Tissue engineering research at MIT is now largely focused on creating tissue that can be used in the lab to model human disease and test potential new drugs. MIT professor Sangeeta Bhatia recently developed the first stem-cell-derived liver tissue model that can be infected with the hepatitis C virus. She has also designed thin slices of human liver tissue that can be implanted in mice, enabling rapid studies of potential drugs. Like other human tissues, liver is difficult to grow outside the human body because cells tend to lose their function when they lose contact with neighboring cells. “The challenge is to grow the cells outside the body while maintaining their function after being removed from their usual microenvironment,” says Bhatia, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Human on a chip In a large-scale project recently funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration, several MIT faculty members are working on a “human-on-a-chip” system that scientists could use to study up to 10 human tissue types at a time. The goal is to create a customizable system of interconnected tissues, grown in small wells on a plate, allowing researchers to analyze how tissues respond to different drugs. “If they’re developing a drug for Alzheimer’s, they may want to examine the uptake by the intestine, the metabolism by the liver, and the toxicity on heart tissue, brain tissue or lung tissue,” says Linda Griffith, the S.E.T.I. Professor of Biological and Mechanical Engineering at MIT and leader of the (via Tissue engineering at MIT: where it’s going | KurzweilAI)
Posts Tagged ‘Biotechnology’
Will advances in biotechnology usher humanity through the glass ceiling of auto-evolution? Might science be moving faster than Darwin bargained for? Is the concept of a uniquely evolved hominid species too much to imagine? The completion of the human genome project eight years ago sparked an explosion in biological curiosity that hasn’t been seen before. The examination of the informational code that each one of us carries has undoubtedly brought us one step closer to finding out who we are. But a core of scientists, ears firmly to the ground, are beginning to concern themselves with a question that, they believe, will become more and more relevant in an age of accelerating biotechnologies. The genome has brought us some way in understanding what humanity is. But, did Darwin predict that knowing more of who we are, might drastically change who we’re going to be? “There are weeks when decades happen. And there are decades when weeks happen,” explained Juan Enriquez, the co-author of Homo Evolutis, at a conference in spring of this year. Enriquez believes that we are occupying a period of immense change. With a rich bed of evidence harvested from the achievements of biomedical science and gene research, who is to say he’s wrong? Enriquez paints a vision of a human race subject to control over its own evolutionary destiny. Now that we are equipped with the knowledge, and in many cases, technology to do this, will there be anything there to stop us? (via THE RISE OF NEO-EVOLUTION | MONOLITH MAGAZINE)
Turning vast amounts of genomic data into meaningful information about the cell is the great challenge of bioinformatics, with major implications for human biology and medicine
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and colleagues have proposed a new “network-extracted ontology” (NeXO) method that creates a computational model of the cell from large networks of gene and protein interactions, discovering how genes and proteins connect to form higher-level cellular machinery. “Our method creates [an] ontology, or a specification of all the major players in the cell and the relationships between them,” said first author Janusz Dutkowski, PhD, postdoctoral researcher in the UC San Diego Department of Medicine. It uses knowledge about how genes and proteins interact with each other and automatically organizes this information to form a comprehensive catalog of gene functions, cellular components, and processes. “What’s new about our ontology is that it is created automatically from large datasets. In this way, we see not only what is already known, but also potentially new biological components and processes — the bases for new hypotheses,” said Dutkowski. Ontologies Originally devised by philosophers attempting to explain the nature of existence, ontologies are now broadly used to encapsulate everything known about a subject in a hierarchy of terms and relationships. Intelligent information systems, such as iPhone’s Siri, are built on ontologies to enable reasoning about the real world. Ontologies are also used by scientists to structure knowledge about subjects like taxonomy, anatomy and development, bioactive compounds, disease, and clinical diagnosis. (via A new ‘network-extracted ontology’ model of the cell | KurzweilAI)
Tags: Biology, Biotechnology, organic singularity
As with the discovery and commercialization of recombinant human growth hormone, it’s not unreasonable to assume we could gain control over various neurological growth control mechanisms in the near term. Moreover, these growth controls could be augmented with mechanical controls. We might couple the use of a neurological growth factor with removal of a section of the cranium to permit an expansion of the cortex. Even though vast gaps might remain in our understanding of how the cortex actually encodes information and processes stimuli, the innate plasticity of neural functions could enable an enlarged cortex to function in a coherent manner. The self-organizing nature of neural networks is a crucial element that will enable an Organic Singularity to occur prior to a Technological Singularity.
Tags: biofactory, biomolecular machines, Biotechnology
In order to assemble novel biomolecular machines, individual protein molecules must be installed at their site of operation with nanometer precision. LMU researchers have now found a way to do just that. Green light on protein assembly! The finely honed tip of the atomic force microscope (AFM) allows one to pick up single biomolecules and deposit them elsewhere with nanometer accuracy. The technique is referred to as Single-Molecule Cut & Paste (SMC&P), and was developed by the research group led by LMU physicist Professor Hermann Gaub. In its initial form, it was only applicable to DNA molecules. However, the molecular machines responsible for many of the biochemical processes in cells consist of proteins, and the controlled assembly of such devices is one of the major goals of nanotechnology. A practical method for doing so would not only provide novel insights into the workings of living cells, but would also furnish a way to develop, construct and utilize designer nanomachines. In a major step towards this goal, the LMU team has modified the method to allow them to take proteins from a storage site and place them at defined locations within a construction area with nanometer precision. “In liquid medium at room temperature, the “weather conditions” at the nanoscale are comparable to those in a hurricane,” says Mathias Strackharn, first author of the new study. Hence, the molecules being manipulated must be firmly attached to the tip of the AFM and held securely in place in the construction area.