It was a pleasure to meet Dr. Craig Venter at Stanford this week. As you can imagine, he had strong views and a huge amount of energy. I’m super-interested in all of his work, but was surprised to find out about his efforts to fight the spread of influenza using genomics. He convinced me that it is possible to create an annual flu vaccine that actually targets the flu of that year. That would be useful.
Lots of people I know will be interested in this. Here’s the story from the researchers at Sanford-Burnham.
“We have developed a method using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells capable of initiating human hair growth. The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another,” said Alexey Terskikh, Ph.D., associate professor in the Development, Aging, and Regeneration Program. “Our stem cell method provides an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and isn’t limited by the availability of existing hair follicles.”
“Wyss-Coray formed a start-up company, Alkahest in Menlo Park, California, and in September 2014 it began a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial at Stanford, testing the safety and efficacy of using young plasma to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Six out of a planned 18 people with Alzheimer’s, all aged 50 or above, have already begun to receive plasma harvested from men aged 30 or younger. In addition to monitoring disease symptoms, the researchers are looking for changes in brain scans and blood biomarkers of the disease.”
And from Stanford Medicine:
“Something — or some things — in the blood of young mice has the ability to restore mental capabilities in old mice, a new study by Stanford University School of Medicine investigators has found.
If the same goes for humans, it could spell a new paradigm for recharging our aging brains, and it might mean new therapeutic approaches for treating dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease.”
News from Sahlgrenska Univ. Hospital in Sweden:
“Two tablespoons of blood are all that is needed to grow a brand new blood vessel in just seven days. This is shown in a new study from Sahlgrenska Academy and Sahlgrenska Univ. Hospital published in EBioMedicine.”
“We believe that this technological progress can lead to dissemination of the method for the benefit of additional groups of patients, such as those with varicose veins or myocardial infarction, who need new blood vessels,” Holgersson says. “Our dream is to be able to grow complete organs as a way of overcoming the current shortage from donors.”
This is big news if it works in humans. From the Telegraph:
“A cure for diabetes could be imminent after scientists discovered how to make huge quantities of insulin-producing cells, in a breakthrough hailed as significant as antibiotics. Harvard University has, for the first time, managed to manufacture the millions of beta cells required for transplantation. It could mean the end of daily insulin injections for the 400,000 people in Britain living with Type 1 diabetes. And it marks the culmination of 23-years of research for Harvard professor Doug Melton who has been trying to find a cure for the disease since his son Sam was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a baby.”
It’s still a long way away, but this is a great idea (and from Singularity University).
“A new startup, dubbed Miroculus, is building a device that could easily and affordably check for dozens of cancers using a single blood sample. Known as Miriam, this low-cost, open source device made its public debut at the TEDGlobal conference in Rio De Janeiro on Thursday, with TED curator Chris Anderson calling it “one of the most thrilling demos in TED history.”
From ScienceAlert.com: “Uncomfortable colonoscopies, or a spoonful of yoghurt? Scientists in the US are working on replacing invasive procedures with a serving of yoghurt and a urine test to improve the early diagnosis of colorectal cancer.”
More great work from Wake Forest:
New research in mice and rats, conducted at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine, suggests that “in body” regeneration of muscle tissue might be possible by harnessing the body’s natural healing powers.
Reporting online ahead of print in the journal Acta Biomaterialia, the research team demonstrated the ability to recruit stem cells that can form muscle tissue to a small piece of biomaterial, or scaffold that had been implanted in the animals’ leg muscle. The secret to success was using proteins involved in cell communication and muscle formation to mobilize the cells.
“Working to leverage the body’s own regenerative properties, we designed a muscle-specific scaffolding system that can actively participate in functional tissue regeneration,” said Sang Jin Lee, Ph.D., assistant professor of regenerative medicine and senior author. “This is a proof-of-concept study that we hope can one day be applied to human patients.”
A team of researchers from Arizona State University have discovered the genetic “recipe” for lizard tail regeneration.
“Using next-generation technologies to sequence all the genes expressed during regeneration, we have unlocked the mystery of what genes are needed to regrow the lizard tail,” said lead author Kenro Kusumi. “By following the genetic recipe for regeneration that is found in lizards, and then harnessing those same genes in human cells, it may be possible to regrow new cartilage, muscle or even spinal cord in the future.”
