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Transparent Fish Lead to Stem Cell Research Breakthrough

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the we-see-what-you-did-there dept.

Australia 33

brindafella (702231) writes Australian scientists have accidentally made one of the most significant discoveries in stem cell research, by studying the transparent embryos of Zebrafish (Danio rerio). The fish can be photographed and their development studied over time, and the movies can be played backwards, to track back from key developmental stages to find the stem cell basis for various traits of the fish. This fundamental research started by studying muscles, but the blood stem cell breakthrough was a bonus. They've found out how hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), among the most important stem cells found in blood and bone marrow, is formed. The scientists are based at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University. The research has been published in the Nature medical journal. This discovery could lead to the production of self-renewing stem cells in the lab to treat multiple blood disorders and diseases.

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Embreyonic stem sells (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 months ago | (#47670639)

What happened to embryonic stem cells being the most important, and all the political battles over embryonic stem cell research funding?

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47670719)

If you had read the article, it's obvious scientists switched to fish embryos since baby zebrafish jesus isn't such a crybaby.

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47670839)

Maybe we read different articles. The ones I read all said that the scientists were already studying zebrafish because their growing embryos aren't embedded inside of a human womb, rather they are "free-swimming", and then stumbled "accidentally" upon the formation of stem cells. Perhaps you should spend more time learning to read and less time throwing sad insults. Allow me to also force a bit of logic through that closed mind of yours as to why "embryonic stem cells" as they are known, wouldn't work in this case. Scientists, for instance, wouldn't be studying how muscles grow in an aborted fetus, because it would be dead.

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47670893)

Oh no! Someone was insulted by someone else for asking about why nobody studies embryonic stem cells in an article about scientists studying stem cells in embryos! Call the whaaaaambulance!

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47670737)

Embryonic stem CELLS are still the "most important"... in that they can become any cell in the body.

The big problem with Embryonic stem cells is that most people don't have them laying around to use in treatments, while adult stem cells are obtainable. Most 'practical' medical research is focused on using adult stem cells, as they can be extracted from the patient.

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (3, Informative)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 months ago | (#47670869)

Actually, embryonic stem cell treatments--the few we've figured out--hardly work. They require immense timing of chemical signals, or else they simply turn cancerous.

Pluripotent adult stem cells have been demonstrated to grow full tissue (such as layers of skin, kidney, etc.), and are theorized capable of producing full organs (whole kidneys, liver, heart). Bone marrow stem cells can be coaxed into producing a whole heart on a scaffold, i.e., by removing all muscle from a heart and seeding the connective tissue with some donor heart muscle and a pile of marrow stem cells. Growing the full organ independently is difficult; and growing an appropriate organ would present unique challenges (a scaffold organ grows into the size of the scaffold; a new organ would grow into a child's organ, which won't provide a heart for an adult body).

Adult stem cells are often banked from umbilical cord and placenta for treating the child early in life. In adult life, we use drugs to stimulate the release of large amounts of bone marrow stem cells; this provides stem cells for chemotherapy recovery, as chemotherapy destroys all bone marrow. Both types have been used to regenerate damaged heart, spinal nerve column, bone marrow, and other tissues and organs. Stem cells rendered from the patient's blood also rapidly treat severe burns as a component of a spray-on tissue plasm (a slurry of material and marrow stem cells) that regenerates the destroyed skin without scarring.

I was lampooning the huge political theater of embryonic stem cell research in the 2004 election cycle. The US is the only country with such minimal funding; yet even Russia only occasionally outputs an amusing, largely-faulty, academic hack. Russia makes large breakthroughs in adult stem cell treatments all the time, because such treatments are more viable and widely-applicable. The article makes such a big deal about HSCs because saying "stem cells" is played out, and we know "adult stem cells from bone marrow" already; wen need a new buzzword, and "embryonic" is a dead end without politics.

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (1)

penguinoid (724646) | about 3 months ago | (#47671281)

Isn't this like saying that it is worthless to study the precursor of a medicine, because only the final medicine is useful for treatment?

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 months ago | (#47672099)

It's more like saying it's pointless to study the chemical structure of a Szechuan Button seed when deriving treatment from Szechuan Button leaves, flowers, roots, oils, and so on. The seed is starch, enzymes, and DNA; it derives the whole plant from a set of biological processes carried out during its entire life cycle.

In short: it makes sense to study the growth of embryos in general, which can be done with mice or fish or, especially, fruit flies. It doesn't make sense to try and force embryonic stem cells into treatments when bone marrow stem cell treatments are easier to create, have a greater chance of success, and carry lower risks of complications.

In 2004, we had a huge political mud fight about this. It came down to a bunch of nothing. I am still lampooning the mistaken belief that embryonic stem cells hold much greater potential than adult stem cells and are much easier to coax into producing useful results; it's just not true, and all existing evidence indicates it's mostly a highly complicated thrill act that looks bitchin' if you pull it off, but can't be pulled off by most mortals, and can go *really* wrong if not pulled off *exactly* correct.

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (1)

penguinoid (724646) | about 3 months ago | (#47672569)

But think of it like this: it is possible to coax cells to go backward in development; to create stem cells from differentiated cells. And it is possible to create any cell type (including adult stem cells) from embryonic stem cells. Combined, this would allow doctors to take whatever cells are convenient, convert them into whatever stem cell they need, and produce a treatment for you from your own cells. Even if not currently useful, embryonic stem cell research could end up very useful.

That, and many people are annoyed at the reasoning given for opposing embryonic stem cell research, and support it as a counterbalance to this opposition. (Many people think "humanity" is a set of characteristics rather than a set of DNA and protein.)

