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Regenerating Muscle Cells With Newt-Inspired Tech

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the a-newt?!-i-got-better dept.

Biotech 88

gmp writes "The NY Times and the Wall Street Journal are reporting on a new paper, published in the science journal Cell Stem Cell, where scientists, inspired by the ability of newts and other lower organisms to regrow lost limbs, have demonstrated that adult mammalian cells can be made to regenerate by suppressing a pair of anti-cancer genes. 'Interfering with tumor suppressor genes is a dangerous game, but Dr. Pomerantz said the genes could be inhibited for just a short period by applying the right dose of drug. When the drug has dissipated, the antitumor function of the gene would be restored. Finding the right combination of genes to suppress was a critical step in the new research. One of the two tumor suppressor genes is an ancient gene, known as Rb, which is naturally inactivated in newts and fish when they start regenerating tissue. Mammals possess both the Rb gene and a backup, called the Arf gene, which will close down a cancer-prone cell if Rb fails to do so.' Is regeneration nature's default, only turned off by our evolved defenses against cancer?"

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88 comments

We're men....we're men in tights (2, Funny)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162434)

"Testicles from a newt...I bet he's a transsexual now!"

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33162492)

"Testicles from a newt...I bet he's a transsexual now!"

This is the reason Slashdot is nearly irrelevant now. What the hell is this crap?

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (3, Informative)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162524)

I take it you've never heard of Mel Brooks...

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162540)

Well, when you're scrambling to type something fast and get that elusive first post, you can't be too worried about the quality of the material.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (4, Interesting)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162570)

Or, if you want me to stay on topic, how's this:

Regrowing lost limbs would be a huge shift...true, an entire industry would grow (haha) out of this technology, but a whole other industry would be put out of business: prosthetics. Not to mention that if prosthetics are knocked out, we may miss out on things like fully-controllable mechanical limbs, which could change the direction the human race goes (do we continue to utilize technology, or do we become technology?)

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (2, Interesting)

Rennt (582550) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162932)

I don't see how limb regrowth would harm the prosthetic industry.

Just look at the species that do have re-generation abilities. A leg doesn't just spring fully formed from the knee/groin. It would take decades for a human with the same abilities to re-grow an leg. Plenty of room for rehabilitative prosthetics.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163042)

If you have the technology to grow a leg from the groin, you'll put another industry out of business: porn.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163830)

The dangers of leaving your anti-cancer genes in the "off" state for a decade aside; I'm trying to imagine how that would even work. You couldn't obstruct the stump or you would hinder growth. Instead of a rod, the limb would have to be some kind of open cage/exo-skeleton that left plenty of room for the real limb to grow and breathe inside it; or you would have to be constantly having it resized and adjusted.

I am visualizing something cool and cyborgy; the science fiction effect is enhanced if you picture the easily visible mutant nub growing inside it.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

Rennt (582550) | more than 3 years ago | (#33164534)

...or you would have to be constantly having it resized and adjusted.

Exactly my point. A re-growing leg would be worth far more to the prosthetics industry then a stable stump.

It would be a (wait for it) growth industry!

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (2, Interesting)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163314)

Not to mention that if prosthetics are knocked out, we may miss out on things like fully-controllable mechanical limbs, which could change the direction the human race goes (do we continue to utilize technology, or do we become technology?)

We'll become technology. In the long run we'll go far beyond mere cyborgs into full mind uploading. There's far too many advantages to separating your mind from a particular body, the least not being that your intelligence is no longer bound by the amount of brain matter that can fit inside your skull.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

skyride (1436439) | more than 3 years ago | (#33164412)

But do we really want that? I'm quite a modern thinking person, but I just feel that stops us being human. What is the point in achieving greatness if you no longer have the emotions to feel it? The friends to celebrate it with? The partners to love?

Sorry, but I just feel its wrong and no amount of logical points will sway my opinion on that simply because its not a "logical" debate to begin with.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 3 years ago | (#33166804)

Assuming you could "upload" your mind, what makes you think "you" would no longer have emotions?

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#33167302)

But do we really want that? I'm quite a modern thinking person, but I just feel that stops us being human.

Could be, at least for some purely biological species definition, but what does that matter if I'm still me?

What is the point in achieving greatness if you no longer have the emotions to feel it?

Why wouldn't I feel it? Emotions are part of a mind, so an uploaded mind would certainly still have them, assuming the upload process works at all of course.

