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.
Today’s news that Google is launching a new company (Calico) to fight aging is epic. Epic. Fighting aging used to be the realm of biologists and doctors, but now that the engineers are getting involved, progress will likely move much faster. This is very good news for those of us who want to see health spans extended for everyone.
Interestingly, it’s a swim that she tried to do in her late 20s but failed. Victorious this time, she told reporters, “I feel like I could walk through a brick wall. … I think I’m truly dead center in the prime of my life at 64.” Awesome.
Here’s an interesting survey by the Pew Foundation.
Asked whether they, personally, would choose to undergo medical treatments to slow the aging process and live to be 120 or more, a majority of U.S. adults (56%) say “no.” But roughly two-thirds (68%) think that most other people would. And by similarly large margins, they expect that radically longer life spans would strain the country’s natural resources and be available only to the wealthy.
Of course, most people are probably not considering that technologies that can increase healthspan (rather than longevity per se) will also help us better manage our resources and create wealth.
It’s well known that there are great disparities in life expectancy around the world and within the US, but how many people know the numbers for their neighborhoods? Today I dug into the data for San Mateo County and found a big divide within just a few miles. In Atheton and Belmont, the current average age of death is 80 years. In East Palo Alto, it is 61.8. Here’s links to the data.
Wealth is of course one factor, but there are many others. Steve Jobs, who was amazingly wealthy, died at 56.
Another beautiful case of the ‘old’ not really being quite so old. 80-year-old Yuichiro Miura reached the top of Everest and called his daughter, saying that “This is the best feeling in the world.” Gotta love it. Here’s the WSJ article covering it.
Just last month, regenerative medicine scored another solid victory by saving a toddler’s life. Yet, disappointingly, the news came and went without much follow-on thought.
Hannah Warren, a Korean-Canadian girl who is now two years old, was born without a trachea – a condition that would have meant certain death in the past. Fortunately for Hannah, regenerative medicine techniques were able to save her life in a way that will restore health and normalcy to the cute little girl. Doctors built a trachea for Hannah by creating a ‘scaffold’ or windpipe mold out of non-absorbable nanofibers and seeding it with stem cells from her bone marrow. Because the bioengineered organ was made with her own cells, she won’t have to take anti-rejection drugs like regular transplant recipients must do.
Attorney Michelle Crosby has written a thoughtful piece at the Huffington Post about family structure and the issues we will face once people are living radically longer and healthier lives. She writes that, “Someday, your child or grandchild may live to be 150 years old. My hope is that, by then, instead of stigmatizing families that don’t fit our out-of-date, historical view, we celebrate the love they create and nurture by working hard to stay gethered, even if they’re no longer together.”
“A 2-year-old girl born without a windpipe now has a new one grown from her own stem cells, the youngest patient in the world to benefit from the experimental treatment.” Read more here from AP.
And here’s a quote from Dr. Macchiarini, who did the surgery and is a pioneer in the field:
“The most amazing thing, which for a little girl is a miracle, is that this transplant has not only saved her life, but it will eventually enable her to eat, drink and swallow, even talk, just like any other normal child,” Macchiarini said in a statement. “She will go from being a virtual prisoner in a hospital bed to running around and playing with her sister and enjoying a normal life, which is a beautiful thing.”
In honor of Earth Day, I thought I’d re-post this news story about Sweden using trash to create energy. Such innovative solutions to environmental problems should be celebrated. Sweden wound up using all of its trash and then had to import it from Norway to keep the energy center going. A great story.
“A research team from Mass. discovered a way to take organs that have already died, wash them clean of their past life, and use the building blocks left behind to grow new, vital organs. Today, the team announced that they successfully implanted one of these refurbished organs into a rat.”
Can be found here. And here is an info-graphic. This initiative is an important step, since the brain is the least understood of all our body parts. As the population ages, and people are able to remain healthy in other respects, brain issues will become paramount.
Will it work in humans? Good question. Here’s a Singularity Hub piece about it:
Scientists have now cured diabetes – at least in a group of dogs – and they used a gene therapy to do it. Amazingly, only a single therapy session was needed to return the dogs’ blood sugar levels to normal. It wasn’t the first time the researchers used the therapy to cure diabetes – they’d done the same previously in a group of mice. But the fact that the treatment worked in the larger canine is a promising sign that it might also one day work in those even much larger animals: humans.
Google’s Sergey Brin and wife Anne Wojcicki, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan, and VC Yuri Milner together put forward the funds for the prizes. They are, of course, not the first tech moguls to dedicate serious cash towards this area. Oracle’s Larry Ellison, Microsoft’s Paul Allen, and PayPal’s Peter Thiel have all contributed large amounts to promoting healthy life extension (read about it in chapter 8 of my book, 100 Plus). The Breakthrough Prize is another fantastic example of how tech titans are driving interest in the longevity meme. A big thank you to all of them!