Castillo experienced no such problems: two months after the surgery, which took place in June, her lungs were functioning just as well as those of most young women her age. The result, says Martin Birchall, professor of surgery at Bristol University, leaves us "on the verge of a new age in surgical care". But what will that new age look like? Even before this week's announcement, there has been a steady trickle of advances that reveal the potential of this medical revolution. There are attempts to free insulin-dependent diabetics from reliance on needles, by using injections of their own stem cells. Trials are under way in Britain on more than 90 patients to test the use of stem cells to help repair damaged hearts. Prof John Martin of University College London who is leading the project, says things are "going well".

We can now routinely grow replacement skin (used to aid wound healing), using the foreskins of newborns, while Dr Anthony Atala, of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, has made and successfully implanted segments of bladder in seven patients, aged between four and 19, who had a congenital birth defect.

Dr Atala's technique is a variation on that used to create Claudia Castillo's new windpipe. He began by taking biopsy samples of muscle cells and the cells that line the bladder walls. These were multiplied in the laboratory until there were enough to seed a special biodegradable "scaffold", shaped like a bladder, on which the cells could hang. About eight weeks after the biopsy, the "engineered" patches were sewn on to the patients' original bladders, dramatically improving their function.

The significance of the new work, however, is that the pan-European team was able to transplant an organ, albeit just a section of it. The implications are staggering: given that stem cells from bone marrow can be grown into any one family of tissues, such as muscle, bone, skin and cartilage (though not mucosal or nerve tissues), the team at Bristol University believes the same approach will allow it to recreate colons and bladders, too. With funding, Prof Birchall says that he hopes to engineer a larynx for transplant within five years.

The liver will be trickier. The plumbing and cells involved are intricate and the result of an equally complex series of stages of development. The process is further complicated by the fact that the liver also needs to have blood pumping through it at high pressure and volume to work properly. Even so, the science-fiction vision of organ farms in which spare body parts can be plucked off the rack may not be so far-fetched. "I do believe the various issues are soluble," said Prof Birchall, though he is reluctant to speculate on precisely when.

In much of this work, Europe is leading the way. "By putting our brains together," says Prof Martin, "we are ahead of the US in the clinical application of stem cells."

But remarkable work on the other side of the Atlantic is raising the possibility that the development of a replacement heart is closer to fruition than previously hoped. In January, the world's first beating, retooled "bioartificial heart" was unveiled by researchers at the University of Minnesota, an achievement that could pave the way for new treatments for the 22 million people worldwide who live with heart failure.

While there had been advances in growing heart tissue in the lab, the problem has been how to create a three-dimensional scaffold for the new cells that mimics the complicated architecture and intricacies of the body's circulatory system. That is why Prof Doris Taylor and her team in Minnesota resorted to "decellularisation": using detergent to remove all of the cells from an organ. In this case, they used the heart from an animal cadaver, leaving only the framework between the cells intact, along with the essential plumbing and heart valves.

After successfully removing all the cells from rat hearts, the researchers then took immature versions of those cells and introduced them to the decellularised heart scaffolds. Four days later, contractions were observed, and eight days later the new, partly artificial hearts were pumping, albeit at only two per cent of the efficiency of an adult heart.

Professor Taylor says that she is thrilled by the news of the trachea transplant. "We congratulate the Bristol team wholeheartedly – so to speak – and are excited to see this add credence to the technology used by our group in its research, and others around the world." The method, she believes, can be extended to virtually any organ with a blood supply: "We have made significant progress showing the utility of decellularisation for a number of organs including livers, muscle, skin and kidneys, and are well on the way to building complex new organs." Her own team is tackling the problems involved in rebuilding the vessels in the heart – critical if you are going to engineer something with a blood supply.

And then there is the astonishing potential of embryonic stem cells, the means by which Mother Nature fashions our entire bodies. Our understanding of how to guide the development of an embryonic stem cell is primitive – but unlike the bone marrow cells used in the Castillo case, embryonic stem cells can turn into any one of the 200 or more different cell types in our bodies, rendering the opportunities potentially limitless. As Prof Austin Smith of Cambridge University points out, much more work must be done to determine how to make them grow the right way, and then to mould them into organs. Even so, the potential in terms of replacement body parts – or even replacement bodies – is vast.

The path ahead is difficult: more funding and much testing, will be needed and there will inevitably be false starts and blind alleys. But in the long term, a brave new world beckons, where row upon row of hearts, kidneys and lungs are grown in sterile vessels, ready for transplant. Medically and ethically, the bottom line is simple: if we follow the path blazed by Claudia Castillo and her doctors, no one need ever die waiting for a donated organ again.

• Roger Highfield is the Editor of 'New Scientist'


Mark said...

Science and Health Series
Is Accumulation of Acid Equal to Aging?

by Sang Whang

Since 1990, I have defined the aging process as the accumulation of non-disposed acidic waste within the body.

Based on this definition, the reduction of accumulated acidic waste is the reverse aging process.

Since then, I introduced a water additive product called AlkaLife®, an alkaline concentrate made of potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide in a 3 to 1 ratio respectively.

Lately I came across two academic papers that support my contention and the contents of AlkaLife®.

I can assure you that there have been no collaborations between the authors of these papers and myself.

The first paper is by Drs. Lynda Frassetto and Anthony Sebastian of the University of California, San Francisco, Department of Medicine and General Clinical Research Center. It’s title is Age and Systemic Acid-Base Equilibrium: Analysis of Published Data, published in 19961).

The abstract of the paper is given below.

To investigate whether systemic acid-base equilibrium changes with aging in normal adult humans, we reviewed published articles reporting the acid-base composition of arterial, arterialized venous, or capillary blood in age-identified healthy subjects. We extracted or calculated blood hydrogen ion concentration ([H+]), plasma bicarbonate concentration ([HCO3-]), blood PCO2, and age, and computed a total of 61 age-group means, distributed among eight 10-year intervals from age 20 to 100 years. Using linear regression analysis, we found that with increasing age, there is a significant increase in the steady-state blood [H+] (p<.001), and reduction in steady-state plasma [HCO3-] (p<.001), indicative of a progressively worsening low-level metabolic acidosis.

