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Biotech Medicine United Kingdom Science

How To Grow a Head 355

Taco Cowboy writes "British scientists have found a mechanism within our gene sequence that allows the growing of a new head — with brains, etc. The gene is tentatively known as smed-prep, and the information contained in smed-prep also makes the new cells appear in the right place and organise themselves into working structures."
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How To Grow a Head

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  • Oh Sure (Score:5, Funny)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <> on Monday April 26, 2010 @09:44AM (#31983634) Journal
    Everyone was in favor of growing Hitler's head. But the when you grow it on the body of a great white shark -- ooh, suddenly you've gone too far!

    (side note if you recognize that paraphrase: mark your calendars/DVRs for June 24th []!)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 26, 2010 @09:45AM (#31983650)

    a smed head?

  • by ShadowDragoonFTW ( 1527831 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @09:46AM (#31983658)
    Okay, that's it, science is getting too damn strange for me now.
  • two heads are better than one.

  • by ciaran_o_riordan ( 662132 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @09:48AM (#31983678) Homepage

    "Working" as in, you pull the chord and the ear moves?

    Or "working" as in, you go for the chord, but the things runs off and starts multiplying and plotting the demise of your species?

  • by hAckz0r ( 989977 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @09:48AM (#31983680)
    They could make a fortune on that technology, but the problem is how to transition to the new one gracefully?
    • by Mindcontrolled ( 1388007 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @09:51AM (#31983724)
      At the moment, this only works for flatworms, whose purchasing power is rather limited, last time I checked. So I doubt they will make a fortune soon. Then again, the difference between a banker and a flatworm is probably somewhat negligible. Actually, no, I am sorry. My sincerest apologies to all the flatworms reading slashdot.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by splutty ( 43475 )

        And we all know what a group of bankers is called right?

        We have a flock of geese, a herd of horses, etc.

        And then there's a wunch of bankers.

      • Yeah, funny, get back to us when you find a flatworm that is able to play the system so well, that it first can use the fact that the government is corrupt to buy the politicians to get Free (0% interest) money from the Fed, then make sure that laws are such that it is not illegal to gamble with the money, then set up a bunch of bad debts and bet against them and to make hundreds of millions personally, then when the banks fail, get the dumb ass 'public servants' to bail out the banks and take billions more

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          I was rather aiming at the parasitical nature both groups have in common than at the intellectual capacity. I had to learn, unfortunately, that Planariidae are actual non-parasitic flatworms, which makes the above apology to the poor creatures even more important.
  • Zaphod? (Score:5, Funny)

    by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @09:50AM (#31983698)
    Zaphod, my buddy! Is that you?!
  • Great way to get a head in this business
  • by gTsiros ( 205624 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @09:51AM (#31983712)

    I lost the last phalanx (joint including) of my right middle and right ring fingers.
    I am impatiently waiting for the tech to get here so i can get my fingers back...

  • Smed-prep (Score:3, Informative)

    by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @09:53AM (#31983744)
    Or smed-prop? TFA says both smed-prop and smed-prep without the capital S.

    TFA also says that the gene is in flatworms, while TFS says "our".

    Overall, though, best slashdot summary ever.
  • hmmph, sensational (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gnaythan1 ( 214245 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @09:55AM (#31983766)

    From what I gather, they figured out the gene sequence in flatworms for growing another head for a flatworm, and can do so consistently.

    Since our genes are similar, they probably can figure out where the genes for growing a human head are, and *might* be able to use that info for regenerating damaged brain tissue

    No zaphod's anytime soon.

    • by reverseengineer ( 580922 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @12:57PM (#31985854)
      In particular, it mostly illustrates that in flatworms, body plan genes can be routinely reactivated throughout an organism's life. Most multicellular animals on Earth have a series of genes known as Hox or homeobox genes whose role is to determine the correct placement of structures on the body- depending on the form of the organism, "structures" can mean things like organs, limbs, eyes, tails, etc. The activity of these genes is so important that they tend to have been strongly conserved sequences throughout time- we have some Hox genes that are very similar to those in flies, for instance. This conservation is helped along by the fact that the Hox genes ultimately work by signaling other genes to work; the signaling cascade functions whether the signal is for the development of insect wings or for bird wings.

