Lizards can grow back whole limbs. Flat worms, sea stars and sea cucumbers grow the whole body. Sharks continually replace lost teeth, often growing more than 20,000 teeth in a lifetime. How to transfer these practical superpowers to people? Answer: through cutting-edge innovations of regenerative medicine. While big data and artificial intelligence change our practice and invent new therapies, regenerative medicine aimed at the replacement and rejuvenation of our physical body.
Is it possible to update all the organs of the human body?
Currently, three regenerative technology, which together should enable us to fully enhance and even replace vital human organs:
- Recovery: stem cells, regenerative engine of the body
- Replacement: regeneration of organs and the same results for bioprinting
- Rejuvenation: young blood and parabiosis
Let us look into the prospect of immortality.
Update and stem cells: regenerative engine of the body
Stem cells are undecided cells that can transform into specialized cells of heart, neurons, liver, lung, skin and so on. They can also share, producing a greater number of stem cells.
The child or young adult these stem cells a lot and they act as built-in system recovery. They are often called to the site of injury or inflammation to repair and restore normal function.
But with age, our supply of stem cells starts to decrease in 100 — 10,000 times, depending on tissue and organs. In addition, stem cells undergo genetic mutations that reduce the quality and effectiveness of the updates and restore your body.
Imagine stem cells as a repair crew in your newly built mansion. When the property is new and the young repairmen to fix anything will be easy. But with aging repairmen and reducing their numbers, the house gradually declines and finally collapses.
What if we could restore and rejuvenate the population of stem cells?
One of the options for restoration and rejuvenation is the extraction and concentration of your own autologous adult stem cells such as adipose (or fat) tissue or bone bridge.
These stem cells, however, smaller in number and they have undergone mutation (depending on your age) when compared with the original “source”. Many scientists and physicians now prefer ansource: the obtaining of stem cells from the placenta or umbilical cord left over after birth. These stem cells available in large quantities and containing undamaged software of the newborn, can be introduced into the joints or intravenously for rejuvenation and revitalization.
Imagine these stem cells are like chemical factories that produce vital growth factors, which can help to reduce inflammation, to fight autoimmune disorders, increase muscle mass, restore joints, and even revive the skin and to grow hair.
Over the last ten years the number of publications of research associated with stem cells, grew by 40 times, and it is expected that by 2022 the market for stem cells will grow to 297 billion dollars.
Growing initiatives for research and development of treatment options of chronic diseases and growing demand for regenerative treatment options — the most important driving forces of this aspiring industry.
Biologists under the leadership of koji Nishida from Osaka University in Japan have discovered a new method of growing and development of the tissues that comprise the eyeball of a man. Scientists can grow a retina, cornea, eye lens and much more, using only a small sample of adult skin.
In the study of Stanford’s seven out of eighteen post-stroke, who agreed to treatment with stem cells showed significant improvement in motor function. This treatment may work with other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS.
Doctors of USC neurorestoration injected stem cells into the damaged cervical spine recently paralyzed 21-year-old man. Three months later, he showed significant improvement in sensitivity and movement in both hands.
In 2019, the doctors in the UK cured a patient with HIV the second time in history, thanks to the efficiency of stem cells. After allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell treatment for cancer patients (with HIV) Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the patient began long-term remission of HIV 18 months, which continued at the time of publication of the study.
Replacement: regeneration of organs and 3D printing
In January of 2019 in the U.S. alone, more than 113 000 people waited for the queue for organ transplants and every 10 minutes someone is added to the queue.
A huge number of people in need of “spare parts”, never enters the waiting lists. And an average of 20 people die each day waiting for a transplant. Bodies are sorely lacking.
Excessive demand for donor organs will only increase as technologies like self-driving cars make the world more secure. And many of the organ donors are an unfortunate consequence of automobile and motorcycle accidents. Safer vehicles mean fewer accidents and donors.
Obviously, replacement and rehabilitation (regenerative) medicine represent a huge opportunity.
United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt, a former entrepreneur in the field of aerospace (she was a founder of Sirius Satellite Radio) changed careers in the 1990s, years after her daughter developed a rare lung disease.
Today she works in the industry of organ replacement. Rotblatt initially focused on lung disease, as a replacement easy. To achieve this goal her company United Therapeutics in parallel worked on several technologies.
3D printing light
In 2017, the United has teamed up with one of the largest companies in the world of 3D printing — 3D Systems — to create collagen bio-printer and paid another company 3Scan for cutting light and creating detailed maps of their innards.
Now bio-printer 3D Systems is working on a method of stereolithography. An ultraviolet laser illuminates a small pool with a collagen-doped photosensitive molecules. Wherever the laser stops, the collagen hardens.
Gradually printed object acquires new layers. Currently the printer can lay down collagen with a resolution of about 20 micrometers, but to the health of the lungs will require a resolution of micrometer scale.
After collagen scaffolds light printed, the next step is the introduction of the human cells, so called process of decellularization. The goal here is to use stem cells that grow on the frame and differenziata, ultimately providing the necessary functionality. Everything indicates that this approach can work.
