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Increasing Stem Cell Production For Faster Healing

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the just-get-me-some-nanites-already dept.

Medicine 67

Wandering Wombat tips a BBC story about researchers from Imperial College London who were able to stimulate stem cell production by a factor of 100 in the bone marrow of mice. Such stem cells are released by the marrow to help with the regeneration of damaged bone and tissue. "Techniques already exist to increase the numbers of blood cell producing stem cells from the bone marrow, but the study focuses on two other types — endothelial, which produce the cells which make up our blood vessels, and mesenchymal, which can become bone or cartilage cells." The scientists hope that the increased production rate could be used to greatly speed tissue repair and to allow recovery from wounds that would otherwise be too severe. "There are also hopes that the technique could help damp down autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, where the body's immune system attacks its own tissues. Mesenchymal stem cells are known to have the ability to damp down the immune system." The full research paper is available at Cell Stem Cell.

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Yeah, I know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26399419)

Sure, it looks like a tumor, but really, it's healthy tissue!

Instead of "damp down" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26399481)

how about "suppress"?

Re:Instead of "damp down" (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26399567)

Or simply 'dampen'? 'Suppress' is a little more severe than 'dampen'.

Space and Medical discovery (4, Insightful)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#26399601)

I can recall this Star Trek episode where people on a planet never aged, but the horror of it was that because nobody died, the planet filled up with people so that no beauty could flourish.

Medical discoveries like this one, by increasing the level of reproduction rates in stem cells by a factor of 100, remind me that eventually humanity will cure death. However, unlike that fateful society on that distant memory of a Star Trek episode, we have INFINITE stars and potential to flourish outside of our known universe, and therefore we should not fear immortality.

Uhhh....no. (4, Insightful)

John Guilt (464909) | more than 5 years ago | (#26399679)

Just not having children is a much simpler solution---the absurd premise of "The Mark of Gideon" was that these people couldn't be sterilised, they healed so well. That's unlikely, with human beings---anyway, how is it that one has med tech good enough to create this sort of super-healing (which seems unlikely ab initio) but can't make it be contraceptive at the same time.

Anyway, there is no evidence that enough of us can get into space fast enough to make a difference on Earth. See here [antipope.org] for an elaboration.

Technically, there is no indication that there are an "infinite" number of stars, and even if you mean "planet" by "universe", no proof yet that we ca flourish off-world (I like my bone mass, especially around my spinal cord.)

Errata: (1)

John Guilt (464909) | more than 5 years ago | (#26399695)

"same time." --> "same time?"
"ca " --> "can"
"off-world " --> "off-world."

Duh; too much caffeine, or not enough.

Distance is Subjective (0, Flamebait)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#26399873)

Anyway, there is no evidence that enough of us can get into space fast enough to make a difference on Earth. See here [antipope.org] for an elaboration.

Distance, in space, is irrelevant. History will prove me correct, and while you may not wish to open your mind to accept my statements, perhaps someone else will.

Re:Distance is Subjective (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26400047)

Possibly. I've wondered the same thing, but wouldn't that actually be in conflict with Einstein's Relativity, particularly Special Relativity? I mean, the speed of light is constant in a vacuum for all observers, so that's it, right? Doesn't that more or less prove that distance in space means something and is thus always relevant?

Re:Distance is Subjective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26403273)

Who said anything about going out to other stars?
You could just take all those lovely rocks floating around in the Oort cloud and smash them together to form a new planet.
Build a large frame to block out the light to let it cool quicker.
That is of course a very far future project.

A more realistic one would be to try move some asteroids into Mars.
Then somehow move Mars into an orbit near ours at the same speed.
That wouldn't be too hard to do within the next 100-300 years when humans might actually master fusion, (ab)using the massive amounts of solar energy, and hell, who knows, maybe mass itself.

Re:Distance is Subjective (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26415999)

Maybe. You need massive amounts of energy to do any of the above, and, yes, I've noticed your statement about mastering fusion. There's a lot more to mastering fusion than simply generating it. For one, you've got to find some way to get a self-sustaining fusion reaction going without putting in more energy than you're getting out of it. Secondly, you need to find someway to contain and channel all that energy. Easier said than done. Just you try building a container to hold the sun.