The friends to celebrate it with?

Why wouldn't I have those? Are you going for some variant of Cybernetics Eat Your Soul [tvtropes.org] sci-fi trope here?

The partners to love?

Other uploads, or even fleshy humans, through either robot bodies or a virtual reality environment, can act as partners. You do know what [wikipedia.org] is the most important part of Second Life economy, right ?-)

Sorry, but I just feel its wrong and no amount of logical points will sway my opinion on that simply because its not a "logical" debate to begin with.

What debate? Nobody's forcing or even encouraging you to abandon your fleshy form. I'm simply speculating what I would do. Or did you mean you're going to dictate how I should live my life?

As for "no amount of logical points will sway my opinion", that's not something to be proud of. It's a mental problem to overcome. You are basically declaring yourself deliberately irrational.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33171560)

As for "no amount of logical points will sway my opinion", that's not something to be proud of. It's a mental problem to overcome. You are basically declaring yourself deliberately irrational.

My point was that its a moral/philosophical debate, not a logical one, so you really need to just take your feelings on the issue and go with that. Also, I wasn't so much suggesting there aren't potential solutions to those problems, I was simply posing the question: If you upload your mental state to a computer, are you still human?

fyi, this is grandparent posting, just not took keen on logging in on the system i'm typing this on.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

yndrd1984 (730475) | more than 3 years ago | (#33171960)

My point was that its a moral/philosophical debate, not a logical one

The fact that you differentiate between the two is the root cause of the problem.

If you upload your mental state to a computer, are you still human?

If you were asking honestly, then I'd just reply "That's the whole point - if you 'aren't you' anymore, then the upload wasn't successful."

The problem is that, for many of us who are used to the concept, it sounds like "if man was meant to fly he would have been born with wings, you should ride the train like God intended", or Leon Kass's argument that extending human life beyond it's natural bounds would mean that we are no longer human. [msn.com]

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 3 years ago | (#33172180)

My point was that its a moral/philosophical debate, not a logical one, so you really need to just take your feelings on the issue and go with that. Also, I wasn't so much suggesting there aren't potential solutions to those problems, I was simply posing the question: If you upload your mental state to a computer, are you still human?

The question you actually posed was: "If uploading your mind goes horribly wrong, stripping you of emotions in the process, are you still human?" That you didn't notice the difference between this and the question you thought you were asking is the strongest argument for why you shouldn't, in fact, "just take your feelings on the issue and go with that".

Logic is one of your key capabilities as a human. Discard that, and you "stop being a human", reducing yourself to a mere monkey; and monkeys aren't very good at solving moral or philosophical problems. Feelings are the way to gauge how desirable or undesirable a given set of circumstances would be, but you still need to use logic to sort things out for them to evaluate.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33171210)

your intelligence is no longer bound by the amount of brain matter that can fit inside your skull.

Citation needed for the claim that the limiting factor on intelligence is the amount of brain matter. Given that neural pruning is a necessary part of becoming more intelligent as you age, you could just as easily argue the opposite.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163430)

Robotic research will continue to push that area. regrowing parts is the preferred solution. Sure, your thinking a bad ass robot arm, but they would never be that way, and this research might lead to regrown organs.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163502)

Not to mention that if prosthetics are knocked out, we may miss out on things like fully-controllable mechanical limbs, which could change the direction the human race goes (do we continue to utilize technology, or do we become technology?)

I've actually done extensive research on this subject, and I'll be siding with the Krogoths. Arm doesn't have shit on them.

I hope I don't have to explain that reference. [wikipedia.org]

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 3 years ago | (#33164154)

Arm has Flash tanks in the first 5 minutes? Brawlers afterward? (There is no problem that cannot be solved by a sufficient number of Brawlers!)

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

tibman (623933) | more than 3 years ago | (#33165880)

Krogoths or not.. I won't submit to patterning!

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163766)

a whole other industry would be put out of business: prosthetics

Sorta like how the glasses industry was put out of business by laser eye surgery advances?

This is muscle cells, many steps away from regrowing full muscles, and even more steps away from regrowing full limbs with bone, ligaments, muscle, tendons, vasculature, skin, and nerves. Even if we do make it the rest of the way, that's going to be a complicated, expensive procedure that's probably going to leave you with a starter limb that will take years of therapy, muscle conditioning, and growth to function as a a full limb. Furthermore, many leg prosthetics are very effective. Trading in a mostly functional below-the-knee prosthetic for an extremely expensive flesh-and-blood replacement, even if it is perfect, is something many people would likely not do.

