Here’s something I have been meaning to post about for a while. Earlier this week Bristol University issued a press release about a remarkable piece of work in bioinformatics. A big problem with regenerative medicine is that up until now if you wanted to grow new bits for a body you had to do so from stem cells. You can’t just take a random bunch of cells of one type and turn them into another type.
Mogrify (great name) is a software system developed by Professor Julian Gough and colleagues around the world which, “predicts how to create any human cell type from any other cell type directly”. That’s a pretty big claim, and the sort of things it might lead to are equally impressive:
The ability to produce numerous types of human cells will lead directly to tissue therapies of all kinds, to treat conditions from arthritis to macular degeneration, to heart disease. The fuller understanding, at the molecular level of cell production leading on from this, may allow us to grow whole organs from somebody’s own cells.
Cue journalists muttering about, “the stuff of science fiction”. Because it is. It is almost the biology version of FTL, except there is no inconvenient Einstein to claim that it is impossible.
Also I happen to have met Prof. Gough and he is a science fiction reader.
Obviously there is a long way to go yet before they are re-growing livers and kidneys instead of transplanting them, let alone re-growing legs or, perhaps, growing wombs inside trans women. However, the possibilities are jaw-dropping.
For those of you interested in reading further, here’s the paper.