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 months ago | (#47672903)

Yes, it creates a bi-directional chain. We've also got pluripotent cells (bone marrow stem cells can become 90% of anything), and the ability to tissue culture like we're propagating trees (heart, liver, kidney, etc.; although only the heart is problematic, as we can make liver from bone marrow cells).

I'm a decisionary maximizer: given the low return of embryonic stem cell research and the huge coverage of adult stem cell research, I find it a huge waste of time to divert significant funds to embryonic stem cell research. When we've tapped out adult stem cell treatments to the point of high expense for remaining coverage that should be possible if we had good manipulations derivable from embryonic research, suddenly adult stem cell research is a large waste of money and embryonic has higher returns.

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (1)

penguinoid (724646) | about 3 months ago | (#47674151)

To clarify: the purpose of embryonic stem cells is to produce adult stem cells.

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (2)

Stem_Cell_Brad (1847248) | about 3 months ago | (#47671309)

You may be a bit behind the most recent development. ES cells can be differentiated and substantially engraft into monkey hearts. See http://seattletimes.com/html/l... [seattletimes.com] . Can adult stem cells perform similarly well?

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 months ago | (#47672203)

It looks like they coaxed embryonic stem cells into becoming heart muscle cells, instead of just going right to the source [webmd.com] .

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47671363)

I watched Akira too and agree way too dangerous

Re:Embryonic stem sells (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47672175)

Embryonic stem CELLS are still the "most important"... in that they can become any cell in the body.

The big problem with Embryonic stem cells is that most people don't have them laying around to use in treatments, while adult stem cells are obtainable. Most 'practical' medical research is focused on using adult stem cells, as they can be extracted from the patient.

The problem with embryonic stem cells is that you must kill an embryo to harvest them (stem cells collected from umbilical cords excluded, of course). There is an ethical debate as to when the lump of cells becomes human (or has the potential to become human). It's the same debate over late-term abortions.

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (1)

PRMan (959735) | about 3 months ago | (#47671187)

They've never been better.

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47675013)

Because they came from embryos, nut jobs said "you are killing babies for medicine" and so getting stem cells from embryos was squashed. They found that getting stem cells from cheek swabs was not as good as embryonic stem cells, but kept looking till they found hematopoietic stem cells. They don't come from cord blood, and work as well or better. Now the fanatics who yelped about embryonic stem cells have a hard time dropping they embryonic part, and are having a hard time dropping their political message, even though science stole their thunder and reason for protest.

Re:Embreyonic stem sells (1)

Jason Goatcher (3498937) | about 3 months ago | (#47675489)

Now the fanatics who yelped about embryonic stem cells have a hard time dropping they embryonic part, and are having a hard time dropping their political message, even though science stole their thunder and reason for protest.

You can't be serious. The protesters didn't want experiments done on fetuses, and the scientists stopped doing experiments of fetuses. No thunder was stolen, the protesters simply got what they wanted.

Tasty (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 3 months ago | (#47670641)

Fish is good for bears and for me since I am a medium sized bear with special computer and inter-networking upgrades. Stems, not so much but everybody needs to eat some vegetables it is good roughage and vitamineriles.

Yeah, Yeah (4, Funny)

avgjoe62 (558860) | about 3 months ago | (#47670643)

We've all heard these "stem cell breakthrough" stories a thousand times over, but really, a breakthrough from studying transparent zebra fish? I'll believe it when I see it.

Re:Yeah, Yeah (2)

tomhath (637240) | about 3 months ago | (#47670745)

a breakthrough from studying transparent zebra fish? I'll believe it when I see it.

I see what you did there.

Re:Yeah, Yeah (2)

OzPeter (195038) | about 3 months ago | (#47670921)

a breakthrough from studying transparent zebra fish? I'll believe it when I see it.

I see what you did there.

No, you didn't see it

Re:Yeah, Yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47670953)

a breakthrough from studying transparent zebra fish? I'll believe it when I see it.

I see what you did there.

No, you didn't see it

True, he/she saw through it

Transparant fish (0)

Ubi_NL (313657) | about 3 months ago | (#47670739)

The news here is not the zebrafish. This has been a model system for decades. The news is the origin of the stem cells. Calling zebrafish 'transparent fish' basically means the submitter has no clue or insults the audiences intelligence.

Re:Transparant fish (2)

penguinoid (724646) | about 3 months ago | (#47671333)

Or, it could be that researchers specifically made zebrafish more transparent [researchgate.net] [pdf] to make it even easier to study them.

Re:Transparant fish (1)

Ubi_NL (313657) | about 3 months ago | (#47676231)

That was 15 years ago, kinda proving my point

Re:Transparant fish (1)

brindafella (702231) | about 3 months ago | (#47674539)

I have a clue: The embryo's transparency made their study of the muscles easier, by photography, and that led to the [incidental but ground-breaking] findings on the blood stem cells.

Re:Transparant fish (1)

Ubi_NL (313657) | about 3 months ago | (#47676207)

That was kinda the reason its a model system for 30 years.

Bright! Shiny! Future! (2)

0xG (712423) | about 3 months ago | (#47670801)

(Still) Only ten years away.

tunefs man page out of date, bug fixed (2)

davidwr (791652) | about 3 months ago | (#47670849)

From man tunefs [freebsd.org] :
BUGS ....
          You can tune a file system, but you cannot tune a fish.

Fixed.

Phenomenal news (1)

GeekWithAKnife (2717871) | about 3 months ago | (#47670855)


Given the increase in difficulty this will take the fishing world championships to a whole new level!

link! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47672883)

Can at least slashdot link to the bloody article instead of beating around the bush with "news" writeups?

Would you like lemon (1)

schreiend (1092383) | about 3 months ago | (#47675719)

with your fish?
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