Blood PCO2 decreased with age (p<.05), in keeping with the expected respiratory adaptation to metabolic acidosis.

Such age-related increasing metabolic acidosis may reflect in part the normal decline of renal function with increasing age.

The role of age-related metabolic acidosis in the pathogenesis of the degenerative diseases of aging warrants consideration.

In layman’s terms, it means that as we get old we have more acid radicals [H+] and less bicarbonate [HCO3-], which brings about age-related metabolic acidosis.

This paper is the recognition and treatment of the symptoms, accepting aging as an inevitable fact of life.

I look at acid accumulation as the cause of physiological aging; therefore, I view the reduction of accumulated acid as the reversal of physiological aging. In addition, acid reduction can prevent all kinds of degenerative aging diseases.

Most everyone else who recognizes acid as the culprit attempts to reduce acid by harder and less effective means, i.e., diet and exercise. I promote the use of potassium and sodium to neutralize acid and bring about acid/alkaline balance. It is well recognized that not only is acid/alkaline balance important, but potassium/sodium balance in the human body is equally, if not more critical.

Another paper that Dr. Frassetto and four other colleagues published supports my contention that our body needs more potassium than sodium. The title of this paper, published in 2001, is Diet, evolution and aging (The pathophysiologic effects of the post-agricultural inversion of the potassium-to-sodium and base-to-chloride ratios in the human diet) 2). Here is the relevant excerpt from the “Summary” of this paper:

Summary Theoretically, we humans should be better adapted physiologically to the diet our ancestors were exposed to during millions of years of hominid evolution than to the diet we have been eating since the agricultural revolution a mere 10,000 years ago, and since industrialization only 200 years ago. Among the many health problems resulting from this mismatch between our genetically determined nutritional requirements and our current diet, some might be a consequence in part of the deficiency of potassium alkali salts (K-base), which are amply present in the plant foods that our ancestors ate in abundance, and the exchange of those salts for sodium chloride (NaCl), which has been incorporated copiously into the contemporary diet, which at the same time is meager in K-base-rich plant foods.

Deficiency of K-base in the diet increases the net systemic acid load imposed by the diet. We know that clinically-recognized chronic metabolic acidosis has deleterious effects on the body, including growth retardation in children, decreased muscle and bone mass in adults, and kidney stone formation, and that correction of acidosis can ameliorate those conditions. Is it possible that lifetime of eating diets that deliver evolutionarily superphysiologic loads of acid to the body contribute to the decrease in bone and muscle mass, and growth hormone secretion, which occur normally with age? That is, are contemporary humans suffering from the consequences of chronic, diet induced low-grade systemic metabolic acidosis?

Our group has shown that contemporary net acid-producing diets do indeed characteristically produce a low-grade systemic metabolic acidosis in otherwise healthy adult subjects, and that the degree of acidosis increases with age, in relation to the normally occurring age-related decline in renal functional capacity. We also found that neutralization of the diet net acid load with dietary supplements of potassium bicarbonate (KHCO3) improved calcium and phosphorus balances, reduced bone resorption rates, improved nitrogen balance, and mitigated the normally occurring age-related decline in growth hormone secretion – all without restricting dietary NaCl. Moreover, we found that co-administration of an alkalinizing salt of potassium (potassium citrate) with NaCl prevented NaCl from increasing urinary calcium excretion and bone resorption, as occurred with NaCl administration alone.

In layman’s terms, potassium deficiency is the cause of many health problems and administering potassium bicarbonate can slow down the normally-occurring age-related low-grade systemic metabolic acidosis and can correct many of the aging symptoms such as calcium and phosphorus imbalances, fast bone resorption rates (slowing down osteoporosis), nitrogen imbalance (reduction of uric acid), etc.

Since Dr. Frassetto’s main interest is to cure patients with these problems, the amount of potassium in AlkaLife® is almost negligible for her. However, AlkaLife® is not designed to cure any diseases, but to prevent the onset of aging symptoms by steady consumption. Consumption of large doses of potassium can cause side effects and must be monitored very carefully by doctors.

I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the doctors in UCSF for conducting this research and bringing these important facts to the attention of the public.


1) Journal of Gerontology: BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, 1996, Vol. 51A. No. 1, B91-B99

2) European Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 40, Number 5 (2001). ©Steinkopff Verlag 2001

© 2004 by Sang Whang Enterprises, Inc.


Mark said...

Scientists take a step closer to an elixir of youth

A naturally occurring substance that can create "immortal cells" could be the key to finding a real elixir of youth, scientists claim.

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
Last Updated: 5:48PM GMT 21 Nov 2008

Human chromosomes - Scientists take a step closer to an elixir of youth
Scientists believe boosting the enzyme that stops chromosomes unravelling... Photo: ANDREW SYRED

Researchers believe boosting the amount of a naturally forming enzyme in the body could prevent cells dying and so lead to extended, healthier, lifespans.

The protein telomerase helps maintain the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes which act like the ends of shoelaces and stop them unraveling.

As we age, and our cells divide, these caps become frayed and shorter and eventually are so damaged that the cell dies. Scientists believe boosting our natural levels of telomerase could rejuvenate them.

A team at the Spanish National Cancer Centre in Madrid tested the theory on mice and found that those genetically engineered to produce 10 times the normal levels of telomerase lived 50 per cent longer than normal.

Maria Blasco, who led the research, told the New Scientist said that the enzyme was capable of turning "a normal, mortal cell into an immortal cell".

She added that she was optimistic that a similar approach may eventually lead to extended human lifespans - though she urged caution.

"You can delay the ageing of mice and increase their lifespan," she said.

"(But)I think it is very hard to extrapolate data from mouse ageing to human ageing."

One of the problems with boosting telomerase is that it can increase the risk of cancer.

[Note above in other posts how the process of healing ages the body...]

Dr Blasco said this could be overcome by also issuing cancer drugs that could offset the negative affects.

She said that the mice with the boosted enzyme also saw other health benefits – often associated with youth such as less subcutaneous fat and better glucose tolerance.


Mark said...

Resveratrol Longevity Secret Unlocked by Scientists: It's the Chromosomes!

by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, November 27, 2008

Key concepts: Resveratrol, Longevity and Chromosomes

What is it, exactly, about resveratrol that makes it one of the most miraculous nutrients that's ever been discovered by modern science? We already know resveratrol helps reverse heart disease, stops cancer and has a powerful anti-aging effect, but how exactly does it work?

Scientists from Harvard Medical School think they've found some clues. In research published in the journal Cell, they've documented how resveratrol activates a protein called sirtuin that performs an almost miraculous gene repair resulting in extended lifespan.

Their research concludes that sirtuin repairs breaks in human chromosomes, and resveratrol seems to activate sirtuin in just the right way to prevent the accumulation of chromosomal damage that leads directly to aging.

Of course, these scientists aren't really studying nature for the benefit of humankind: They're looking for the next miracle pharmaceutical, and they're ripping off molecules from Mother Nature in order to find it (and patent it).

Just watch: In five years when this drug is approved by the FDA, they'll claim the drug is a miracle but resveratrol is useless.

It's the same scam they played with red yeast rice, from which the molecules used to synthesize statin drugs were stolen.

The truth is that resveratrol is a miracle nutrient all by itself, and we don't need to have it patented in order to benefit from it. Just buy resveratrol supplements right now and you can experience the anti-aging benefits (and heart protection benefits) for yourself!

A resveratrol supplement company I recommend is Byron Richards' Wellness Resources (, which sells a variety of anti-aging supplements, including resveratrol.

The specific product I recommend there is called Cardio Helper:

(I have no financial ties to Wellness Resources.)

In fact, Byron Richards recently wrote a feature article on resveratrol that we published on NaturalNews. Check it out here:, located below as well:

Is Resveratrol the Fountain of Youth?

Thursday, November 27, 2008 by: Byron Richards, Health Freedom Editor

Key concepts: Resveratrol, Leptin and Food

Breaking News for Thursday, November 27, 2008

Articles Related to This Article:

• Resveratrol Has Anti-aging and Anti-Cancer Properties, Linked to Cardiovascular Health

• Resveratrol Found to Halt Growth of Pancreatic Cancer Cells

• Red Wine’s Resveratrol May Help Battle Obesity

There are a lot of great anti-aging and metabolism boosting nutrients: DHA, pantethine, acetyl-l-carnitine, carnosine, R-alpha lipoic acid, grape seed extracts – the list goes on and on.

In fact, most nutrients help cells function better and thus live longer.

So, why is resveratrol vying for the position as King of the anti-aging nutrients – with a potent fat-burning twist thrown in for good measure?

Maybe we should ask Big Pharma, who is spending a pile of cash on metabolites of resveratrol that they hope to patent as weight loss drugs, diabetes drugs, and a new generation of anti-aging medicines.

Part of the way resveratrol works is by activating a powerful metabolic fat-burning and anti-aging gene called SIRT1.

In newly published Big Pharma animal research, their resveratrol drug activated SIRT1, prevented weight gain on a high fat diet, improved blood sugar and insulin function, and doubled the exercise endurance of the mice.

Interestingly, resveratrol dietary supplements have been shown to do essentially the same thing. The resveratrol drug (SRT1720) is apparently six times more potent at activating SIRT1 than plain resveratrol.

However, plain resveratrol operates in a number of different ways besides activating SIRT1, providing a broader base of potential health benefits including comprehensive cardiovascular support.

What is Resveratrol?

Interest in resveratrol research took off when it was identified as a component in red wine that may be partly responsible for the "French Paradox," the ability to eat a higher fat diet with less heart disease than Americans. Research shows that resveratrol helps your liver metabolize fat and helps break down stored fat contained in your white adipose tissue.

Resveratrol is a type of polyphenol known as a stilbenoid, which is produced in grapes and blueberries to protect themselves from bacterial and fungal infection, and to a lesser extent from UV radiation.

It was discovered that grapes growing in damp and moldy areas had the highest content of resveratrol of any known commonly consumed food/beverage.

Resveratrol is obviously a potent anti-fungal compound and antioxidant.

Resveratrol is a different compound than the flavonoid proanthocyanidins of grape seed extracts, which also contribute to the notion of the French Paradox.

Blueberries, by comparison, also contain flavonoids and a different stilbenoid called pterostilbene (pronounced "tero-STILL-bean").

Significant research at the USDA has shown that pterostilbene has a powerful ability to influence the metabolism of cholesterol and the synthesis of triglycerides by improving metabolism within cells, as well as providing brain-protecting anti-aging properties.

The amount of resveratrol in a bottle of red wine varies from 2 mg to 14 mg, mostly on the lower side.

Dietary supplements of resveratrol are typically derived from the roots of Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum), a far more economical source than grapes.

Doses will range from a basic protective dose of a few milligrams (like a bottle of red wine), up to 100 mg per serving or more (a therapeutic dose).

Resveratrol is readily absorbed, reaching peak blood levels in 30 minutes, and then rather rapidly cleared by your liver.

Thus, it is better to spread out intake during the day than to take a large amount all at once.

At this point, other than the colorful history and longevity benefits associated with red wine consumption, the majority of the extensive resveratrol research has been carried out with cell studies and small animals. The implications of this research are mind-boggling, clearly showing significant extension of life span.

The Fat-Burning and Anti-Aging Properties of Resveratrol

SIRT1 first drew attention as the primary gene signal involved with the longevity benefits of calorie restriction. A very simple explanation is that when you are in a food scarcity situation, SIRT1 is activated so as to help break down your stored fat to use as fuel as well as to boost up your energy so that you have enough energy to hunt for new food. SIRT1 is part of a famine-related survival system.

