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Scientists Grow Blood Vessels Using Skin Cells

samzenpus posted more than 8 years ago | from the younger-looking-veins dept.

Biotech 177

rubberbando writes "The new york times is running a story about how scientists have discovered a way to grow new blood vessels using skin cells. Since the blood vessels are grown using the patient's own skin cells, there isn't any chance for rejection. This looks to be quite a boon for people who have several damaged blood vessels from diseases such as diabetes. Perhaps one day they will be able to apply this technology/technique to creating other parts of the body and rid us of the whole stem cell controversy. Only time will tell."

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177 comments

THE BLOOD VESSELS IN MY COCK GROW (0, Troll)

arothstein (233805) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049515)

WHEN I STARE AT THIS

*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_
g_______________________________________________g_ _
o_/_____\_____________\____________/____\_______o_ _
a|_______|_____________\__________|______|______a_ _
t|_______`._____________|_________|_______:_____t_ _
s`________|_____________|________\|_______|_____s_ _
e_\_______|_/_______/__\\\___--___\\_______:____e_ _
x__\______\/____--~~__________~--__|_\_____|____x_ _
*___\______\_-~____________________~-_\____|____*_ _
g____\______\_________.--------.______\|___|____g_ _
o______\_____\______//_________(_(__>__\___|____o_ _
a_______\___.__C____)_________(_(____>__|__/____a_ _
t_______/\_|___C_____)/INSERT\_(_____>__|_/_____t_ _
s______/_/\|___C_____)__COCK_|__(___>___/__\____s_ _
e_____|___(____C_____)\_HERE_/__//__/_/_____\___e_ _
x_____|____\__|_____\\_________//_(__/_______|__x_ _
*____|_\____\____)___`----___--'_____________|__*_ _
g____|__\______________\_______/____________/_|_g_ _
o___|______________/____|_____|__\____________|_o_ _
a___|_____________|____/_______\__\___________|_a_ _
t___|__________/_/____|_________|__\___________|t_ _
s___|_________/_/______\__/\___/____|__________|s_ _
e__|_________/_/________|____|_______|_________|e_ _
x__|__________|_________|____|_______|_________|x_ _
*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_


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Article text for your convenience (4, Informative)

Karma Troll (801155) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049516)

Blood Vessels Grown From Skin
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: November 16, 2005

DALLAS, Nov. 15 (AP) - Two kidney dialysis patients from Argentina have received the world's first blood vessels grown in a laboratory dish from snippets of their own skin, a technique that doctors hope will someday offer a new source of arteries and veins for diabetics and other patients.

Scientists from Cytograft Tissue Engineering Inc., a small biotechnology company in Novato, Calif., reported the tissue-engineering advance on Tuesday at the annual conference of the American Heart Association here.

Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which has spent $2.5 million to finance the company's work, called the new method "extraordinarily promising."

Because it uses the patient's own tissue, the technique steers clears of the political and ethical debate surrounding embryonic stem cells.

Think about your breathing. Inhale. Exhale.

Like many patients in dialysis, the two Argentines, a 56-year-old woman and a 61-year-old man, were faced with the prospect of running out of healthy blood vessels. To grow new ones, doctors took a small piece of skin and a vein from the back of the hand, and nurtured them in a laboratory dish with growth enhancers to help produce substances like collagen and elastin, which give tissues their shape and texture.

The process produced two types of tissue: one that forms the tough structure or backbone of the vessel and one that lines it and helps it to function.

The feel of the new tissue "was very similar to the other vessels" that were present from birth, said Dr. Sergio Garrido, the surgeon who implanted it in the two patients.

The woman's new vessel has withstood needle punctures three times a week for six months and the man's for almost three months.

In the future, doctors hope the homegrown vessels will prevent amputations in diabetics who suffer from poor circulation, and give heart-bypass patients new veins or arteries to detour around blocked vessels. The method may also hold promise for children born with defective blood vessels

Re:Article text for your convenience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049998)

Mod down.

Yet another "breathing" troll.
Yawn. A dull, repetitive and listless effort from the eponymous Karma Troll.

Barely worthy of the "troll" title, really.

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049526)

first post

Science! (0, Offtopic)

Eightyford (893696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049527)

It really is amazing what scientists are doing for us. The speed that technology is developed is unbelievable really. I just want to ask: what are you all doing to make the world a better place?

Disclaimer: I'm not doing a hell of a lot myself...

Re:Science! (1)

MaXiMiUS (923393) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049553)

You mean make the world better for me? You shouldn't have. Really. *pulls out laser gun* check his briefcase.

Re:Science! (2, Insightful)

RootsLINUX (854452) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049562)

I'm actually considering abandoning computer architecture (what I currently study in grad school) and heading into neuroscience, because I find that research so much more enlightening, practical, and useful. Well I have many more reasons, some of which are deeper than others, but if I could spend my life studying ways to ameliorate neurodegenrative diseases like Parkinsons, I'd find a whole lot more meaning in that then spending years and years to make a processor thats just 2% faster on only certain types of workloads.

Absolutely no offense intended towards you EEs/CmpEs out there (hell, at this moment I'm still one myself), but I just want my time to be more directly involved in helping people rather than helping companies make a bigger profit. Ya know what I mean?

Re:Science! (1)

woolio (927141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050312)

Is it just me, or did a large portion of Computer Science & Computer Architecutre die many many years ago but nobody seems to have noticed (or is willing to admit)? I'm starting to think that the vast majority of the problems were solved in the 70s and early 80s... and that the number of open issues is heavily outweighted by the number of 'researchers'. But I hope I'm wrong...