Arm prosthetics on the other hand aren't as good, and of course if one arm is weaker than the other one, you're still able to walk around fine, maybe people would opt more for arm replacements than arm prosthetics. Then again, there's still the issue of the tech is far off there too. If we develop fully functional robotic prosthetics, I'd wager an arm regeneration industry would have a hard time developing.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

FlyMysticalDJ (1660959) | more than 3 years ago | (#33164448)

I have to disagree somewhat. I mean the idea is that we will move in the most powerful appealing direction. If prosthetics have more to offer than just having our own limbs again, it will happen. Of course at that point it makes you wonder if people would be hacking off limbs just to get that sweet tech. What I find a lot more likely is that if we gain the ability to regrow limbs, that prosthetics will move in an enhancement direction instead of a replacement direction. Instead of having a robot arm, maybe you'll have a robot sleeve that you wear that makes you stronger.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33165240)

Personally, if I could have had my vision corrected with genetics rather than having a device implanted, I'd have gone with the genetics. Most tools don't need to be actually attched to be part of you (and I can't think of a single tool that you would be better of if it were implanted); ever ridden a bicycle? The bicycle becomes part of you as far as your brain is concerned. I don't need a screwdriver attachment for my arm, I'll jst use a real screwdriver.

I'd be willing to be everyone with an implanted device or prosthesis would rather have the real thing.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#33170498)

(do we continue to utilize technology, or do we become technology?)

Why does it always get reduced to a one or the other answer?

The two things are not mutually exclusive. It is entirely possible that prosthetics will be the next boob job, and some people will prefer to regrow their own limbs or ... not have a replacement at all.

Re:We're men....we're men in tights (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33163060)

What the hell is this crap?

Classic Slashdot, before the idiots like you arrived.

It's Mel Brooks, who, according to the Slashdot guide may be quoted at any time for any reason, as would Monty Python and Douglas Adams.

He turned me into a newt! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33162440)

Well, I got better.

Re:He turned me into a newt! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33162468)

That's supposed to be "she" you idiot.

could be worse (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163638)

It could turn you into the lizard [wikimedia.org]

Re:He turned me into a newt! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33163674)

He turned me into a newt!

Well, I got better.

So, we now know the researchers were not using the gingrich cell line.

Re:He turned me into a newt! (3, Funny)

__roo (86767) | more than 3 years ago | (#33165578)

Meh -- it's only a flesh wound.

Re:He turned me into a newt! (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#33168630)

Dammit, AC, you beat me by 3 minutes, and I didn't see your post because it was too low for me to read.

Turned me into a new (5, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162482)

So first they turn you into a newt, and then you get better?

Re:Turned me into a new (1)

AffidavitDonda (1736752) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162852)

after you got used to feed on small insects...

Re:Turned me into a new (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162916)

Well disabling anti-cancer genes. Let's have the marketing department "fix" the issue :

"regenerate long lost limbs ! act now and you get 3 kg for free*"

(small print)

(* 3kg free may be either tumor growth or a bowl of sweat collected from our medical department, depending)

--

People who need govt to protect them from religion cannot have much faith in the logic of atheism. And given that government is much more about restricting religion than it ever was about enforcing it, this says a lot more about atheists than it says about anyone else.

Newt (1)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162494)

So, if they can suppress the gene would it be possible for me to grow a tail?

Sure I would need to buy new clothes and chairs would be redesigned but think of how useful a tail would be.

Re:Newt (5, Funny)

Thiez (1281866) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162576)

I think most slashdotters would like some tail.

Re:Newt (1)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162658)

Although, you'll have an inclination to chase it if you suppress the backup regenerative gene.

Nature's Default? (4, Insightful)

jayme0227 (1558821) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162556)

Is regeneration nature's default, only turned off by our evolved defenses against cancer?

I'm not a biologist, but I'd assume that "nature's default" is simply for a cell to reproduce. . Regeneration is far more complex than that. I would expect a need for a coordinated response by the body to ensure that the *right* cells are reproducing. Without that, we'd just be dealing with the tumors those genes are designed to stop.

Re:Nature's Default? (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162948)

Given that tumors are basically cell growths that aren't coordinated, you best hope against hope that the response is coordinated if you disable this gene.

