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Scientists have used stem cells to grow a rudimentary eye in the laboratory in a landmark study that raises the prospect of creating tissues to treat blindness and tease apart how diseases can destroy eyesight.
The Japanese team is the first to make significant progress in turning embryonic stem cells into an organ as complex as the eye.
Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists describe how they used embryonic stem cells from mice to grow an “optic cup”, a structure that forms the retina and contains the light-sensitive cells and neurons needed to see properly.
The work gives researchers hope for growing parts of the human eye to investigate the progression of devastating diseases that lead to blindness, and to screen for drugs that might slow or even reverse the conditions.
It also raises the more distant prospect of creating banks of healthy retina cells to transplant into patients whose vision has been damaged by illness or accidents.
Tag Archives | Cell Biology
Forget about extra terrestrials. Out in the oceans, there likely are unknown life forms on Earth that fall outside of the classification system we’ve developed for identifying and grouping all living things. We may be coming into contact with them someday soon — it’s a fascinating and slightly frightening thought. Via the Economist:
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LIFE, like Caesar’s Gaul, is divided into three parts. The Linnaean system of classification, with its prescriptive hierarchy of species, genus, family, order, class, phylum and kingdom, ultimately lumps everything alive into one of three giant groups known as domains.
The most familiar domain, though arguably not the most important to the Earth’s overall biosphere, is the eukaryotes. These are the animals, the plants, the fungi and also a host of single-celled creatures, all of which have complex cell nuclei divided into linear chromosomes. Then there are the bacteria—familiar as agents of disease, but actually ecologically crucial.
Heralding a new era in biology, scientists for the first time have created a synthetic cell, completely controlled by man-made genetic instructions, which can survive and reproduce itself, researchers at the private J. Craig Venter Institute announced Thursday. "We call it the first synthetic cell," said genomics pioneer Craig Venter, who oversaw the project. "These are very much real cells."...
If President Bush’s outdated theology hadn’t prevented government research with embryonic stem cells, I wonder how much further along we’d be. Pretty incredible story. Rebecca Smith writes in the Telegraph:
A ten-year-old British boy has become the first child in the world to undergo a revolutionary windpipe transplant, it has been announced.
The landmark operation involved injecting the scaffold of a windpipe, taken from a dead donor, with stem cells from the boy before implanting it in his throat.
The stem cells were removed from the boy’s bone marrow and were ready for use just four hours later.
The cells trigger regrowth to create a normal windpipe without any of the risks of normal transplantation such as the organ being rejected by the body.
The operation took place at Great Ormond Street Hospital, in London, on Monday and the boy is breathing by himself and able to speak normally.
Read More in the Telegraph
Bryan Nelson of the Mother Nature Network writes via Yahoo Green:
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The turritopsis nutricula species of jellyfish may be the only animal in the world to have truly discovered the fountain of youth.
Since it is capable of cycling from a mature adult stage to an immature polyp stage and back again, there may be no natural limit to its life span. Scientists say the hydrozoan jellyfish is the only known animal that can repeatedly turn back the hands of time and revert to its polyp state (its first stage of life).
The key lies in a process called transdifferentiation, where one type of cell is transformed into another type of cell. Some animals can undergo limited transdifferentiation and regenerate organs, such as salamanders, which can regrow limbs. Turritopsi nutricula, on the other hand, can regenerate its entire body over and over again. Researchers are studying the jellyfish to discover how it is able to reverse its aging process.
From the Financial Times:
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One of the biggest puzzles in biology – how and why living cells age – has been solved by an international team based at Newcastle University, in north-east England.
The answer is complex, and will not produce an elixir of eternal life in the foreseeable future.
But the scientists expect better drugs for age-related illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, to emerge from their discovery of the biochemical pathway involved in ageing.
The Newcastle team, working with the University of Ulm in Germany, used a comprehensive “systems biology” approach, involving computer modelling and experiments with cell cultures and genetically modified mice, to investigate why cells become senescent. In this aged state, cells stop dividing and the tissues they make up show physical signs of deterioration, from wrinkling skin to a failing heart.
The research, published by the journal Molecular Systems Biology, shows that when an ageing cell detects serious damage to its DNA – caused by the wear and tear of life – it sends out specific internal signals.
Caltech scientists have already engineered stem cells into B cells that produce HIV-fighting antibodies – and an NIH researcher engineered T cells that recognize tumors which has already had promising clinical trials again skin cancer. Now a microbiology professor now asks: could we just genetically engineer all the antibodies we need?
Describing “Immunity on demand, he writes “…there’s a good chance this system, or something like it, will actually be in place within decades!”
“Our best hope may be to cut out the middleman. Rather than merely hoping that the vaccine will indirectly lead to the antibody an individual needs, imagine if we could genetically engineer these antibodies and make them available as needed?”
From Cordis News:
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Researchers have discovered how old and damaged mother cells are able to produce healthy new daughter cells, a process which has been a mystery to scientists until now. The ground-breaking research was partly funded by the EU and is published in the journal Cell.
The team’s results revealed how yeast cells use a conveyor belt mechanism to offload damaged proteins into the mother cells before dividing into new cells, a process known as mitosis.
‘This ensures that the daughter cell is born without age-related damage,’ said lead researcher Professor Thomas Nyström from the department of cell and molecular biology at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. Professor Nyström’s research team has published many previous studies of cell ageing, but the new research is the key piece of the jigsaw puzzle.
The research was carried out as part of two EU-funded projects, MIMAGE (‘Role of mitochondria in conserved mechanisms of ageing’) funded with EUR 7.4 million, and PROTEOMAGE (‘Functional analysis of evolutionarily conserved mechanisms of ageing on advanced proteome analysis’), funded with EUR 10.7 million under the ‘Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health’ Thematic area of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).