Re:Distance is Subjective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26400289)

> Distance, in space, is irrelevant. History will prove me correct

History will prove you a loony.

> and while you may not wish to open your mind to accept my statements, perhaps someone else will.

Read: other loonies

lol you failed it, AC (0, Offtopic)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#26400743)

> History will prove you a loony.

Not before history proves you to be unread in science [slais.ubc.ca] .

Re:lol you failed it, AC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26401971)

I'm well aware of wormholes, and that they are completely theoretical. Not to mention we have no idea how we could possibly create a wormhole that would enable us to travel from one specific point to another, means you are way out in fantasy land.

If you think the possibility of wormholes "makes distance in space irrelevant," well, I can't help you. I suggest psychotropic medication.

Wat (0, Offtopic)

mfh (56) | more than 5 years ago | (#26402699)

If you think the possibility of wormholes "makes distance in space irrelevant," well, I can't help you. I suggest psychotropic medication.

I guess the thought police have ruled that speaking about grand timeless concepts is illegal now. I'm sorry to have bothered you.

Re:Wat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26404375)

This is juvenile.
You can blather about what you want just don't expect people to believe your sane and your ego to remain intact.

Welcome to life, build a bridge and get over it.

Re:Wat (1)

Faylone (880739) | more than 5 years ago | (#26406591)

I would, but I hear getting over life causes you to break out in a bad case of dead.

Re:Wat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26409047)

> I guess the thought police have ruled that speaking about grand timeless concepts is illegal now. I'm sorry to have bothered you.

Yeah, and I'm sorry to have to beat you over the head with a reality stick.

Re:Wat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26416533)

Yeah, and I'm sorry to have to beat you over the head with a reality stick.

Internet tough guys like you make me lol. You can shove that "reality" dildo of yours up your ass until you puke cum and ball shit all over your faggot bf, who is sucking your 1" excuse for a dick.

Because the reality is that you just lost the game.

Re:Uhhh....no. (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26401251)

Just not having children is a much simpler solution---the absurd premise of "The Mark of Gideon" was that these people couldn't be sterilised, they healed so well.

Not just that, but they were also unwilling to use birth control like prophylactics... Space Catholics.

Re:Uhhh....no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410041)

Space Catholics.

-thats a scary thought, although likely enough, as people who shun contraceptives for religious or other reasons will likely out breed smart people.

Re:Space and Medical discovery (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#26399697)

I recall a TNG episode where some admiral undergoes a procedure to reverse his aging. It works for awhile, but then he dies a horrible death. Then Piccard goes off on some diatribe about how we shouldn't be so damn vain and we should let nature take its course.

There's another DS9 episode where this planet was like a giant prison and inhabitants' punishment was eternal life(never mind how that was accomplished as the plot was holier than CowboyNeal's chonies ^_^ ). Sounds like my idea of hell!

Re:Space and Medical discovery (4, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 5 years ago | (#26401119)

'Then Piccard goes off on some diatribe about how we shouldn't be so damn vain and we should let nature take its course.'

All bald men say that.

Re:Space and Medical discovery (0, Flamebait)

glitch23 (557124) | more than 5 years ago | (#26399949)

Medical discoveries like this one, by increasing the level of reproduction rates in stem cells by a factor of 100, remind me that eventually humanity will cure death. However, unlike that fateful society on that distant memory of a Star Trek episode, we have INFINITE stars and potential to flourish outside of our known universe, and therefore we should not fear immortality.

We won't cure death. We can't. We can't cure every disease that can kill us. New diseases will pop up (AIDS anyone?). Cancer prevalence is going higher it seems. You can't stop the normal aging process due to photons anyway. We are destined to die but remember it is only our earthly bodies which do so. I know I wouldn't want to stay on this planet, made wretched by evil people, any longer than I have to. Those who know they are going to a better place after Earth shouldn't fear death either. Why fear something that relieves you of all the bad things asociated with this planet? Moving to another planet doesn't relieve the good people of the evil ones. Ironically, even good people eventually settled in Australia.

Re:Space and Medical discovery (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 5 years ago | (#26400043)

After you die, you don't go anywhere. You stay here, your material will be recycled.
The only parts of you what survives you are: your children, your books, the memories of you in other people.
If you happen to die and your immortal soul survives, don't forget to phone back and tell us.

