April 17, 2008
Attempts To Repair Soldiers Will Bring Rejuvenation Therapies

War, as tragic as it is, creates demands for regenerative therapies and the money to fund the research. A big push to develop regenerative therapies will incidentally help speed the development of rejuvenation therapies.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A consortium spearheaded by the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center has been awarded $42.5 million over five years to co-lead one of two academic groups that will form the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM).

Anthony Atala at Wake Forest already leads a big effort in tissue engineering to develop replacement organs. His team and collaborators at other universities will work on regenerative medicine techniques. These techniques used on young maimed soldiers will also some day work on old age-ravaged bodies.

The consortiums, working with the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, will use the science of regenerative medicine to develop new treatments for wounded soldiers.

The Wake Forest-led collaboration will be headed by Anthony Atala, M.D., director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and Alan J. Russell, Ph.D., director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. A second consortium will be managed by Rutgers and the Cleveland Clinic.

AFIRM will be dedicated to repairing battlefield injuries through the use of regenerative medicine, science that takes advantage of the body’s natural healing powers to restore or replace damaged tissue and organs. Therapies developed by AFIRM will also benefit people in the civilian population with burns or severe trauma.

"For the first time in the history of regenerative medicine, we have the opportunity to work at a national level to bring transformational technologies to wounded soldiers, and to do so in partnership with the armed services," said Atala. "This field of science has the potential to significantly impact our ability to successfully treat major trauma."

The Wake Forest-University of Pittsburgh team has committed to develop clinical therapies over the next five years that will focus on the following five areas:

  • Burn repair
  • Wound healing without scarring
  • Craniofacial reconstruction
  • Limb reconstruction, regeneration or transplantation
  • Compartment syndrome, a condition related to inflammation after surgery or injury that can lead to increased pressure, impaired blood flow, nerve damage and muscle death.

AFIRM will have multiple groups working in each area. For example, in the area of burns, researchers will pursue treatments including engineered skin products, bio-printing of skin in the field and repairs using stem cells derived from amniotic fluid.

Engineered skin products will also some day replace aged skin. Tissue engineering to grow replacement bone will also work for aged joints and bones.

Even if research specifically aimed at rejuvenation and life extension was banned all the efforts to develop regenerative therapies for younger maimed and scarred bodies would provide the tools needed to do rejuvenation anyway. The difference between regeneration and rejuvenation is slight.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 April 17 11:14 PM  Biotech Therapies


Comments
Brock said at April 18, 2008 8:25 AM:

We should convince the Army that if their soldiers stop aging than there's no reason to make them retire after 20 years. Yay! They can keep all their best officers indefinately, there's no need to lose all that experience and knowledge, and recruitment can dip way down without a loss in manpower.

Innovation Catalyst said at April 18, 2008 11:38 AM:

If we could only figure out away to combine our genes with starfish genes...

David Govett said at April 18, 2008 2:09 PM:

Also needed is a way to erase traumatic memories.

TTT said at April 18, 2008 3:53 PM:

There is no way rejuvenation technolgies will be banned. Even if the US bans it, other countries will race ahead in research, and people will fly abroad to get things done. Just like is already done under 'medical tourism'.

The market forces are far too great for any regulation to be effective.

mats-Erik Pistol said at April 19, 2008 8:47 AM:

TTT,
I hope you are right. However there is unfortunately very possible that there will be international regulation of medicine, instead of merely national regulations.
Globalisation is very good but this can be a real concern. It seems to be the case that governmental regulation of medical treatments is almost unavoidable, to a great cost of life and suffering.
We can hope that global free-market conditions will force countries to adopt free-market conditions as well, but history is not very hopeful on this point.


Faruq Arshad said at April 19, 2008 2:32 PM:

Once again,war which is evil, helps speed up the invention of new technologies. Like Radar,and the computer,whose development was speeded up by World War 2,and the internet by the cold war. I wonder what technologies the war on terror will bring? Intelligent computers able to recognise faces? AI which can spot errors made by prisoners undergoing interrogation? Even quantum supercomputers to allow encryption?
However with so much manpower,in the form of third world citizens who wish to gain US green cards by serving in the US army, will the Pentagon really invest in rejuvenating injured soldiers? I mean, they don't care about homeless Vietnam veterans, so why are they suffenly going to care about injured soldiers in the war on terror?
What David Govett said about erasing traumatic memories is an extrmely important point. I can remember watching an American soldier suffering from the trauma of serving in Iraq. This soldier made the extraordinary statement that he would have preferred his limb to have been lost,than having to suffer from war trauma. This goes to show just how painful psychological damage can be.

rsilvetz said at April 19, 2008 8:00 PM:

Contrary to popular opinion, war doesn't speed anything along. What narrow advances you see in tech, the broader loss of capital consumed in the war lowers EVERYONE's standard of living, and by extension: since new invention is loosely proportional to capital available, inventions that could have come about get postponed into the future. It's the fallacy of the broken window. You can't improve everyones lot by breaking windows regardless of the vast economic activity that comes about from replacing all the broken windows. It's what isn't seen, isn't built, isn't productively deployed that matters in this case, not the replaced windows. War is the same thing but on a multi-billion multi-year scale. Who knows how many stem cell advances will not come about as a result, regardless of some specific advance in regen medicine for soldiers...

