Another approach to recovery of cryonics patients, or patients prior to requiring cryonics, is regenerative medicine, that is, the ability to use stem cells to rebuild tissues. Michael West from Advanced Cell Technology discussed “Immortal Cells: The Prospect of Regenerative Medicine.”
The biology of aging remains a mystery, and West provided a history of thoughts on aging, including a reference to August Weismann in 1891 who predicted that cell division in somatic cells is finite. His research, however, was ignored. Researchers have since determined the finiteness caused by a “clock” in somatic cells, through telomere shortening on the tips of DNA over multiple cell divisions. The germline maintains telomere length. West and his research team tried to take this ability in germline cells and apply them to somatic cells. According to West “it worked!”
A reservoir of “immortal cells’ turned out to be human embryonic stem cells. These cells, even in the laboratory, will differentiate into a wide-range of tissues. According to West, nuclear transfer does reset the “aging clock,” despite the common belief that research showed this was not to be the case, with Dolly the cloned sheep commonly believed to have been “born old.”
Where is the field of stem cell research currently at? West and his company are working on technology to sort stem cell precursors to various mature tissues.
Recent research into the environment of stem cells, as opposed to stem cells themselves, suggested you cannot simply inject stem cells into the body, especially an older body, and hope they regenerate and rebuild the necessary tissues. Particular factors in the environment of these stem cells appear to be important for letting the stem cells do what they need to do, according to researchers like Irina Conboy. West said that there are definitely unanswered questions, but so many promising avenues of research that something good will come from this activity.