Month Archives: May 2010

New Disease Identified, Treated with Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

May 18, 2010

Australian doctors have diagnosed a newly-described disease in a young woman, and have successfully treated her disease with adult stem cells. Katie Pulling had been in and out of the hospital for years, since she was eleven years old. Her symptoms baffled physicians. Doctors at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital finally were able to determine that the condition was due to a problem in her immune system. And the solution was to replace and reboot her immune system using donated adult stem cells. According to Dr. Maher Gandhi:

The signals in Katie’s immune system were not functioning normally. This meant her immune cells could not communicate with each other properly.

We contacted Dr Glen Kennedy, an expert in bone marrow stem cell transplantation at the Royal Brisbane Hospital, to see if this might offer a cure.

The transplant was dangerous, but the results were amazing. The defect in Katie’s immune cells has been fixed. To our knowledge this is the first time this disorder has been reported.”

Katie said:

Now I don’t get sick. I am really not used to it and keep waiting to get sick. I am now back to full time study and loving it.”

Katie, now 23, is completing her studies for a Bachelor of Business degree.

The results are published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

America’s Other Weight Problem

by Jared Bridges

May 18, 2010

Mary Eberstadt’s must-read essay in this month’s First Things, “The Weight of Smut,” covers the far-reaching effects that pornography has on American life:

The notion for starters that those in the industry itself are not being harmed by what they do cannot survive even the briefest reading of testimonials to the contrary by those who have turned their backs on it, among them Playboy bunnies (including Izabella St. James, author of Bunny Tales). It is a world rife with everything one would want any genuinely loved one to avoid like the plague: drugs, exploitation, physical harm, AIDS.

Nor can that defense survive the extremely troublingor what ought to be extremely troublingconnections between pornography and prostitution. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has notably taken the lead in investigating and throwing light on the sordid phenomenon of sex trafficking, both here and abroad. Yet trafficking, as the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have both noted, is often associated with pornographyfor example, via cameras and film equipment found when trafficking circles are broken up. Plainly, the reality of the human beings behind many of those images on the Internet is poorer, dirtier, druggierand youngerthan pious appeals to consenting adults can withstand. Is this world really what the libertarian defenders of pornography want to subsidize?

Once again, who even needs all that social science? Perhaps the most telling response to the pictures defense is rhetorical. Ask even the most committed user whether he wants his own daughter or son in that line of workand then ask why its all right to have other peoples daughters and sons making it instead.

Read the whole thing for a good perspective on just how burdensome the porn epidemic has become. Eberstadt quotes my colleague Cathy Ruse on the vitriol that defenders of pornography have against its critics.

For more, read the report of another colleague, Patrick Fagan, who has studied in-depth the effects of pornography on individuals, marriage, family, community.

Cut The Cheese, Build Your Immunity

by David Prentice

May 18, 2010

A study by scientists in Finland suggests ingestion of cheese can help preserve and enhance the immune system of the elderly. As we age, the immune system can deteriorate, a process known as immunosenescence. The deterioration of immunity can result in the inability to kill tumor cells, reduced immune response to vaccinations, and infections. Previous studies had shown that consumption of probiotic bacteria such as Lactobacillus species can counter the loss of helpful intestinal bacteria that stimulate immunity. The scientists asked 31 elderly volunteers aged from 72 to 103 to eat a slice of probiotic Gouda cheese with their breakfast for four weeks. The published results showed a clear enhancement of natural and acquired immunity for the cheese eaters.

No word on whether the elderly do better with aged cheese…

Boy Gets New Windpipe Made With His Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

May 14, 2010

A ten-year-old boy is now breathing easy, thanks to a world first transplant using a new windpipe grown using his adult stem cells. The young boy was born with a rare condition called Long Segment Tracheal Stenosis, with a narrow windpipe that does not grow and restricts breathing. He had undergone previous surgeries to widen his windpipe but the condition had become life threatening. A team of British and Italian doctors developed a new technique to treat the young boy’s life-threatening condition. They took a donor trachea, stripped it down to the cartilage scaffolding, and then injected adult stem cells from the boy’s bone marrow. The stem cell-coated organ was then implanted in the boy. Over time the adult stem cells will cover the windpipe; using his own stem cells means there is no transplant rejection problem.

