Evolution is what got us here today, if you accept the scientific approach to our creation. It was processes such as ‘survival of the fittest’ which led us, as well as other earthly creatures, to develop some of the traits, senses, and abilities that we possess today.
For superhero fans, especially those who love the X-Men, you know that these superhuman characters acquired their powers through the process of evolution. Little mutations in genes led to them become the recipient of more than simple human-like abilities. Wouldn’t we all like to have the ability to see through objects, climb walls, retract claws from our fists, or have superhuman strength? Well, one speculative designer from the Royal College of Art in London, named Agatha (Agi) Haines, believes that one day in the future this may all be possible, thanks to a technology called bioprinting.
After more than six years of intensive effort, and repeated failures that made the quest at times seem futile, Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) and Harvard’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (HSCRB) have successfully converted mouse and human skin cells into pain sensing neurons that respond to a number of stimuli that cause acute and inflammatory pain.
Caption: This image shows human noxious stimulus detecting sensory neurons produced by converting skin cells with a set of five genes to this new fate — enabling study of ‘pain’ in a dish.
Credit: (c) Liz Buttermore
This “disease in a dish” model of pain reception may advance the understanding of different types of pain, identify why individuals differ in their pain responses or risk of developing chronic pain, and make possible the development of improved drugs to treat pain. A report on the work was given advance on-line release today by the journal Nature Neuroscience.