Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bortezomib Prunes Inflammatory T Cells: Hope for Inflammatory Diseases that Make the Young Old and Make the Old Want to Die

Inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and many more, can strike at any time. Such diseases can create such suffering and disability that they make young people old very quickly, and can make old people wish they were dead.

A fairly new drug in the proteasome inhibitor class, Bortezomib, is used to treat a cancer of the bone marrow cells, multiple myeloma. But now, scientists have discovered a new use for Bortezomib: killing off active and proliferating T cells that cause so much damage in inflammatory diseases -- while leaving the resting T cells alone.
Those looking for a new treatment for a range of inflammatory diseases like arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and lupus may need to look no further than a drug already available for treating cancer. In a research report published in the July 2010 print issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology (, Japanese scientists use mice to show that bortezomib, currently used to treat cancers that affect white blood cells, induces cell death only in harmful (active and proliferating) T cells, leaving the rest unharmed. If the results prove true in humans, it offers hope that this drugs or others similar to it might be used to treat inflammatory diseases without the side effects of current drugs that affect all T cells equally.

"Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are suffering from autoimmune and inflammatory disease," said Koichi Yanaba, M.D., Ph.D., a scientist from the Department of Dermatology at Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences who was involved in the research. "We believe that this new-type remedy for autoimmune and inflammatory disease could successfully treat them in the near future."

To make this discovery, scientists used two groups of mice—the first treated with bortezomib and the second with saline. Researchers induced contact hypersensitivity reaction with oxazolone, a chemical allergen used for immunological experiments and found that bortezomib significantly inhibited the contact hypersensitivity responses. Results strongly suggest that bortezomib treatment enhanced T cell death by inhibiting NF-kappa B activation, which plays a key role in regulating the immune response to infection. This in turn led to the suppression of inflammatory responses in immune cells by reducing interferon-gamma production. _Eurekalert

Inflammation complicates many diseases of old age, including Alzheimer's, heart disease, lung and other respiratory diseases, digestive system diseases, and so on. Finding better and more specific treatments for blocking excessive inflammation while allowing normal immune function to continue, would extend life for many and reduce morbidity for many more.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Another Way to Add Years to Your Life


Most people spend a third of their lives sleeping. Doing without sleep does not seem to work well, in terms of achieving optimal focus and concentration. The brain seems to need that "down time" for some reason. This may be the reason:
Levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of cells, in rats increased in four key brain regions normally active during wakefulness. Shown here is the energy surge measured in the frontal cortex, a brain region associated with higher-level thinking. Credit: Courtesy, with permission: Dworak et al. The Journal of Neuroscience 2010.

In the initial stages of sleep, energy levels increase dramatically in brain regions found to be active during waking hours, according to new research in the June 30 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. These results suggest that a surge of cellular energy may replenish brain processes needed to function normally while awake.

The authors measured levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of cells, in rats. They found that ATP levels in four key brain regions normally active during wakefulness increased when the rats were in non-REM sleep, but were accompanied by an overall decrease in brain activity. When the animals were awake, ATP levels were steady. When the rats were gently nudged to stay awake three or six hours past their normal sleep times, there was no increase in ATP.
The authors conclude that sleep is necessary for this ATP energy surge, as keeping the rats awake prevented the surge. The energy increase may then power restorative processes absent during wakefulness, because brain cells consume large amounts of energy just performing daily waking functions. _Physorg
Now that scientists have a clue as to where to look for sleep's regenerative effects on the brain, they can begin to devise alternative ways of stimulating that regeneration -- other than to consume 1/3 of every 24 hour day for that purpose.

Alternative schedules of sleep / wake cycles, napping strategies, electromagnetic stimulation, nutritional or exercise strategies, etc -- there is likely to be workable ways by which an individual could achieve brain ATP regeneration AND redeem some of those 8 hours of sleep for productive or leisure activity. More living, in other words, without endangering one's health.

It is a mere glimpse behind the curtain of sleep, but it could prove to be a useful one. Two extra hours of productive wakefulness over 30 years can give you two and a half extra years of intentional living. If you are just as rested and just as healthy, then there are few reasons not to have more awake time.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Printing Out New Organs and Other Adventures in New Biology

It may not be long before severely burned persons will be able to lie back and watch while an entirely new skin is printed onto their body -- saving their lives.

The same printer technology that sits on your desk could soon be a common fixture in rebuilding human tissue, treating burns by laying down layers of a patients' own skin or even rebuilding whole organs.
A team at Wake Forest University has built a "bioprinter" that uses cells instead of ink. It even uses an ordinary, off-the-shelf printhead, connected to test tubes full of different cell types instead of wells full of colored inks.

Led by Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston–Salem, N.C., the team is working on treating burns. Such wounds can be hard to treat, because in severe cases there might not be enough healthy skin on the patient to harvest or culture for a graft.Grafting skin to cover burn wounds is also important for preventing infections, which can be a source of complications. Printing out cells grown in culture would eliminate these problems. Another application is repairing scar tissue.
The breakthrough in using bioprinting for tissue regeneration is the gel used to contain the cells: The mixture must hold the cells in place when they are laid down as well as provide a viable medium where they can be kept alive while they are held in the reservoirs. "It took us seven years," he says. "There's lots of trial and error; this isn't trivial chemistry," he adds.

For building tissue, several printing methods were tried, including three-dimensional CAD and laser printing. But once the group hit on the inkjet method, it turned out to work so well that some of the early work on building tissue was done on modified inkjet printers from a local office supply store.

Other organs have been constructed from cultured cells, but they were built on a scaffolding to give them their three-dimensional shape. Skin doesn't require a matrix because it is relatively flat to begin with.