The major step forward in this case, is that instead of re-growing the organ with adult stem cells in the laboratory for months until it is fully formed, the cells were put into the trachea just before implanting it. The team of British and Italian scientists described the procedure as a breakthrough for its simplicity in using the ideal laboratory of the human body to rebuild the organ.

Back in 2008, the group performed their first such transplant into a young Colombian woman who faced loss of a lung due to a damaged trachea. The cells were removed from a cadaveric trachea and then the cartilage structure was bathed in the woman’s bone marrow adult stem cells in the laboratory. The re-grown trachea was then transplanted into the woman, restoring her airway. The results were published in The Lancet.

In an editorial that the original team published in the journal Regenerative Medicine regarding the first transplant, they make the point:

The positive publicity that surrounded this experience permitted the difference between adult and embryonic stem cells to be understood by a wide audience, whilst the debate in internet chat rooms between those for and against embryonic stem cell applications became slightly less based on fear and preconception and slightly more on the evidential base.

Meanwhile, for one young woman from Colombia and her children, the implications of the first stem cell-based organ transplant are quite clear.”

New Brain Cells Even In Old Age

by David Prentice

May 14, 2010

It’s been known for some time that new neurons are produced throughout life, and that exercise can stimulate production of new neurons. Newly-formed cells integrate into existing networks and play an important role in learning and memory. But there is also an age-related decline in formation of new cells. Now scientists at the Max Planck Institute have determined why that may be, at least in mice. They found that within sites in the brain where new neurons are formed, there are two populations of neural stem cells, termed “radial” and “horizontal”. The stem cells can either be actively dividing or quiescent (dormant, not growing but in reserve.) In aged mice, there was no decline in the actual numbers of neural stem cells, but there was a shift from active to quiescent. The scientists found more newly-formed neurons in physically active mice than inactive mice. Exercise seemed specifically to activate the dormant radial neural stem cells. Interestingly, other stimuli such as epileptic activity activated the horizontal neural stem cells.

According to one of the authors, Prof. Verdon Taylor:

Consequently, running promotes the formation of new neurons.”

The results are published in the journal Cell Stem Cell

Bond With Your Kids, Grow More Brain Cells

by David Prentice

May 14, 2010

A new study by Canadian researchers published online in Nature Neuroscience shows that, at least in mice, fathers who bond with their offspring develop new neurons in the brain. For the mouse fathers, it seems to be odor and nuzzling that stimulates the bonding and nerve growth, and allows them to recognize their offspring even when the young have become adults, protecting them rather than fighting with them. The results show that bonding and recognition is associated with growing new brain neurons. The researchers had previously shown that female mice grew new neurons during bonding with males.

In a separate study, scientists showed that a mother’s touch can do much more than comfort a baby. Dr. Tallie Baram has shown that touching and caressing trigger changes in a baby’s brain that improve cognitive function and build resilience to stress later in life. The study is published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Early parental involvement and caring apparently has longer-lasting effects than we knew previously. And for fathers, it might help make them a bit smarter, too.

Daniel Dreisbachs Lecture: The Bible and the Founding Fathers

by Chris Gacek

May 14, 2010

Those of us at the Family Research Council and a number of guests were greatly enriched by a lecture given today by Professor Daniel Dreisbach, the distinguished, American University historian. Professor Dreisbach specializes in studying the relationship of religion and politics in the era of the American Revolution and the 30-40 years that followed. He is also an attorney, so his work incorporates issues related to constitutional law and, more specifically, First Amendment law. His Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation Between Church and State (2002) provided a groundbreaking book-length examination of Jeffersons wall cited in the Everson case over fifty years ago. (Here is a lecture-length treatment of the same topic by Dreisbach.)

The professors lecture today (The Bible and the Founding Fathers) focused not on Jefferson and walls, but on late 18th Century political texts and the Bible. FRC will be making the lecture available on the website shortly, and I urge anyone interested in American history to watch it.

The bottom line is that political discourse in the Founding Era was replete with Biblical references. Interestingly, the most commonly referenced book of the Bible was Deuteronomy a book that summarizes many of the principles and history found in the other books in the Torah. (Deuteronomy is also the most quoted book in the New Testament.) Deuteronomy is a book concerned with the establishment of a just and godly society, so it is fitting that it was used often when our new government was being created.

Additionally, Driesbach demonstrated that the subtlety with which the Bible is referenced indicated a very high level of Biblical literacy in the populace, so much so, that allusions without citation were expected to be understood. Analysis of texts by Washington and Patrick Henry were particularly illuminating in this regard.

One more point: after the lecture, Professor Dreisbach informed me that, in August 2009, he published a collection of primary source materials on religious liberty and church-state relations in the Founding Era. The book is The Sacred Rights of Conscience (Liberty Fund Books, 2009). Here is some information from the publishers webpage:

The Sacred Rights of Conscience provides students and scholars a rich collection of primary sources that illuminate the discussions and debates about religious liberty in the American founding era. This compilation of primary documents provides a thorough and balanced examination of the evolving relationship between public religion and American culture, from pre-colonial biblical and European sources to the early nineteenth century, to allow the reader to explore the social and political forces that defined the concept of religious liberty and shaped American church-state relations.

Including material that has been previously unavailable or hard to find, The Sacred Rights of Conscience contains original documents from both public and private papers, such as constitutions, statutes, legislative resolutions, speeches, sermons, newspapers, letters, and diary entries. These documents provide a vivid reminder that religion was a dynamic factor in shaping American social, legal, and political culture and that there has been a struggle since the inception of the Republic to define the prudential and constitutional role of religion in public culture.

The Best and the Worstof all Campaign Ads

by Robert Morrison

May 13, 2010

Family Research Council and FRCAction have gotten a lot of experience recently in doing online and radio ads. FRCActions powerful radio spot may have helped to drive Rep. Bart Stupak from the 2010 congressional races. Other groups doubtless will claim that credit, too, but it was FRCActions hard-hitting ad that really showed how Stupaks vote for ObamaCare opens the door to federal funding of abortion-on-demand for the first time since the passage of the Hyde Amendment more than thirty years ago. That ad, because it spoke so strongly to the deeply-held pro-life convictions of the good folks in Stupaks congressional districtMichigans Upper Peninsulawas probably the thing that changed the political picture.

Were now seeing a lot more ads online. Its a wonderful new technology and it can really revolutionize political advertising. Gary Bauer, my former boss and my friend, has put a new ad online that is drawing lots of attention: Keep Israel Safe. The ad shows how dangerous Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is and why he cannot be allowed to complete Irans drive for a nuclear weapon. Gary argues in this ad that keeping Israel safe is the best way to keep America safe. By implication, Gary is saying that President Obama is endangering both the U.S. and Israel. I agree strongly.

This brings up the whole topic of political ads. They can be powerful and they can be misused. The worst ad in history, I believe, was the 1964 ad screened by the Lyndon B. Johnson campaign. They were determined to make Americans believe that Sen. Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee for President, would get us into a nuclear war with the Soviets. So the LBJ campaign screened an ad called The Daisy. The ad featured a little girl pulling petals off a daisy and counting to ten. Then, an announcers voice does the 10…9…8…7… countdown for the launch of a nuclear missile. After you see the nuclear explosion, President Johnsons voice is heard saying These are the stakes…We must either love each other, or we must die. In other words, if you vote for Barry Goldwater, you and your lovely little girl will die in a nuclear holocaust. This is a classic TV ad because it so bad, so dishonest, so utterly devoid of truth. Bill Moyerswho jumped to PBS shortly after okaying this obscenityis forever lecturing us on morality in politics. Thats like a notorious knee groiner preaching about fair play in wrestling.

