Researchers regrow hair, cartilage, bone, soft tissues

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Young animals are known to repair their tissues effortlessly, but can this capacity be recaptured in adults? A new study from researchers at the Stem Cell Program at Boston Children's Hospital suggests that it can. By reactivating a dormant gene called Lin28a, which is active in embryonic stem cells, researchers were able to regrow hair and repair cartilage, bone, skin and other soft tissues in a mouse model.

The study also found that Lin28a promotes tissue repair in part by enhancing metabolism in mitochondria—the energy-producing engines in cells—suggesting that a mundane cellular "housekeeping" function could open new avenues for developing regenerative treatments. Findings were published online by the journal Cell on November 7.

"Efforts to improve wound healing and tissue repair have mostly failed, but altering metabolism provides a new strategy which we hope will prove successful," says the study's senior investigator George Q. Daley, MD, PhD, director of Boston Children's Stem Cell Transplantation Program and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

"Most people would naturally think that growth factors are the major players in wound healing, but we found that the core metabolism of cells is rate-limiting in terms of tissue repair," adds PhD candidate Shyh-Chang Ng, co-first author on the paper with Hao Zhu, MD, both scientists in the Daley Lab. "The enhanced metabolic rate we saw when we reactivated Lin28a is typical of embryos during their rapid growth phase."

Written By: EurekAlert
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14 COMMENTS

  1. No doubt about it. The human race has figured out how to cure mice and rats of anything and everything. So why aren’t scientists allowed to use death row prisoners for their experiments? Wouldn’t that be likely to give a slightly more accurate reading of weather or not any of these “cures” actually work?

    • In reply to #1 by IDLERACER:

      No doubt about it. The human race has figured out how to cure mice and rats of anything and everything. So why aren’t scientists allowed to use death row prisoners for their experiments?

      Why? Two words: Troy Davis. Being on death row doesn’t necessarily mean being guilty. Even if we somehow managed to get only the ones guilty of a violent crime, that still wouldn’t make it right. Using inmates for medical experiments is not only immoral, it opens the door to terrifying human rights violations.

      • In reply to #3 by NearlyNakedApe:
        >

        Using inmates for medical experiments is not only immoral, it opens the door to terrifying human rights violations.

        Assuming the word ‘unconsenting’ in there, then yes – it not only opens the door, it’s kicked the door off its hinges. Trialling procedures on unconsenting sapient beings is monstrous. I’m not entirely enamoured with the idea of trialling them on animals either, but I see no viable alternative to that.

        I don’t see why people can’t volunteer for such tests, though. The biggest (only?) issue is ensuring they willingly consented. As a first suggestion, I’d propose whatever safeguards are in place for making sure someone is willingly donating an organ (like a kidney) be used to ensure someone is willingly signing up for medical trials that are, let’s charitably say, ‘risky’.

      • In reply to #3 by NearlyNakedApe:


        Why? Two words: Troy Davis. Being on death row doesn’t necessarily mean being guilty. Even if we somehow managed to get only the ones guilty of a violent crime, that still wouldn’t make it right. Using inmates for medical experiments is not only immoral, it opens the door to terrifying human rights violations.

        But being on death row means they have been found guilty. (at least in the eyes of the law), secondly there is no reason why it could not be voluntary. Thirdly It would be a final opportunity for convicts to do something constructive, to show remorse. If I were on death row, and innocent, I would still volunteer, at last I would be doing something that would benefit civilisation. And finally, why should other sentient beings not get the same consideration as “human rights” ?

    • In reply to #1 by IDLERACER:

      No doubt about it. The human race has figured out how to cure mice and rats of anything and everything. So why aren’t scientists allowed to use death row prisoners for their experiments? Wouldn’t that be likely to give a slightly more accurate reading of weather or not any of these “cures” actually…

      It is irrational to trust the state with that much power and moral arbitration.