Many experiments with animals show that by restricting calorie intake, SIRT1 is naturally activated, a finding that goes along with a noticeably extended lifespan, better fat and cholesterol metabolism, more efficient immune function, and better cardiovascular health.

A number of humans have taken up calorie restriction experiments on themselves, and pictures of them do not portray the portrait of health.

In fact, you would be hard pressed to pick out of a line-up someone on a self-induced calorie restriction diet and someone coming in for anorexia treatment. Which gets to my point, what is the difference between a calorie restriction diet and anorexia?

I have studied the calorie restriction science for 20 years and I am also the leading diet expert on the fat-derived hormone leptin, which is the overall boss hormone that controls your metabolic rate and your ability to survive a period of famine. Thus, I will give you answers in this area that you won't find elsewhere. There is a very fine line between prolonged calorie restriction and anorexia.

In the case of someone consuming too much food, their extra pounds of fat crank out inflammatory messengers (TNFa and IL6), in turn stimulating the liver to make the inflammatory CRP. This combination of inflammation induces significant free radical damage in the circulatory system and all around the body. As the waistline expands the volume knob on inflammation and free radical production is turned up. At the same time the liver becomes clogged with fat, which in turn is "cooked" by free radicals from the inflammation, eventually sending the liver on the path to looking like a fried piece of bacon.

Arteries are also getting fat around the outside of the arterial wall structure [when they are damaged by radicals and the fat is the 'cheap fix' of the body attempting to heal it, instead of it related to "too much cholesterol"--cells are made of cholesterol, if you body is damaged by free radicals, only then is there cholesterol buildup], in turn generating more inflammation to the inside of arteries and deactivating friendly nitric oxide production.

This makes blood pressure go up and blood not flow well and further induces free radical production in arteries that damages LDL cholesterol, promoting the formation of plaque.

In this scenario leptin levels are also high (leptin resistance), which lowers another fat-derived hormone called adiponectin, in turn causing a bad mood and insulin resistance that leads to type II diabetes. Leptin problems cripple thyroid function as well as promoting never-ending cravings to eat more food. This is the precise metabolic profile of millions of Americans on the fast track to diabetes, heart disease, and poor health.

Ironically, they are being poisoned to death by too much food with no easy way out of the misguided subconscious drive to continue excess eating.

It is important to understand that just about everyone who is overweight and having trouble with their cravings has high leptin in their blood (leptin resistance), and that leptin is not getting into their brains correctly (a false state of misperceived starvation).

Leptin resistance is caused by consistently eating meals that are too large, by eating after dinner at night, and by snacking.

Human beings do not have the genes to deal with the abuse of eating too much food, as during evolution this was never the problem.

Rather, a scarcity of food was the primary issue that constantly threatened the survival of the human race – and so it is that we have a lot of mechanisms built in to help deal with starvation.

The ability to survive famine is controlled by leptin.

During famine leptin levels have gone low as your fat mass that secretes leptin in the first place has been reduced in size to use the stored fat for energy, which is how your subconscious brain knows a famine is occurring.

In response to this low-leptin famine issue, your liver turns on the production of SIRT1.

This helps your liver know to break down fat to use as fuel, not store calories as fat, as well as to boost physical energy to be able to hunt or gather new food.

Considering all the interest in both SIRT1 and leptin, the number of studies linking the function of the two is remarkably absent from the literature.

New research shows that SIRT1 is active in key regions of your brain that relate to appetite and energy, which are governed by leptin.

Leptin deficient mice do not activate SIRT1 properly, and are always obese. The details of this relationship are far from clear. It is easy to predict that low levels of leptin from true starvation are able to trigger SIRT1 activation in your liver based on messages received from SIRT1 signaling systems in your brain.

It is also easy to predict that high levels of leptin in your blood (obesity-related leptin resistance) turn SIRT1 off as they would be signaling your liver that famine is over or not happening.

As you begin to diet (especially if you follow the Leptin Diet) and drop your first 10-15 pounds you will clear high leptin from your blood, which is always reflected by your cravings going away.

For a while your body is set to burn more calories based on your pre-dieting metabolic set point.

The problem for many people is that you hit a plateau after a month or so of dieting that is too far from your goal weight.

If you eat less you can't function. Your head is heavy, you are irritable, your sleep gets disturbed, your immune system goes on the blink, and you are much more likely to get sick. If you exercise more you must eat more or you will be completely exhausted and feel even worse. If you get stressed, unlike the stress-free monkeys practicing calorie restriction, you are in real trouble and likely to eat the house down. Yes, you are practicing calorie restriction – how on earth is this state of feeling going to help you live longer? Answer – its not. You start generating inflammation the longer you are in this condition.

The inflammation is no longer coming from your extra pounds of fat. It is coming from the trauma of the diet combined with stressors in your life.

Under these circumstances you are much more likely to break down muscle, a key sign of inappropriate weight loss. If you keep trying to lose weight while you feel this way you may be able to do so, but you will progressively lose more muscle, increase inflammation, generate a lot of free radical damage, disturb digestion, get sick really easily, and presto – you are anorexic. Funny thing is, you may still be an overweight anorexic. Wow – is that any way to diet?

Eating in harmony with leptin
If you start eating more food you will feel much better. Unfortunately, you messed with leptin in the wrong way. Leptin now turns off SIRT1 and goes into a famine-recovery mode. It commands that a large portion of the calories you are now eating go back to fat storage. Most people find themselves rapidly gaining weight on formerly normal amounts of food.

Once the yo-yo routine comes to a halt you are likely to find yourself 5-10 pounds heavier than when you first started, as an insurance policy in case you attempt another dieting stunt in the future.

Solving this dilemma requires that you eat in harmony with leptin, which means following the five simple rules of the Leptin Diet.

In many cases you will never hit this problematic plateau. However, many people will, especially if they have a history of yo-yo dieting. Enter resveratrol. Resveratrol is an ideal nutrient to enhance weight loss and maintain energy ONCE YOU HAVE GOTTEN PAST THE INITIAL PHASE OF 10-15 POUNDS OF WEIGHT LOSS, especially if you are getting stuck at a plateau.