Whereas, look at wireless communications. There is big research in how to use multiple transmit/receive antennas for huge multi-user environments (cell phone, wireless lan, etc)... People are still developing new algorithms and comparing the performance and requirements of each. A huge effort is devoted in how to implement (or approximate) highly complex operations on embedded processors with limited resources...

Well as neuroscience researcher, you probably will be helping bio-med companies make lots of money... But yes, this will trickle down to an important benefit (cures/treatments for diseases) to the public at large...

Regardless of what field you feel you "should be doing", if you don't have a true passion for it, then you will never get very far... No matter how good your intentions.

Re:Science! (1)

mofomojo (810520) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049640)

Answer : Battling diabetes - thus potentially saving lives.

Unless you're some little punk emo kid, then saving lives is what you wanna do.

Re:Science! (4, Funny)

zoloto (586738) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049654)

You know what I'd personally enjoy? Structural modifications of the not so visible kind. How cool would it be to have your major arteries "reinforced" with some sort of external metallic mesh? No more going for the jugular!

Re:Science! (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050076)

Why stop at reinforcing major arteries. We could try to reinforce the entire body then have the perfect killing machine. One were bullets bounce off or disperse the energy from the shot and thereby making gun violence almost a thing of the past. Cops or soldiers could wear light armor and thugs mugging you at gunpoint might be as usless as them asking for handouts.

This could go further. How about adapting this reinforcing major arteries into somethign specific for hazardous jobs. You could grow more and stronger arteries closer to the outer skin to help cool firefighter and increas the blood flow so they have more strenght to carry unconcious people out of burning buildings.

Maybe withing 50 years, you can goto a clinic and get a biologic upgrade. More realisticly might be the ability to use this same technoligy in less invasive surgeries. If we could grow the blood vessels inside a human, it become possible to perform a tripple bypass by just inserting a need and running a tracing object along a predetermined path, then once the blood vessel is mature enough, use a lasor to sever and seal the old pathway off. Somethign even more interesting might be the ability to use those cells to line the heart or heart valves to make (repair) failing parts more reliable. Possible this could be done eventualy by injection too. Open heart surgery in 2 hours or less and a week of monitoring. You can return to work the next day.

Re:Science! (2, Funny)

whitehatlurker (867714) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049712)

what are you all doing to make the world a better place?

Ummm - I'm sitting here, reading slashdot ... doing that prevents me from being on the streets, which I think we can all agree makes the world a better place.

Re:Science! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049760)

what are you all doing to make the world a better place?

Personally, I work hard keeping many employees of west coast microbreweries employed. I do it for their children, really.

Video Games for the Betterment of Mankind! (1)

eonlabs (921625) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049802)

I'm working on it, I'm working on it...

Hey, who knows, it could happen.

Re:Science! (1)

Liam Slider (908600) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050016)

Well let's see....I've personally helped poor people get food and clothing, been an ongoing advocate for Linux and Open Source and their spread (which is helpful, even if you might not think so), been an advocate for a more free society and even been somewhat active in politics to that goal, and I've voted (hey, that alone is more than most people do...).

Re:Science! (2, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050029)

what are you all doing to make the world a better place?

Well, last night I experimented with applied pharmacology and was able to make my part of the world into a much better place.

It was looking fairly seedy again this morning though, so I might have to repeat the dose. It's for the good of humanity, after all.

No controversy? Hah! (5, Insightful)

TwentyLeaguesUnderLa (900322) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049528)

I doubt that it'll rid us of the controversy... because by the time that becomes possible, cloning or genetic modification of some other sort will also have also become possible, and that'll just pick up where the stem cell controversy left off, probably with many of the same arguments on both sides.

Re:No controversy? Hah! (1)

blank89 (727548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049545)

"Since the blood vessels are grown using the patient's own skin cells, there isn't any chance for rejection." Unless the patient has an objection to the use of his own skin cells it's not a problem.

Re:No controversy? Hah! (1, Insightful)

Trigun (685027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049745)

No, there's no problem for rational people. There can still be a problem. People don't get blood transfusions because it's their religion. Even if it is their own blood. If God didn't put it there, then it shouldn't be there, and all that.
Just because it's your own doesn't mean it's automatically accepted. What about plastic surgery? Even fat injections are all your own, but people have a problem with them.

Re:No controversy? Hah! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049778)

There can still be a problem. People don't get blood transfusions because it's their religion.

That's not a problem. People have a right to refuse medical treatment. If they choose not to have a blood transfusion, that's their prerogative.

Now, when parents prevent their children from getting blood transfusions for religious reasons... that can pose a problem.

Re:No controversy? Hah! (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049856)

Then they don't get them, and die off earlier on average. The biggest problem comes in when you have sick kids in these people's custody. And that's being/been addressed in courts for a while anyways.

As for plastic surgery, well, I consider those forms of surgery rather extreme for just appearance.

As for genetic mods, that's happening now, for years. Certain sufferers from genetic lung ailments have gotten viral genetic therapy. More or less permanent cure, though they've had a couple cases of cancer, so far mostly successfully treated. It seems that the viral therapy as was done (they've since adjusted) increased the risk of lung cancer.

On the other hand, most of these people weren't expected to reach their 20's because of the genetic disorder, so most consider even a serious risk of cancer in their 30's a good risk in exchange for getting rid of the disease.

Re:No controversy? Hah! (0)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049857)

"Since the blood vessels are grown using the patient's own skin cells, there isn't any chance for rejection." Unless the patient has an objection to the use of his own skin cells it's not a problem.

Unless you're Austin Powers' Fat Bastard [google.ca] (link safe for work, but still pretty disgusting), in which case your body WILL reject anything grown from your skin.

