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.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.
...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.
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: