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At FGen, we believe at the onset of the 21st century humanity stands on the edge of the most transforming and thrilling period in its history. Read about the work these brilliant researchers, physicians, and bio-scientists are doing to enrich your life, extend your longevity, and combat disease.

A Leap of Faith: Desperate Patients Look to Lab-Grown Organs

by Linda Carroll

NBC News; June 27, 2014

Let’s put a name and a face to the field of regenerative medicine.

Renowned Italian surgeon Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, currently of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden is the only surgeon in the world who is actually doing active transplants of lab grown organs. He has been described as “both a daring pioneer and as a cowboy who takes dangerous risks with his patients.”

While the truth is likely somewhere in the middle, many patients approach Dr. Macchiarini because they have either been given a grim prognosis, or there are simply no further medical options. Dr. Macchiarini first rose to notoriety in 2008, when he successfully implanted a lab grown trachea into a patient. Since then, eight patients have received his completely artificial lab grown tracheae, including the young girl who was referenced in a prior Research Tab article.

Dr. Macchiarini’s technique has already transformed, from starting with a donor trachea as scaffold, to the present when no donor organ is necessary. Today, your trachea would be grown using a trachea shaped plastic scaffold; the same plastic that is used to make soda bottles. Stem cells from your bone marrow are then added, and after a few days the matured cells start to resemble a functional trachea.

Dr. Macchiarini is not without critics, though, since not all of his patients have survived. Dr. Joseph Vacanti, surgeon in chief at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children said in 2013, “I do believe he’s in the gray zone. I believe, for the field, we are now at the end of the beginning. And so, he may feel alone, but he is not alone. He’s part of the group that’s making fantasy real.” Dr. Rick Pearl, pediatric surgeon in chief at Children’s Hospital of Illinois adds, “Take a look at any major turn in surgery. It never started out working did it? Tom Starzl when he started doing liver transplants, the first seven, eight, nine patients all died. Everybody said he was nuts. Christian Barnard, when he started doing heart transplants, everyone threw rocks at him. This is how we’re going to treat diseases in the future and this is the start of it.”

Mutations and Disease

The Tech Museum of Innovation, The Stanford School of Medicine

Your DNA is a long string of genes, or code that makes up all the various details that make you who you are. What happens when one link of the chain gets damaged, and develops a mutation? Often, a genetic mutation isn’t a bad thing. Some mutations are inherited from our parents, but unless we receive the gene from both parents, these mutations will just lie dormant within our code never to cause us problems. Cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, phenylketonuria, and color blindness are well known diseases that are inherited, and are caused by a single mutation within a single gene of your DNA. Scientists estimate that every person has between 5 and 10 potential deadly mutations within our DNA, but since they are dormant, they are unlikely to ever cause us any problems or harm.

Other mutations, though, can be very harmful to us. When DNA gets damaged by external factors, such as UV radiation, chemicals, or external virus you can contract very serious disease. Cancer is quite often a result of a series of mutations, whether it be a faulty, damaged, or missing p53 gene located within a single cell. The p53 gene makes a protein that serves as a check to make sure that mutated cells do not divide and multiply. However, when this p53 does not work correctly, or is missing altogether, a mutated gene can multiply and develop into a tumor.

It is this second type of mutation, the ones that are caused by external factors that are most relevant to DNA Storage. While it isn’t exactly possible to prevent acquiring a mutation from an external factor, there is a precaution you can take. By storing a DNA sample when you are healthy, BEFORE a mutation potentially occurs, you will always have a sample of your undamaged code. If any disease ever requires a regrown organ or limb you would be able to regrow the organ without the mutation that caused the problem in the first place! At FGen we understand that genetic mutations and disease are not on the mind of healthy, busy people. But, if you could plan ahead, and potentially be prepared for a health related rainy day, wouldn’t you?

Scientists Implant Lab-Made Trachea into Toddler

by Gautam Naik

Wall Street Journal, US News; April 30, 2013
Gautam Naik reporting

In a very exciting advance in medicine, scientists have implanted a lab grown windpipe into a toddler who was born without one. This condition, called, tracheal agenesis was thought to be fatal, with no child ever having the condition living past the age of six. Until now, the young girl was only able to breathe via a tube in her esophagus that connected to her lungs. While scientists have had success implanting tracheas into adults, implanting one into a child presents a host of major challenges, including how the organ will grow as the child grows. However, this surgery seems to be a success, with this organ lasting several years until she outgrows it, at which time a new one will be transplanted.

In this specific case, the trachea was created using a special plastic material, and the child’s own cells. Since this organ was grown using her cells, there will be no need for powerful drugs that are designed to prevent one’s immune system from rejected a donated organ. While these cells were harvested from bone marrow, this success is also a success for DNA Banking and Storage industry.

CNN Health: Human lung made in lab for first time

by Elizabeth Cohen

Source:; February 14, 2014
Elizabeth Cohen, Senior Medical correspondent reporting

In another advance in organ regeneration, scientists at University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have completed work on a human lung fully grown in a lab. Lab grown organs, once thought to be fully science fiction are progressing at a very fast rate. While this advance is exciting, scientists are still around a decade away from being able to implant a lab grown lung in a human being, first implanting it in a pig to run further tests.

Researchers have created this lung starting with heavily damaged lungs from two children who had passed away in a car accident. Their lungs were too heavily damaged to be used in standard organ donation, but there was enough healthy tissue to serve as the starting point for this project. "Scaffolding" from the first lung was used, along with tissue from the second. The ingredients were then placed in a chamber with liquid to provide nutrients. After about four weeks of growth, the first lab grown human lung emerged.

While the growth of lab grown lungs is still a thing of the future, other organs like tracheas (windpipe) and livers are much further along. Several lab grown tracheas have actually been implanted in patients. When these organs are grown using a patient's unique DNA, the organs have had a 100% acceptance rate from patients' bodies, removing the need for donor organs and unpleasant immunosuppresant drugs.

Kurzweil: The Innovator of Indefinite Life and Reversing Disease

by Ray Kurzweil

The Singularity is Near, When Humans Transcend Biology, Viking Press, 2005.

Ray Kurzweil is one of the world’s leading inventors, thinkers, and futurists. He has been called “the restless genius” by the Wall Street Journal and the “ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes magazine. Inc. Magazine described him as the “rightful heir to Thomas Edison“.

In this book, Kurzweil predicts major changes for humanity based on Genetics, Nanotechnology, and Robotics. Kurzweil believes with sufficient genetic technology it will be possible to maintain the body indefinitely, reversing the effects of aging while curing cancer, heart disease and other illnesses that currently plague humanity.

Kurzweil sees Genetics as the crossroads or intersection of Information and Biology. According to Kurzweil, the entire human genome is a sequential binary code containing only about 800 million bytes of information, equivalent to one movie stored on a DVD. This code is supported by a set of biochemical processes that translate linear one dimensional sequences of DNA “letters” into long sequences of the letters A, C, G and T. These lead to simple building blocks called amino acids, which are in turn folded into three dimensional proteins, which make up all living creatures from bacteria to humans.

Cell Replication: Curing Cancer Before It Happens

by Aaron Ciechanover

The Ubiquitin-Proteasome Proteolytic System:From Classical Biochemistry to Human Diseases (2003, with Maria G. Masucci)

Aaron Ciechanover won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2004, for discovery of ubiquitinmediated protein degradation, the means by which the cells of most living things discard unnecessary proteins during cell replication. Cancer may be most easily explained by uncontrolled cell replication and this research may be used as the basis for a cure.

Ciechanover conducted his research at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and he shared the Nobel honors with his collaborators, Avram Hershko and Irwin Rose. A physician and biochemist, Ciechanover said he was not only surprised to win the Nobel Prize, but doubly surprised that it was in the Chemistry category, instead of Medicine.

The ubiquitin-proteasome pathway has a critical role in maintaining the proper balance of cells and is believed to be involved in the development and progression of diseases such as: cancer, muscular and neurological diseases, immune and inflammatory responses. The label consists of a molecule called ubiquitin. This fastens to the protein to be destroyed, accompanies it into the cell where it is recognized as the key in a lock, and signals that a protein is on the way for disassembly. Examples of processes governed by ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation are cell division, DNA repair, quality control of newly produced proteins, and important parts of the immune defense.

NY Times: Bits of Mystery DNA, Play Crucial Role in Reversing Disease

by Gina Kolata

The New York Times Science Section
Bits of Mystery DNA, Far from Junk, Play Crucial Role
Gina Kolata, reporting

This article explains, among the many mysteries of human biology, why complex diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and cancer are so difficult to predict and often, to treat. An equally perplexing puzzle, according to the article, is why one individual gets a disease like cancer, while an identical twin remains perfectly healthy. The article presents a vital clue in the human genome which is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA once dismissed as “junk” but that now turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs, and tissues actually behave. The implication is enormous because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches. Finding a way to turn the switches in the cell “off” would be a way of reversing disease.