Re:No controversy? Hah! (1)

CharonIDRONES (656891) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049820)

And who said competition in an industry wasn't good?
I'm all for it, haha, organs growing somewhere or being printed out somewhere else :)

-Brandon

You know what, Stuart? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049532)

You know what, Stuart, I LIKE YOU. You're not like the other
people, here, in the trailer park.

Oh, don't go get me wrong. They're fine people, they're
good Americans. But they're content to sit back, maybe
watch a little Mork and Mindy on channel 57, maybe kick
back a cool, Coors 16-ouncer. They're good, fine people,
Stuart. But they don't know ... what the queers are doing
to the soil!

You know that Jonny Wurster kid, the kid that delivers papers
in the neighborhood. He's a foreign kid. Some of the neighbors
say he smokes crack, but I don't believe it.

Anyway, for his tenth birthday, all he wanted was a Burrow Owl.
Kept bugging his old man. "Dad, get me a burrow owl. I'll never
ask for anything else as long as I live." So the guy
breaks down and buys him a burrow owl.

Anyway, 10:30, the other night, I go out in my yard, and there's
the Wurster kid, looking up in the tree. I say, "What are
you looking for?" He says "I'm looking for my burrow owl."
I say, "Jumping Jesus on a Pogo Stick. Everybody knows
the burrow owl lives. In a hole. In the ground. Why the hell do you
think they call it a burrow owl, anyway?" Now Stuart, do you
think a kid like that is going to know what the queers are
doing to the soil?

I first became aware of this about ten years ago, the summer
my oldest boy, Bill Jr. died. You know that carnival comes into
town every year? Well this year they came through with a ride
called The Mixer. The man said, "Keep your head, and arms, inside
the Mixer at all times." But Bill Jr, he was a DAAAREDEVIL, just
like his old man. He was leaning out saying "Hey everybody,
Look at me! Look at me!" Pow! He was decapitated! They found
his head over by the snow cone concession.

A few days after that, I open up the mail. And there's a pamphlet
in there. From Pueblo, Colorado, and it's addressed to Bill, Jr.
And it's entitled, "Do you know what the queers are doing to our
soil?"

Now, Stuart, if you look at the soil around any large US city,
there's a big undeground homosexual population. Des Moines, Iowa,
for an example. Look at the soil around Des Moines, Stuart.
You can't build on it; you can't grow anything in it. The government
says it's due to poor farming. But I know what's really going on,
Stuart. I know it's the queers. They're in it with the aliens.
They're building landing strips for gay Martians, I swear to
God.

You know what, Stuart, I like you. You're not like the other
people, here in this trailer park.

There is no stem cell controversy (0, Flamebait)

blackpaw (240313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049546)

Just some researchers trying to make radical improvements in medical treatments and a bunch of religious whackjobs

Re:There is no stem cell controversy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049607)

Worst of all, most religious wackos are black trash or white trash. Yet, both will benefit from science. :shudder:

As Usual.... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049556)

I read this on digg days ago...

Get rid of the stem cell controversy? (5, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049563)

We can't get rid of something that's projected onto the situation by people who are nervous/scared about what the bio-sciences say about their world view. The stem cell worriers aren't really worried about stem cells or their source, they're worried about how close we're getting to a comfortable understanding of cellular mechanics. That takes the mystery out of a lot things, and devalues mystical explanations (and those social institutions that rely upon them for clout).

Growing new body parts out of other body parts will still freak out a certain number of people, no matter what. If it's not the stem cell faux-controversy, it will be the "only rich people can afford this treatment, so it's evil" crowd or their various other counterparts.

Re:Get rid of the stem cell controversy? (1, Insightful)

Trogre (513942) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049598)

The stem cell worriers aren't really worried about stem cells or their source, they're worried about how close we're getting to a comfortable understanding of cellular mechanics.

I disagree.

The worry many people have about using stem cells is that if this method skyrockets, there will be a higher demand for stem cells, which at the moment at least would necessitate a large commercial market for dead babies.

Stem cells don't come from babies (3, Insightful)

MichaelPenne (605299) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049687)

They come from blastocysts.

Which there are plenty of slowly expiring in vats of frozen nitrogen at fertility clinics around the world.

"if this thing takes off", those blastocysts will be saving people's lives instead of slowly rotting away.

Re:Stem cells don't come from babies (4, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049867)

Hate to break it to you, but those people consider your blastocyst to be a living breathing baby. They like popping up pictures of 7-9 month term fetuses/babies on billboards.

Most of them don't mind harvesting 'stem cells' from any source that still results in a born baby (umbilical cords, for example).

Me, I don't care that much, but I can understand their views a bit better than most.

... because I AM a stem cell. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050285)

DON'T LOOK AT ME!

Re:Get rid of the stem cell controversy? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049720)

"The worry many people have about using stem cells is that if this method skyrockets, there will be a higher demand for stem cells, which at the moment at least would necessitate a large commercial market for dead babies."

Any VC's out there who would like to get in on the opportunity of a lifetime? I'd love to show you my business plans, just sign this NDA and we can begin discussing your investment in my plan to leverage my biotech knowledge to realize substantial gains by cornering the market on dead babies.. oh yeah, and it's NANOTECH.

Takes out the mystery? (4, Insightful)

Nerdposeur (910128) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049605)

The stem cell worriers aren't really worried about stem cells or their source, they're worried about how close we're getting to a comfortable understanding of cellular mechanics. That takes the mystery out of a lot things, and devalues mystical explanations (and those social institutions that rely upon them for clout).

I can't speak for everyone, but I have a problem with using fetuses for stem cell research, and none whatsoever with this. Medical science can do wonderful things for people (I look forward to when they sythesize blood and eliminate shortages); I just don't want other people to be trampled on in the process.

As for taking the mystery out of things, I think it's just the opposite. The more you understand the universe, the more wonderful it seems. I don't see how knowing the mechanics of cells creates an argument for atheism, as you seem to imply.