The Johnson people, perhaps recognizing that it was a below-the-belt hit, defensively say that the ad was only run once. Right. Thats all they had to run it. It was immediately picked up and run again and again and again by the liberal media who kept showing it on news programs as they asked is this a fair criticism of the Goldwater campaign? Their conclusion, was that it might be a bit rough, but the stakes are high and, hey, Harry Truman said it best: If you cant stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. So the Johnson campaign had to endure some mild tsk-tsking but they got their message out thereplayed hundreds of times and for free.

My candidate for the best political ad in history is The Bear, from the 1984 campaign.

Ronald Reagan was famous for his get-tough attitude toward the Soviet Union. Part of the genius of this ad is that it never mentions war, or nukes, or enemies. But everyone in those years knew who the bear wasthat was the symbol of Russia. The ad never mentions former Vice President Mondale. It doesnt insult the voters intelligence.

It helped because Fritz Mondale was even then campaigning for a Nuclear Freeze. This was the idea that the United States should respond to the Soviets moving hundreds of SS-19 and SS-20 nuclear missiles into Eastern Europe by freezing our promised matching of this move. We had promised NATO countries that we would give them U.S. Pershing and Cruise missiles to balance the Soviets missiles. But when the time came to keep that promise, Mondale and the rest of the liberal dovecote froze in terror. They feared that if the West showed steely resolve to match the Soviets aggression, we would start a nuclear war.

Well, there was a bear in those woods. And Ronald Reagans campaign slogan of Prepared for Peace struck a responsive chord with voters that year. LBJ won 44 states in his re-election bid in 1964. Reagan won 49 states in his 1984 contest.

Four years after his smashing victory, President Johnson was driven from office by his own party. He could not even attend his partys 1968 nominating convention, he was so despised. Four years after his landslide re-election bid, Ronald Reagan retired, honored and loved by millions of Americans in both political parties.

So, as we head into the political season, it might be well to remember the best and worst political ads. The best messages are those that are true, strong, and speak to the hearts of the American people. And, yes, it does matter how you play the game.

Kidneying Around with Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

May 13, 2010

Scientists have shown that human adult stem cells can promote kidney repair. There are currently no therapies to repair kidney damage. Patients with severe kidney damage go on dialysis while waiting for an organ transplant. The results of this recent study showed that human adult bone marrow stem cells, injected into mice with induced kidney damage, could promote kidney repair and regeneration.

A published study in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrologyalso indicated that adult stem cells could promote kidney repair in a model of Alport syndrome. Alport syndrome causes progressive kidney disease leading to kidney failure at a young age. Researchers injected bone marrow adult stem cells into mice with Alport syndrome and found that the cell injection significantly improved kidney function, as well as survival.

In a start to putting the knowledge about adult stem cells to use in the clinic, a Phase I clinical trial is under way using adult stem cells to treat kidney damage that is sometimes seen following extensive open-heart surgery.

Healing Fractures Faster

by David Prentice

May 13, 2010

Adult stem cells have shown the ability to stimulate healing of bone. Now Stanford scientists have used a protein that activates adult stem cells and progenitor cells to speed up the process of bone healing. A family of proteins called Wnt proteins are known to stimulate bone formation and tissue regeneration. Wnt proteins are difficult to isolate and hard to dissolve, so the scientists packaged the protein in liposomes, small lipid droplets similar to the membrane around cells. The Wnt proteins were planted like small flags in the outer surface of the liposome, so that when they contacted a cell they delivered their signal. The liposome technique allowed concentrated packaging of the proteins and easy delivery to target tissue. The Wnt-tagged liposomes were given to mice with damaged leg bones. Within three days, the treated mice showed 3 1/2-times more new bone growth than untreated animals, and had completely healed in four weeks, while untreated animals were still trying to heal. The Wnt protein appears to work by stimulating adult stem cells to become new bone. Because Wnt proteins can stimulate repair of a wide range of tissues, the technique might be useful not only in treatment of bone problems but also to stimulate repair of skin, heart and brain.

The study was published in Science Translational Medicine.

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