Re:Space and Medical discovery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26402189)

After you die, you don't go anywhere. You stay here, your material will be recycled. The only parts of you what survives you are: your children, your books, the memories of you in other people. If you happen to die and your immortal soul survives, don't forget to phone back and tell us.

And you'll be able to tell me that your mortal soul didn't survive when you die to prove me wrong? But anyway, you'll be in Hell and from what I hear Satan stopped paying his phone bill so you won't be able to receive my call. Sorry. Too bad you won't be able to call back to Earth and let others know what it is like in Hell so that other people won't fall victim to the same bad choices you made.

To each his own. At least my version is a much brighter version than yours. If anything I would think you would want to look forward to a brighter possibility than yours but I guess you must be a pessimist at heart. It is nice to know those who disagree just mod flamebait instead of leaving the post alone.

Re:Space and Medical discovery (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26403365)

How is yours is "a much brighter" version? How is it "brighter" that those who don't agree with your particular impotent little revenge fantasy shall suffer eternally? Shall I change my ways -- somehow force myself to believe in something that is clearly a vile self-delusion -- so I can have a chance to spend eternity with a bunch of gloating assholes and their tyrant of a god in heaven? Too bad your god doesn't just mod me "flamebait" and let it go at that, huh? No, the god you believe in is a bigger dick than you are. Thank goodness he's not real.

Re:Space and Medical discovery (1)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26405977)

I would think you would want to look forward to a brighter possibility than yours but I guess you must be a pessimist at heart

Maybe he's a scientist at heart who doesn't feel the need to believe in fairy tales in order to cope with the trials and tribulations of life.

Re:Space and Medical discovery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26408617)

Each person has their own version of a fairy tale. Scientists take many things on faith when making theories about the universe or about this planet. You think they *know* what happened 15 billion years ago? They don't even know how long ago the universe started or how it got here. They make assumptions and/or educated guesses in order to further other theories. Why should my assumptions be any worse than yours or his, discounting your (typical) elitist belief you are better than me just because I believe in something you don't think exists?

Re:Space and Medical discovery (1)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410197)

Because I don't make assumptions. I am a devout agnostic, and I think the "big bang" theory is just as stupid and unprovable as your "big guy in the sky" theory.

You're right, nobody KNOWS what happened 15 billion years ago. That's the point. If you don't know, and you admit that you don't know, then why do you even bother making up an answer to an unanswerable question?

Re:Space and Medical discovery (1)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410815)

Tiger got to hunt,
Bird got to fly,
Man got to wonder, why why why
Tiger got to kill
Bird got to land
Man got to say, "I understand"
-- vonnegut

Re:Space and Medical discovery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26400049)

I know I wouldn't want to stay on this planet, made wretched by evil people, any longer than I have to. Those who know they are going to a better place after Earth shouldn't fear death either.

Here, let me help you pack your bags. Bon voyage!

Flamebait eh? (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26401973)

Man, someone trying to get flamed by implying we couldn't cure death. What a jerk. Good one, mods.

Re:Flamebait eh? (1)

mpeskett (1221084) | more than 5 years ago | (#26407035)

The flamebait part was all the talk of "earthly bodies", going to "somewhere better" and escaping "evil people".

He should know that Slashdot is exclusively for godless heathens, and hence that any post with religious overtones is liable to induce flames.

Also questioning science's ability to do whatever it damn well pleases... that's pure flamebait.

(btw I'm a godless heathen too, I think the guy's ridiculous and more than a little offensive, but unfortunately there is no "-1 Stupid" moderation)

Re:Space and Medical discovery (1)

tloh (451585) | more than 5 years ago | (#26401193)

I, too, would feel inclined to go all futuristic and philosophical over this news. However, I'm also excited for more practical reasons. As the BBC article stated, we are many years away from attempting this on humans as a medical therapy. But this still represents significant progress in the R&D efforts that will make it easier to harvest and work with stem cells in the laboratory. I worked part time as a lab aide for the biotechnology program [ccsf.edu] at CCSF in 2007 before I joined Genentech. In the cornerstone lab of the stem cell certificate program, students are trained to harvest and manipulate stem cells from the bone marrows of mice just as described in the article. Out of a few micrograms of bone marrow extracted from the femur bone, No more than 1 or 2 (if any at all) out of about 15 students would be able to successfully isolate any stem cells. If we can get their "ramp up" technique to work successfully, our students would at least have a fighting chance to use their newly learned skills to produce some stem cells and do some developmental cell biology.