Resveratrol will help turn on the SIRT1 gene, which will promote fat-burning in the presence of lower calorie intake. This is a terrific use of this nutrient.

How do you know it's working? You have energy to exercise, you feel good, and your weight is trending downward while you are happy eating less food. This either is or isn't happening, thus it isn't very hard to figure out if resveratrol helps you.

How resveratrol enhances your weight loss efforts
One of the real values of this nutrient in the weight management context is helping you to not slide into an inflammatory anorexic-like metabolic problem as you try to lose weight. It is also a tool to help you break through weight loss plateaus should they occur.

Resveratrol will work best when you are eating less food and have already cleared surplus leptin out of your blood through initial dieting efforts. However, you don't need to eat so little that you are on the scarecrow diet.

Research indicates that resveratrol will still help you out even if you aren't dieting or you don't need to lose weight. After all, the French had resveratrol in their diet when they were mostly thin. I might point out, however, that while the French were eating a higher saturated fat diet they were not overeating, their food was fresh and mostly organic, and they did not snack. The effects of resveratrol will be easily overloaded by overeating. Even the French Paradox has been doomed by an epidemic of leptin-disrupting snacking and junk food consumption.

Having a large waistline is clearly linked to premature death, a risk that goes up in direct proportion to your waistline's rate of expansion. Anything safe and natural that can help you get it back to optimal and keep it that way qualifies as life extending.

Cardiovascular and Other Benefits of Resveratrol

Simply losing weight healthfully will improve your cardiovascular health. If resveratrol is able to help you in this endeavor, regardless of any other cardiovascular help it provides, then it is a success as a cardio-friendly nutrient.

There is plenty of animal and cell science to predict that resveratrol assists the healthy structure and function of your cardiovascular system in multiple ways. It has been found to reduce the stickiness or adherence of immune cells to the walls of arteries, prevent adverse changes in the smooth muscle cells of arteries that lead to plaque accumulation, boost friendly nitric oxide levels (eNOS) that relax arteries and improve blood flow, help keep platelets from sticking together, reduce irregular heart beats, and reduce circulatory inflammation. It even helps protect against circulatory damage from high blood sugar.

Keep in mind that in "modern" medicine, each one of these points requires a different drug that has other adverse side effects.

One of the first human resveratrol studies shows that resveratrol improved heart function in type II diabetic patients following a heart attack.

Resveratrol, like grape seed extract, operates in part as a protector of human body structure.

This is clearly related to its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which include regulation of the primary inflammatory gene switch NF-kappaB.

New animal and cell studies shows it helps bone health, reduces cataracts, helps coordination, reduces disk deterioration and protects joints, guards against Parkinson's, improves erectile performance, protects the liver, protects the pancreas, and helps regulate cell health while protecting against adverse cell changes.

This is a rather impressive array of science-backed support for any one nutrient. Maybe the anti-aging promise is real. The explosion of scientific interest in the compound ensures that you will be hearing a lot more about it in the very near future.

Common doses of resveratrol that show benefit and safety in animal studies range from 2.5 mg – to 10 mg per kilogram. This translates to an approximate dose range of 150 mg – 700 mg per day for a 150 pound adult, a sensible and safe dose range until more data is in.

For a fully referenced version of this article:

For more health articles by this author:

About the author: Byron J. Richards, Board-Certified Clinical Nutritionist, nationally-renowned nutrition expert, and founder of Wellness Resources is a leader in advocating the value of dietary supplements as a vital tool to maintain health. He is an outspoken critic of government and Big Pharma efforts to deny access to natural health products and has written extensively on the life-shortening and health-damaging failures of the sickness industry.


Mark said...

[Interesting though probably cocks something else up we are unaware of yet? We were built on non-deuterium water probably for a rational issue we are unaware of quite yet....]

'Heavy water' could help us live longer
Drinking "heavy water" enriched with a rare form of hydrogen could prolong our lives by up to ten years, it has been claimed.

By Matthew Moore
Last Updated: 12:30PM GMT 27 Nov 2008

Mikhail Shchepinov, a former Oxford University scientist, says that the modified drink protects against dangerous chemicals known as free radicals that are known to contribute to conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

He also claims that foods such as steak and eggs could be enriched with the special hydrogen isotope, known as deuterium, raising the possibility of people being able to "eat themselves healthy".

His research has shown that worms live 10 per cent longer and fruitflies up to 30 per cent longer when fed on heavy water, which is slightly sweeter than normal water.

Dr Shchepinov, who runs the biotech firm Retrotope, now wants to test his technology in pet foods, and believes that it could one day be introduced to the food chain to allow humans to enjoy its benefits without taking supplements.

"We don't have to be consuming isotopes as white powder. If you take a pig and feed these things to a pig, all you need to do is consume the pig in a normal fashion," he has said.

But other scientists have warned that Dr Shchepinov's theories are far from proven. Tom Kirkwood, of Newcastle University, told the Daily Mail: "Shchepinov's idea is interesting but . . . the history in the field is cluttered with hypotheses which are only partially supported by the data."


Mark said...

12-04-2008 11:20
First Genome Sequence of S. Korean Completed

South Korean researchers have succeeded in deciphering the first-ever genome sequence map of a Korean, a step that could herald the opening of a new chapter in "personalized" medical treatment based on individual genotypes, Yonhap News reported Thursday.

The researchers at the state-run Korean Bioinformation Center (KOBIC) and Gachon University of Medicine and Science said they deciphered the entire personal genome of Kim Seong-jin, a cancer research specialist.

South Korea is the third country in the world to complete this feat, with Kim becoming the fourth identified person to have his genetic sequence mapped and published, they said. Kim works for a general hospital in Incheon, west of Seoul.

The personal genome map of U.S. biologist Craig Venter was released in 2007, followed by that of James Watson in April 2008. In Asia, the DNA sequence of Chinese scientist Yang Huanming was released last month.

In 2003, laboratories in the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Japan and China completed the "reference genome" of the human race.