      According to the paper, the signaling involved in the development of the posterior end of planaria (Wnt/beta-catenin) had already been identified; the discovery of Smed-prep explains how the development of anterior structures (the trunk and head of the animal) are regulated. In addition, they found that the anterior and posterior pathways normally work in opposition (to avoid growing a tail on the head or head on the tail), and by silencing the posterior signaling, then activating head regeneration, a head would grow at both ends.

      From what we know of human Hox genes, the picture is not so simple- even at the most basic level of developmental organization there are several genes that direct development of the head, so there isn't a master gene we can reactivate to grow an ectopic head, but many of the same developmental pathways (Wnt, for instance) are the same or similar across organisms.
  • by capoccia ( 312092 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @09:55AM (#31983768) Journal

    unless you belong to Planariidae, you don't have much hope of this benefiting you.

    • Yeah, and here I was so excited that those Dullahans [] who accidentally lost their head while horseback riding could just grow another one. Rotten worms...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 26, 2010 @10:06AM (#31983888)

    "Do you have ANY idea how much that stings?!"

  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @10:06AM (#31983890)

    Those are not the body parts we seek.

    • Seriously, of all the body parts for scientists to figure out how to grow, the head has to be the least important one. When the head is gone, you just harvest the organs for others people to use. If a person needs a new head, then you really need a person. If you can figure out how to grow extremities or organs, then you're onto something!

      Better yet, grow me a whole new body, sans brain, and transplant mine. That'd be awesome!

  • by kenp2002 ( 545495 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @10:12AM (#31983950) Homepage Journal

    Science always advances faster then the moral and ethics of the society.

    Science Fiction tends to serve as the cursory warning of the abuses of science. Please reply with suggetsions on reading that our fellow scientists should watch when they are not busy playing God (in the figurative sense.)

    The Island comes to mind but even comic books like the Micronauts foretold the warnings of Body Bank abuses. The Repo Men is a recent film that from what I can gather might also make for a good reading.

    Oh how I wish that science would first think:
    "Ok if this works what are the ethics" rather then "do it first, then we'll worry about the ethics later."

    I'm all for science, I just have the crippling burden of being a history buff, knowing how often science gives birth to atrocities. Comparing post-1600s science has made religion look tame.

    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Monday April 26, 2010 @10:42AM (#31984260) Homepage Journal

      Oh how I wish that science would first think:
      "Ok if this works what are the ethics" rather then "do it first, then we'll worry about the ethics later."

      Science doesn't think anything. It's a process. Plenty of scientists can be assumed to have chosen morality over science. You don't hear about them because they didn't do anything. All scientific progress can be put to ends both good and ill, there is therefore nothing ethical or unethical about science fact, only the actions of men.

      • by nohelix ( 1244378 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @11:25AM (#31984802)
        This is very true. Just look at Nobel [] [Wikipedia]. When designed nitroglycerin, he was trying to make a safer explosive for miners. Instead he made a tool of war and was horrified by it. It was not his morality nor his invention that was flawed. It was the people who used it. I would think by now that our society had moved past the base point of science is evil and technology is amoral. That cell phone in your pocket could be used to make a bomb threat or call an ambulance for the guy having a heart attack. As for this research, it is quite a ways off from any useful/practical applications. But people hope that when it does come to fruition, it will be for things first like severe brain damage cause by an accident, a blood clot or other damage. And while yes, planarians have a cephalic ganglia (brain) and a complex nervous system for being a simple invertebrate, it is vastly less complex than even a mouse brain. As a case in point, their "eyes" are a photoreceptor not a lens, so while they can see and react to light, they do not have the capability to distinguish shapes. Disclaimer: I work in a research lab that uses S. mediterranea, the flatworm used in this paper.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by lennier ( 44736 )

        Science doesn't think anything. It's a process.

        And therein lies a problem. An unthinking process is not something you want to have any kind of authority in the world whatsoever that's not checked and triple-checked by a guardian with thought and ethics. Otherwise it's going to stop all over you, guaranteed.