Re:Space and Medical discovery (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 5 years ago | (#26404751)

Imortality isn't likely, our chromosomes have telomeres on the chromosomes which shorten with each cell division,

The telomerase shortening mechanism normally limits cells to a fixed number of divisions, and animal studies suggest that this is responsible for aging on the cellular level and sets a limit on lifespans. Telomeres protect a cell's chromosomes from fusing with each other or rearranging - abnormalities which can lead to cancer - and so cells are normally destroyed when their telomeres are consumed. Biologists speculate that this programmed death of potentially damaged cells reduces the likelihood of cancer but makes aging (and thus death) inevitable. Most cancers are the result of "immortal" cells which have evolved ways of evading this programmed destruction.[1] Telomere [wikipedia.org]

unless we can reset the telomere length we are limited in age.

Re:Space and Medical discovery (1)

mpeskett (1221084) | more than 5 years ago | (#26407049)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telomerase

Doing it in a controlled, non-cancer-like way might be more difficult.

Cancer? (2, Insightful)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 5 years ago | (#26399703)

This is awesome. Biology is doing amazing things.

I do have one worry, though: Stem cells, some research is starting to indicate, are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they allow new tissue to grow, but on the other, that new growth may end up being cancerous. One wonders whether the fact that we don't naturally produce stem cells at this rate reflects the optimal balance that evolution has found.

If we could control and cure (or prevent?) cancer reliably, however, this sort of technology would be great.

Re:Cancer? (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#26399869)

There is no "optimal balance" with evolution. It does not work that way. Traits that lead to reproductive success are continued those that do not are not. This is it.

You getting cancer at 80 has zero impact on the odds that your offspring will succeed or not, therefore they is no selective pressure for or against it.

Re:Cancer? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26399919)

In fact, if the social mechanisms for inheritance of worldly wealth have been in place long enough (and IIRC the sumerians made wills), there might be advantages to your offspring for you to die, but not so young you haven't accumulated a bunch of stuff to give to them.

Re:Cancer? (2, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 5 years ago | (#26401543)

"... there might be advantages to your offspring for you to die, but not so young you haven't accumulated a bunch of stuff to give to them."

There's always Soylent Green.

Re:Cancer? (2, Interesting)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 5 years ago | (#26400107)

There is no "optimal balance" with evolution. It does not work that way. Traits that lead to reproductive success are continued those that do not are not. This is it.

A good point, which I understand. I "get" what view you're trying to combat. There's a tendency first to anthropomorphize "evolution," and also to attribute motives to animals to evolve -- as though it is a change undergone by an individual, and as though it is that individual's conscious decision. Of course it's all just shorthand to make talking about these things easier, but it can be very misleading if you're not constantly "translating" -- which is something that the public at large probably doesn't do!

An important caveat for your statement, of course, is that it's not really about individuals and their offspring, but about genes -- so if a gene does not positively impact an individual's number of offspring, it may nevertheless be selected for because it helps others in that person's community (who presumably have similar genes) to survive and reproduce. This is a point that lots of people have brought up. One example is menopause: Why were primates whose ability to reproduce turned off as they got older selected by evolution? Presumably, it enabled them to survive to older ages, and the benefits (the wisdom and experience of one's elders?) that this brought to others in the community with the same genes outweighed the cost (loss of some reproductive members of society) to the gene's ability to propagate itself.

Hence, "getting cancer at 80" might actually be selected against. Also, we might not be talking about cancer at 80, but about cancer at 40: Would humans with abnormally-high stem-cell-production rates get cancer earlier, while they were still of reproductive age?

Menopause is different (4, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#26401321)

Menopause is actually a more complex thing, and actually had _zero_ impact on human evolution back when it mattered.

