Teams led by Austin Smith of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and by Shinya Yamanaka of the Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan have discovered a gene they named nanog which may be capable of turning any cell into an embryonic stem cell.
In one crucial experiment, Smith's team inserted copies of the human nanog gene into mouse embryonic stem cells, and subjected those cells to laboratory conditions that normally force such cells to mature and become one kind of tissue. The human nanog gene prevented that process.
The experiments suggest that as long as the nanog gene is turned on a cell will not differentiate into a specialized adult cell type. What would be interesting to know is whether non-embryonic stem cells also have nanog turned on.
The development of the means to control the expression of genes such as nanog which regulate the type of tissue that cells become will eventually open the door to the ability to grow replacement organs and stem cell therapies to rejuvenate aged stem cell reservoirs. In other words, this latest result is an important step toward the development of the means to reverse the aging process.
So why did they call the gene Nanog? Tir Nan Og is the land of the forever young in Celtic mythology. Tir means Land. Na Nog or Nan Og stands for "Of Youth" or "Of The Young". We in this age are living so close to the time when the breakthroughs that will make Engineered Negligible Senescence possible that we could fairly be said to be living in Tir Tairngire or "Land of Promise". Tir Na Nog is pronounced teer na no-'gue and many of us may live in it some day.
Tir Na Nog is also known as Mag Mell or "plain of joy". It bears some resemblance to Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld since anyone who dies there reawakes the next day fully restored.
Tir Nan Og is the land to which the Irish faeries know as Tuatha de Danann (Too-ah day Thay-nan, or Tootha day danan) flead when their lands were taken by the Milesians. In Tir Nan Og they spend their days feasting, gaming, love-making and partaking of beautiful music. The faeries can even enjoy the thril of battle, for anyone slain is resurected the following day. It is the paradise that mortals can only dream of.
No ploughing, no work is needed to make a living in Tir Nan Og: the faerie make love, have feasts, hunt and even play at war with one another--those that die one day are resurrected the next morning to join in the fun again. Occasionally, they grow curious about the humans who live on the other side of the Great Mist, or need to strengthen themselves with a fresh and vigorous human bloodline--and that is when they step out of their dark forests, through the silvery mist to be called into Legend...
Update: New Scientist coverage:
"Nanog seems to be a master gene that makes ESCs grow in the laboratory," says Ian Chambers, one of the team at the Institute for Stem Cell Research (ISCR), Edinburgh, Scotland. "In effect this makes stem cells immortal."
Their finding could ultimately enable scientists to transform stem cells from adults into cells that have all the characteristics of those taken from embryos.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2003 May 29 10:34 PM Biotech Organ Replacement|