Re:Takes out the mystery? (2, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049678)

The more you understand the universe, the more wonderful it seems.

We can definitely agree on that.

I don't see how knowing the mechanics of cells creates an argument for atheism, as you seem to imply.

Woops! On that we can definitely disagree.

I have a problem with using fetuses for stem cell research, and none whatsoever with this.

I'm glad you make the general distinction between the discussed procedure and other methods. But I hope you can also make the distinction between a collection of dividing cells in a dish and a human being. I'll stop here, because we might as well just play a recording.

Re:Takes out the mystery? (1)

akgoatley (787022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049708)

You said:
"But I hope you can also make the distinction between a collection of dividing cells in a dish and a human being."

How do you make that distinction, personally? What are your criteria for 'human-ness'?
I challenge you to give a definition of when something starts to be 'human' that isn't completely arbitrary.

Ashton

Re:Takes out the mystery? (4, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049772)

I challenge you to give a definition of when something starts to be 'human' that isn't completely arbitrary

It can be very hard to look at a complex organism and say, "that's human, or is about to be," but it's not hard at all to say what is not. A collection of cells that has no functioning higher nervous system is not human. A collection of cells that has no interconnected, differentiated neural tissue at all is absolutely not human (yet). Zygotes, blastocysts, etc., while eventually capable of developing into an embryo and a fetus, are not humans, and have no platform upon which - at that point - to hang "human-ness."

I realize that's more a description of what is not yet human, rather than an answer to your "when is it human" question. I don't need to sweat pinning down that moment, because I know that a dozen dividing cells are way, way on the non-human side of that transition, regardless of when I would identify it in a given fetus.

Re:Takes out the mystery? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049920)

Zygotes, blastocysts, etc., while eventually capable of developing into an embryo and a fetus, are not humans, and have no platform upon which - at that point - to hang "human-ness."

No platform?

A horse's embryo, if it implants and grows properly, will gradually develop into a horse.
Similarly, a cow's embryo develops into a cow. It cannot develop into a sheep or a dog.

This is true for these embryos at any stage of development -- even before the cells are differentiated.

So isn't it reasonable to say that a horse embryo has more horse-ness to it than a cow embryo does?

Even if you do not regard humans' embryos as being worthy of individual respect, you ought to admit that they have a quality of human-ness to them, and so might as well be called human.

What embryos do not have is the quality of adult-ness. Whether their early stage of development means it is okay to destroy them is the real issue here.

Re:Takes out the mystery? (4, Insightful)

Trigun (685027) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049814)

This may seem cold and crass, but think of life as a table. When does the table become a table? When the last coat of lacquer goes on the wood? When the carpenter decides to cut a tree down to carve the table out of? When he actually cuts the tree down? Somewhere inbetween?

We collectively have decided that it's when it's flat enough to put stuff on and not have it fall off. But the artist, might say that it became a table with the inspiration, and the rest was inevitable process. The purchaser might say that it's not a table until it is set up in his dining room. The carpenter might say that it was always a table, and he just removed it from its protective coating.

I think that a table is a table when it has a flat top, and can fufill its designed function. But I respect the carpenter's idea that it was always a table, and the purchaser's idea that it's not really a table until it is actually functioning as a table. I don't really listen to the artist, they're all pseudo batshit-crazy, but I nod and smile so as to get out of there without having to hear how the light reflects of the natural grains of the oak or some shit like that.

Changing any one of the actors ideas of what a table is, is a monumental task, and may never be done.

Re:Takes out the mystery? (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049832)

Oh sure, use a good analogy. You do realize that you may actually damage slashdot that way, don't you? Be careful, man!

Re:Takes out the mystery? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049758)

Last I heard, they were using embryos, not fetuses.

Re:Takes out the mystery? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049795)

As for taking the mystery out of things, I think it's just the opposite. The more you understand the universe, the more wonderful it seems. I don't see how knowing the mechanics of cells creates an argument for atheism, as [OP seems] to imply.

Nor does knowing, or not knowing, the mechanics of cells require the invocation of an alleged $sys$deity.

Re:Takes out the mystery? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049842)

You are aware that more than 90% of all human fertilisation events result in spontaneous abortion, aren't you?

Yep - if life truly begins at conception, the Fundamentalists' God is willing to kill 90% of his human subjects before they reach 1 or 2 months of age (most spontaneous abortions end within a few days to a week. Ask women who aren't on the pill whether they've ever been late by a few days, possibly with slightly heavier bleeding. Guess why...).

When it comes to using human embryos, we're talking about using eggs and sperm that were going to be disposed of anyway (and most religious people don't seem to have a problem with that, seeing as that is how the Fertilisation Clinics have been treating eggs and sperm for many years now). The fertilised eggs are grown to the blastocyst stage (less than a few hundred cells). From that, researchers can get cells that will be totipotent embryonic stem cells. Heck, some researchers have even developed stem cells from embryos at the morula stage - that's a point where we have 16 cells (yes -only 16!).

To give some perspective, you have to realise that if you were to take a finger, and scrape the nail against the inside of your cheek, you'd be removing thousands upon thousands of cells. And with modern science, any one of those cells contains enough nuclear material to clone a person. So you can't be upset about the "potential for life" - if that was the case, you'd have a hard time getting around the fact that your body has millions of cells dying every hour, each one of which had the "potential for life".

And why stop there? Lets look at just the case of fertilised eggs. If you really are that upset about using them for research, why on earth aren't you protesting about standard IVF techniques? You do realise that standard techniques use super-ovulating drugs to obtain many eggs from the woman. They are fertilised and as many as 10 are implanted into the uterus at one time, just on the chance that one will implant and develop. (With improving techniques, more and more fertilisations successfully implant. That's why we have increasing numbers of twins and other multiple births in people who undergo fertility treatment).

Please - nobody needs fetuses for their research into stem cells. It isn't necessary. A fetus is what you call the human embryo once it has reached 8 weeks of development, and we can get stem cells from embryos a lot earlier than that.

Even so, you should realise that even when we have a fetus, the brain isn't really developed. In fact, the brain doesn't even develop enough to determine pain until about 26 weeks or so into the pregnancy. That's about 5 or so months. Before then, the baby's brain isn't even aware. Admittedly, some controversy exists (it might be down to around 20 weeks or so), but before then, the baby certainly has no awareness to speak of. The brain doesn't "think", the body doesn't properly "sense", and there is no consciousness.

So, the fetus, until about mid-term, isn't really alive in terms of what we consider alive by medical standards (a functioning brain - eg. you may have heard of "brain death" as the deciding factor in whether a person is considered alive or not). So there doesn't appear to be a problem there either.

Okay, so it seems a bit strange...possibly unsettling to us. But once you educate yourself about what is really happening, you can begin to get over the gut reaction and learn to think about the issue logically.

And hopefully, you can see the good that can come from using something that isn't really a human being to help countless humans who are alive and suffering right now.

Re:Takes out the mystery? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049893)

Oops - just checked my first figure about the pregnancy loss from spontaneous abortion, and I was too high. I believe it reaches 90% or so when women are nearing the end of their pregancy potential (post 40).

The accepted figure for loss of a pregnancy (spontaneous abortion from clinically known pregnancies, or where the fertilised egg fails to reach implantation stage, or implants and immediately aborts within a day or so) is at least 1 in 2, including the 15% or so of pregancies that fail before term, but after at least a few weeks.

So, please correct the figure to at least 50%, rather than 90%. The points made should still stand :)

Re:Takes out the mystery? (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050090)

You fail to take into account what is euphemistically known as "therepeutic cloning". This is where scientists clone human embryos specifically to destroy them and harvest their stem cells. This is not generally done, but it has been proposed, and the only thing that keeps it from happening is this type of debate.

I have no problem with using dead embryos for research, any more than I do for using cadavers for research. I don't believe abortion in most cases is ethical, but regardless, I don't believe there is anything wrong with using the aborted embryo for research - nothing stops us from using the bodies of murder victims for research, if they are suitable.

One of the major problems with the abortion debate is that there is no real way to say when an embryo becomes a human. You imply that a 16-cell embryo isn't human. Then what is? When it hits 32 cells? A hundred? A hundred thousand? When appendages become visible? When its heart starts beating? When does a foetus become a human, and what is the logical reason for choosing the cut off? Most people choose a point that is purely arbitrary - one that is easy to recognize, but that doesn't really say anything about the "humanity" of the entity in question.

Until that question is answered satisfactorially, whether abortion is murder or medical procedure can not be adequately answered. People who choose to act without knowing the answer to this question are not considering ethical implications.

Re:Takes out the mystery? (2, Interesting)

wulfhound (614369) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050472)

If 'brain death' is the accepted measure for death, surely 'brain life' should be the accepted measure for life? A blastocyst doesn't even have nerve cells, never mind a brain.

Re:Takes out the mystery? (1)

Suppafly (179830) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049900)

I can't speak for everyone, but I have a problem with using fetuses for stem cell research

Don't most stem cells used for research come from cord blood that would normally be discarded after birth anyway?

Re:Takes out the mystery? (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050097)

A lot of it does, but not all. And more would come from fetuses if there were not currently a stigma on that particular source of stem cells.

Re:Get rid of the stem cell controversy? (1)

akgoatley (787022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049644)

You said:
"The stem cell worriers aren't really worried about stem cells or their source, they're worried about how close we're getting to a comfortable understanding of cellular mechanics...[religion bashing here]"

Not true - "their source" is exactly what I'm worried about. If a method for procuring stem cells could be found that didn't require the deaths of fetuses, I'd be fine with that. If your definition of 'life' doesn't include unborn babies, that's your decision. I myself don't support methods of healing that require the deaths of what I call living humans. I'm not stupid though (I'm guessing all the religious people you've met/heard of are Catholic Americans...I won't go there); I have more of an understanding of biology than the average person (not the average American; as that isn't saying much.)

The parent post is a thinly-veiled anti-religion troll, not insightful.
(Incidentally, despite my barbed comments about average Americans, I'm not French - I'm a Kiwi :D)

Ashton

Re:Get rid of the stem cell controversy? (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049721)

The parent post is a thinly-veiled anti-religion troll, not insightful.

No, my post was a specific response to samzenpus's posting of rubberbando's summary, which offered some conjecture about the breakthrough in question perhaps getting rid of the stem cell controversy. Absent a discussion of the religious posture (of attributing humanity to a couple of dozen cells), there would be no controversy.

If a method for procuring stem cells could be found that didn't require the deaths of fetuses, I'd be fine with that

I'm guessing that you don't consider abortion to be something that, absent research into or the use of stem cells, would never again happen. Research in that area doesn't require abortion, it salvages some potential meaning from that which would happen anyway. It will probably become a moot issue sooner than later anyway, except for those that seek/manufacture controversy in any subtle bio-manipulation (and hence my original comment).

Re:Get rid of the stem cell controversy? (1)

segment (695309) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049646)

This hasn't been projected to those who are nervous nor scared. Those types of people have been spoon fed crapaganda about stem cell by what you labeled "rich people". Its those same rich people often in positions of power that have the right to shoot it down. I'm sure if they took a different stance, they could get those nervous and scared people on board with the program but, you will rarely see that happen as most of the powers that be tend to sway the way of what's popular at the moment. "Oh you will vote for me if I believe in INSERT_DEITY_HERE? Well I'll tell you what that deity just happens to be one of my favorites, and he/she/it just happened to tell me them stem cells are evil. I'm opposed to stem cells. Vote John G. Bloke!"