The problem is that all mammal females are born with a finite number of "eggs". Usually more than enough for an average life span. Again, it's actually controlled by evolution, or rather natural selection. If you have too few it's a handicap, so nature tends to select those with more. But here's the important part: enough for your expected life span. If a cat lives for, say, 3 years outside, there's no evolutionary pressure to have enough ovules for 30 years. If an ape lives for an average 20 years, there is no evolutionary pressure to pre-produce enough ovules for 300 years.

So basically all you really see there is that the life span of our ancestors was _much_ shorter, back when we evolved into humans.

As late as the Old Kingdom period in Egypt -- and that's already talking about 5000 years ago, out of 200,000 that Homo Sapiens existed for, or the _millions_ leading to Homo Sapiens -- if you got past the high infant mortality, the median age for death was in the mid-20's for women. (And mid-30's for men.)

And just to stress it, I'm not talking about "life expectancy at birth" (which would include the dead babies), but the actual second peak of the age-at-death curve. We have a ton of records (plaques, scrolls, etc) detailing when someone died, and if you plot X = age, Y = number of such records dead at that age, you get a scary spike in the first 3 years of age, then a second peak in the mid 20's for women, and mid-30's for men.

So that was the number of years that you needed ovules for. The average women got married at 12 and died at, say, 24. That's 12 years of being fertile. That's all the ovules it needed. Having enough of them until the age of 60 is already a _massive_ margin for the case she lived longer. It's having 4 times more than the average will ever need.

(Actually, even more. Ovulation is inhibited while you're pregnant or have someone sucking milk out of your breast, as a safety. So someone making an average of, say, a child every 2 years and nursing each for a year, would use up only a fraction of what a modern woman uses.)

At any rate, an ultra-tiny minority lived long enough to reach menopause. There was _no_ evolutionary pressure to push it until later.

What you see is a relatively modern age phenomenon. The life expectancy has risen so dramatically, that the women actually get to reach the end of that counter. What was once a 300% margin, now is actually less than enough.

In computer terms: it's a buffer overflow error. Literally.

But the same modern age all but stopped evolution. And nobody makes a child every 2 years any more. People stop at a much lower number, menopause or not. There is no natural selection to change that any more.

Re:Menopause is different (1)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 5 years ago | (#26401777)

But other primates don't experience menopause. So if the fact that humans do undergo menopause has no impact on our evolutionary fitness, then you're saying it's just a random mutation that happened not to matter? Genetic drift?

Re:Menopause is different (2, Informative)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#26402495)

The other animals don't live long enough to reach it, simply put. They also don't get another ovulation every 4 weeks, so they don't run through eggs anywhere _near_ as fast as humans.

As I was saying, 99.9% of all the Homo Sapiens women who ever lived, never experienced menopause either. Overflowing that buffer is a very recent thing. Too recent to matter either way at evolution scales.

Re:Menopause is different (1)

tabrnaker (741668) | more than 5 years ago | (#26421339)

finite eggs was proven false, like set number of neurons in the brain.

Re:Menopause is different (1)

WindShadow (977308) | more than 5 years ago | (#26454187)

So that was the number of years that you needed ovules for. The average women got married at 12 and died at, say, 24. That's 12 years of being fertile. That's all the ovules it needed.

You might want to rethink that, a few searches seem to indicate that the onset of puberty was later than 12 as recently as a few hundred years ago, so you have a very short breeding life, particularly given that some if not all of the spike in mortality in the mid-20s is probably due to childbirth.

Just looking at clothes from the civil war era, dresses don't seem to be cut for much if any bust until adult height (maybe age 16-17). I found this information [infoforhealth.org] to support that idea. A few hundred years isn't enough for evolution to have a measurable effect, and the paper suggests that diet is a large factor, so I think your suggested breeding age of 12 is very low.

I would offer instead the idea that thousands of years ago, when any evolutionary value would have time to express its value, that women became able to conceive in their late teens, and many did not survive their first pregnancy. That assumption fits the mortality spike far better, and there would be evolutionary value to many eggs so that the women who could survive childbirth with minimal medical care could produce more offspring.

Re:Cancer?.....O NOES!!!!!11one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26400931)

ok so the one of the pit falls of stem cell applications is that SOME TIMES (and i stress some times) the regenerated tissue can become cancerous. however the definition of cancer is "the uncontrollable hyper-division of cells". Having said that, take a look at the article again and note the line "able to stimulate stem cell production by a factor of 100". Now the stem cell is just that, a CELL. And by definition it's almost like cancer, I say almost because these guys have figured out to start cell division (repair of dmg tissue), but have not been able to completely restrict cell division. with this lack of control cancer MAY arise. Although cancer may arise from the rapid repair of tissue it is still a moderately rare occurrence. in an article published by National Geographic in July 2005, on the topic of stem cells a line reads "critics point to worrisome animal research showing that embryonic stem cells sometimes grow into tumors or morph into unwanted kinds of tissues....But supporters respond that such problems are rare". now that was in 2005. so its safe to say that its a problem that has not been solved, yet. But the rate of new discoveries in the field of stem cell research is mind boggling and a solution may be found in the coming years.

Re:Cancer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26401031)

produce the cells which make up our blood vessels,..Mesenchymal stem cells are known to have the ability to damp down the immune system

The cancer concern would easily rise, especially from the latter quote. An "instant" heart attact would also come to mind from the former quote.

Re:Cancer? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26401427)

I do have one worry, though: Stem cells, some research is starting to indicate, are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they allow new tissue to grow, but on the other, that new growth may end up being cancerous. One wonders whether the fact that we don't naturally produce stem cells at this rate reflects the optimal balance that evolution has found.

It is an interesting question, since our natural healing ability is pretty complex and sophisticated so obviously being able to recover from injuries well is highly selected for. I can naively think of at least one other explanation, which is that beyond a certain point the ability to regrow tissue faster doesn't confer much survival benefit since wounds large enough where it really makes a difference were often crippling enough that the organism would die anyway. Or a different take on the same idea, maybe the gene for increased stem cell production has shown up before and been beneficial, but the standard genes were 'good enough' that the better gene didn't spread through the population.

Increased risk of cancer and the current rate being at or at least within a range of more or less optimal levels sounds likely, though.

But hey, as a temporary one-time treatment for a serious injury in a hospital setting, this might be great. You risk increased cancer with every X-ray, but it's such a minimal risk that the diagnosis benefit is more than worth it. Maybe this could be similar, in nature if not degree of cost/benefit.

Re:Cancer? (2, Interesting)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26402171)

do have one worry, though: Stem cells, some research is starting to indicate, are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they allow new tissue to grow, but on the other, that new growth may end up being cancerous. One wonders whether the fact that we don't naturally produce stem cells at this rate reflects the optimal balance that evolution has found.

That's great insight, assuming you didn't read it in an article. That's very close to the actual explanation the field has come up with. Adult stem cells generally divide comparatively slowly, the thinking is that each time a cell divides, there's an increased frequency of errors, and increased chances for it to turn cancerous in other words. Stem cells have the ability to renew themselves, that translates into they are missing a major check against cancer right off the bat. The thinking is that by having them divide slow, that limits their potential to turn cancerous.

In many settings, stem cells give rise directly to transient amplifying cells, which divide much faster but are limited in their reproductive potential. They divde fast, and so have more chances to turn cancerous, but their ability to endlessly self-renew is turned off, at some point they will extinguish and turn into differentiated, non-dividing cells. In that way, the body may minimize the chances of cancer.

So yes, this treatment would probably increase your chances of getting cancer, and that's something that's going to have to be rigorously tested and hopefully minimized, but it would presumably be used in very limited applications.

Interestingly, many cancer drugs themselves merely increase the rate of errors during division. Cancer cells kind of remind me of Reaver ships from Firefly, they're dangerous, but they're comaratively unstable. Those chemotherapy drugs, and radiation therapy affect cancerous cells more because their genomes are highly unstable, and genetic damage is more lethal to them, but it does also increase the chances of healthy cells going cancerous.

There never is a magic bullet when it comes to medicine, and nearly everything causes cancer.

Re:Cancer? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#26408137)

Of course that balance will include pressure towards using less energy as well since until recently, food was universally a scarcity. While it still is in parts of the world, in others it's clearly not an issue.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if cancer is a significant risk with some of this, but in a situation where fatality is 100% without treatment, it's still worth the risk. Any cancers that happen will be at the low end of the mortality figures for it's type since it will be watched for vigilantly rather than only being detected when it produces symptoms late in the game.