Even NASA which allegedly gives 10 bucks back for every one spent, is a similar white elephant boondoggle. It's very existence prevented a private space industry. And with respect to Ruttan et co, their equivalents should have existed 30 years ago but for the cold war. So, one can say almost with certainty that we will end up with a lunar colony some half-century late relative to what optimal economies would have done.

ben said at April 20, 2008 12:24 AM:

Okay... a question. If a soldier has his face severely burned, and is granted new skin by these technologies, would that skin be young or old? How near is the age of stem cell cosmetics, which I am known to rattle on about as being essential to the life extension publicity machine.

averros said at April 20, 2008 4:33 AM:

Mmmm... wouldn't it be easier not to have soldiers burned and mutilated? And instead of taxing pants off the people to fund the stupid war let them invest their money (what a novel idea) into biotech.

When people live well they do want to prolong that experience. Meaning that they'll be willing to pay for that - and that makes anti-aging R&D attractive to investors.

> Contrary to popular opinion, war doesn't speed anything along.

Yep, exactly. Except, quite possibly, the collapse of the Western civilization.

Anyone who thinks that war is good for anything is making the trivial logical error known as "broken window fallacy".

Faruq Arshad said at April 20, 2008 7:59 AM:

ok, I apologise for making the logical error known as 'broken window fallacy'. My excuse is that I've never heard of it before,and that watching the History channel,I got the impression that Radar etc was accelerated in development by war.

Randall Parker said at April 20, 2008 8:36 AM:

ben,

On the age of the replacement skin: Depends on how it is done. A method that rebuilds the telomeres and takes cells back to a totipotent state (able to become all cell types) at the initial stages would produce cells that act really young. It would especially do that if the starting cells are selected for having little DNA damage.

rsilvetz, averros,

WWII certainly sped the development of rockets, nuclear weapons, and several other technologies. Did it speed or slow technologies overall? I think we can't reason our way to the answer by use of ideology.

Wars cause huge changes both social and technological. WWII also helped along a change in the status of women as they were found able to do factory work in the absence of men.

averros,

Easier to not have soldiers mutilated: Well, here's another example of how libertarians do not consider motives. If it was so easy to have a libertarian society we'd already have one. I think it obvious that there are factors at work in human nature that makes libertarian utopia impossible to achieve. Human nature in most humans is incompatible with libertarian utopia.

War not being good for anything: It was great for the rulers of the Roman Empire and of many other empires down thru the ages. In all human endeavors there are winners and losers. War produces winners too.

Regards the broken window fallacy: Yes, destruction of capital in war rarely produces a net benefit. But capital destruction does not always produce a permanent detriment either. Countries usually return to their previous state of development within a few decades. Look at Germany after WWII. By the late 1950s they were an economic powerhouse.

cancer_man said at April 20, 2008 9:21 AM:

I mostly agree with rsilvets. If you look at the evolution of computing price performace, it doesn't seem obvious that a special acceleration occurred before or during WWII. Although it does look like one could make an argument for a bit of extra acceleration. With the atomic bomb, a lot of research went into it during the war, and again it isn't obvious that the Manhatten Project sped up development much even if somewhat.

By the way, most of the women in the factories went right back into the homes after 1945. The war might have helped change attitudes (they already had the vote two decades earlier), but it is hard to show to what extent.

cancer_man said at April 20, 2008 6:20 PM:

I meant to write that a lot of research on the atomic bomb occurred prior to the war as well as during the war.

averros said at April 20, 2008 7:38 PM:

> WWII certainly sped the development of rockets, nuclear weapons, and several other technologies. Did it speed or slow technologies overall?
> I think we can't reason our way to the answer by use of ideology.

This is not ideology. This is economics, pure and simple.

War destroys wealth. Wealth is the basis of investment - wealthy people don't just keep money in the banks, they invest. Investment is what you need to do R&D. Every modern technological business has to do R&D just to stay competitive. Therefore - less war, more R&D.

Of course, you may get less R&D in the fields related to killing people, but overall lack of war increases R&D.

> Easier to not have soldiers mutilated: Well, here's another example of how libertarians do not consider motives.

