In a major step towards understanding prostate disease, Melbourne scientists have grown a human prostate from embryonic stem cells.
A study published in the March edition of Nature Methods describes how human embryonic stem cells were developed into human prostate tissue equivalent to that found in a young man, in just 12 weeks.
Hey, I want to grow a new prostate and replace mine before mine gets old enough to cause really serious problems. The idea of getting youthful replacement parts becomes more appealing with every passing year.
We should be able to get replacement parts that last longer than the originals. Not every man gets BPH or prostate cancer. Once DNA sequencing is cheap and large numbers of people get their medical histories and DNA sequences compared scientists will identify large numbers of genetic variations that contribute to disease risk. My guess is DNA sequencing will get cheap before replacement organs become feasible. So we'll know what to change. One's own DNA might still be used for making replacement parts (reduces immuno-rejection problems). But gene therapy to patch our DNA (rather like software patches) with the best sequences for reducing specific disease risk will fix it to make it last longer.
For making organs last longer there's a step beyond using best existing genetic variations: Develop genetic sequences that are better than any that have evolved naturally. For example, move all the genes now found in the mitochondria (which have about 15,000 genetic letters of code) into the nucleus where they will be better protected from free radical damage.
The researchers expect a more immediate benefit from their work in the form of prostate cells that can be studied for showing how prostates deteriorate and become diseased.
The study was co-authored by Dr Renea Taylor from Monash University's Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories, PhD researcher Ms Prue Cowin from the Monash Institute of Medical Research and other Australian and US researchers.
Dr Taylor said the discovery would allow scientists to monitor the progression of the prostate from a normal to a diseased state.
"We need to study healthy prostate tissue from 15-25 year old men to track this process," she said. "Understandably, there is a lack of access to samples from men in this age group, so to have found a way we can have an ongoing supply of prostate tissue is a significant milestone.
"As nearly every man will experience a problem with their prostate, we're very excited about the impact our research will have."
Although prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, the impact of benign prostate disease (BPH) is equally significant - up to 90 percent of men will have BPH by the time they're 80. BPH is not usually life-threatening, but has a dramatic impact on quality of life.
My guess is that a lot of men with ambivalent feelings about embryonic stem cells who have benign prostate hyperplasia (i.e. difficulty urinating - which also increases the odds of kidney failure btw) are going to resolve those ambivalent feelings in favor of embryonic stem cells if they can get offered replacement prostates that solve their problem.
The cells were planted into mice after being treated in ways that instructed the cells to become prostate tissue.
"We grew the prostate tissue by 'telling' the embryonic stem cells how to become a human prostate gland. We then implanted the cells into mice, where they developed into a human prostate, secreting hormones and PSA; the substance in the blood used to diagnose prostate disease,'' Ms Cowin said.
We really need the ability to grow whole replacement organs. These ladies have taken a big step in that direction. But additional problems must also be solved to grow organs in the right three dimensional shape and ideally to do that in a human body. Mice are obviously too small to grow replacement organs for humans and present problems with disease transfer as well.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2006 February 26 06:42 PM Biotech Organ Replacement|