Freaking Sweet (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 5 years ago | (#26399763)

It's like Xi Sui Jing, without the decades of practice required.

Telomeres (1)

Steamhead (714353) | more than 5 years ago | (#26399797)

I'm not a biologist, but wouldn't this shorten your life span?

I remember reading about Telomeres [wikipedia.org] and how they shorten as you age (and this is why you age).

Would this accelerated growth/generation cause these to shorten at a more rapid pace?

Re:Telomeres (2, Interesting)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#26400237)

There is a chemical, telomerase, which has been linked to embryonic stem cell's ability to reproduce limitlessly. If we find out how to activate it in other types of stem cells, telomeres may no longer be a problem.

Re:Telomeres (1)

Sublmnl (868393) | more than 5 years ago | (#26400341)

Wouldn't Human Growth Hormones speed the production of stem cells? And yes I'm no biologist but I play one on /.

Re:Telomeres (2, Insightful)

mauthbaux (652274) | more than 5 years ago | (#26400333)

I'm not a biologist, but wouldn't this shorten your life span?

I remember reading about Telomeres [wikipedia.org] and how they shorten as you age (and this is why you age).

Would this accelerated growth/generation cause these to shorten at a more rapid pace?

Short answer: probably not. Telomere shortening does occur, and it does limit the number of divisions that certain cells can undergo. However, as I understand it, it's not the primary cause of aging symptoms. In fact, the lengthening of telomeres is associated with many kinds of cancer - not eternal youth. One gene that may be at least partially responsible for aging is Klotho. [wikipedia.org] Experiments have been done in mice doing both knockdown expression and upregulation of the gene. Also, this is the gene that was making Snake age prematurely in MGS4.

Re:Telomeres (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#26408603)

As I recall, the shortening telomeres happen in the differentiated cells rather than the stem cells. So more stem cells released will result in a higher population of youthful cells.

The Blob returns! (1)

Yeti7226 (473207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26399885)

This is the perfect scenario for a remake of 'The Blob'

In other news (1)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26399907)

Now, you too can have larger and more firm breasts in only days! Simply dial 1-888-BIG-BOOBZ in the next ten minutes to learn how you can have the latest in all natural breast enhancement, regardless of sex or age!

Re:In other news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26409173)

Oh come on, this is a geek site. Shouldn't that be 1-888-816-80082?

Bioshock, here I come! (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 5 years ago | (#26400015)

Yeah, soon, soon we'll be able to become splicers!

what? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26400251)

rheumatoid arthritis?

I'm sorry, but MS is more severe, and basically, more important.

Re:what? (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26402773)

Well, I think "important" is a personal call, I'd be much more interested in news about a cure for arthritis than MS if I had arthritis but not MS

Moreover it's not always about which disease is a higher priority. From the blurby article, it does seem odd that they'd mention that instead of MS, but there could be a technical explanation that could have been judged not worth putting into the article. I have no specific knowledge of either, but it wouldn't suprise me if it looked like this happened to be a good cure fure rheumatoid arthritis but not MS. If the scientists involved had a reason to think RA was going to be going down soon because of this, but for whatever reason this wouldn't work for MS, it would make sense to give RA as an example with no mention of MS.

Re:what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26404053)

Jeez, more Microsoft bashing? You can't blame MS for EVERYTHING!

In other news . . . (1)

aplusjimages (939458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26400907)

. . . city halls across the U.S. are flooded with request from men wanting to change their name to Wolverine.

at the risk of sounding "spammy"... (0, Troll)

RandyOo (61821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26404045)

I haven't even RTFA (this *is* /., right?), but my father is selling an herbal product called "Stem Enhance" [stemcells777.com] that's supposed to do exactly what's described in the summary.

I haven't tried it myself yet, personally, but he's sold it to quite a few people who he says have seen incredible results. Personally, I wouldn't vouch for something like this without having seen the results myself, but thought I'd share in case anyone here found it interesting.

What about burns? (1)

WindShadow (977308) | more than 5 years ago | (#26453779)

I wonder if this offers faster or better recovery from burns? Currently severe burns require grafts because dermal tissue regenerates poorly or not at all. Even if this could only help speed growth of auto-graft tissue production it would be a benefit.

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