In 2018, the experimental surgeon, Harvard University Harald Ott reported that pumped billions of human cells (from the umbilical cord and sliced lung) in the lung of the pig, deprived of its own cells. When a team of Ott again hooked on the circulation of pigs, he showed rudimentary function.
The humanized pig lungs
Another strategy Rotblatt for the production of bodies is called xenotransplantation — the idea of transplanting animal organs to people who need to be replaced.
Given the fact that the organs of the adult pigs in size and shape like human, United Therapeutics has focused on genetic modification of pigs to allow people to use their bodies. “Actually, it’s nothing complicated,” said Rotblatt in 2015 Gogo. “This edit of one gene after another.”
To achieve this objective, United Therapeutics made a number of investments in companies such as Revivicor and Synthetic Genomics and signed a major financing agreement with the University of Maryland, the University of Alabama and new York Presbyterian/Columbia medical center to create programs of xenotranplantation new hearts, kidneys and lungs, respectively. Rothblatt hopes to see the first human transplant in three to four years.
In preparation for this day United Therapeutics acquired 132 acres of land in Research Triangle Park and built a medical laboratory area of 140 000 square meters, which eventually will produce annually up to 1000 sets of lungs, pigs xenology from genetically modified pigs.
System of ex vivo lung perfusion
In addition to 3D printing and genetic engineering of pigs lungs, Rothblatt has already started implementation of the third short-term approach to improve the delivery of light to the needy.
Only about 30 percent of potential donor lungs meet the criteria for transplantation; of these, only 85% can be used after arrival at the surgical center. As a result, almost 75% of the possible light has never come from a needy recipient.
What if these lungs could be restored? This is another approach Dr. Rothblatt.
In 2016, United Therapeutics invested $ 41.8 million in TransMedics, a company from Massachusetts that develops systems for ex vivo perfusion of donor lungs, hearts and kidneys.
XVIVO Perfusion System taking the lungs of marginal quality that did not initially fit the criteria for transplantation, performs perfusion and ventilation in their normothermic conditions, so that the surgeons could overestimate the suitability of a transplant.
Young blood and parabiosis
What is parabiosis? It is believed that regular blood transfusions in younger, physically strong individuals can significantly slow down the aging process. And it is happening now.
The study of Stanford and Harvard showed that older animals through transfusion of the blood of young animals demonstrate the regeneration of many tissues and organs.
The opposite is true: young animals when receiving the blood of older animals age faster. To benefit from this virtual fountain of youth quite difficult.
One company, a startup from San Francisco called Ambrosia, recently began field tests of parabiosis. Their Protocol is simple: healthy participants aged 35 years and older receive a transfusion of blood plasma from donors under the age of 25 years, and scientists are monitoring their blood over the next two years trying to identify molecular indicators of health and aging.
The founder of Ambrosia Jesse Karmazin was interested in creating a company to parabiosis once saw impressive information about animals and the research carried out on people abroad: in each trial the subjects experienced treatment of symptoms of aging in almost all the major organ systems. “Effects seem almost permanent,” he says. “It’s almost like a restoration of gene expression”.
The introduction of the own stem cells of umbilical cord blood with age can have huge benefits for longevity. After the press release the FDA in February 2019 Ambrosia stopped treatment clients a few months after starting work.
It is clear that the FDA expressed concern 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 spectrum is the reputation of startup Elevian, branched off from Harvard University. Elevian suited to longevity with careful, scientifically based strategy. Peter Diamandis became an Advisor and investor in Elevian.
CEO, doctor of medical Sciences mark Allen joined the dozen PhDs from Harvard. Scientific founders Elevian started working in the company after the identification of specific circulating factors that may be responsible for the effect of “young blood.”
One example: a naturally occurring molecule, known as “the factor of differentiation growth 11”, or GDF11. After putting elderly mice reproduced many of the regenerative effects of young blood, regenerates the heart, brain, muscle, lungs and kidneys.
In particular, GDF11 Supplement reduces age-related heart hypertrophy, and accelerates the recovery of skeletal muscle, improves exercise tolerance, improves brain function and cerebral blood flow, and improves metabolism.
Elevian developing a number of therapeutic agents that regulate GDF11 and other circulating factors. The aim is to restore the body’s natural ability to regenerate, which, in the opinion Elevian, to remove several key causes of age-related diseases and to reverse or even prevent many diseases associated with aging and extend healthy life expectancy.
Closer to immortality?
In 1992, futurist Leland Kaiser introduced the term “regenerative medicine”:
“It will develop a new field of medicine that will try to change the course of chronic diseases and in many cases will restore a tired and weakened organ systems”.
Since then, powerful industry of regenerative medicine has grown exponentially, and it is expected that this rapid growth will continue. Radical human life extension is on the horizon. Very soon we’ll all get regenerative powers, which previously belonged to only a handful of animals and superheroes from comic books.