Re:Get rid of the stem cell controversy? (5, Insightful)

Grym (725290) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049729)

The stem cell worriers aren't really worried about stem cells or their source, they're worried about how close we're getting to a comfortable understanding of cellular mechanics.

Oh please... The debate over Stem cells has nothing to do with scientific understanding of cellular mechanics. If that were the case, Watson and Crick would have been burned at the stake decades ago. No other research involving cellular mechanics has reached this level of public scrutiny. I've never heard anyone debate the ethics of cell-surface recognition proteins or origins of the mitochondria in cells. Let's be honest. The whole stem-cell debate is merely a veiled front for the larger fight over abortion. (I use the word fight because "debate" hardly fits.)

Here's how it happened:

  1. The most interesting and scientifically-valuable stem cells are found in developing embryos.
  2. Studying these cells requires the destruction of the embryo.
  3. This raises the ugly question: if destroying an embryo for research is okay, what makes an abortion any different?
  4. Fight ensues. Everybody all the sudden becomes an expert on cellular biology.

That takes the mystery out of a lot things, and devalues mystical explanations (and those social institutions that rely upon them for clout).

Bullshit. "Social instiutions that rely on mystical explanations"? Do you mean "religions"? Why don't you just say it? ...Religions... See how easy that was?

Regardless, science doesn't debunk the larger, more important claims of religion. It can't. Learning about cellular theory doesn't debunk the existence of God. Learning physics doesn't mean that God couldn't temporarily violate the laws of physics at a whim--you know, being omnipotent and all.

Religion and God are meta-physical concepts, while science is the study of the physical world. The two aren't mutually exclusive ideas. A scientist can just as easily believe in a religion as an atheist in science.

-Grym

Re:Get rid of the stem cell controversy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049747)

Now where the heck did I put that "+1:Obvious"?

Re:Get rid of the stem cell controversy? (2, Interesting)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049809)

Let's be honest. The whole stem-cell debate is merely a veiled front for the larger fight over abortion.

I would contend that the more we know (and can demonstrate) about what's cooking, and when, in the development of a zygote, blastocyst, etc., the more we deflate some of the fuss about the abortion issue in the first place. It's important, I think, to make sure that those who assign humanity to, say, 16 cells (or to a dividing line of them derived therefrom) really have to come out and admit that it's a mystical, rather than medical position to take. It just sheds some purer light on the discussion (or, fight, as you rightly describe it).

Re:Get rid of the stem cell controversy? (2, Funny)

Proney (823793) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050336)

Religion and God are meta-physical concepts, while science is the study of the physical world.
... as long as you aren't in Kansas.

Re:Get rid of the stem cell controversy? (1)

Burning1 (204959) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049748)

"it will be the 'only rich people can afford this treatment, so it's evil' crowd or their various other counterparts." I would argue that only rich people can afford current medicine.

Seriously though, it's all about the first step. Perhaps at first this will only be available to rich people. Like all good technology it will eventually become more common and less expensive.

Re:Get rid of the stem cell controversy? (1)

hunterx11 (778171) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050320)

Anesthesia for women during childbirth was controversial. Organ transplantation was controversial. IVF was far more controversial when it was first developed than it is today. Today's affront against God is tomorrow's bygone advance in science. Reason wins in the long run because it works.

hmm.. interesting... (4, Interesting)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049571)

there are surgeons who specialize (at least partly) in bloodless surgeries, as some folks have religious beliefs that deny them blood donated from others...

wonder how this tech gets interpreted by the religious leaders... permissible or no....

Meat factories (5, Funny)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049590)

Maybe we can grow steak this way too .. in large vats. Get rid of the animal rights issues that way.

Yumm.

Re:Meat factories (0, Offtopic)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049643)

Get rid of the animal rights issues that way.

As long as people like PETA think that owning a pet is evil, that issue won't go away. But at least it's nice to know that nobody at PETA will ever swat an innocent mosquito while it's sucking the blood out of their foreheads.

I don't think that any tissue science development - no matter how good a fake-steak it produces - will change the nature of political debate about domesticated animals. And it probably won't come close to the taste of a plate of fresh, grain-field-fed dove breasts sauteed in garlic butter.

[homer]Mmmmmmm... doves.[/homer]

Re:Meat factories (1)

kjots (64798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049860)

>And it probably won't come close to the taste of a plate of fresh, grain-field-fed dove breasts sauteed in garlic butter.

Well, if it has the same genetic structure as the real thing, and is built using the same biological techniques from the same base material as the real thing, there should be no way to distinguish between it and the real thing. After all, it's just chemistry.

Offtopic? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049698)

WTF. How does my comment that actually references the main article get modded offtopic? Not that I care ..you can mod me -1 troll, asshole, overrated etc. whatever.. but not offtopic thanks.

Re:Offtopic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049831)

Dont worry... I modded you up as I understand your frustrations of asshole moderators who cant understand a fucking joke when it stares them in the face! If only moderators who moderate negatively werent anonymous cowards, and had to deposit a reason as to why they thought a comment was either a troll, redundant, or off topic.. it would get rid of all the stiffs that TROLL for mod points

Re:Meat factories (3, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049786)

Personally I would love it if protein synthesis became plausible in my lifetime. First you'd sell these factories to third world countries where defending a corporate asset is a lot easier than defending farmland. Instantly curing world hunger. Then you'd see 100% synthesised meat alternatives appearing in vegetarian food outlets - there's already some of this, Quorn [quorn.co.uk] being the most famous, but their manufacturing methods are too expensive to have an effect on the mainstream. Then we'll see synthesised meat appearing in shopping centre refrigeration cabinets. When you have the choice between $21.99/kg steak vs $1.99/kg synthesised meat you'll at least give it a go. From there, the future is our playground. We can shut down factory farms. We can reclaim land for foresting. We can build self sufficient space habitates without needing to launch millions of tonnes of topsoil for crops.

