TIME includes Organovo & Lab-Grown Lungs in The 50 Best Inventions of 2010
TIME magazine has included two organ related innovations in their November 11 issue and online: The 50 Best Inventions of 2010. In the bio-engineering category they have included Lab-Grown Lungs (see TEDMED article in this newsletter) and something that is probably familiar to you by now: the 3-D Bioprinter from Invetech and Organovo. Methuselah Foundation was an early supporter of Organovo and we share Time’s excitement about the possibilities it holds for creating “Livers, kidneys and other replacement components…with no wait for a donor and less risk of rejection, since the cells are harvested straight from the patient.”
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An Update from Dave Sharp on Rapamycin
A year ago Methuselah Foundation presented a special Mprize Lifespan Achievement Award to Z. Dave Sharp for his work with rapamycin. By the end of the year Science, Nature and TIME magazines each featured rapamycin – an antibiotic used in transplant patients that extended the life span of aged mice – as one of the most significant and exciting scientific breakthroughs of 2009.
At our 2009 presentation at the Friar’s Club in New York City, Dave told us a funny (after the fact) story about how the experiment ended up being done on old mice. Basically, by the time they figured out how to sneak the rapamycin in the mice food, the mice had gotten old. But three labs were on stand-by, set to start so they proceeded – making the results all the more remarkable. Rapamycin reversed aging!
Now Dave has informed us that a second entire replication of the life span study has been repeated with the same results. This time the mice started taking “rapa” at nine months of age. That makes a total of SIX independent replications of the experiment!
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TEDMED: Martha Stewart, Dave Gobel, Pig Lungs!
When the call went out to the crowd of 600 gathered at this year’s TEDMED (San Diego, October 26 – 29), Martha Stewart was quick to raise her hand. So was our own Dave Gobel. What were they volunteering for? The opportunity to touch a breathing pig lung hooked up to a machine that kept it alive.
Shaf Keshavjee, director of the Toronto Lung Transplant Program demonstrated the Toronto XVIVO Lung Perfusion System (see picture below), that permits the lung to stay at room temperature and function as usual removing carbon dioxide from blood and adding oxygen. When a human lung retrieved from a deceased donor is hooked up to the machine, physicians gain valuable time to assess its condition and then treat it using targeted methods, including gene and cellular therapy, before transplanting it into the recipient. At that point, it has become what Keshavjee calls a “super organ.”
With conventional methods, transplanted lungs are cooled to slow deterioration and then transplanted, with little time to assess their condition or repair damage. The new method has allowed 30+ patients to receive donated and repaired lungs that wouldn’t have ordinarily been used.
A further goal is to treat donated lungs, while they’re outside the body, to avoid rejection by the host, to “make it like self.”
You can see from this picture that Martha got a bit more of the spotlight than Dave!
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TEDMED: More New Lungs: Singing Opera after a Double Transplant
Even before Martha and Dave got on stage, lungs stole the show at TEDMED. The conference kicked off with an aria by opera singer Charity Tilleman-Dick. It seemed like an odd start but we enjoyed it. Then Charity addressed the audience telling us how she woke up one year ago from a coma after undergoing a double lung transplant. Seems that the doctors did not predict arias in Charity’s future but there she was. The story of her complications from idiopathic pulmonary hypertension demonstrated her courage as well as the medical advances that kept her alive (and singing) after what her surgeon described as “one of the most difficult transplants he had ever performed.”
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Tell us: What would you like to see on the website?
Here at Methuselah Foundation we are working on making the website current and practical but before we go any further, we’d like to hear what you think. What would you like to see on the site? How could we make it a valuable place for you to visit often? Are there educational aspects you would enjoy seeing and sharing? Please tell us how the site could work better for you!
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Mprize Competitors: Four for the Duration
Mprize is an award for long lived mice; chances are good that any intervention that works to keep a mouse alive and healthy might also work for humans. There are currently four teams vying for the Mprize and their mice are still going strong. Reporting on mice that refuse to die is a little boring. What can we say, they are running around? Eating cheese? Of course, the longer they live the better for them and us! Here’s a quick recap of the contenders:
Competitor: Alan Cash
Approach: Metabolite Oxaloacetate
An age related malady got Alan to thinking: if the pathways that extend life as a result of Calorie Restriction had been identified could they be replicated? Tests are well underway at UC Riverside, LSU Baton Rouge, and, through the National Institute on Aging Interventions Testing Program.
Competitor: Bruce Teter
Bruce became interested in curcumin, an element of that yellow spice in your curry, when he worked on exploring its use as a therapeutic drug for Alzheimer’s disease. No reports on how the mice like the taste. Tests are being run at University of California, Riverside, Mprize winner Stephen Spindler’s lab.
Competitor: Michal Masternak
Approach: Dwarf Mice & Insulin
Studying the increase in diabetic conditions – insulin resistance and glucose intolerance – on dwarf mice (they tend to live a longer than average life) is the focus of Michal’s research. Michal is watching his little mice age at Southern Illinois University.
Competitor: Holly Brown
Approach: Methionine Metabolism
Fascinated by her work with dwarf mice (and Mprize winner Andrzej Bartke) Holly wanted to know why these little mice live longer: could it be because they have the capacity to fight off internal and external stresses? Holly’s testing began this year at University of North Dakota.
