Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Future Is Now Vol. LXXI: Growing Muscles

Wired Magazine reports on the success of phase 1 of Worchester Polytechnic Institute's DARPA backed program to regenerate soldier's limbs:

The first phase of the Pentagon's plan to regrow soldiers' limbs is complete; scientists managed to turn human skin into the equivalent of a blastema — a mass of undifferentiated cells that can develop into new body parts. Now, researchers are on to phase two: turning that cellular glop into a square inch of honest-to-goodness muscle tissue.

...Step one will be trying to get those undifferentiated cells to turn into something like muscle cells. That means making sure the cells have myosin and actin — two proteins that are key to forming the cellular cytoskeleton, and to building muscle filaments. Then, Page and his team will try to get those cells to form around a scaffolding of tiny threads, made of biomaterial. Exactly what will be in thread, Page isn't quite sure — maybe collagens, maybe fibrinogens. It's one of many mysteries to unravel, as his team tries to grow body parts from scratch.
Match a successful muscle growth program with existing bone printing technology and in-progess connective tissue advances and you've just got to figure out how to wire the nerves and get the plumbing, I mean, vasculature in place. It's a hell of an effort, but boy, is there a big payoff.

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