Au contraire. Libertarian political philosophy has the only logical explanation about why there are wars in the first place - and this explanation does not rely on handwaving, references to animal spirits, or to the inherent evil in the human nature. To put it simply, wars are caused by the governments; the self-interest of the ruling political class is to wage wars which pose little threat to their personal safety, but present immense opportunities to the growth of their personal wealth and political power by allowing increased exploitation of the society they parasitise upon.

To keep the general public compliant the ruling class evolved an elaborate indoctrination and propaganda mechanism which includes heavily centralized mass media (which never seems to opine for a solution to any problem which would call for less government), socialist public education which starts to brainwash children early into believeing the collectivist claptrap, and the academia which creates "intellectual" foundation for all of it (and, in reality, works hard to exclude anyone with contrary views from the mainstream discourse through the peer reviews and selection for advancement).

This worked like that in the USSR, this works like that in US. There's virtually no difference. Most Americans are seriously deluded when they think they live in a free country; US is simply a kind of soft-core Soviet Union - more adept at keeping the sheep contented at home, more murderous to the foreighners.

> War not being good for anything: It was great for the rulers

Yep. You got it right. War is good for the rulers. But you and I are not rulers. We are being fucked anally without vaseline, and the only difference is that I understand it, and you're still in denial. Unless you harbor a fantasy of becoming a member of the ruling class, of course, and simply accept the present situation as a kind of fazing done before induction to the gang.

> Yes, destruction of capital in war rarely produces a net benefit. But capital destruction does not always produce a permanent detriment
> either. Countries usually return to their previous state of development within a few decades. Look at Germany after WWII. By the late
> 1950s they were an economic powerhouse.

That is another economic fallacy - "what is seen and what is not seen". You see societies crawling back from the ruin. What you don't see (and therefore, fallaciously, do not consider) is how much wealthier these societies would be if they weren't ruined by war.

Faruq Arshad said at April 21, 2008 7:33 AM:

At first I accepted what rsilvetz said about war not speeding up technological development,because he sounded so authoritative on the subject. But on deeper thought how do we know what he said was in fact accurate? How any advanced studies been done on the subject which have have conclusively proven that war doesn't speed up technology? In fact, is it even possible to prove that war doesn't speed up inventions? Because the factors involved in inventing new technology are so complex that to rule out conflict as a source of inspiration for advancing stuff like electronic computers seems too hasty.

Faruq Arshad said at April 21, 2008 10:46 AM:

Here is my suggestion for this site: Have a section that allows people to ask question on various aspects of science. Because there are a lot of knowledgable people reading Futurepundit,and I'm sick of asking science questions on various Google groups.

Rich said at April 21, 2008 4:48 PM:

Noticed that Intercytex (a UK company you've mentioned before) will be working with AFIRM. You also mentioned repairing telomeres as part of the regeneration / rejuvenation process - Telomolecular Corporation is interesting if you haven't checked it out already

Randall Parker said at April 21, 2008 8:32 PM:

Faruq Arshad,

War and technology: Yes we need some sort of scientific basis for answering the question. No, simple assertions don't prove anything.

I can see a number of effects from war on the rate of technological advance:

1) More people in uniform reduce the number of people available to do research and development. The effect here would depend on the size of the war.

2) The need for extreme and new capabilities and deep pockets to fund attempts to achieve them. This would increase the rate of advance.

3) Less of a market since there's only one buyer and more transactions are done in secret. This would probably decrease the rate of advance.

4) Desperation. People worked for long hours in WWII since they knew their labors were a matter of life and death.

I think there was greater potential to speed up technological development during WWII because the depression probably reduced the number of ideas that were getting translated into new businesses. Today I expect venture capitalists and private equity to make it easier to translate ideas and innovations into new businesses.

cancer_man said at April 21, 2008 8:32 PM:

"In fact, is it even possible to prove that war doesn't speed up inventions? Because the factors involved in inventing new technology are so complex that to rule out conflict as a source of inspiration for advancing stuff like electronic computers seems too hasty."

But isn't the burden of proof on those to show wars accelerated advances significantly? That has been the claim. I agree it is much more difficult to know, and some wars have more definate starting and ending points.

For evidence, look at computer price performace. There isn't much rate of change in the early 1940s and even less if one considers that the war started in late 1939 while labs were worried about war since 1937 or earlier.

There were of limbs lost in the Vietnam War, but the quality of artificial arms and legs was about as good in 1975 -- or 1980 -- as 1965. Then computer power enhanced them somewhat with lighter materials in the 1980s and 1990s with much better materials in this decade before the Iraq-US war started in 2003. The increased demand may have accelerated the technology from 2003 to 2008, but I think it is mostly because researchers had better tools demanded by many industries compared with 5 or 10 years ago.

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