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British Scientists Grow Heart Valve Tissue from Stem Cells
April 3, 2007 8:09 AM   Subscribe

A British research team led by the world's leading heart surgeon has grown part of a human heart from stem cells for the first time.
posted by jason's_planet (46 comments total)

 
1) lolxians
2) Now that practical immortality has been realized, I'm going to go play in traffic.
posted by DU at 8:14 AM on April 3, 2007


Would this treatment be difficult to develop in the US because of laws about stem cells? I know restrictions get talked about often, but don't know what the actualy law or its implications are.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:17 AM on April 3, 2007


Does this mean that I could now grow and eat human flesh? What are the legal ramifications of doing so? And what would be the best bbq sauce for such an event?
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:33 AM on April 3, 2007


DU, we won't have immortality until we cure cancer. You can cure, prevent or at worst transplant everything else, but even if it takes until age 150, brain cancer will ultimately kill everyone.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:34 AM on April 3, 2007


Would this treatment be difficult to develop in the US because of laws about stem cells?

The stem cells used for developing this replacemtn heart valve are extracted from the patient's own bone marrow, not from fetal tissue.

Restrictions on "pluripotent" embryonic (fetal) stem cells are related to federal research dollars handed out by the NIH, and do not restrict private research.

Indeed, state's rights armchair lawyers will enjoy that California and New Jersey, two high-tech states, have passed laws which not only allow embryonic stem cell research, but fund it, too.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:35 AM on April 3, 2007


what would be the best bbq sauce for such an event?

Your own, obviously.
posted by trondant at 8:35 AM on April 3, 2007


Fantastic news! I'm thrilled!
posted by agregoli at 8:36 AM on April 3, 2007


Why is brain cancer different than any other cancer? If you catch the tumor early, just cut it out and grow some more neurons from stem cells. Or won't they join up with the old ones?
posted by DU at 8:37 AM on April 3, 2007


2) Now that practical immortality has been realized, I'm going to go play in traffic.

Make sure you don't get hit in the head by the bus. You might not like the new personality they grow for you in the lab. Take it in the chest.
posted by spicynuts at 8:38 AM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Sorry, where is the peer-reviewed journal that this work has been published in? Is it published? Or is it just a press release?
posted by kisch mokusch at 8:40 AM on April 3, 2007


You can cure, prevent or at worst transplant everything else, but even if it takes until age 150, brain cancer will ultimately kill everyone.

Actually, we're pretty shit at transplanting too.
posted by kisch mokusch at 8:42 AM on April 3, 2007


Brain cancer is different from other cancers because the brain is different than other tissues. Rearrange the neurons a bit, and you're not the same any more (see nearly any post-head trauma case, for example). The individual connections between individual nerve cells are incredibly complex, so it isn't as simple as just removing the bad parts. What if the cancerous portion is forming part of your visual cortex? Or your memory centers? Or those related to your personality traits? Replacement neurons have been tried in some animal models of Parkinson's, etc., but these are relatively simple trials. Until we know what individual neurons are doing, we can't replace them - and unless we had an exact map of what every affected neuron in your brain was up to, and the ability to do a one-for-one perfect replacement, including the ability to direct the growth of new nerve cell projections to connect to the correct cells elsewhere in the brain and body AND send the correct signals once they get there, we could not repair the damage and expect you to be anything like you were before.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:46 AM on April 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Well clearly if my whole brain is removed I'll be a different person (though technically still alive). But if it took 150 years for the first cancer to develop and they get it all, I think I have a long life ahead of me with my slowly shrinking memories.
posted by DU at 8:48 AM on April 3, 2007


DU, I think Phineas Gage and slews of labotomy patients would disagree with your premise that you are the same person when only part of your brain is missing.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:57 AM on April 3, 2007


Well clearly if my whole brain is removed I'll be a different person (though technically still alive). But if it took 150 years for the first cancer to develop and they get it all, I think I have a long life ahead of me with my slowly shrinking memories.
posted by DU at 11:48 AM on April 3


I have often thought that a wonderful short story or novel idea would be one where cancer and everything else is in fact cured, with the exception that some Alzheimer's variant cannot be treated (it's just a story, play along).

So people can live for centuries, 500 years for example. Except every 120 years or so, everyone gets this new Alzheimer's. The disease erases their memories and personalities, but allows them to continue living, breathing, etc. The disease, we discover, is such that after the consciousness is completely erased, the disease goes into remission (until it reemerges another 120 years later).

During the remission, everyone starts over, building who they are anew. The story would explore how some families reorganize themselves to not lose each other, so that newly wiped members are raised by their children so that they can relearn the same people and reform the same emotional attachments. Other people would get to do things over (someone abused as a child would now be the star personality that they never could be).

Just a dopey story idea. Too bad I can't write.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:58 AM on April 3, 2007 [7 favorites]


I meant to add up there that there would be tension because parents would now be children of their offspring. Their offspring would of course remember all the things, bad as well as good, that their parents did to them as kids, but the parent wouldn't remember it any longer. So these is a tension there that the pain exists only in the mind of the offspring, but not as part of the relationship, because the parent doesn't remember it and has no idea it ever happened (and in fact they have no idea they had offspring or who they are).
posted by Pastabagel at 9:02 AM on April 3, 2007


Phineas Gage and those lobotomy patients could be forgiven for making a logical error, due to their missing brains.
posted by DU at 9:04 AM on April 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've just read a SF book, Glasshouse, with a vaguely similar central conception, though with people voluntarily having their memories wiped every lifetime or so just to have a fresh start.
posted by biffa at 9:04 AM on April 3, 2007


Pastabagel, a similar idea is in Stross's Glasshouse. Functionally immorbid people periodically have themselves re-engineered into new personas with strategic memory losses.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:13 AM on April 3, 2007


Sorry, where is the peer-reviewed journal that this work has been published in? Is it published? Or is it just a press release?

It's probably on the way; here, perhaps?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:28 AM on April 3, 2007


Curse you, other writers!

Based on the amazon link to that book, it's a little more thriller-esque than I imagined. But at least he actually wrote his down. I suppose that counts for something.

stupid twenty-year writer's block
posted by Pastabagel at 10:06 AM on April 3, 2007


...the world's leading heart surgeon...

No hyperbole in that article, no siree...
posted by TedW at 10:08 AM on April 3, 2007


Say that this did work and was available to us great unwashed right now. Would insurance cover such a procedure? How much would it cost to have this done to you?
posted by NoMich at 10:44 AM on April 3, 2007


Pastabagel: Just to rub it in, even though I haven't read Glasshouse yet, Stross is a great writer. Both Accelerando and The Atrocity Archives are highly recommended.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:52 AM on April 3, 2007


Who elected Magdi Yacoub the world's leading heart surgeon? I've got about a eight other strong candidates for that title operating just an annuloplasty ring's throw from where I sit. This item is hype.
posted by Faze at 11:18 AM on April 3, 2007


Is there an international ranking of heart surgeons, perhaps a US News & World Report list?
posted by Mmmmmm at 11:18 AM on April 3, 2007


Who elected Magdi Yacoub the world's leading heart surgeon?

Good point. I should have put ellipses there.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:32 AM on April 3, 2007


Mmmmmm: You could devise such a list. You'd just have to create values for volume, case complexity, innovation, publication, acuity, mortality, reputation, etc., factor them all together and come up with a number. Than you'd just rank them in order.
posted by Faze at 11:41 AM on April 3, 2007


It must be true.
posted by Mister_A at 11:42 AM on April 3, 2007


Mmmmmmmm (sorry if I spelled that wrong):

DeBakey handed the baton to Yacoub after his astounding one-handed drunken off-pump triple bypass, performed on a fat dude (who was still awake) in 1996.
posted by Mister_A at 11:44 AM on April 3, 2007


NIH Director Breaks From Bush, Calls For Repeal Of Stem Cell Ban

Public Strongly At Odds With Bush’s Position on Stem Cells
posted by homunculus at 12:03 PM on April 3, 2007


So people can live for centuries, 500 years for example. Except every 120 years or so, everyone gets this new Alzheimer's. The disease erases their memories and personalities, but allows them to continue living, breathing, etc. The disease, we discover, is such that after the consciousness is completely erased, the disease goes into remission (until it reemerges another 120 years later).

I had that same idea, except rather then 120 years, brain cells would slowly be replaced over three hundred years or so (which I read somewhere was how long your brain would last normally). So people could only store the last 300 years of memory.

Then I took one of those brains and put it (sans body) on a fucking spaceship. Now there is some sci-fi.
posted by delmoi at 12:27 PM on April 3, 2007


As I understood it, the original reason the conservative right was against this kind of thing was because it's too much like playing God. However, economic conservatives should be all for playing God, provided they can afford it. The upshot of this from an amoral view of economics, is that the real reason we shouldn't rush into organ cultivation is because it creates a marketplace. Having access to resources that would allow you to grow your organs in case the need arises to replace them would at least for the first few generations be so cost prohibitive as to be available only to the salty rich.

Hell. That's probably going on already.

After a few generations when people found ways to make organ cultivation cheaper, 'the great unwashed' would have access to similar treatments that would promise similar results, but for at least the first hundred years or so, we're talking the highest bidder. This means the medical industry would radically change, and not for the better... unless you wipe your ass with dollar bills. For rich people it'd be the fountain of youth. Some poor people would perhaps become cattle for the desperate upper middle class wanting cheap black market medical equivalents to the elitist aristocracy.

Hell. That's probably going on already.

Yes I concur that brain transplantation will need a lot more research - but rather than replace tissue, I'm thinking in two or three hundred years we'll figure out how to transfer whatever it is that makes you you into a digital format and just put it in a new pseudo-organic brain. Again, this would only be available for the ultra rich, which cheap knockoffs for desperate types keeping up with the Joneses. When you undertake this brain transfer, you won't be you, but you won't notice. You'll be dead, and this new you will think he's you. What is a soul? We may never figure that one out. By then of course, religion will have either dramatically changed to accomodate the new sciences, or it will have been altogether abandoned: we will become our own gods.

Hell. That's probably going on already.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:28 PM on April 3, 2007


After a few generations when people found ways to make organ cultivation cheaper, 'the great unwashed' would have access to similar treatments that would promise similar results, but for at least the first hundred years or so, we're talking the highest bidder.

yeah, just like for the first 100 years, powerful personal computers were available only to the rich.
posted by Faze at 12:48 PM on April 3, 2007


BBC: First British Scientist to Have a Heart.

In a breathless News Release, Sir Alan Fauntelsby of the Royal Free Hospital announced that using injections of stem cells harvested from an Irishman, he had grown within him 10% of a human heart. Emoting freely in an undignified manner, Fauntelsby claimed that by 2009 he would have grown a fully functional cardiovascular system. He then proceeded to burst into an unrequited song that, shockingly, was not a football chant or national anthem.

Sir Smythington Jones, of the competing Great Ormond Street hospital claimed that the Fauntelsby technique was positively dangerous. ""Fauntelsby's playing God", Jones stated, with a slight sneer quivering on his upper lip, "by 2009, he'll develop an upper body structure somewhat equivalent to a Frenchman, although true Italianness, or heaven forbid, Brazillitude would not be achieved until immunosuppressants and large amounts of tartufo and/or feijão were eaten". Jones continued, "Lord only knows what this will do to his research productivity or Courderoy wearing abilities. Think of the oral exams he'll have to conduct with, oh, what's that blasted word, empathy for his students"

LOSULC (the league of stiff upper-lipped chappies) issued a news release decrying the technique, and asked Englishmen to boycott the Royal Free Hospital. Suggestions were made in the news release as how to combat the illusory attractiveness of this procedure: remain calm, and think of the football, a nice cup of tea or a pleasent and unexciting jam sandwich. In extreme cases, visualising kicking a foreigner in the face or remembering that Women Should Know Their Place would suffice.
posted by lalochezia at 12:57 PM on April 3, 2007


yeah, just like for the first 100 years, powerful personal computers were available only to the rich.

It's an imperfect analogy there, though.

I'd be plenty willing to buy an experimental computer that's fast, cheap but possibly unreliable. But damned if I'd be willing to accept experimental brain surgery on the same terms. And two kids doing cutting-edge brain surgery in their garage in California would be arrested no matter how smart they were.

'Course, predicting the future is all imperfect analogies anyway. I've got a prophecy for you: in the future, lots of things will be different in unexpected ways. Oh well.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:57 PM on April 3, 2007


Pastabagel, you may enjoy The Boat of a Million Years, by Poul Anderson; it is about the troubles inherent in living a fantastically long life.
posted by Mister_A at 1:06 PM on April 3, 2007


Pastabagel: Nice short story idea. But do check out Gullver's Travels. Swift does a good job with something similar.
posted by honest knave at 1:42 PM on April 3, 2007


Growing a suitably-sized piece of tissue from a patient's own stem cells would take around a month but he said that most people would not need such individualised treatment. A store of ready-grown tissue made from a wide variety of stem cells could provide good matches for the majority of the population.

this is wonderful. more like this, please : >
posted by amberglow at 4:05 PM on April 3, 2007


It's an imperfect analogy there, though.

Can you name a perfect analogy?
posted by delmoi at 4:34 PM on April 3, 2007


Define perfect.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:15 PM on April 3, 2007


this is wonderful. more like this, please : >

Thank you! I'll keep my eyes peeled.

Fantastic news! I'm thrilled!

Thanks!
posted by jason's_planet at 8:11 PM on April 3, 2007


Mister_A: he must have inherited the title from C. Walton Lillehei,
posted by TedW at 4:58 AM on April 4, 2007


Mister_A: he must have inherited the title from C. Walton Lillehei

Really, if that guy does transplants as his main procedure, he isn't that impressive as a surgeon; transplants are pretty easy technically compared to many other heart suregeries. In fact, they are so easy even a senator can do them. Now if he did Norwood procedures or switches on newborn babies every day, he might be a contender for the title.
posted by TedW at 5:05 AM on April 4, 2007


Expanded Stem Cell Research in Danger
posted by homunculus at 5:30 PM on April 7, 2007


It still makes my head spin that the Religious Right believes you can trash excess embryos from IVF yet not use them to help people live. They never picket or bomb or speak of all those clinics dumping them, yet stopping life-saving advances they devote enormous energy into.
posted by amberglow at 1:56 PM on April 8, 2007


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