Sept. 29, 2009
Catching up with a few brief stories.
In The Stem Cell Vein
Adult stem cells from bone marrow have been used to reverse a rare genetic disease. Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute used a mouse model of cystinosis, a genetic disease that can afflict children as young as six months old, causes deteriorating kidney function and inevitable kidney failure. Stephanie Cherqui, the scientist who developed the mouse model, said that adult bone marrow stem cell therapy is particularly well suited as a potential treatment for cystinosis because these cells target all types of tissues, and also reside in the bone marrow for the duration of a patient's life.
Scientists at the Hohenstein Institute have developed a textile coating that allows adult human stem cells to colonize the surface fibers of textile implants. The implants could be used as patches in surgery and for injured tissues to hold adult stem cells in place and facilitate repair.
A heart patient who was dying has been saved by combining implantation of a mechanical heart with injection of his own adult stem cells to heal his damaged heart.
Prof. Jennifer Elisseeff, a bioengineer at Johns Hopkins, is developing biological scaffolds and directional signals that will coax the body's own stem cells to regenerate tissues such as knee cartilage and corneas that have been damaged by trauma. In their first clinical trial, conducted in Europe, Elisseeff's team had good results treating 15 adults who had at least a two-year history of knee cartilage injuries.
NOTE: If you read the article, you'll note the requisite political trumpeting of Obama's opening wide the door for federal funding of new embryonic stem cell lines from destruction of human embryos. The rest of the article discusses results, including ongoing clinical trials, with adult stem cells.
The Science Vane
UCLA scientists have developed a "Lab-on-a-chip" that can perform a thousand chemical reactions at once. Details of the stamp-size, PC-controlled microchip are given in the appropriately-titled journal Lab on a Chip
Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell has converted his brain into an electronic memory. Well sort of. He carries around video equipment, cameras and audio recorders to capture his conversations, commutes, trips and experiences, then saves all the information digitally. Hope he made backups.
A British pharmacy is making a point about promiscuity and sexually-transmitted disease. Asking the question "How many people have you slept with?", Lloydspharmacy says that the average British man or woman has slept with 2.8 million people (albeit indirectly.) Their posted calculator takes into account not only a person's partners but also their partners' partners, and so on.
The Political Vain
Some workers at the National Science Foundation have spent lots of on-the-job time and money surfing porn on the internet. The abuse was apparently so pervasive that it swamped the agency's inspector general, who cut back investigating grant fraud. One offender excused the abuse with a humanitarian defense, suggesting that he frequented the porn sites to provide a living to the poor overseas women.
Politics trumped science, when four Democratic members of Congress exerted extreme pressure on the FDA to approve a medical device that FDA scientists had rejected.