      I think there should be allowances for heroes though, those who want to sacrifice themselves for the greater good and have a hell of an adventure. It wouldn’t be very scientific, but there are plenty of people willing to try dangerous things, especially suicidal and dysmorphic people. How about paying people? Someone living in a thatched hut could assure his village against starvation by volunteering as a lab rat.

      I’m not exactly sure when this post became sarcastic.

    • In reply to #1 by IDLERACER:

      So why aren’t scientists allowed to use death row prisoners for their experiments?

      I suspect it would be blocked by the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause of the constitution.

  2. As someone with knackered cartilage in one knee and the opposite hip, I will, just for once, allow myself to get a little excited about this. Doubtless too late for me but if it saves some other poor buggers from putting up with this I’ll give it a cautious, secular ‘hallelujah’.

    • In reply to #5 by headswapboy:

      As someone with knackered cartilage in one knee and the opposite hip, I will, just for once, allow myself to get a little excited about this. Doubtless too late for me but if it saves some other poor buggers from putting up with this I’ll give it a cautious, secular ‘hallelujah’.

      If only science could be allowed to progress at the rate of computer technology…. at the core of the problem is probably politics that is religiously motivated. I have too much osteoarthritis for my age. I really would like answers. I’m sure there will be new ways of “enhancing metabolism in mitochondria” that will rival chondroitin and glucosamine. I’m likely to fall prey to their tactics waiting for any treatment. I know it’s irrational, but when you get desperate…

      Coenzyme Q10 and ginseng here we come…. Magnesium too…

    • In reply to #5 by headswapboy:

      As someone with knackered cartilage in one knee and the opposite hip, I will, just for once, allow myself to get a little excited about this. Doubtless too late for me but if it saves some other poor buggers from putting up with this I’ll give it a cautious, secular ‘hallelujah’.

      You could have a look into some of this type of experimental work!

      http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/03/big-idea/organ-regeneration-text

      In the future people who need a body part may get their own back—regrown in the lab from their own cells.

      (see image on link) – Above: The synthetic scaffold of an ear sits bathed in cartilage-producing cells, part of an effort to grow new ears for wounded soldiers.

      More than 100,000 people are waiting for organ transplants in the U.S. alone; every day 18 of them die. Not only are healthy organs in short supply, but donor and patient also have to be closely matched, or the patient’s immune system may reject the transplant. A new kind of solution is incubating in medical labs: “bioartificial” organs grown from the patient’s own cells. Thirty people have received lab-grown bladders already, and other engineered organs are in the pipeline.

      The bladder technique was developed by Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Researchers take healthy cells from a patient’s diseased bladder, cause them to multiply profusely in petri dishes, then apply them to a balloon-shaped scaffold made partly of collagen, the protein found in cartilage. Muscle cells go on the outside, urothelial cells (which line the urinary tract) on the inside. “It’s like baking a layer cake,” says Atala. “You’re layering the cells one layer at a time, spreading these toppings.” The bladder-to-be is then incubated at body temperature until the cells form functioning tissue. The whole process takes six to eight weeks.

  3. Can someone tell me if this is the kind of technology we need to undo a circumcision? And how long do you think it will be until that’s possible in humans?

    I want that more than anything. The one aspect of religion I can’t shake off. :(

    • In reply to #8 by Michael Austin:

      Can someone tell me if this is the kind of technology we need to undo a circumcision? And how long do you think it will be until that’s possible in humans?

      I want that more than anything. The one aspect of religion I can’t shake off. :(

      Have you looked into the possibility of cosmetic surgery?

      • In reply to #10 by Jabarkis:

        In reply to #8 by Michael Austin:

        Can someone tell me if this is the kind of technology we need to undo a circumcision? And how long do you think it will be until that’s possible in humans?

        I want that more than anything. The one aspect of religion I can’t shake off. :(

        Have you looked into the p…

        I’ve seen the surgical restorations and nonsurgical stretching techniques. I really don’t like body modifications at all. I want to take back what was stolen from me, but grafting or stretching unspecialized skin seems to me worse than what I have now. Stem cells can make me feel whole again because that will be specialized tissue.

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