And since this gene has been in our dna for a long time, the information coordinating the response is going to be outdated, or simply randomized/erased (genes that are deactivated -for any reason- are randomized by evolution). It seems unlikely in the extreme that the response will be coordinated.

Re:Nature's Default? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33162970)

Without that, we'd just be dealing with the tumors those genes are designed to stop.

What would this imply? (I'll give you a hint, the first word is 'Intelligent')

Short-hand (3, Informative)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163034)

I believe this is simply short-hand for "selected by evolutionary processes". Even good science writers like to use "designed" on occasion, just like how physicists talk about electrons "wanting" to find the lowest energy state.

Laziness (1)

Atmchicago (555403) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163302)

It's not short-hand, it's laziness at the least. More likely is that it reveals a lack of understanding of the fundamentals of biology on the part of the author.

Re:Laziness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33164780)

Maybe. Another viewpoint would be you are being unnecessarily pedantic.

Re:Short-hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33163764)

Electrons hate being anthropomorphized.

You insensitive clod! (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#33164618)

Electrons have rights too!

Re:Nature's Default? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163058)

Without that, we'd just be dealing with the tumors those genes are designed to stop.

What would this imply? (I'll give you a hint, the first word is 'Intelligent')

That our mammal ancestors at one time were so intelligent that they already discovered genetic manipulation, and since they suffered from a high cancer rate, they designed a gene which would suppress that cancer. Somehow that intelligence then got lost however (maybe a case of idiocracy).

SCNR

Re:Nature's Default? (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163154)

You'd be surprised at how regularly random processes can result in design. There are plenty of systems that, when left to their own devices, converge on specific states ('optimal' stable states within that system). Evolution is precisely a 'design' process in the sense that variations on an apparatus are tested with successes further developed and failures discarded. DNA encodes plans for making such structures - it is the blueprint that is constantly being refined.

The question is not whether design is happening. The question is whether that design process is deliberative or not; I have no reason to think that it is.

Re:Nature's Default? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163410)

Without that, we'd just be dealing with the tumors those genes are designed to stop.

What would this imply? (I'll give you a hint, the first word is 'Intelligent')

"Intelligent people often anthropomorphize impersonal processes (e.g., evolution) in where this enables them to make more succinct statements that are more focussed on the point they wish to communicate, which often is not about the mechanics of the process."

At least, that's what it implies to me...is that what you were thinking of?

Re:Nature's Default? (2, Informative)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163036)

If the tissue is correctly located, it "knows" into what it should differentiate thanks to morphogens : https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Morphogen [wikimedia.org] These are substances emitted only in specific parts of the body and their concentration at a given place is the hint a cell use to know which kind of behavior it must adopt.

Re:Nature's Default? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33163712)

From reading the article, this seems to be correct. (IAABiologist, but this is not my area)

This work was entirely done on muscle cells. To make muscle, you start with a stem cell, which gives rise to a population of muscle precursor cells, which respond to various environmental cues to either go on reproducing or to "terminally differentiate" into proper muscle cells. Once a cell has committed to this fate, it's stuck there: it can no longer be persuaded to divide, and cannot change into another cell type (e.g. transforming from a muscle cell to a skin cell), This is broadly true for all of the specialised cell types in your body, of which there are dozens, hundreds or thousands, depending how you're counting.

What this paper has shown is that inactivating a couple of genes -- already known to be crucial to regulating cell division and generally referred to as "tumour suppressor" genes for this role -- allows terminally differentiated muscle cells to go back a step in the differentiation pathway, regaining their ability to proliferate. Given the right signals in their environment, these cells will continue to proliferate to form a big lump of muscle cells. Awesome. But if this were allowed to continue unchecked it would for all intents and purposes just be another tumour. Happily, they've been able to show that restoring the activity of those two genes returns the new muscle cells to their terminally differentiated state, i.e. non-replicating, perfectly normal muscle cells.

Muscle tissue was a great choice as a model for this experiment, as it's a fairly simple tissue. The cells self-organise to align in the same direction with some very elegant cues from neighbouring cells (as opposed to needing e.g. complex chemical gradients imposed from some other process), and there's typically a very generous network of blood vessels to keep them supplied, with scope to add more. And indeed, they showed that the new cells could safely be persuaded to re-differentiate into non-proliferating muscle cells and join a pre-existing muscle. So this is already a very appealing system for treating people with significant damage to a muscle.