        You wouldn't run 'rm -rf *' as root, would you? Neither should you start an amoral process called 'science' and let it do whatever it wants. You should query at every point 'is this pursuit or organisation working for humanity, or against it?'

        Plenty of scientists can be assumed to have chosen morality over science. You don't hear about them because they didn't do anything.

        No, I th

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 26, 2010 @10:14AM (#31983968)

    This is actually about a flatworm's ability to regenerate from serious injuries, not specifically about growing heads.
    They claim they've found the genes responsible for regeneration in flatworms.

    The title is "Gene that allows growing a new head identified
    Now we just need memory backup - and worm DNA"

    Which says quite a bit more than the catchy but non-informative title this article on slashdot has.

  • by MagicM ( 85041 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @10:23AM (#31984034)

    I know a group of cannibals that would trade you a nice banana picker for one of these!

  • This story probably is just hype.
    Let's continue talking about more interesting stuff like iPads.

  • by ProppaT ( 557551 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @10:28AM (#31984092) Homepage

    Is it just me or is this the last body part we should actually care about regenerating? Once my brain is gone, I couldn't care less if you regenerated it for me to start over with a fresh, empty brain or not. I'd rather them find a way to regenerate my body on my existing head, thank you very much.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Wrexs0ul ( 515885 )

      Long term benefits would be regrowing parts of the head, supposedly including areas of the brain you'd lose from trauma.

      Your point brings-up a good question though: how much of your brain can you replace before you're no-longer you?

      Spiritual arguments aside, of course.


    • by Twinbee ( 767046 )

      I wonder which head the soul would associate with after the new head is made, or maybe it would use both?

    • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      Hehe, but if you lose some brain part (as is abundant in medical literature), what do you care if new neurons are generated inside your head or inside a new one and then transplanted ?
  • by mseeger ( 40923 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @10:29AM (#31984110)
    Multi-Threading, here i come....
  • TFA mentioned possible useful things, like curing or reversing Alzheimer's as well as looking in to how to stop "rogue" cells from forming cancer.

    I can see a lot of potential from this, but we're looking some 20 years out and there are, undoubtedly, many other genes in the process that need to be looked into to make sure that the body parts being regenerated form correctly and link up to the rest of the body correctly. I can see new mouse heads in 15 years based on this discovery, followed by human regenera

  • by JackSpratts ( 660957 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @10:34AM (#31984172) Homepage
    as is typical, lab results are promising, fascinating even, but not yet entirely practical. []
  • Okay I am reading Greg Bear's City at the End of Time, at the same time as I am rereading Charles Stross' Accelerando on my phone. And then saw the BoingBoing story about a two headed lizard that sometimes has one head attack the other. And now this! Got a real shiver of acceleration from this one, and half of it is from the wild names of the scientists. It sounds like the intro to Bunkaroo Banzai and the plot starts from here..

    "Top bio-boffin Dr Aziz Aboobaker and grad student Daniel Felix, who carried out

  • Now that we can grow brain filled heads to keep the zombies satisfied we can start breeding them for use as... well, somebody will figure that part out later.
  • How to get Ahead in Advertising [] is also a movie that a few people here will appreciate. (Yes, on topic)

  • by NicknamesAreStupid ( 1040118 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @11:42AM (#31985022)
    I've been waiting for this news, as you might tell from my post, I need another head. As for "two heads are better than one," there is a wonderful article about a truly remarkable person(s) in Minnesota with two heads that is doing splendidly (metabolically) and may redefine our stereotypes of a 'person'. See []. Actually, she/they have two heads, spinal chords, hearts, and stomachs. They raise all kinds of wonderful social issues regarding privacy, marriage, procreation, and the law. For example, what is she/they ran for President? Would we have a leader that could speak to both sides of the aisle at once? Argue both sides at once? Veto and pass a bill at the same time? Be for and against every controversial subject? My god, Ms. Hensel(s) may be the PERFECT POLITICIAN! Two head are better than one, politically speaking.
  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @11:56AM (#31985204)
    When I prayed every night, "Dear God, I wish I could get a little head", this was NOT what I meant!

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?