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We’ve been fans of Organovo since the beginning and are happy to report some of their recent successes. Sales of their first commercial product, NovoGen MMX Bioprinter, are off to a great start. Having their bioprinter listed in Time Magazine’s The 50 Best Inventions of 2010 (alongside the iPad, no less), didn’t hurt. Look for an announcement soon about printer placements in top scientific centers around the globe. Formal marketing efforts will kick off at the December 5-8 Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Society Conference in Orlando.
Organovo has also strongly expanded the ability to define 3D environments that are useful in drug discovery. Leveraging the power of 3D biology to impact cell biology research, and stem cell research in particular, is a focus for the company. These projects will most likely lead to more markets for the bioprinter and the creation of additional research equipment useful to study 3D biology. According to CEO Keith Murphy, “We continue to look for ways for the 3D bioprinting technology to tremendously impact human health, and the entire team is working hard to make new breakthroughs a reality.” Methuselah Foundation continues to be an enthusiastic supporter!
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Methuselah Foundation Life Sciences Fund invests in promising companies, Silverstone Solutions is the most recent of these. Their product, Matchmaker, is a clinical application that allows hospitals to quickly and accurately match patients in need of kidney transplants who have a incompatible donor with an alternate compatible donor. We asked founder, David Jacobs to give us an update:
Polycystic kidney disease runs in my family. I lost my father and my brother. Both my sister and I were facing transplant. As I was on dialysis, waiting while the months turned into years, for a kidney donor, I tried to learn everything I could about kidney donation. That’s when I first heard of paired kidney donation and it sparked hope in me, because my wife and her family were all willing to be donors, but their blood type was not compatible with mine.
Pioneered outside the United States, the idea of kidney paired donation (KPD) sounded like a perfect solution. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a transplant hospital with a viable paired donation program. Nobody was equipped to analyze the amount of comparisons needed to work up multiple donor pairs. As a software developer, it seemed like this was a problem for which I could build a solution, after-all, it’s a pretty simple concept. If you have a willing but incompatible donor, you can enter a pool of similar incompatible pairs. This process has the added benefit of utilizing an incredibly scarce resource, a living donor kidney, instead of turning them away.
After my transplant I quickly engaged with the Transplant Center that performed my surgery and started building the desktop application that became Matchmaker. I guess I was somewhat naÃ¯ve as to the complexity of the task and wanted to do something that could make a difference right away.
In less than a year I had completed the first build of the application and California Pacific Medical Center had performed our first paired donation transplant. Since that time dozens of people have been transplanted using Matchmaker and their lives have been changed forever.
The desktop application allowed me to build and iterate matching algorithms designed specifically for doctors. Suddenly teams could perform matches in minutes, plus Matchmaker can optimize the matches, taking into account the best and most number of matches for an entire pool. One drawback of the desktop applications was limitations by its own memory and processing capabilities.
With the help of the Methuselah foundation I’ve been able to rewrite and re-architect Matchmaker to what we now call the Matchgrid. The new version takes advantage of modern infrastructure called cloud computing. In a cloud computing world as your needs grow you can instantaneously scale up and grab more memory and processing power; but only when you need it, drastically reducing the cost of delivering this type of application locally, regionally and nationally.
It is my hope that eventually we could connect up all of America. The solution could save countless lives. Currently we’re entering into private beta and plan general public availability in 2011 assuming we can raise the necessary funds to sell and market the Matchgrid. My log term goals for the Matchgrid is for it to be unneeded. It is my dream that one day if you need a kidney they will be able to grow or build one for you and things like dialysis, cadaveric / living donor organs transplants will be something from the medical past.
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My Bridge 4 Life: Partnering and Growing to Serve Aging, Cancer, Transplant Recipients and More
Methuselah Foundation supports the important work of My Bridge 4 Life, a wellness network for those with a life threatening illness and their caregivers. The site is growing rapidly as users develop new communities, sharing tips and suggestions for a wide range of illnesses and conditions.
Several recent additions include:
- NewOrgan Network – in support of the Methuselah Foundation NewOrgan Prize, this provides transplant patients with a wellness plan and best practices for extending the life of transplanted organs
- Smokefree Women – this community was created in support of the first National Cancer Institute youth targeted social media campaign
- Prostate Cancer Foundation – launched as a first national partner and has built a significant international community of very active prostate cancer patients and caregivers
- Community Mentoring Program – two PHD candidates and a pre-med student are using mentoring tools to guide the diagnosis and treatment phases of the diabetes, obesity and organ transplant communities.
According to founder Roger Holzberg, “The MB4L Consulting Team has completed its first year as a contractor for the National Cancer Institute. The Team is leading the evolution of www.cancer.gov. We have taken NCI into the social media sphere designing, building and launching their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube network as well as creating and running the NCI video production studio. In 2011, we will begin development of the first mobile tool suite for NCI.”
The MB4L team has more in the pipeline…
- A first project with the National Institute of Aging
- New national partners across a diverse group of life threatening illnesses
- Launch of a professionally “guided” network through a hospital system
- An improved toolset and mobile applications
- Expansion of the Community Mentor program via school affiliations