The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.
“A new study from biomedical engineers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute demonstrates how the compound N-phenacylthiazolium bromide, or PTB, dissolves the sugary impurities within bone tissue that cause our femurs, fibulas, and other bones to become more fragile. Using PTB to reduce bone fragility and boost bone flexibility could lead to new strategies for preventing bone fractures in elderly individuals, as well as accelerated bone healing in patients with diabetes or osteoporosis.”
See more here.
From the DailyMail:
“A revolutionary blood test that could detect any type of cancer has been developed by British scientists.
It is hoped the breakthrough will enable doctors to rule out cancer in patients presenting with certain symptoms – saving time and preventing costly and unnecessary invasive procedures and biopsies.
Early results have shown the simple test can diagnose cancer and pre-cancerous conditions from the blood of patients with melanoma, colon cancer and lung cancer with a high degree of accuracy.”
Google has announced a new ‘baseline’ study of the human body. Here’s the story from the WSJ.
“Google has embarked on what may be its most ambitious and difficult science project ever: a quest inside the human body.
Called Baseline Study, the project will collect anonymous genetic and molecular information from 175 people—and later thousands more—to create what the company hopes will be the fullest picture of what a healthy human being should be.”
Here’s a piece I wrote for Slate.
“Silicon Valley, known for entrepreneurs, gadget lovers, and paradigm breakers, has recently turned its attention towards longevity, powering an important cultural change on the topic. The interests of these movers and shakers run the gamut, from using technology to improve our clunky healthcare system to literally solving the problem of aging.”
Read more here.
Here’s my first article in a series for Slate magazine on longevity. Thanks to Prudential for sponsoring my obsession with health extension!
“Not long ago, it would have sounded like science fiction to discuss growing human organs in the lab or re-writing DNA. Yet today both are realities that will change the world and allow for longer and healthier lives.
Already, lab-grown bladders, windpipes and blood vessels have been successfully created and implanted into humans. Most recently, tissue engineering pioneer Dr. Anthony Atala and his team at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine announced another breakthrough: lab-made vaginas—one of the most complex organs made to date. In four girls with MRKH syndrome, a medical condition in which the vagina and uterus are underdeveloped or absent, Dr. Atala’s team was able to create new organs that functioned normally, dramatically increasing each patient’s quality of life.
Read more here.
The FDA is looking to speed up the availability of a new technique that put 89 percent of cancer patients into remission. Here’s the story.
“The personalized immunotherapy known as CTL019 was developed by the University of Pennsylvania and was designated a “breakthrough therapy” by the US Food and Drug Administration.
That means the experimental therapy will benefit from a speedier than average review process and will get extra attention from the FDA toward development for market.”
From Singularity Hub:
“One trouble with stem cells is that they don’t stay put. When doctors put cardiovascular progenitor cells in the heart to heal damage from a heart attack, the cells are whisked away in the bloodstream in a matter of hours.”
“University of Rochester biomedical engineer Danielle Benoit encapsulated bone progenitor cells in a hydrogel wrapper and placed it on the bone she aimed to heal. Benoit hoped the wrapper would result in fewer stem cells being washed away and more sticking around to do the work of healing the bone.”
“Scientists have made big progress on a “bionic pancreas” to free some people with diabetes from the daily ordeal of managing their disease. A wearable, experimental device passed a real-world test, constantly monitoring blood sugar and automatically giving insulin or a sugar-boosting drug as needed, doctors said Sunday.”
That’s what scientists at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute are working on. They’ve already had success in mice, “permanently reducing cholesterol levels in mice with a single injection, potentially reducing heart attack risk by up to 90 percent.” Great work — hope it will translate for human patients as well!
This seems like a super-cool device! I hope the FDA approves it quickly — I want one.
“The iPhone has enabled all sorts of crazy interactions, but a new device called Cue could be the first iOS accessory that uses boogers as a primary user input. The tabletop analyzer brings the power of a medical laboratory into the home and allows people to test their levels of testosterone, inflammation, vitamin D, and fertility with small amounts of blood, saliva, or nasal swabs.”