"The importance of genome sequencing lies in its potential to allow people to enjoy longer and healthier lives," KOBIC head Bhak Jong-hwa was quoted as saying. "If a person has a full picture of his or her genome, the information could be used to help prevent diseases to which their bodies are most vulnerable."

Scientists are already aware of specific genetic sequences that may lead to certain diseases like diabetes, cancer, alcoholic dependence and clinical depression.

"In the future, if a person comes down with a disease, a doctor could check the genome sequence that would allow customized treatment," Bhak said.


Mark said...

Scientists' stem cell breakthrough ends ethical dilemma

Skin-cell-based 'grow your own' regeneration--of anything. Very convenient.

[Scientists are basically inventing a novel species, "Us, version 2" or as some call homo-evolutus--a species that self-directs its evolution. Techniques like this are a watershed. We, whether we like it or otherwise, and I dislike the social implications, will speciate based on people with access to this technology and those who lack it--or are denied it.]

Experts in Britain and Canada find way to make stem cells without destroying embryos

* Ian Sample, science correspondent
*, Sunday 1 March 2009 18.22 GMT

Stem cells have the potential to be turned into any tissue, including heart cells, making the growth of 'spare parts' a possibility.

Scientists have found a way to make an almost limitless supply of stem cells that could safely be used in patients while avoiding the ethical dilemma of destroying embryos.

In a breakthrough that could have huge implications, British and Canadian scientists have found a way of reprogramming skin cells taken from adults, effectively winding the clock back on the cells until they were in an embryonic form.

The work has been hailed as a major step forward by scientists and welcomed by pro-life organisations, who called on researchers to halt other experiments which use stem cells collected from embryos made at IVF clinics.

Sir Ian Wilmut, who led the team that cloned Dolly the Sheep and heads the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh University where the work was done, said: "This is a significant step in the right direction. The team has made great progress and combining this work with that of other scientists working on stem cell differentiation, there is hope that the promise of regenerative medicine could soon be met."

Stem cells have the potential to be turned into any tissue in the body, an ability that has led researchers to believe they could be used to make "spare parts" to replace diseased and damaged organs and treat conditions as diverse as Parkinson's disease, diabetes and spinal cord injury.

Because the cells can be made from a patient's own skin, they carry the same DNA and so could be used without a risk of being rejected by the immune system.

Scientists showed they could make stem cells from adult cells more than a year ago, but the cells could never be used in patients because the procedure involved injecting viruses that could cause cancer.

Overcoming the problem has been a major stumbling block in efforts to make stem cells fulfill their promise of transforming the future of medicine.

Now, scientists at the universities of Edinburgh and Toronto have found a way to achieve the same feat without using viruses, making so-called induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell therapies a realistic prospect for the first time.

In 2007, researchers in Japan and America announced they had turned adult skin cells into stem cells by injecting them with a virus carrying four extra genes.

Because the virus could accidentally switch on cancer genes [I doubt there are 'cancer genes' that just a false term], the cells would not be safe enough to use in patients.

In two papers published in the journal Nature, Keisuke Kaji in Edinburgh and Andras Nagy in Toronto, describe how they reprogrammed cells using a safer technique called electroporation. This allowed the scientists to do away with viruses and ferry genes into the cells through pores. Once the genes had done their job, the scientists removed them, leaving the cells healthy and intact.

Tests on stem cells made from human and mouse cells showed they behaved in the same as embryonic stem cells.

"I was very excited when I found stem cell-like cells in my culture dishes. Nobody, including me, thought it was really possible," said Kaji. "It is a step towards the practical use of reprogrammed cells in medicine, perhaps even eliminating the need for human embryos as a source of stem cells."

Nagy said: "We hope that these stem cells will form the basis for treatment for many diseases and conditions that are currently considered incurable. We have found a highly efficient and safe way to create new cells for the human body which avoids the challenge of immune rejection."

Josephine Quintavalle from the lobby group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, which opposes embryonic stem cell research, said: "What we've got here is something that will bring joy to the pro-life movement, a way of obtaining embryonic-type stem cells without having to destroy human embryos.

"There are some scientists who like to hold on to what they've got, but I don't think people are going to waste time on embryonic stem cells any more. Half of Europe is opposed to embryonic stem cell research. Ideally you want something that everybody can use without any problems. This is definitely a very, very promising way forward and a very promising solution to the embryonic stem cell battle."

It would be some time before the cells could be used in patients, Wilmut said, because scientists have yet to find reliable ways of making different tissues from stem cells. [huh? what about electronic stimulation in the area involved? See the teeth example above?]

About this article

Stem cell breakthrough may transform future of medicine
This article was first published on at 18.22 GMT on Sunday 1 March 2009. It appeared in the Guardian on Monday 2 March 2009 on p3 of the Top stories section. It was last updated at 09.26 GMT on Monday 2 March 2009.

Comments in chronological order (Total 28 comments)

scottishcanadian's profile picture scottishcanadian

02 Mar 09, 9:30am

What an exciting find in the world of medicine. The applicability of this in the field of degenerative diseases is itself of pluripotential benefit. I will follow this story with much interest.
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Tomlobo's profile picture Tomlobo

02 Mar 09, 10:29am
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Aetius's profile picture Aetius

02 Mar 09, 10:43am

An interesting comment Tomlobo.

I'm sure that the "Pro-life" groups would respond that they support this research because IPS cells such as those described above are being increasingly seen as an alternative to the embryonic stem cells that they oppose. They would be missing the point, since the development of IPS cells was heavily dependent on the knowledge previously gained from embryonic stem cell research...embryonic stem cell research told scientists what the properties of a pluripotent stem cell are.

If you're looking for a real threat to this work you should probably focus on the anti-vivisection groups, since the research reported in Nature includes a lot of work on mice during development of the new technique before they could apply it to human cells.
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outertrial's profile picture outertrial

02 Mar 09, 11:24am

Brilliant work, well done to the scientists. Its refreshing that in these days where useless bankers still receive mega salaries, some people used their qualifications and expertise for something worthwhile.