So far, the system has been tested on mice, which are given wounds similar to burns. Those that were treated with printer-generated cells healed in three weeks, whereas those that were allowed to recover naturally required five weeks. The researchers plan to test the system on bigger animals in the future. The technology is still in the early stages, Atala says. As of yet there is no timetable for human tests or for the publication of the mouse research results.

The Wake Forest group is not just working on skin. Bone tissue and a two-chambered mouse heart have both been successfully printed. The heart was stimulated to beat when the cells were shocked with electricity, and the printed bones have been implanted in mice. _SciAm

Another approach to tissue regeneration is the use of biodegradable polymers as a scaffolding for the growth of replacement cells and tissues.

Here is an idea that is genuinely visionary -- which is exactly the sort of thinking we need to promote if we are ever to get to where we want to go. If we can take our biology to the level that allows us to grow living, breathing, thinking buildings that keep us comfortable and safe, imagine the level of accomplishment that human tissue engineering will have achieved.

A healthy, vibrant, and expansive society requires the best from all of its citizens. We cannot afford to be overly focused upon just one goal. We need to also be developing ideas and processes that may have no immediate use -- but which may indeed be earthshaking and earth saving sometime in the future.

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Regenerative Medicine Roadmap


FightAging presents a look at what it describes as "The Dawn of the Age of Tissue Engineering", and presents a roadmap of regenerative medicine in PDF format. via Brian Wang

Regenerative medicine is one of several different approaches to life extension and improved human longevity.

Cell therapy involves the adding of younger or progenitor cells, the removal of senescent or destructive cells, and the genetic reprogramming of cells in situ. New and reprogrammed cells then grow within the pre-existing matrix.

Tissue engineering involves the growth of tissues or entire organs within artificial scaffolding. This growth may occur outside the body (for later transplant) or inside the body with in situ tissue engineering.

Cell therapy is the easier approach, but may take several decades of development to achieve the regenerative power that tissue engineering promises to provide within one decade.

Hormonal and growth factor regenerative medicine use chemicals to alter the cells from the outside, in a therapeutic sequence. This approach is even easier than cell therapy, but is also more limited.

There are other regenerative therapies which work via the immune system, and via epigenetic systems, and some of these will come into use within the next decade or two.

Other life extension strategies -- such as cryonics, mitochondrial rejuvenation, technological prostheses, and the total redesign of the human body -- will continue to receive varying levels of support. One should also keep an eye on SENS.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Thymosin Beta 4 Helps Regenerate Damaged Brain in Rats

The small protein thymosin beta 4 has multiple functions: it moonlights to repair injured tissues [6], has anti-inflammatory efficacy in monocyte/macrophages [7], promotes wound healing [8] and mediates angiogenesis [9]. Tβ4 has been also shown to play a relevant role during the development of different neural cell types in the rat brain [10]. In particular, Tβ4 plays a neurotrophic and antiapoptotic role during the development of the nervous system [11]. __PLoSONE

New research to be reported June 3 at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine in Phoenix, showed that in adult rats, thymosin beta-4 assisted in the repair of nerve fibres in the brain and in growing new blood vessels.
A synthetic version of a naturally occurring peptide promoted the creation of new blood vessels and repaired damaged nerve cells in lab animals, according to researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

"This successful experiment holds promise for treating clot-induced strokes in humans," says study lead author Daniel C. Morris, M.D., senior staff physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital. "Neurorestorative therapy is the next frontier in the treatment of stroke." _SD

This is a potentially important finding for regenerative medicine, given how common cerebral vascular accident is in humans, and how dismal the prognosis typically is afterward.

Thymosin beta-4 is an immune modulating protein, which demonstrates once again how important the brain and the immune system are to one another. Given that Thymosin beta-4 is not a growth factor, as such, it will be important to generate a picture of the entire mechanism involved, for a complete understanding of potential therapies for brain damage, using this protein.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Neural Stimulators Control Inflammatory Processes

Scientists have known about the connection between the mind-brain and the immune system for many decades. From the "laughter cure" devised by Norman Cousins to mitigate a severe inflammatory disease to the decades old scientific discipline of psychoneuroimmunology, the importance of the connection between the brain and the immune system has been known. A malfunctioning immune system leads to both suffering and an early death, so discovering better ways to dampen an out of control immune response is vital to achieving long and healthy lives.

But finding the best way of controlling immune function by way of the brain has not always been easy. One of the latest attempts at such control comes from a business startup in Boston called Setpoint Medical.
The technology is based on a decade of research elucidating how the brain controls the immune system, particularly inflammation. The treatment has not yet been tested in patients, but based on animal research, scientists hope it will provide an alternative treatment that is more effective and have fewer side effects than existing drugs.

...Over the last decade, Kevin Tracey, an immunologist and neurosurgeon at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY, has shown that inflammation is controlled in part by the vagus nerve, which carries signals between the brain and a number of visceral organs. Most notably for immune function, it makes direct connections to the spleen, which houses different types of immune cells poised for release at times of infection.

Numerous animal studies have shown that stimulating the vagus nerve can put a brake on the immune system, stopping the rapid recruitment of immune cells to the site of injury or infection. "Think of it as a thermostat for the immune system," says James Broderick, interim president of the company and a partner at Morgenthaler Ventures, Setpoint's key investor. "This reflex puts a damper on the immune system."

The effect is similar to that of a popular class of drugs, called TNF alpha blockers, used to treat arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. These drugs block the release of an immune signaling molecule that is central to inducing inflammation. While they work effectively in 50 to 70 percent of patients, the drugs can lose their effectiveness over time and have been linked to some serious side effects, such as infection and cancer. Vagus nerve stimulation blocks both the signal molecule and other cytokines involved in inflammation. _TechnologyReview
This novel approach to treating autoimmune diseases and hyper-immune responses may be used instead of drug treatment, or along with drug treatment to allow lower doses of drugs.


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