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Biotech Science

Cell Metabolism Artificially Enhanced 97

NewScientist is reporting that Swiss researchers have shown that a cell's metabolism can be increased without altering the genetic makeup. Small plastic packages of enzymes have been successfully inserted into cells, increasing metabolism. "Meier and colleagues coated their polymer vesicles in a chemical that encouraged human white blood cells called macrophages to engulf them. The small capsules contained enzymes, just like natural organelles. The enzymes chosen produced fluorescent chemicals, signaling they were working without problems inside their new host."
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Cell Metabolism Artificially Enhanced

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  • wonderful (Score:3, Funny)

    by d3l33t ( 1106803 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @04:37PM (#23522872)
    now people can be lazy AND fit... mark one against global warming
    • by eln ( 21727 )
      Not only that, but TFA says that in the future, they may even be able to get human cells to produce energy through photosynthesis. So instead of eating right and exercising, we could all just drag our fat pasty asses outside and...you know, maybe that isn't such a great idea after all.
      • Finally, my idea for a chain of fast food restaurants with no food and skylights will have a niche market!
      • Re:wonderful (Score:5, Informative)

        by TropicalCoder ( 898500 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @04:53PM (#23523022) Homepage Journal

        says that in the future, they may even be able to get human cells to produce energy through photosynthesis.

        I don't think that photosynthesis is efficient enough to provide us with any significant amount of energy. Plants have to increase potentially energy-absorbing surface area by putting our branches to support many leaves. Even so, that still doesn't give them enough energy to even walk around the block, let alone commute to work. When is the last time you saw a plant walking by? Perhaps if you live a very sedentary life style - like maybe a programmer living in his mother's basement - but then again, this type rarely sees the sun anyhow.

        • Well hopefully even the most sedentary programmer is still thinking, and our brains our one of the biggest energy consumers in our body.
          • by spazdor ( 902907 )
            Not me! I'm runnin' Coppermine(TM) neurons!
          • Well of course. I was reading the other day that the body consumes up to a hundred watts at rest, and the brain - about 15% of that. While I appreciated the mods, I was really trying to be funny. Began the setup by stating the obvious, moved on to the ridiculous, then finished off with an easily identifiable Slashdot archetype. I guess my presentation was a little too dry for the humour to come across. I'll have to work on that :-)

            • Well, you've made the classic Slashdot budding humorist error. You said something potentially insightful then went for the funny.

              Confuses them every time.

              Next time, just go for the humor. You'll promptly get modded "Troll" most of the time, but just keep working at it.

              You really don't need all those karma points. It's just a game.

          • ...even the most sedentary programmer is still thinking...
            Considering the amount of shitty software around us, I'd doubt that.
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          When is the last time you saw a plant walking by?

          "The base of a triffid is a large muscle-like root mass comprising many thick tentacles. When dormant/docile, these tentacles are rooted into the ground and are used to draw nutrients, as with a normal plant. When active, triffids use these tentacles to propel themselves along at a moderate walking pace. They are capable of moving faster over open ground."

          link [wikipedia.org]

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            ...When dormant/docile, these tentacles are rooted into the ground and are used to draw nutrients, as with a normal plant. When active ... use[s] these tentacles to propel themselves along at a moderate walking pace

            Mod parent up +5 Insightful! - and read his post. He has even properly linked his authoritative source.

          • Quoth wiki, in case anyone got excited:

            The triffid is a highly venomous fictional species
      • by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @06:22PM (#23523652) Journal
        they may even be able to get human cells to produce energy through photosynthesis.

        So someday there will green skinned chicks sunbathing their way to ever better levels of physical fitness? The day I see that, I'm totally changing my name to James T. Kirk.
        • by smoker2 ( 750216 )

          So someday there will green skinned chicks sunbathing their way to ever better levels of physical fitness? The day I see that, I'm totally changing my name to James T. Kirk.
          But how will you know when they've gone off ?
      • This was a minor point made in the John Scalzi's "Old Man's War" trilogy. One of the books in it was a recent hugo award nominee. If you could bio-engineer people, why not go for some enhancements. Especially for an alien killing soldier.
  • Waste of energy... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Daniel Weis ( 1209058 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @04:43PM (#23522912)
    I see this as very interesting commentary on the human persona. We consume energy which is of extreme importance and complain of its excessive cost whilst we abuse it. We then expend more precious energy to figure out ways to use more energy in an inefficient manner to trick our bodies into no longer storing the energy for later dire straights.

    The fundamental basis of this idea is flawed. I personally don't get it.

    However, it is certainly marketable and will cause someone to be filthy rich if they can really force humans to expend more energy without doing anything that actually requires the energy (such as exercise).

    But I digress, all that aside, the pure discovery is interesting.
    • What is flawed about going, "Hey I have wealth. I want to be able to consume food that taste good, and not have to put any effort into working off the excess energy that my body is storing form that food."

      Sure, a bicycle could get us from point A to B. A Geo Metro could too. But we have SUV's and Sports car's because we want them, not because we need them.

      A fundamental part of living, is enjoying life.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )
      "The fundamental basis of this idea is flawed."
      Pretty bold statement for someone who doesn't get it.
      • by Paxtez ( 948813 )

        I think what the GP was trying to relay is the inherent irrationality of the research.

        If you think of the human body as a machine that obeys the laws of thermodynamics, a "good" (as in high) metabolism is just the subject using more energy than is needed. Being efficient is a good thing for everyone. Decrease in human used energy == less food eaten == less food grown/transported == less time used growing/transport == more time to do something else.

