Feeds

DARPA at phase 2 on human 'regeneration' tech

Zaphod Beeblebrox™ extra limbs for multitaskers?

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Famed US military mad-professor bureau DARPA has inked a second deal with Massachusetts researchers to develop ways of "regenerating" human body tissues cut, shot or blown off in combat. The new biotech therapies would employ the same methods used by newts in growing replacement limbs.

News of the award comes courtesy of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), which announced the $570,000 agreement between DARPA and WPI-spawned company CellThera yesterday. CellThera is expected to work with the university's bioengineering department in delivering Phase II of DARPA's "restorative injury repair" programme.

DARPA seems to be looking for full-on, science-fiction level regen therapies here. According to the military wild-science boffins:

The vision is to fully restore the function of complex tissue (muscle, nerves, skin, etc) after traumatic injury on the battlefield... with true “wound healing” by regeneration of fully differentiated, functional tissue.

The program will achieve its goals by... processes of morphogenesis leading to anatomic and functional restoration [which] will culminate in the restoration of a functional multi-tissue structure in a mammal.

Under Phase I, CellThera and WPI bioengineers "succeeded in reprogramming mouse and human skin cells to act more like stem cells, able to form the early structures needed to begin the process of re-growing lost tissues" - a process described by DARPA as "generating a blastema in an otherwise non-regenerating animal".

A blastema is the boffinry term for the clump of special progenitor cells which appears at injury sites in creatures naturally able to regenerate themselves, such as newts or salamanders. Another name, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, is "regeneration bud". When you cut off a salamander's leg, for instance, a blastema appears at the stump and then grows into a new leg with muscles, nerves etc all complete.

It seems then that the Massachusetts boffins have already produced basic regen buds, potentially capable of growing into new working body parts - at least for mice.

"We are very pleased to be moving into the next phase of this work," said Raymond Page, WPI biotech prof.

We might all wish the prof luck and look forward to the day when limbs, buttocks etc cruelly snatched away before their time by the violence of the enemy, drunk drivers or horrific household accidents can simply be regrown. Or indeed to the day when we might, like Zaphod Beeblebrox, choose to sprout an extra arm - perhaps for critical multitasking applications involving drinks or complicated game peripherals.

The only people genuinely likely to be upset by this prospect would seem to be the rival DARPA-funded boffins engaged in developing the rocketfuelled, steam-powered cybernetic arm. The spraycan wound-spackle guys might still be OK, as presumably severed limbs etc would still need to be stabilised while regrowth took place. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.