Lizards can grow whole limbs. Flatworms, starfish and sea cucumbers grow whole bodies. Sharks are constantly replacing lost teeth, often growing more than 20,000 teeth throughout their lives. How to transfer these practical superpowers to people? Answer: through advanced innovations of regenerative medicine. While big data and artificial intelligence are changing our practical medicine and inventing new methods of treatment, regenerative medicine is aimed at replacing and rejuvenating our physical body.
Is it possible to renew all the organs of the human body?
Currently, three regenerative technologies are being developed, which together should enable us to fully improve and even replace vital human organs:
- Recovery: stem cells, regenerative engine of the body
- Replacement: organ regeneration and bioprinting
- Rejuvenation: young blood and parabiosis
Let's dive into the prospect of immortality.
Renewal and stem cells: the regenerative engine of the body
Stem cells are undecided cells,which can transform into specialized cells - the heart, neurons, liver, lungs, skin, and so on. They can also divide, producing more stem cells.
A child or young adult has these stemThere are many cells and they act as an integrated recovery system. They are often called to the site of damage or inflammation to repair and restore normal function.
But with age, our stock of stem cellsbegins to decrease in 100 - 10 000 times, depending on the tissue and organs. In addition, stem cells undergo genetic mutations that reduce the quality and effectiveness of your body's renewal and recovery.
Imagine stem cells as a team.repairmen in your newly built mansion. When a mansion is new and repairmen are young, it will not be difficult to repair anything. But with the aging of repairmen and the reduction of their number, your mansion gradually falls into decay and, finally, collapses.
What if we could restore and rejuvenate the stem cell population?
One of the options for recovery and rejuvenationis the extraction and concentration of your own autologous adult stem cells from places such as adipose (or adipose) tissue or bone bridge.
These stem cells, however, are smaller inquantity and they have undergone mutations (depending on your age), if we compare them with the original “source code”. Many scientists and doctors now prefer an alternative source: obtaining stem cells from the placenta or umbilical cord left after birth. These stem cells, available in large quantities and containing intact software of the newborn, can be injected into the joints or intravenously for rejuvenation and revitalization.
Imagine these stem cells as chemicalfactories that produce vital growth factors that can help reduce inflammation, fight autoimmune diseases, increase muscle mass, repair joints, and even revitalize the skin and grow hair.
Over the past ten years the number of publicationsstem cell research has increased 40 times a year, and by 2022 the stem cell market is expected to grow to $ 297 billion.
Growing research and development initiativesThe development of treatment options for chronic diseases and the growing demand for regenerative treatment options are the most significant driving forces of this emerging industry.
Biologists under the direction of Koji Nishida fromOsaka University in Japan discovered a new way of growing and developing the tissues that make up the human eyeball. Scientists can grow the retina, cornea, eye lens, and more, using only a small sample of adult skin.
In a Stanford study, seven out of eighteenstroke survivors who agreed to stem cell therapy showed a significant improvement in motor function. This treatment may work with other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's and ALS.
Doctors from the USC Neurorestoration Center administeredstem cells in the damaged cervical spine of a newly paralyzed 21-year-old man. Three months later, he showed a significant improvement in the sensitivity and movement of both arms.
In 2019, doctors in the UK cureda patient with HIV for the second time in history, thanks to the efficacy of stem cells. After allogeneic hematopoietic treatment with a stem patient of a cancer patient (with HIV) with Hodgkin's lymphoma, the patient began a long-term remission of HIV — 18 months, which continued until the study was published.
Replacement: organ regeneration and 3D printing
In January 2019, in the United States alone, more than 113,000 people were waiting in line for organ transplantation — and every 10 minutes someone adds to that queue.
A huge number of people in need of "spare parts" never falls into waiting lists. And an average of 20 people die every day while waiting for a transplant. Organs are sorely lacking.
Excessive demand for donor organs will onlyintensify as technology — like self-driving cars — makes the world safer. And many organ donors are a sad consequence of car and motorcycle accidents. Safer vehicles mean fewer accidents and donors.
Obviously, replacement and restorative (regenerative) medicine represents a great opportunity here.
CEO United Therapeutics Martin Rotblatt, formerAn aerospace entrepreneur (she was the founder of Sirius Satellite Radio) changed her career in the 1990s after her daughter had a rare lung disease.
Today she works in the organ replacement industry. Initially, Rotblatt focused on lung disease, working to create a replacement for the lung. To achieve this, her United Therapeutics company worked on several technologies in parallel.
3D printing of light
In 2017, United merged with one ofThe world's largest 3D printing companies — 3D Systems — to create a collagen bioprinter and paid another 3Scan for cutting light ones and creating a detailed map of their insides.
Now the bioprinter 3D Systems works by the methodstereolithography The ultraviolet laser illuminates a small collagen pool doped with photosensitive molecules. Wherever the laser stops, the collagen hardens.
Gradually printed object acquires new ones.in layers. Currently, the printer can stack collagen with a resolution of about 20 micrometers, but to ensure the health of the lungs will require a micrometer resolution.
After lung collagen frameworksprinted, the next step will be the introduction of human cells into them - the so-called process of cellulization. The goal here is to use stem cells that grow on the skeleton and differentiate, ultimately providing proper functionality. Everything indicates that this approach will work.
In 2018, an experimental surgeon at HarvardUniversity Harald Ott reported that he pumped billions of human cells (from the umbilical cord and sliced lungs) into the lung of a pig, devoid of its own cells. When Ott's team re-connected the organ to the pig's circulation, he manifested a rudimentary function.
Pig lungs human
Rotblatt's other organ production strategy is called xenotransplantation - the idea of transplanting organs of an animal to people who need to be replaced.
Given the fact that the bodies of an adult pig aresimilar in size and shape to human, United Therapeutics focused on the genetic modification of pigs to allow people to use their organs. “In fact, this is not difficult,” said Rotblatt in 2015. "This is editing one gene after another."
To achieve this goal United Therapeuticsmade a number of investments in companies such as Revivicor and Synthetic Genomics and signed major financing agreements with the University of Maryland, the University of Alabama and the New York Presbyterian / Colombian Medical Center to create new heart, kidney and lung xenotransplantation programs, respectively. Rotblatt hopes to see the first transplant in three to four years.
In preparation for this day UnitedTherapeutics acquired 132 acres of land at Research Triangle Park and built a 140,000-square-meter medical laboratory that will eventually produce up to 1,000 sets of healthy pig lungs - from xenophobia - from genetically modified pigs.
Ex vivo lung perfusion systems
In addition to 3D printing and genetic engineering of the lungs of pigs, Rotblatt has already launched a third short-term approach to improving the supply of lungs to those in need.
Only about 30 percent of potential donorthe lungs meet the criteria for transplantation; of these, only 85% can be used after arriving at the surgical center. As a result, almost 75% of the possible lungs never reach the recipient in need.
What if these lungs could be repaired? This is exactly the approach of Dr. Rotblatt.
In 2016, United Therapeutics invested $ 41.8 million in TransMedics, a Massachusetts company that develops ex vivo perfusion systems for donor lungs, hearts and kidneys.
XVIVO Perfusion System takes the marginal lungsqualities that did not initially meet the criteria for transplantation are perfused and ventilated under normal thermal conditions so that surgeons can overestimate the suitability of the transplant.
Young blood and parabiosis
What is parabiosis? It is believed that regular blood transfusions of younger, physically strong individuals can significantly slow down the aging process. And this is already happening now.
Stanford and Harvard studies have shown that older animals with blood transfusions of young animals show regeneration in many tissues and organs.
The reverse is also true: young animals grow older faster when receiving blood from older animals. To benefit from this virtual source of youth is complicated.
One company, a startup from San Francisco undername Ambrosia, recently began practical tests of parabiosis. Their protocol is simple: healthy participants aged 35 and older receive plasma transfusions from donors under the age of 25, and scientists monitor their blood for the next two years, trying to determine the molecular health and aging indicators.
Ambrosia founder Jesse Karmazinbecame interested in setting up a parabiosis company after seeing impressive data on animals and research conducted on people abroad: in each trial, subjects experienced the reversal of aging symptoms in almost all major organ systems. “The effects seem almost constant,” he says. "It's almost like the restoration of gene expression."
Introduction of umbilical cord stem cellsBlood aging can have tremendous benefits for longevity. After the FDA press release in February 2019, Ambrosia stopped treating customers several months after it began work.
It is clear that the FDA has expressed concerns about the practice of parabiosis, because today there is a noticeable lack of clinical data confirming the effectiveness of the treatment.
At the other end of the reputational spectrum isstartup Elevian, branched off from Harvard University. Elevian approaches longevity with a cautious, scientifically sound strategy. Peter Diamandis became both an advisor and an investor in Elevian.
CEO of the company, doctor of medicalMarc Allen joined the dozen of doctors from Harvard. The scientific founders of Elevian began working in the company after identifying specific circulating factors that may be responsible for the effect of "young blood".
One example: A naturally-occurring molecule known as “growth differentiation factor 11,” or GDF11. After its introduction to elderly mice, many regenerative effects of young blood were reproduced, regenerated the heart, brain, muscles, lungs and kidneys.
In particular, the addition of GDF11 reduces the agehypertrophy of the heart, accelerates the recovery of skeletal muscles, improves exercise tolerance, improves brain function and cerebral blood flow, and improves metabolism.
Elevian develops a range of therapeuticagents that regulate GDF11 and other circulating factors. The goal is to restore the body's natural ability to regenerate, which, according to Elevian, can eliminate a number of underlying causes of age-related diseases and reverse, or even prevent many diseases associated with aging, and prolong healthy life expectancy.
In 1992, futurologist Leland Kaiser coined the term “regenerative medicine”:
"A new branch of medicine will develop, which will try to change the course of chronic diseases and in many cases will restore tired and weakened organ systems."
Since then, the powerful regenerative industryMedicine has grown exponentially and it is expected that this rapid growth will continue. A radical extension of human life is already on the horizon. Very soon we will all get regenerative superpowers that previously belonged only to a handful of animals and comic book superheroes.
What new opportunities would you discover for yourself, having the opportunity to live longer healthy and full lives? Tell us in our chat in Telegram.
Based on Peter Diamandis, SingularityHub