The Tale of the Tail

Mainly limited to portions of liver tissue, bone, or muscle, human regeneration has yet to be fully understood – we’ve only begun to scratch the surface. However, armed with the understanding of how regeneration occurs in other taxonomic groups may enable scientists to improve the regenerative abilities of humans in the future.

Take the lizard, for example. Able to regenerate facial bones, areas of the spinal cord, and their tail – although the regenerated tail does not include bone but hyaline cartilage, the very same that lines human joints – there is much that can be learned from this little creature. With arthritis, osteoarthritis, spinal cord injuries, and the like, the application of these abilities is of extreme interest to medical institutions.

Also interesting: there are several kinds of regeneration. It is most likely that lizards utilize a stem-cell mediated regeneration where new cells involved in regrowth stem from tissue-specific progenitor cells. This is the best bet for a regenerative process compatible for the human system. And so lizards entered Arizona State University biologist Kenro Kusumi’s life in 1980. More than 30 years later, he is still pursuing the answers to questions that have become a hot topic in recent years.

See what’s been going on with Kusumi’s research!

Bladder Regeneration

According to co-author Arun Sharma, Ph.D. of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University an Children’s Memorial Research Center, “Advances in the use of bone marrow stem cells taken from the patient open up new opportunities for exploring organ replacement therapies, especially for bladder regeneration”. However, use in a clinical setting is still years away.

Research published in the journal Stem Cells, has revealed a medical model for regenerating bladders using stem cells harvested from a patient’s own bone marrow. Focusing on bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells or MSCs taken from the patient, the findings demonstrate the plasticity of stem cells extracted from the bone marrow. They found that bone marrow MSCs bear phenotypic and physiological similarities with bladder smooth muscle cells which implies that MSCs can serve as an alternative cell source for bSMCs that can be potentially damaged.

Using a baboon bladder in conjunction with bone marrow MSCs to attempt partial bladder regeneration, they found that the mesenchymal stem cells actually retained the ability to populate a surgically grafted area while remaining active a full 10 weeks after surgery – they also retained the ability to express key smooth muscle cell markers which are essential for the continual expansion and contractile cycles of a normal, functioning bladder.

The use of the primate-based model sheds some valuable light into these processes as they may apply to humans, demonstrating the feasibility of MSCs in partial bladder regeneration. “The non-human primate bladder augmentation model established in this study will also further provide key pre-clinical data that may eventually be translated in a clinical setting.”

Read the original article here.

Let’s help that “eventually” become sooner than later. Donate to Methuselah Foundation today, so that we can build the incentive necessary to get stuff done!

I’d Like Your Opinion As We Plan for the Future

Greetings!  It has been a while since I sent you an update and there is plenty of good news to share as we work together towards longevity.  I also want your input as we make plans for the coming year.  But first, let me bring you up to date…

Methuselah Foundation has successfully promoted the extension of healthy human life – the science of aging has gained acceptance and broad-based support thanks to your ongoing contributions.  Now we are strongly supporting science that will lead to tissue engineering and organ regeneration.  We will be the catalyst to speed up the development of organ replacement. 

I am continually delving into every area of science, the work being done in universities, labs and biotech companies, to see the latest research and how it might contribute to longer life.  I am convinced that there are many viable solutions but we, uniquely, are in a position to move them to a practical place.  With this mission in mind we created the NewOrgan Prize.  Based on our success with the Mprize, we anticipate this new prize will accelerate the rate of research and bring us closer to practical solutions.  WE MUST continue to accelerate practical scientific solutions related to aging.  You and I – not just our children and grandchildren – should benefit from the advances in tissue engineering that are already on the table.

This is why I need your input.  We are contemplating a number of initiatives in support of this drive but we want to have the greatest possible impact.  I would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.  Please continue reading and I believe you will have a clear understanding of the potential and, hopefully, will have some thoughts to share.

What is the NewOrgan Prize?

It is an award that will be given to the first team of scientists to duplicate and successfully transplant a fully functioning new organ made from a patient’s own cells.

In support of this initiative, Methuselah Foundation has invested in two companies that show great promise:  Organovo, the organ printing company I have written about before and Silverstone Solutions, a company that is matching organs to donors in a very sophisticated way through their product, Matchmaker.  This is a “right now” solution for the thousands facing transplants today and it holds promise for additional applications. 


I asked Reason, one of the first members of the 300, to share his thoughts on our role as longevity pioneers in this new challenge:

“We supporters of longevity science are a community in search of the next stage of growth and progress. To this end, we can find many new friends who understand the desire to live a longer, healthier life amongst the broader community of enthusiasts for tissue engineering and organ regeneration.

Through the NewOrgan Prize and related initiatives we can both push forward the science of new organs, grown from a patient’s own cells, and gather new allies to advocate and build the next stage of enhanced human longevity.”

His thoughts reflect my own. 

Now, back to my question…

I value your input and would like to have it more now than ever.  We are at an important point in our development.  We have been fortunate to have the support of donors like you, farsighted individuals and foundations that see the possibilities for longer, healthier living. 

Your generosity and ability to make a sizable contribution are noteworthy.  The 300 has been an important part of the Methuselah Foundation from the beginning.  Your donations make a considerable difference and they inspire others to give.  Look what we, together, were able to do with SENS and Mprize! 

In 2011 we would like to greatly expand our base of support.  We realize that many of those who need an organ and can’t get one, or who have had a transplant and know too well the limitations it imposes, are not in a position to make large contributions.  But they care about the work we are doing.  Many others share our concern for expediting science that will allow us all to live a long life.  But, especially in these difficult economic times, they may only be able to make a small contribution. 

We are now exploring building a system to generate a large number of smaller donations.  We believe there is a sense of urgency in this appeal because many, many people the world over are experiencing the impact of failed organs.  Not just the elderly but young people too.  Last week I attended TEDMED in San Diego and 26 year old opera singer, Charity Tillemann-Dick, opened the conference.  She told of her journey from a diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension to a double lung transplant.  This was a reminder of the threat to all of us and the timeliness of our work.

Won’t you take a minute to give me your suggestions?  Maybe there are features we could add to our website that would attract a broader audience.  Or you may know of some connections that we have overlooked.  We anticipate offering matching gifts for new donors and will be announcing that initiative in the days ahead; is that initiative appealing to you?

Methuselah Foundation is busy working towards real solutions.  Thanks again for your support and encouragement.  And please email me; I would like to have your input today so we can make plans for growth and development in 2011.


Dave Gobel

Founder, Methuselah Foundation


PS  The organ crisis is apparent in my life as it probably is in yours.  I personally know three people right now in various stages of organ failure, one young father, a Methuselah Foundation supporter, recently received a transplant.  But the transplant model is not solving the problem.  While it is lifesaving for some, even they face a shorter, less productive life as a result.


PPS  Please respond, I value your input and seek your suggestions.

The End to Tooth Decay?

The health of your mouth mirrors the condition of your body’s health as a whole. Research shows that more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases (involving many organs or the whole body) manifest themselves orally: swollen gums, mouth ulcers, dry mouth and/or excessive gum problems. Such systemic diseases include diabetes, cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, and leukemia. Bottom line: great oral care equates to better health.

But what if you could brush your teeth with toothpaste that ensures that cavities will be a thing of the past? What if you could eat candy with a property that prevents plaque from forming on the surfaces of your pearly whites?

Armed with knowledge of the structure and mechanism of the enzyme responsible for the plaque that cakes your teeth, professors Bauke Dijkstra and Lubbert Dijkhuizen from The Groningen University can push forward to identify the substance that inhibits the enzyme glucansucrase. The bacterium Streptococcus mutans uses glucansucrase to attach itself to the tooth enamel, ferment sugar-releasing acids that in turn dissolve the calcium in teeth. This is how cavities occur and why this bacterium is the main cause of tooth decay.

Read more about the structure, mechanism, and evolution of glucansucrase: