SENS4 Notes at Ouroboros, Part 2

You'll find a few more posts on SENS4 conference sessions at the group science of aging blog Ouroboros, to go along with the other coverage from previous days:

Links to the latest Ouroboros posts follow, starting with a clever use of modern abilities in nanotechnology: if you can somehow tag cells (such as age-damaged immune cells) with a magnetic nanoparticle, then you can use a magnetic field to selectively remove them from a fluid environment:

SENS4, Session 15: Rejuvenating the immune system

Justin Rebo spoke about some initial experiments that show it’s feasible to selectively remove anergic T cells from old mice. The basic idea: remove some blood from a mouse; mix it with some selective superparamagnetic antibodies; clean the blood by applying a magnet to separate out tagged cells; put it back into the animal.

SENS4, Session 16: Delivering genes, proteins and larger structures in vivo

Carlos Barbas talked about altering the activity of individual genes using zinc finger recombinases. They have developed an automated approach for producing enzymes that can accurately target any region of DNA, and made it publicly available.

SENS4, Session 18: Recent advances in cell therapies

Daniel Kraft spoke about stem cell transplantation in bone marrow. They developed an alternative method of 'making room' in bone marrow for new stem cells that uses antibodies (which is much less toxic than chemotherapy, the usual approach). Also, they developed MarrowMiner, a faster and less painful way to extract bone marrow from a donor using only a single entry site - previous methods require making hundreds of individual needle jabs.

SENS4, Session 21: Tissue engineering

Sally Dickinson spoke about the first transplant of a tissue-engineered airway, which took place in June 2008. She played a cool video explaining the whole procedure, which is up on youtube. Using a donor trachea, they first treated it to remove all the donor's cells; they then took some stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow, turned them into chondrocytes, grew them up and seeded them onto the scaffold; finally, they transplanted the engineered trachea into the patient.

One of the things that stands out from the conference presentations is that the infrastructural technologies and techniques - upon which the next generation of therapies will be built - are improving in leaps and bounds. What's coming out of the labs is moving very rapidly indeed, far more rapidly than clinical development, as clinical development operates under the crushing weight of regulation. This means that there is a tremendous and growing opportunity for the development of advanced therapies and centers of medical tourism in less regulated parts of the world - and if we want to benefit from the biotechnology revolution, that is exactly what must happen.


The thing you mentioned about nanoparticles being used to tag immune system cells for removal got me thinking of another possible application. As I'm sure you know, it's de Grey's assertion the 1% of "mutant mitochondria cells" (cells taken over by mutated mitochondria that no longer produce ATP do to DNA corruption) in an older person's tissue are responsible for "poisoning" their surrounding cells with their surplus of electrons that leak out of their membranes. If the mutant mitochondrial cells could be identified, tagged, and then removed, the remaining cells would be saved from their reactive and damaging electrons. I can't imagine removing 1 percent of cells would be too damaging to an organism. I know de Grey's plan to deal with this issue is move the Mt DNA into the cell's nucleus where it could code for proteins safely, but it that proves too technically challenging, perhaps tagging and destroying the tiny percentage of malfunctioning cells in tissue could be another way to go. Of course, this is all based upon the assumption that de Grey's revised Mt free radical theory of aging is correct.

Posted by: M. at September 14th, 2009 12:06 AM
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