Now just imagine what we could have achieved if all the money and PhDs that had been sucked up by our pointless financial system had been put towards this kind of research.
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taminhtrang's profile picture taminhtrang

02 Mar 09, 11:30am

It is good news to hear that scientists can actually reverse the clock of cells back to their embryonic forms. This is really a breakthrough, as I have never imagine the reverse of development.
after reading this, I just suddenly come up with a question: will it possible to reverse the clock of human also, as in being younger.It has been possible with the most basic bricks of life-cells, will is be possible for human?
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billzfantazy's profile picture billzfantazy

02 Mar 09, 11:45am

Ethical stem cells have actually been around for a while, the trouble was that in "reversing the clock" cancer cells were introduced.... not a good idea!!!
The actual breakthrough by the team at Edinburgh University was to eliminate these cancer cells. For more of the science see
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pyota's profile picture pyota

02 Mar 09, 11:58am

i can't wait for the pro-lifers to complain about this too, howling 'every cell is sacred!' its just like with contraception - you give them a way to avoid abortions and they complain about that too. i say just get rid of the embryos - where is the suffering in destroying a minute cluster of cells without a nervous system? you can only object to it if you buy into the notion of souls, an idea which has no scientific evidence going for it.
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Phalanx's profile picture Phalanx

02 Mar 09, 12:00pm

This is truly awesome.

Can't really say fairer than that.
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Finisterre's profile picture Finisterre

02 Mar 09, 12:02pm

Sometimes the things scientists have achieved really stretch my comprehension and fill me with awe. Congratulations Kagi and Nagy!

I was a bit surprised at the length of the quote from the antiabortionists though. How on earth is it appropriate to give equal space to the scientist and someone who wishes to impose restrictions on medicine for the whole of humanity based on her own interpretation of a religion most of us don't believe in?

I would be really interested in a reply from the Guardian editors here (and yes, I will write to them separately). What, exactly, is their policy on the relevance of religiously-motivated comment?
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muzikluv's profile picture muzikluv

02 Mar 09, 12:13pm

Way to go, guys.

And to think they work for regular salaries and probably get no bonuses.

How refreshing.
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DesBJay's profile picture DesBJay

02 Mar 09, 12:39pm

Here we go with another breakthrough, another miracle cure! How many does that make this week?
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AL9006's profile picture AL9006

02 Mar 09, 12:41pm

Good news and lot of promise.
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Gareth100's profile picture Gareth100

02 Mar 09, 12:55pm

Perhaps Fred Goodwin could be persuaded to donate his pension to support this exciting research as it's likely that there is going to be a serious shortfall in public funding as a fallout from the financial crisis? £690,000 goes a long way in medical research.
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Blackbeard's profile picture Blackbeard

02 Mar 09, 1:10pm

Does the picture show Mr Potato Head?
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bucket's profile picture bucket

02 Mar 09, 1:20pm

DesBJay wrote "Here we go with another breakthrough, another miracle cure! How many does that make this week?"

Err, no. It's one step along a long long road towards a usable cure.That's how research tends to work, lots of small bits strung together to get to something useful. Lots of these separate steps get reported. Only over-enthusiastic journalists or readers interpret each step as being a separate cure. There have been a lot of steps to reach this point in stem cells, and there are surely a lot more (involving both adult and emryo cells) before we get to wide scale applications...
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ExtendedPhenotype's profile picture ExtendedPhenotype

02 Mar 09, 1:46pm

Fantastic news, this kind of breakthrough can lead to such amazing benefits for humankind, let's hope future funding is forthcoming.

Josephine Quintavalle from the lobby group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, which opposes embryonic stem cell research, said...

Yeah, Josephine, it's all about you and your Bronze Age thinking. That's what spurs us on to bigger and better discoveries. Sheesh. Talk about missing the point.

Meanwhile in Rome, his holy popiness said something irrelevant.
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mickangelo's profile picture mickangelo

02 Mar 09, 1:57pm
This comment has been removed by a moderator. Replies may also be deleted.

ExtendedPhenotype's profile picture ExtendedPhenotype

02 Mar 09, 2:38pm

mickangelo -

The soul means the mind, or the mind, will and emotions

Really? Try telling that to a neurologist, clinical neurophysiologist, neuroscientist or anyone else working in cognitive science, cellular neuroanatomy and other brain sciences.

Epic Fail.

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ehbikki1's profile picture ehbikki1

02 Mar 09, 3:11pm

Aetius : here, here. Surprised any anti stem cell campaigner would welcome research which can only have been achieved after years of stem cell research...

Half of Europe is opposed to embryonic stem cell research.

It's a tricky business where some countries allow IVF but don't let you use the surplus embryos for research, there's an interesting debate on the ethics of the issue here:
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fionah's profile picture fionah

02 Mar 09, 3:22pm

So the pro-lifers are delighted by this breakthrough? Are they really saying they are delighted that spare embryos from IVF clinics will now be tossed instead of doing some good in the world of scientific research...?
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sittingonthefence's profile picture sittingonthefence

02 Mar 09, 3:41pm

Interesting that mickangelo's comment has been removed. i think some valid points were made. i personally am a biologist and atheist and would start by saying that - ethical issues aside - this is in my opinion a fantastic bit of research.

I agree with Mickangelo on some points. i'll have to try and remember the gist as the comment has been removed and i can't now refer back to it. @ Pyota: "I can't wait for the pro-lifers to complain about this too". Really? I'm not blind to your sarcasm but that statement suggests that you would be almost upset if those pesky closed-minded evangelists weren't around to disagree with you. Respecting other peoples opinions is (in my humble opinion) is very important and essential to any rational debate. Whilst i think i share your opinion with regard to this research, i don't look forward to people disagreeing with me so i can have a pop at them. I think that highlights your insecurity. with regard to the soul having "no scientific evidence", i think you're missing the point a bit. The concept of having faith relys on there being no scientific evidence for something. You cannot prove that there is no God. I accpet that as an atheist I have Faith in my belief that there is no God. So just because people hold opinions with "no scientific evidence" it does not mean that thier opinions should be disregarded. In short, i hold a similar opinion to you, but would perhaps suggest that you have more tolerance for other peoples.