        Frankly attac
    • It's a point of pshycology. These people want to consume because it gives them pleasure. But they don't want to get fat. I guess the human mind doesn't function with the laws of efficiency :-P
    • If you feel that guilty about being alive and consuming energy as a human being, you could always free some up for people who actually like themselves and enjoy life.

      You know what to do...
  • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @04:46PM (#23522954)
    Thank you, researchers. The world really needed a metabolism-enhancing enzyme that turns you green. [wikipedia.org]
  • Other Uses (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrMunkey ( 1039894 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @04:47PM (#23522956) Homepage
    This is /. so I suppose reading the article isn't a given. There are other uses than just for increasing the metabolism. Other uses include targeting cancerous cells specifically, giving lactose intolerant people enzymes in their stomachs, and making your skin do photosynthesis so you don't even have to eat. They're all theories around the new "NanoReactor" they created for delivering their payloads. I'm assuming that increasing the metabolism was the easiest test to perform in a dish.
    • by jmdc ( 1152611 )

      ...making your skin do photosynthesis...
      I for one, welcome our new green-skinned overlords.
    • The confusion is how the word metabolism is used in the media and popular culture. Metabolism is the sum total of all chemical reactions occurring in the body. All of the cool possibilities for this technology that you just listed from the article are exactly what the article says they are "upgrades" to the human metabolism. This has nothing to do with increasing the overall rate of systemic cellular metabolism (thereby increasing energy consumption, and possibly weight loss). This is about altering the
  • Seems like great science work. However, I'm a bit worried about the potential applications. If/when this process becomes cheap, I can just see this becoming permanent make-up.
  • by xplenumx ( 703804 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @05:21PM (#23523244)
    Tamsin Osborne, who wrote the NewScientistTech article, certainly didn't understand the original article and focused on sensationalism rather than scientific accuracy.

    The original paper did not increase the metabolism of the macrophage. What the original paper did was encage an enzyme, trypsin, in a "nanometer-sized polymer vesicle". This vesicle was coated with a protein that induce macrophages to engulf the vesicle (which is what macrophages do - they phagocytose). The authors then incubated macrophages which contained the vesicles with a dye (BZiPAR) that fluoresces (emits a wavelength of light - in this case green) when treated with trypsin (trypsin cuts of parts of the BZiPAR that suppress fluorescence).

    We already know how to non-genetically introduce proteins to cells, for example using liposomes or the tat-peptide approach. What makes this work interesting is that the polymer vesicle is more stable than liposomes and, unlike the other methods, the vesicles don't release their content into the cell. Instead, the cell's components have to enter into the polymer vesicle.

    This is an interesting technical development. It is not, however, everything that Mr. Osborne makes it out to be.

    • I love it when people know what they're talking about :-)
    • by mpitten ( 932716 )
      I can't read the original journal article (boo hoo poor student speaking here) but I'm assuming you're telling us what the original article said - so thank you very very much for that.

      I'm a bit confused by the conflation of "organelles" and "vesicles" in the original article though, I assume they're only producing artificial polymer vesicles and not making entire Golgi apparatus or endoplasmic reticulum or something like that.

      I have two questions:

      Would it be correct to assume that this sort of trea
    • by lysse ( 516445 )
      I believe that'd be Ms Osborne, there not being many boys in England called Tamsin.
  • by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @05:41PM (#23523376)
    Something like this has been recognized to occur in certain cancers, through Oncosomes. In such cases, the cancerous cells bud off vesicles which fuse with healthy cells, containing oncoproteins that induce a cancer-like phenotype in the target cell, despite no change in the healthy cell's genotype.

    Anyway, I find this interesting. While restricted to situations where you could physically make the delivery, it raises the possibility of obtaining (temporarily) effects similar to those of gene-therapy without the gene. By producing your target protein ex vivo you eliminate an entire class of problems revolving around how to introduce and express foreign DNA.
  • I mean, on one hand it's interesting, but on the other hand, won't a good healthy helping of amphetamines do the same thing?
  • Great! In addition to artificially creating cancer (see asbestos, nanotubes, smoking, nuclear fission, tanning booths, cell phones, etc.) we can now create artificial cancer.

    Cancer by the way is when a cell begins growing and dividing uncontrollably. Such cells have a higher metabolism.
  • Funding (Score:3, Funny)

    by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @08:30PM (#23524302)
    The Swiss Researchers also wish to extend their thanks to the two main sponsors of the research, Major League Baseball and the US Olympic Team.
  • Hey come on now. I've seen this one already. Then they can't eat fast enough to keep up with their super metabolism and their nerves kinda take a beating too and then when they're in the middle of a goa'uld ship, their body can't take it anymore and they risk failing the mission. Come on, who can't see that coming? Sci fi shows are here to warn us, people! Like the Jetsons telling us we're all gonna have to live in the sky if the sea level rises and we'll all have dishwashers and vending machines!
  • "The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burned so very very brightly, Roy."
  • the Umbrella Corporation.

    Serious sounds like a great idea. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Why turn bird eggs? The theory of Magnetrition says, this need to be moved is a requirement throughout the life of all warm blooded animals. The movement is seen happening/taking place as a result of a survival instinct, diminishable with age, until now. Magnetrition points out movement of the warm blooded cell is required to keep a magnetically migrating organelle moving and thus performing its rule in the microscopic biological structure. Plants need photosynthesis. CHLOROPLASTS ARE PHOTOTACTIC. Are the
    • Magnetosynthesis - Something you didn't know you were doing! Now do it better! As people become aware of the fact, that the many cells of their body require movement in relation to a magnetic field, many will begin to realize the benefits of insuring such movement, with things like rocking chairs and cradles. It's time to take a step back, to where wisdom once was. Are you over the age of 10? If you set up a camera, and recorded yourself during a nights sleep, would you be found moving less than you did

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