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MorskInforms Version 2.0

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So....not naming any names, but I caught some flack for my first blog cause it wasn't "sciencey" enough....FINE...stand're gonna get scienced. ( that even a word??)

WHO CARES!!!! It is time for......
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So...some of you know my background, many probably don't. But to put it quickly...I have a B.S. in Neuroscience, and am currently a student in a Neuroscience PhD program. So, the comment about my blog not being "Sciencey" enough has merit, as most of my life

Now, down to the science. So today Morsk is gonna inform you about Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells. (what the hell did he just say?)

An induced pluripotent cell, is a cell from a person's body that has been forced back into a state in which it can be changed into many different types of cells. An easy way to think about this, would be to think about a USB drive that you have used for years (skin cell) and you want to use it for something else, so you reformat it (reversion to pluripotency). You decide, instead of being a USB full of cat pictures (cat pictures? why not Zoidberg?), you want it to be a usb drive about chocolate cakes (what now!!!). So you start finding information about chocolate cakes and putting it on your flash drive (pathway limiting) and then instead of a USB of cat pictures, you now have a USB full of stuff about chocolate cakes.

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In the image above, the adult fibroblast is your USB drive. You have them all over your body, and they are basically filled with information that tells them to be a skin cell (your cat pictures). By using a couple sciencey steps (reformatting) you can get it to change back into what is called an Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell. Some of you might remember all the hubabaloo a while back about embryonic stem cells and how people were all upset about using pieces of babies for research. Well, this goes right around that problem. These are ADULT cells, that have been turned back into an embryonic stem cell state. These stem cells (iPS cells) can then be turned into a BUNCH of different things depending on the information you give them (info about cakes).

You might be thinking, "Okay, cool Morsk, but whats so good about these cells?" Well, a couple things... First, think about all the people that need skin grafts, or replacement valves (or even a pig valve) for heart repair...most of these pieces come from donors, or from animals (pigs are pretty close to humans in some ways). A lot of the problem with this comes with people's bodies rejecting the donation. Each person has a different set of antibodies, and react different ways to foreign insult. Many times, for a recipient to accept an organ (or piece of an organ) they require a number of immunosuppressants to prevent their body from rejecting the donated piece. iPS cells allow scientists to create cells directly from a person's body, so there is no possibility of rejection. Your body will recognize the addition as your own, and prevents the need for immunosupressants.
Another really cool thing about iPS cells is the chance to understand how diseases impact different cell types in your body. For example, say you are a patient that suffers from Parkinson's Disease. By using iPS cells, scientists can take your own skin cells, turn them back into an iPS cell and then create a neuron from it and see how the disease impacts that neuron compared to a healthy individuals. This allows scientists to have a deeper understanding of diseases and how they impact the cells in your body.

"So Morsk...this isnt just limited to neurons right? You can make other things?" Yep! Look at that chart above. You can make heart cells, fat cells, neurons, pancreatic cells (important in diabetes)...the list goes on. You know about an example that I think is awesome... Say you make some heart cells....we all know that the most important thing for our heart to do is...BEAT so it can pump blood. Would you believe, that if you make some cardiac myocytes (base heart muscle cell) from iPS cells....and you put them into conditions similar to your heart (the correct temperature, ionic concentrations in solution similar to blood) they beat by a dish. Dont believe me? Check this out....

Crazy right?? But lets not get ahead of ourselves. This is still VERY young technology in the eyes of science. The two "fathers" of this technique, John Grudon & Shinya Yamanaka , received the Nobel Prize for it in 2012, and Yamanaka's hallmark discovery was only published in 2006. So there is still A LOT to understand about what can be done with these cells...but TONS of research is being devoted to understanding how these cells can be used for humans. Actually, one of the biggest problems with these cells has been the fact that despite everyone's best efforts, only a small portion of the cells that are induced (usually lower than 1%) actually revert to a pluripotent state and can then be pushed down a specific pathway. BUT....there was a great study that came out right before the end of the year (October actually) that showed that with a couple tweaks to the normal could get 90% or more of the cells to reprogram. It will be interesting to see what doors this HUGE discovery will open for science.

Sooo..>BOOM< you've been SCIENCED (I really didn't say that again did I?).... questions definitely welcome!!!


The Subtacular Shaman

P.S. By the way...that little picture that is my avatar...that is a neuron that I cultured, not from an iPS cell cause I am not that good yet. But its from a rat huh?
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  1. Khrash's Avatar
    That was fascinating man! Perhaps in 20 years we will see labs growing entire body parts for replacement! Arm? Check. Left testicle? Check. Liver? Check. Ear drum? Check.

    If this tech actually gets to the above I can see mankind living a couple of hundred years on a average assuming you dont die traumatically
  2. Morsk's Avatar
    It definitely is a hope that at some point science could get there, but there are a whole slew of other problems that come with making complex body parts like an arm, liver or heart (which are somewhat of a simple tissue) might be a little easier but you still would run into the same issue of connectivity. Though the body possesses a MASSIVE ability to reconnect either to the same, or different, pathways to get recovery of use (think rewiring a radio to make it work again, but not doing it how the manufacturer originally did) there are big limitations with that. Each subtype of nerve connection follows a different set of cues...if you were to synthesize all the components of a new arm, you would still have to encode in that arm a vast network of nerves, blood vessels etc before it would work, and then get those circuits to wire to whatever you have existing in your body already.

    If there were a way to Fifth Element it (Leeloo's reconstruction) where you have the original tissue available and can build off of that with pre-made could be possible, the applications could be pretty endless too...but would put prosthetics companies out of business (at least when the price becomes reasonable....why have rubber when you can have a new arm back made from your same tissues!).

    I like to think that the small steps to something like this are reachable within the next 5-10 years...I would love to see a piece of iPS derived heart tissue (such as a simple valve) that could be incorporated as a treatment, especially as the technology to make these cells gets better and better and the derivation process (its not an overnight thing sadly) becomes faster.
  3. Shaylana's Avatar
    "By using a couple sciencey steps" - i.e. (*JAZZ HANDS*) MAGIC!

    Pretty cool stuff! Cilia - I'd love to find how to regrow cilia. I was greatly disturbed that I couldn't hear anything about 13kHz. The cells beating is creepy awesome. Beats apligraf any day.


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