This leads me to Finisterres comment. People opposed to stem-cell research make up a significant part of the population, so surely it is only right that their voice is heard. And anyway, as Mickangelo mentioned, pro-life groups are in favour of this research.

And this leads me to my final point. Mickangelo, you wonder at what point a human can be classified as having 'life'. But an embryo (as Pyota points out) has no nervous system and thus no conciousness. Therefore in what way is an embryonic stem cell different from an induced pluripontent stem cell? what surprises me most is that this research is ok with pro-lifer's, when embryonic stem-cell research is not. as far as i can see, a skin cell which has had it's developmental process reversed to become a stem cell is just as alive as an embryonic stem cell. any comment anyone?

Aside from that, despite finding it a bit harsh that your comment was removed, the tone was rather agressive and again i think this possibly highlights some insecurity in your own beliefs. If you are so comfortable with what you believe in then perhaps you could - as i suggested to Pyota - be a bit more tolerant of people who disagree with you.
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JamesDawson's profile picture JamesDawson

02 Mar 09, 10:33pm (about 18 hours ago)

First, Ben Foster prepares for a penalty shootout by watching video clips on an iPod.

And now this.

What a fascinating modern age we live in.

(Seriously - I agree that it's historic and tremendous).
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countesshoney's profile picture countesshoney

02 Mar 09, 10:38pm (about 18 hours ago)


There is no reason to wait to use this protocol for those who suffer with vitiligo. A physician can simply inject the cells in the skin of the vitiligo sufferer and that person could regenerate their melanin in those spots. I want to be first!
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casadoro's profile picture casadoro

02 Mar 09, 10:47pm (about 18 hours ago)

I read that at the University of Rochester in the US they discovered a gene which can influences the grow of new teeth . Does anybody know more ? Is any chance in the next, let's say five years, that will see a trial on humans ?
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ValenceJohnston's profile picture ValenceJohnston

03 Mar 09, 7:39am (about 9 hours ago)

This breakthrough does not seem appreciably dissimilar from the breakthrough made by researchers at the University of Madison in the United States in November of 2007. They were able to derive stem cells from adult skin cells. Researchers in October of 2008 were able to bipass the skin-sampling process of UW Madison to derive embryonic-like stem cells from hair tissue.

If the thrust of this story is that embryos--and the moral gray area surrounding their destruction--are no longer necessary for stem cell research, I'm afraid the research by these British and Canadian scientists is woefully behind the times. Don't the American researchers share?
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plant27's profile picture plant27

03 Mar 09, 9:25am (about 7 hours ago)

Half of Europe is not opposed to embryonic stem cell research. The Eurobarometer on Biotechnology showed that around 60% of Europeans in 2005 supported this research, with 15% being undecided. This evidence was critical in European Parliament approval of further funding in this area in 2006.

Interestingly, there was little difference in opinion about stem cells derived from embryos or umbilical cords. It is the use to which the research is put that is most important to people.

It may be that half of governements have misgivings but they are not reflecting the views of the majority of citizens.
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Aetius's profile picture Aetius

03 Mar 09, 10:19am (about 6 hours ago)

ValenceJohnston, you're right that other researchers have produce induced pluripotent stem cells, the reason why this research is exciting is the way that the Scottish and Canadian groups have done it , it is a significant advance over the previous methods. In their paper in Nature Keisuke Kaji and Andras Nagy refer to work done by other scientists last year who produced iPS cells without the use of viral vectors, but that method was far less efficient than that developed by Kaji and Nagy and wasn't tried with human cells.

This is a significant advance, and something for the UK to be proud of.


Mark said...

Many hopeful about Russian scientist’s anti-aging drug

13 September, 2010, 06:31

A Russian scientist says he has beaten the problem of aging and in just a few years the medicine that stops it will go on sale.

Professor Vladimir Skulachev says he managed to find an anti-oxidant that stops the gradual deterioration of health caused by age.

It looks complicated and it certainly is. For Vladimir Skulachev it is almost a life's work. Two more years of testing and the doctor thinks he will have finally cracked the enigma of aging.

Apparently it's all about how oxygen reacts in the body.

“99% of the time oxygen turns into harmless water, but there's that one percent that turns into a super-oxide that later turns into very poisonous elements,” Vladimir Skulachev, Professor of Bioenergetics, reveals. “So the task was to find an anti-oxidant that stops that process.”

And hence, according to the professor, it would also stop people from getting old.

He has been working to prefect his treatment for more than 40 years. The difficult part of the process has been to try and prevent any side-effects, he notes.

Colleagues around the world think Dr Skulachev is on to something.

Nobel Prize winner Dr. Gunter Blobel, M.D., Ph.D. at Rockefeller University, believes Skulachev’s theories look very realistic.

“It has been shown that oxidative damage is huge. But we do not have an anti-oxidant of the type that Skulachev has developed. He coined the term bioenergetics. He is clearly the world’s best bio-chemist and bio-energetic scientist,” Blobel stated.

The compound has already undergone animal testing and the results appear promising.

Rats that have been given the drug are much more lively than those not treated.

“Finally, we hope that we will manage to convince people that a single pill treats many threats of aging. So, it must be doing something with the aging itself,” Maksim Skulachev Cand. Sc. (Biology) explains. “Then, if authorities will accept this logic, maybe we could somehow market it as anti-aging drug.”

After success with eye drops in animals, the inventor tried the medicine on his own cataract.
Six months later, his physician told him his cataract was gone.

Thousands are queuing to take part in the clinical trials, which have just begun. But it will be a few years before Dr Skulachev's discovery reaches the shelves of an average pharmacy.

Some have already dubbed the drug a panacea. And if it lives up to its promise, the treatment should have an effect on the diseases of aging and bring with it the prospect of a longer and better quality of life.