Daily Archives: April 30, 2014

Stem cells used to repair animal hearts and human muscle

More good news from the regenerative medicine scene. One of the studies was conducted by Dr. Stephen Badylak, whose work was profiled in my book. Here’s the story from USA Today:

Two new studies out today show both the incredible promise of stem cell research and its current limitations.

In one, published in the journal Nature, researchers showed that they could repair damaged hearts by injecting these versatile stem cells into macaque monkeys. Heart disease is the leading cause of death, and if the same process can work in people, it could benefit hundreds of thousands a year.

In the other study, published in Science Translational Medicine, five men were able to regrow leg muscles destroyed by accidents or military service. The researchers, from the University of Pittsburgh, inserted into the men’s muscles a “scaffold” of muscle tissue from a pig. Through aggressive physical therapy right after the surgery, the men’s own stem cells were encouraged to populate the scaffold and substantially rebuild their leg muscles.

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Value in retraining older individuals

“Age should no longer determine the appropriate end of a working life,” writes the Economist Magazine. This seems reasonable to me, especially given that people are healthier now than ever before (and thus able to work longer). But as the magazine points out, there will be a divide between older, well-educated, individuals and those who spent their careers in less-skilled areas. Those who are well-educated are more likely to stay in the workforce, while those with fewer skills are more likely to take retirement even if they are still in good health. From the article:

“Some 65% of American men aged 62-74 with a professional degree are in the workforce, compared with 32% of men with only a high-school certificate. In the European Union the pattern is similar.”

How to address this divide? The Economist suggests training programs — also not a bad idea. “Today, many governments are understandably loth to spend money retraining older folk who are likely to retire soon. But if people can work for longer, that investment makes much more sense.” Here’s another link to the longer briefing.