Woman Indian scientist at MIT raises hope of creating artificial human liver


mg_63950_sangeeta_bhatia_creditneeded_280x210.jpg

, TNN | Jun 3, 2013,

LONDON: In a big leap towards creating an artificial human liver, a scientist of Indian origin from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has for the first time managed to keep live liver cells functional outside the body.

Dr Sangeeta Bhatia, who is presently professor of health sciences and technology has identified a dozen chemical compounds that can help liver cells not only maintain their normal function while grown in a lab dish but also multiply to produce new tissue.

The liver is the only major organ in the human body that can regenerate itself if part of it is removed.

However, researchers trying to exploit that ability in hopes of producing artificial liver tissue for transplantation have repeatedly been stymied.

Mature liver cells, known as hepatocytes, quickly lose their normal function when removed from the body.

“It’s a paradox because we know liver cells are capable of growing, but somehow we can’t get them to grow outside the body,” says Bhatia, from MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

Speaking to TOI, Dr Bhatia, who originally belongs to a Sindhi family in Mumbai said “The main finding is that we identified chemicals that make liver cells grow outside the body. Cells grown this way can help can incorporated into engineered livers that we are building to treat patients with liver disease. The human liver cells (hepatocytes) can also be used for drug testing to improve drug safety”.

“We have showed that human liver cells could be used to build engineered liver tissue and that this liver tissue could function once implanted in the body. So far, we are able to do this in mice. We need to make them bigger in order to help patients with liver disease.”

She added “Tissue engineering has already created artificial skin and cartilage and bone that has helped many millions. Artificial trachea and bladder and blood vessels are also in humans. We will follow the same path that others have laid out for us for the liver”.

“The main challenges are to get the liver cells to function like liver cells so they can support the patient, getting enough liver cells for a patient (billions are needed), and ways to implant them so they have enough nutrients through blood vessels (this is called vascularization). We think we have made good progress on the functional side begins to address the cell sourcing and vascularization issues,” she added.

Bhatia has developed a way to temporarily maintain normal liver-cell function after those cells are removed from the body, by precisely intermingling them with mouse fibroblast cells.

They studied how 12,500 different chemicals affect liver-cell growth and function.

The liver has about 500 functions, divided into four general categories: drug detoxification, energy metabolism, protein synthesis and bile production.

David Thomas from the Broad Institute, measured expression levels of 83 liver enzymes representing some of the most finicky functions to maintain.

After screening thousands of liver cells from eight different tissue donors, the researchers identified 12 compounds that helped the cells maintain those functions, promoted liver cell division, or both.

Two of those compounds seemed to work especially well in cells from younger donors.

Publishing their breakthrough in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, the team says cells grown this way could help researchers develop engineered tissue to treat many of the 500 million people suffering from chronic liver diseases such as hepatitis C

In future studies, the MIT team plans to embed the treated liver cells on polymer tissue scaffolds and implant them in mice, to test whether they could be used as replacement liver tissues.

They are also pursuing the possibility of developing the compounds as drugs to help regenerate patients’ own liver tissues.

 

Anonymous hacks MIT after Aaron Swartz’s suicide


Hacktivist group defaces university pages after the school promises a full investigation into MIT’s role in events leading up to the Internet activist taking his life.

Steven Musil

 January 13, 2013 9:34 PM PST

Anonymous‘ message on an MIT page (click for larger image).

(Credit: Screenshot by Steven Musil/CNET)

 

Just hours after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pledged an investigation into its role in events leading up to the suicide of Aaron Swartz, online hacktivist group Anonymous defaced the school’s Web site.

Swartz, a Reddit cofounder who championed open access to documents on the Internet, committed suicide on Friday. The 26-year-old was arrested in July 2011 and accused of stealing 4 million documents from MIT and Jstor, an archive of scientific journals and academic papers. He faced $4 million in fines and more than 50 years in prison if convicted.

After MIT President L. Rafael Reif issued a statement this afternoon promising a “thorough analysis of MIT’s involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present,” Anonymous targeted at least two MIT Web sites. Lacking the loose-knit group’s usual feisty language, the message posted on the Web site was a call for reform in the memory of the late Internet activist.

After calling the prosecution of Swartz “a grotesque miscarriage of justice” and “a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for,” Anonymous outlined its list of goals under a section reservedly labeled “Our wishes:”

 

  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.

 

CNET has contacted MIT for comment on the apparent hacking and will update this report when we learn more.

Critics of the prosecutors in the case say the feds were unfairly trying to make an example out of Swartz. “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy,” Swartz’s family said in a statement released yesterday. “It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.”

CNET has also contacted the U.S. Attorney’s office and will update this report when we hear back.

 

 

MIT president calls for “thorough analysis” of school’s involvement with Swartz


English: Aaron Swartz at a Creative Commons event.

MIT‘s role in Swartz’s JSTOR incident spurred a formal response today.

by  – Jan 14 2013, 5:15am IST, http://arstechnica.com/

Less than 48 hours after Aaron Swartz’s tragic suicide, the institution involved in his high-profile JSTOR incident (that eventually lead to federal charges) has issued a statement.

MIT President Rafael Reif e-mailed the members of the university community this morning to address the situation, despite Swartz never having a formal affiliation with the school. Reif emphasized he was compelled to comment not only because of MIT’s role in the JSTOR incident, but also because Swartz was beloved by many within the MIT community. The president’s tone was clear throughout: “It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.”

In light of such an acknowledgement, Reif appointed professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of the school’s involvement, “from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present.” Reif asked Abelson to outline options MIT had plus the decisions the institution made, and he promised to share the report with the MIT community once it’s received.

The moment of infamy came back in 2010, as Swartz logged onto MIT’s network to scrape millions of academic papers from JSTOR. Administrators booted his laptop off the Wi-Fi network, but Swartz then entered an MIT network closet and plugged his laptop directly in. From there the feds got involved: Swartz was arrested and charged with multiple counts of computer hacking, wire fraud, and other crimes. The situation still hadn’t been resolved as late as fall 2012, when the feds ratcheted up the charges in September. Swartz faced more than 50 years in prison if convicted on all charged.

Reif’s full statement is below (and it can also be accessed on the MIT Tech blog, along with the outlet’s other Swartz coverage). As plenty continue to grieve, murmurs of small protests on the MIT campus emerged this morning and thousands have taken to Twitter to participate in the #pdftribute, a slew of academics posting PDFs in honor of Swartz.

Reif’s original e-mail

To the members of the MIT community:

Yesterday we received the shocking and terrible news that on Friday in New York, Aaron Swartz, a gifted young man well known and admired by many in the MIT community, took his own life. With this tragedy, his family and his friends suffered an inexpressible loss, and we offer our most profound condolences. Even for those of us who did not know Aaron, the trail of his brief life shines with his brilliant creativity and idealism.

Although Aaron had no formal affiliation with MIT, I am writing to you now because he was beloved by many members of our community and because MIT played a role in the legal struggles that began for him in 2011.

I want to express very clearly that I and all of us at MIT are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many. It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy.

I will not attempt to summarize here the complex events of the past two years. Now is a time for everyone involved to reflect on their actions, and that includes all of us at MIT. I have asked Professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of MIT’s involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present. I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took. I will share the report with the MIT community when I receive it.

I hope we will all reach out to those members of our community we know who may have been affected by Aaron’s death. As always, MIT Medical is available to provide expert counseling, but there is no substitute for personal understanding and support.

With sorrow and deep sympathy,

L. Rafael Reif

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