However, the promise of "regrowing an arm" is still a long way off. Your arm contains a wide variety of tissues, arranged and interacting in very specific ways. While many of these tissues are locally self-organising (e.g. given the right stimuli, blood vessel progenitors will grow beautifully tidy vessels with no external supervision), the "grand plan" of when and where all the tissue types need to develop, grow and differentiate needs to be tightly controlled. Most of this is done through the creation and regulation of chemical gradients, e.g. a concentration of hormone at the tip of the developing limb encouraging vessels to grow toward it, or the concentration of another hormone acting as negative feedback to slow and then stop the growth of the cells that are producing it. While this is, in principle, replicable, there's far too much about it that we don't currently understand to take a shot at it. And if you're growing that arm attached to a person, those chemicals will presumably get tinto the blood stream and play merry hell with the rest of their body.

So this project is a small step. We won't be regrowing limbs any time soon, but we might be repairing damaged muscle and other simple tissues if the technique is generalisable. Alongside this, other techniques are starting to come along that show promise for re-generation of simple tissues and organs (e.g. turning a patient's skin cells into personalised bona fide do-anything stem cells then growing them on a collagen scaffold to form an organ). None are quite there yet, but I'm fairly confident we'll get to personalised, synthetic organs implanted within my lifetime. So this is a small step, but in an awesome direction. It's getting pretty exciting.

Re:Nature's Default? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33166818)

I'm guessing the limb regeneration trait was disabled when longer lifespans were evolved. If you don't live past 5 years tops, tumors and cancer development aren't really going to affect your ability to produce or care for offspring. Being able to regrow limbs likely solves more pressing issues. When you start living longer than that, then it makes more sense to develop some means for stopping cancers and tumor growth despite how they cancel out the useful regenerative ability.

Gengrich (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33162592)

So you get to be speaker of the house?

Wow, great idea... (0)

ITBurnout (1845712) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162604)

Cool, my arm is slowly growing back! Bummer, I have cancer and only 90 days to live!

It's not a tumor! (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162608)

It's not a tumor at all!

But will I crush more with my robot arm or organic (1)

Orga (1720130) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162736)

Anyone have any benchmarks? I know Darpa has that new mind controlled robot arm. I'd like to see some performance numbers from that vs. a beefed up regenerating organic arm. I need more crush power to... oh wait.. I control crap with my thoughts don't I... I think preservation of existing tissue is more useful than growing new imo.

Re:But will I crush more with my robot arm or orga (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#33162920)

Uh just have three arms then. Three arms would be more handy in many scenarios...

Re:But will I crush more with my robot arm or orga (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33163010)

Three arms would be more handy in many scenarios...

Paper hanging comes to mind ...

Re:But will I crush more with my robot arm or orga (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163082)

Don't forget to grow a second head. It's always good to have a backup.

Re:But will I crush more with my robot arm or orga (1)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 3 years ago | (#33164174)

Depends how much you work out?

Lifespan (4, Insightful)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163028)

It make sense that newts would have cancer suppressors turned off because they can reproduce and die of other causes before any cancer would kill them and regeneration is likely very handy. Humans on the other hand need to live a fair amount of time to ensure reproductive success and regeneration is likely of less value due to the social supports in human society.

Re:Lifespan (1)

ITBurnout (1845712) | more than 3 years ago | (#33165050)

Right, that was essentially my point in my previous post. Turning off cancer suppressors in order to facilitate regeneration in an organism with a long lifespan, such as a human being, and whose limbs I assume would be more complex to regrow than a newt's, seems like a bad tradeoff. I'd rather have a healthy body that's missing an arm than a cancer-prone or cancer-ridden body that has both limbs. But I guess that's just me...

Re:Lifespan (1)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 3 years ago | (#33165196)

Newts can and do regularly live over 20 years.

Re:Lifespan (1)

pnutjam (523990) | more than 3 years ago | (#33166754)

Can live 20, if a human only lives 20 it is a tragedy...

Re:Lifespan (1)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 3 years ago | (#33168266)

So you're comparing newts to humans on a one to one basis are you? Thats... interesting.

Re:Lifespan (1)

Gadzeus (1061926) | more than 3 years ago | (#33168738)

Crocodiles show some ability to regenerate certain tissues:
http://www.jstor.org/pss/1563441 [jstor.org]

Teeth regrow in healthy individuals, too. The larger species are thought to live 70 to 100 years, and the animal isn't known to suffer unduly from cancer.

It does have an awful time in the everglades working out what sex it is. (Oestrogenic pollutants)

Re:Lifespan (2, Interesting)

izomiac (815208) | more than 3 years ago | (#33175218)

The 5-6 inch long newts live for 20 years, which is pretty good for such a small animal. The 16 inch long salamanders live for 30 years, while the 5-6 foot long salamanders are thought to live about 80 years. If you have a mammal and an amphibian of similar size, the amphibian seems to have a much longer lifespan

In humans, the liver can regenerate quite well, but liver cancer isn't a leading cause of death. Your skin sloughs off every month and regenerates, yet skin cancer risk follows sun exposure rather than being a ticking timebomb. Peripheral nerves also regenerate, but cancers arising from nerves are quite rare. Therefore, I doubt that regeneration is strongly linked to cancer. If you want stronger proof, the researchers with the p21 knockout mice found no increase in cancer risk, despite the mice being able to regenerate body parts.

I see this hitting the brick wall of regulation (1)

liquiddark (719647) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163128)

Almost by definition, anything regenerated using this technology would have a higher incidence of cancer. One wonders if regulatory bodies can wrap their rules around the notion that the cure is still worth the possible side effects.

Re:I see this hitting the brick wall of regulation (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163330)

I guess I'm the only one thinking outside the box when I see that the two anti-cancer genes specified in the article does not say that it's the human body's only defense against cancer?

That and it clearly says to turn it off for a duration of time, not entirely.

Re:I see this hitting the brick wall of regulation (1)

liquiddark (719647) | more than 3 years ago | (#33164324)

Is your theory that there will NOT be an increased rate of occurrence when you turn off two major defense mechanisms? I'd like to hear how you make that case if so.

Re:I see this hitting the brick wall of regulation (1)

John Whitley (6067) | more than 3 years ago | (#33165606)

article does not say that it's the human body's only defense against cancer?

Or perhaps more interestingly: is the Rb gene the newt's only defense against cancer? Specifically, have newts developed alternative cancer defenses that support Rb suppression during regeneration?

git cherry-pick newt/5f5c3c4f

Re:I see this hitting the brick wall of regulation (1)

ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163608)

Almost by definition, anything regenerated using this technology would have a higher incidence of cancer.

Not at all, by my reading. The tumor suppressors are only turned off to allow the tissue to regenerate, when the drug dissipates, they are turned back on. Anything still acting like a target for the anti-cancer genes would be destroyed like normal.

Re:I see this hitting the brick wall of regulation (1)

liquiddark (719647) | more than 3 years ago | (#33164358)

After the drug dissipates, it will be destroyed, if it hasn't already metastasized or otherwise become a problem that the genes can't fix. In the meantime, two major cancer defenses are inert. I'm not sure how that would somehow not be an obvious window of opportunity for cancer to creep in, particularly when you've got massive tissue generation happening in the area affected

Re:I see this hitting the brick wall of regulation (1)

ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) | more than 3 years ago | (#33169902)

A window of opportunity doesn't guarantee infection. Leaving your door unlocked doesn't mean you'll get robbed; it just elevates the risk. So the question is, what is the baseline risk? At what frequency do our cells normally become become malignant growths, and what percentage of these are prevented by these genes? I don't think we're in a position to know the latter as yet, as the idea of disabling them seems relatively new. Are those genes stopping 10 tumors a week, or less than one a year? If you gave it a week to reattach a finger, what is the actual chance that, in that timeframe, a dangerous tumor would take hold that these genes could have stopped? If that risk is 10 to 1, that's a hell of a risk. If it's .01%, I say go for it. If it gets a tumor, cut it off and try again, the odds are sharply against it happening the second time.

I won't call this a terrible idea until we know the risks. Right now it's just a new idea that some people are concerned about.

Re:I see this hitting the brick wall of regulation (1)

liquiddark (719647) | more than 3 years ago | (#33173750)

I think you missed my original point. I wasn't saying this is a bad idea, I was saying that there is a strong likelihood that there will be an increased chance of cancer. I would imagine a significantly increased chance, given the combination of fewer defenses and massively increased opportunities, but time may tell. Regardless, my point was that I was hoping that this wouldn't be a case where regulatory caution put walls in the way of near-miraculous medicine.

Re:I see this hitting the brick wall of regulation (1)

ArbitraryDescriptor (1257752) | more than 3 years ago | (#33181490)

Sorry, after the first round through the argument machine I had forgotten the second half of your initial statement. My apologies.

Re:I see this hitting the brick wall of regulation (1)

Script Cat (832717) | more than 3 years ago | (#33165276)

Sadly, I think your right. I always hear of amazing breakthroughs like this or cancer cures etc.
But how often is it actually applied in medicine.
The real industry will just keep using the stone knives and flint axes they are used to.

Sit! Good boy! (2, Funny)

flahwho (1243110) | more than 3 years ago | (#33163262)

One problem, the Arf gene tends to make people sniff the ass of people who walk by, leg humping and rawhide chewing.

Witchcraft! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33163288)

...she turned me into a newt!

(Crowd stares) ...I got better!

Cell Stem Cell? (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 3 years ago | (#33164036)

See cell.
See cell stem.
Stem, cell, stem!
See cell lose its differentiation markers when induced by inactivation of Rb in conjunction with ARF, re-enter the cell cycle, proliferate, and then recapitulate differentiation in the blastema.
Replicate the robust regenerative response typical of urodeles, cell, replicate the robust regenerative response typical of urodeles!

wait a minute! (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 3 years ago | (#33164344)

>adult mammalian cells can be made to regenerate
does he mean that regenerate like the newt and completely regrow a limb, or just regenerate tissue that is there but maybe damaged...?

Re:wait a minute! (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#33165652)

does he mean that regenerate like the newt and completely regrow a limb, or just regenerate tissue that is there but maybe damaged...?

This work is all in vito, cell line stuff. The purpose is to understand the underlying mechanisms of regrowth regulation based on some inferences from the evolutionary history of mammals relative to reptiles, which the Bible strangely neglects to mention.

Amazingly, despite the Bible not mentioning this stuff, these scientists have found a gene that is turned off in newts during regeneration which can also result in regeneration when turned off in mammals, almost as if mammals evolved from reptiles by a process of partially heritable variation and differential reproduction.

The reason why mammals don't regenerate is probabaly related to energy budget: we need to eat frequently, and so have been optimized for rapid healing in the form of scar formation. Reptiles, being cold blooded, can slow down their metabolism and do nothing much while they regenerate. At the biochemical level this means that mammals have been selected from ancestral individuals who were less and less likely to have the ability to turn off these genes in the face of traumatic injury.

Incredibly, the Bible doesn't explain any of that, either. Almost like it was written by people who knew almost nothing of the world God made, and instead just made up a bunch of nonsense.

Re:wait a minute! (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 3 years ago | (#33187454)

>does he mean that regenerate like the newt and completely regrow a limb, or just regenerate tissue that is there but maybe damaged...?
Still haven't touched my question, did he mean to regenerate the limb itself fresh like a newt does or does he mean to regenerate tissue that has been damaged, like a cut. This is the question I would like answered, although your mention of the bible does lead me to believe a side line alterior motive to your question, how many times did you read the bible?

Newt Gingrich is inspiring (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33164416)

But I didn't realize that his inspiration extended beyond the tea party faithful.

Salamanders Do It (1)

Graphene (1591367) | more than 3 years ago | (#33166242)

Scientific American did a good piece of limb regeneration back in April 2008(Regrowing Limbs: Can People Regenerate Body Parts? Preview - http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=regrowing-human-limbs [scientificamerican.com] ) Key points are that salamanders are best at complete limb regeneration but humans (and many other animals) scar instead of regenerating. However, if we turn off the scar system and prime the regeneration system, we may be able to regenerate whole limbs, too. One of the neat points made in the article is that salamanders cells seem to know how to re-build the lost limb with first growing a "baby" version. In other words, lose your limb and an "adult" one will regenerate without you having to wait 15 years for it to grow to the right size.

Fucking /. (0, Troll)

thomst (1640045) | more than 3 years ago | (#33166380)

I submitted this story yesterday - but that was before the NY Times picked it up, so my submission "only" pointed to sites like PhysOrg and PubMed. I guess that just wasn't "newsy" enough for /.'s discriminating editorial staff to bother with.

But apparently it is now.

Fucking /. ...

Arf! (1)

Snaller (147050) | more than 3 years ago | (#33166418)

With a name like that - how can it fail!

Once again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33169676)

I read about something which Dr Robert Becker [wikipedia.org] did decades ago but from an electrical and nervous angle.
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