Re:Meat factories (1)

Mad_Rain (674268) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049969)

Maybe we can grow steak this way too .. in large vats.

If you're looking for other meat substitutes, I have this product you might be interested in: It's called Soylent Green [imdb.com] . Yeah, the marketing department needs to work on a better name, but hey, it contains everything a growing body needs. ;)

Let's all get busy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049596)

This is the way to progress. Labs such as my own Lab For Fluoresence Dynamics which work on these protein transports and dynamics and growth harmonics need students and funding. Let's all get busy.
My sister died for trying to better the medical world

Hope At Last (0)

lloy0076 (624338) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049650)

I wonder if they can make new brains? Golly, we might be able to make even the stupidest people Menza candidates yet :P

Re:Hope At Last (4, Interesting)

segment (695309) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049707)

lynx -dump "http://tinyurl.com/bsu7d" |sed -n '106p' |sed 's/est/ its/g;s/z/s/'|awk '{print $5,$7,$4}'

Orgies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049652)

It's like a blood vessel orgy.

Even broader implications? (2, Informative)

Potato Battery (872080) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049656)

The summary refers to conditions where vessels have been severely compromised, but I wonder if it can go even further. Vascular deterioration, and its role in overall CV ill-health is both part and parcel of modern America, and also contributes to the severity of other conditions. Having some way of replacing damaged vessels that is easier than current methods could find applications across the board.

The article doesn't give much detail, but I would think that generation of blood vessels that won't be rejected, if it could be refined and the costs driven down, could have a huge effect, especially if combined with new, lower-impact, surgical techniques.

Or, we could just stop eating junk.

Re:Even broader implications? (2, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049694)

The problem is that the vessels (and various CT) are grown ex utero and not on the capillary scale. They are no easier to transplant than donated or synthetic vessels... the only difference is the risk of rejection being close to zero.

Also, not eating junk won't help you if you're on dialysis... you're still getting poked with a needle at least weekly, which is the cause of the degradation.

Re:Even broader implications? (1)

sysiphus474 (926780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049785)

A presumptive "AMEN BROTHER!!"
Sience has given us wonderful things- artificial hearts, donated organ transplants, nerve reattatchment, brain surgery, ad infinitum.
It has also allowed us to move further away from being hunter-gatherers, trading in our clubs for briefcases. This is not inherently bad, but it speaks volumes about the "evolutionary process" we are currently going through. From running after our food to "Super Sizing", and then taking our hydroxycut, protein shake, phen-fen, tae-bo, trimspa.
This procedure seems to be best suited for the type of issues gained (for the most part) from a sedentary lifestyle.
I know there are people with genetically derived degenerative issues, but let's face it, that has to cover a very small percentage of people with vascular deterioration.
If you could regenerate vessels quickly for trauma patients, that would be one thing, but allowing a 70 year old 50-year smoker (like my father) to die of something other than vascular problems is kind of a push in my book.

Who can blow this story waaay out of proportion!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049659)

I want you to overhype this so big, that it'll make the New York Times look like the new york times! Or the new york times look like the New York Times... I forget which one's the good one.

Athletes? (2, Interesting)

quark101 (865412) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049661)

With athletes always looking for a competitive edge, what could this kind of technology do to professional sports? It seems to me, if you can increase the blood flow to your vital muscles (sport dependent), then you would gain an enormous advantage over your opponents.

Will this be the next big sports controversy? And what could be done about it, if it doesn't use drugs, and is grown from the patient itself?

Re:Athletes? (1)

swimin (828756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049751)

Already athletes will sometimes donate their own blood, let it sit for a while, and then have the blood re-injected into them right before an event, to increase the blood flow.

Re:Athletes? (1)

PresidentEnder (849024) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049822)

What parent refers to is most useful when the blood withdrawn to be re-injected is taken at as high an altitude as possible after a minimum of two weeks. This results in a higher red blood cell count, which obviously allows more O2 and other goodies to reach the muscles. There's a medication sometimes given for anemia (or perhaps it was diabetes, I can't remember) which increases red blood cell production almost without bound- the blood thickens until it is almost like honey, which places strain on the heart. Neither of these methods can be detected by standard drug tests. If you just inject more blood from the same elevation, you mostly just get higher blood pressure.

What grandparent refers to would require the ability to grow new cappilaries; the article only mentions arteries and veins. So this can help sick folk, but probably is not of much use to athletes.

Re:Athletes? (1)

CardiganKiller (854899) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050074)

You increase the potential for bloodflow (i.e. growing more veins), you reduce the blood pressure. You reduce the blood pressure, you put more strain on the heart to compensate for the lack of pressure. Of course health risks don't really seem to pose much of an impedance to those who would already be unnaturally modifying their body's ability for performance... so heck, go for it! I guess that'll keep the ER technicians employed and ready to go at the sidelines, warming up their "jump start" kits.

I won't cower from controversy (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049717)

... and rid us of the whole stem cell controversy.

People are looking at alternatives to stem cell research as a way of bowing out of the controversy. It sounds like the easy way out. Myself, I refuse to run from this controversy. I won't be happy until my medical treatment involves the palliative removal and ceremonial use of a live baby's beating heart.

