Two Heads Are Better Than One

from the mad-scientist-in-the-house dept

Other than the Bio-nerd coolness of being able to induce the growth of two heads in a simple animal, there is another important medical and business reason why this is great result. That’s because the use of chemical signals to induce the growth of another body part (like the head) could have some very interesting implications for human medicine. Particularly in the use of bio-chemical signals to grow replacement organs for patients whose organs have been damaged. It isn’t as far fetched as it sounds.

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Comments on “Two Heads Are Better Than One”

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u2604ab says:

No Subject Given

This is hardly newsworthy; Developmental biologists have known for years that an extra head can be induced by injecting an extra MTOC into a zygote.

While it’s true that this experiment demonstrates growth of extra parts on a mature, rather than a developing animal, this result does not make growth of replacement organs seem any less far fetched.

Cells from virtually any organ in the body can be grown in culture indefinitely with addition of telomerase. The problem with growing replacement organs is that there’s no way to provoke a collection of heart cells to organize themselves into the macro-physiology of a heart; no way to organize kidney cells into a kidney.

The reason these cells can’t organize themselves is that they exist in the absence of the scaffold the rest of the body. In short there is no currently imaginable way to grow a single replacement organ short of growing an entire replacement animal.

Ryan says:

Re: No Subject Given

u2604ab, obviously from an insiders point of view it has been possible to induce the growth of an extra head through various means for a while (I’ve done it myself in the lab), even the crudest use of a string around a Xenopus embryo can initiate similar results to chemical methods of duplicate head growth. However, I used the article as a way to highlighting the upcoming advancements in the understanding of cell signalling (and not that wow you can make an extra head on animals!).

I also have to disagree with your last statement that there is currently no imaginable way to grow a single replacement organ, HA! Umm… try artificial scaffolds (both cartilage and other reabsorbable materials), it isn’t perfect yet but there are some great signs that these methods will lead to fairly good organ reproduction(far from unimaginable eh?).

mhh5 says:

my two cents....

My biggest pet peeve with “science news” is that most of the time the ‘science’ is actually quite old, but people think it’s some really new idea. There are really very few “new” ideas in science. Real experiments take a lot of time to do, and then more time to interpret. By the time “science news” hits the papers, the ideas behind the science are usually well-accepted and mature (and they should be!).

But after that little rant, I’ll defend Ryan for his suggestion that perhaps organ replacements are not so far-fetched… While this particular article doesn’t address the issue, the idea has been bounced around for a long time. I think someone has tried growing a kidney inside the animal which needed it, using the old kidney as scaffolding. So *someday* maybe replacement organs could be grown to order. But yes, it hasn’t been done yet quite right, so it’s really up to your optimism to judge how far-fetched it sounds. But it hasn’t been “disproven” to my knowledge, so it’s definitely not in the FTL-travel category…

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