Fsck this strategy of avoiding controversy. Let's meet it head on and start welding pig parts onto the backs of live infants. I want porn stars with four breasts. I want 25' tall rabbits. I want green-glow-in-the-dark monkeys that we kill to harvest their human implanted organs. Bring on the cows with Kangaroo legs and chicken wings (yum!). Where are my goddamn flying monkeys? People, people, let's not shy away from the freak show.

Some cancers do this, too. (5, Informative)

macklin01 (760841) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049754)

This has been done before--by cancer.

Just the other day in my cancer seminar (biomedical engineering department at UC Irvine), we were discussing angiogenesis, which ordinarily occurs when tumors have an imbalance between angiogenic growth factors and inhibitors. (Usually arises when tumors become too large to receive their nutrients soley from diffusion through the tissues.) The resulting gradient in these chemical signals recruits endotheial cells (the cells that ordinarily form the walls of blood vessels) to move chemotactically towards the tumor, align themselves, and form a new blood vessel to supply nutrients to the previously hypoxic tumor.

But in some tumors, the tumor cells themselves align and form blood vessels, with no need for endotheial cells. Much like forming blood vessels from skin cells.

The human body is truly an amazing machine. The fascinating part about cancer is that you get to see many of the mechanisms at play, and what happens when they're out of balance. -- Paul

translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050186)

*sigh* this is why medical people fall out of touch with everyone: They make no attempt to see that half the words they're using are a waste of letters. If the intent is to explain something, then explain it using the simplest language necessary.

Why not just say:
The other day in a cancer seminar I heard about a situation where cancers draw in cells that form blood vessels to produce blood vessels to feed the cancer (which was running out of nutrients).

In other tumors the tumors themselves act as blood vessels.

Isn't that saying essentially the same thing, just not trying to be so wanky? Anyone with a reasonable proficiency in a field can drop terms that will make reading what they say difficult for no reason.

Re:Some cancers do this, too. (3, Informative)

macklin01 (760841) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050360)

For the AC, here are some definitions:

angiogenesis: angio = blood vessels, genesis = creation, so angiogenesis is the creation of new blood vessels. adjective form: angiogenic

angiogenic growth factor: a chemical substance / signal that promotes angiogenesis

angiogenic inhibitor: a chemical substance / signal that inhibits angiogensis

gradient: in this context, a variation with a pronounced direction of increase

chemotaxis: chemo = chemicals, taxis = motion or moving, so chemotaxis is the (active) motion of something in response to chemoicals. usually involves a cell or organism moving from areas of a high chemical concentration to an area of low chemical concentration, or vice versa. adverb form: chemotactically

hypoxic: hypo = too little, oxic = oxygen, so hypoxic means being in a condition of having too little oxygen

Given the generally science-educated readership, I didn't give it earlier, although I perhaps should have. I used the terms because they have specific meanings, and the interesting aspect (one of balance) wouldn't have been as well conveyed without them. I'll grant that I could have done a better job writing my post, but it's only slashdot. ;-)

The thing that's interesting about all these chemical signals is that it's the precise balance of them that leads to the proper formation or blood vessels when called for. When the chemicals are out of balance, strange things happen, like blood vessels growing towards tumors. Another interesting aspect is that the balance of promoters and inhibitors for tumors is different than in the usual formation of blood vessels. This inbalance actually causes the blood vessels to be "leaky" and less rigid. The implications of this are too numerous to go into here, but chemotherapy is one thing that is (adversely) affected.

These balance issues are present in almost all aspects of how the body regulates itself. Cells are replete with redundant signaling pathways (different chains of events that can trigger a cell activity). Sometimes, multiple, contradictory pathways will be active at the same time, and the balance or imbalance will determine the net result. In another example, the balance and distribution of chemicals, hormones, nutrients determines whether a growing tooth becomes a molar or an incisor. (There was a Scientific American article on this a few months ago, in the context of growing tissues and organs from stem cells.) Again, the issue of balance. Fascinating stuff! :) -- Paul

Amazing (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14049848)

Amazing. I've been advocating slashdot as a source of actual information for at least 8 years; I've come close to first post a few times. This time I thought I'd done it, and with what a post, the death notice of my sister, a brilliant young researcher in brain chemistry, one who treated Montel Williams. What a let down to read stupid jokes. Can't we all over this planet raise the level of discourse? My last words to her were that I wouuld not give the benefit of my brain to them. I am a physicist.

Very cool (1)

Army of 1 in 10 (931706) | more than 8 years ago | (#14049892)

How much longer until we're able to grow human organs in the lab? The implications of that are enormous... no more long waiting lists for transplants because doctors will be able to grow the needed organs for those who can survive long enough for the organs to mature. The waiting lists can then be limited to those who need new organs now.

This is a start... (1)

tm2b (42473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050063)

So, how long until we're growing whole organs?

I have a somewhat deficient heart... the doctors tell me that we'll keep an eye on it for now, but I'll probably need some surgery in a couple of decades.

I can't get too upset about this - at the pace that medical technology is progressing. They'll probably be able to grow me a new heart by the time I need one. As long as I can afford it, that is.

Re:This is a start... (0, Troll)

Ksevio (865461) | more than 8 years ago | (#14050149)

Sort of like "the island" where they grow people as insurence and harvest the organs as necessary. You want to go to the island.

Re:This is a start... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14050340)

Just you wait. In about 20 years, Doctors will be more like mechanics. I can see it now:

"Well, this heart you got in here, it's a HCA-250, right? Yeah, I'd give it 20,000 more beats, max, before it quits. However, I DO happen to have this RLQ-9000, fresh from the organ lab, which I can install if you'd like. I can probably have it done by sometime this afternoon. Oh, and you want me to go ahead and do an artery flush while I'm at it, right?"
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