Month Archives: June 2010

Gene-Engineered Adult Stem Cells to Fight HIV

by David Prentice

June 17, 2010

Scientists at City of Hope in Duarte, California have shown that it may be possible to genetically engineer a patient’s own adult stem cells to fight HIV. Four patients with AIDS received their own adult stem cells to treat lymphoma, including some of their cells that had been engineered with three genes to fight off HIV infection. One of the gene therapy targets was a protein receptor on immune cells (CCR5) that HIV binds to when infecting a cell, the idea being to prevent infection of the engineered stem cells. The other two engineered genes were designed to attack viral RNA that might make it into the cell, preventing production of viral protein.

While the dose of engineered stem cells was too low to produce an effect on the patients’ viral load, the study showed no adverse effects from the procedure and that the cells survived, engrafted, and continued producing the engineered genes for up to two years after the transplant for three of the four patients.

A previous study had treated leukemia in an AIDS patient using donor adult stem cell transplant, in which the donor was selected specifically for lack of the CCR5 receptor on the donor stem cells. The patient recovered from the leukemia and also exhibited no sign of HIV.

The current study was published in Science Translational Medicine.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

by Michael Leaser

June 17, 2010

C.S. Lewiss The Voyage of the Dawn Treader contains one of the most powerful and unique depictions of fallenness and grace in modern literature. It’s also a rousing adventure tale that leads its voyagers to the edge of the world and Aslans country. This morning, 20th Century Fox and Walden Media released the first trailer for their third installment of the Narnia film series. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader opens in theaters December 10.

Building Bone for Wounded Warriors

by David Prentice

June 17, 2010

Dr. Kent Leach at UC-Davis has been working on strategies to regenerate functional tissues, to repair or replace damaged tissues. Leach’s lab has developed methods combining adult stem cells and composite gel matrices to stimulate tissue regeneration, including growth of bone.

Dr. Leach has now received a Hypothesis Development Award from the U.S. Army to explore an approach to speed bone healing. The research will help development of effective treatments for wounded soldiers or veterans struggling with slow-healing or non-healing bone damage. Soldiers in combat suffer massive wounds to bone and tissue, with about 70% of war wounds as musculoskeletal injuries, over half of those being to the arms and legs.

Dr. Leach’s approach will use adult stem cells derived from human adipose (fat) tissue, embedding the cells into a special hydrogel and implanting directly in the injured site. The approach offers the advantages of using the patient’s own easily-harvested cells, and increasing the concentration of cells and bone-building substances at the site of the injury.

According to Dr. Leach:

Stem cells from adipose tissue are an exciting alternative to stem cells from bone marrow or other tissues because we can isolate a large number, no matter what the patients condition is.

Promise for Lungs with Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

June 17, 2010

Australian researchers have published a breakthrough that shows promise of adult stem cell treatments for lung diseases. The team isolated human amnion epithelial cells (hAECs) from term placenta that have stem cell and anti-inflammatory properties. The cells were able to differentiate into lung-type cells, and when injected into mice with lung damage, the cells reduced inflammation and scarring in the lungs.

The study’s lead researcher, Associate Professor Yuben Moodley, said:

I would think that it may be pretty useful in patients who are on ventilators and have then developed inflammation from the ventilation and subsequent scarring, so in acute respiratory distress syndrome, as we call, it would be useful.

It may be useful in patients with emphysema, patients with occupational lung diseases like asbestosis and probably in patients with severe asthma where there’s a strong inflammatory component and scarring that may be treated.”

Professor Moodley also noted that:

Given that there are no ethical issues, that the cells are freely available from discarded placenta and that they could be easily grown and injected, it would be a near-term issue rather than a long-term issue.”

The study is published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

He, Being Dead, Yet Speaketh: The Sad Legacy of Sen. Edward Kennedy

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 16, 2010

The late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) believed in “rights” for homosexuals, federally funded abortion premised on the validity of Roe v. Wade, high taxes, an expansive and ever-expanding federal government, an anemic national defense and a host of things at which conservatives rightly recoil.

Now, newly released KGB documents give hard evidence of the Senator’s efforts to secretly work with the Soviet government (the KGB, no less) to undermine the foreign and military policies of President Reagan. The documents are indisputably accurate, and some of them were first reported in The Times of London as early as 1992, and were written about in 2006 by distinguished Grove City College professor and biographer Paul Kengor.

Kennedy had an engaging smile and, to those to whom he chose to show it, great personal warmth. But for sheer brute-force politics, he had few equals. Consider the case of Dr. Carol Iannone, a brilliant scholar at New York University. Dr. Iannone was nominated by the first President Bush to serve on the advisory panel of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Not a cabinet or sub-Cabinet post, not a vital national security position - an academic advisory board.

Yet Kennedy fiercely opposed her. Why? Because, he reportedly told confidants, he needed something to show he had not lost his clout after the embarrassing revelation of his 1991 Easter weekend sexual behavior (conducted in the presence of his then-young son Patrick).

Here’s how the Chicago Tribune describes what happened:

(Senate Labor and Human Resources) Committee insiders-who can be presumed to know more than mere Capitol Hill observers-say that political considerations back home in Boston may be part of it. Kennedy still dominates Massachusetts politics, in large part because of the seniority and power he wields as a committee chairman. Once in a while you have to flex your muscles to show you have that power, they said. Iannone … provided one of few opportunities for Kennedy to knock someone into the ditch.

Kennedy won: Dr. Iannone’s nomination was defeated. Her career was diminished and the nation lost the benefit of her service. But Ted got a bit of his street cred back and, to him, that’s what really mattered.

I confess to having a high level of disdain for the legislative career of the late Senator, a once stout advocate for the unborn who “matured” and for roughly 35 years never met a pro-abortion proposal he didn’t like. And then there was his sordid (at least until his second marriage) personal life.

Yet to think he sought to undermine the President of the United States on vital matters of foreign policy and jeopardize the security of our country - and for his own presidential aspirations, no less, according to the KGB files - drops him down to a deeper level of infamy altogether.

Capitol Hill Briefing: Feds Aren’t Enforcing Obscenity Laws

by Chris Gacek

June 15, 2010

As Carrie Russell notes below, Pat Trueman (pornharms.com), a former federal obscenity prosecutor, led an important briefing in the Capitol Visitor’s Center today that was open to the public. Extended segments of the event will be posted on the PornHarms website, but here were the main points of the event. First, hard core pornography - “obscenity” in legal parlance - is not protected speech under the First Amendment. As such, distribution of obscene materials can be federally prosecuted without constitutional difficulty. Second, for roughly 17 years the Department of Justice has only been selectively prosecuting obscenity. Thus, the proliferation of these materials all across society has proceeded with little hindrance. Third, the public and members of Congress need to demand that the Department of Justice prosecute adult obscenity. Fourth, obscenity damages the human psyche — as Prof. Mary Anne Leyden of the Univ. of Pennsylvania and several other experts discussed. Thanks to Pat Trueman for a career of public service and for bringing DoJ’s poor performance to the attention of the public and the Congress.

A Twisted Philanthropy

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 14, 2010

Joan Hinton was not a household name, but her work on the Manhattan project was historic. After earning her Ph.D. in physics in only two years, she was hand-picked to become a researcher on one of America’s most stunning technological achievements - the development and production of an atomic bomb.

Then she had an attack of conscience. In her obituary in today’s New York Times, she is quoted as telling National Public Radio, I did not want to spend my life figuring out how to kill people … I wanted to figure out how to let people have a better life, not a worse life.

So, she became a philanthropist who devoted her life to finding the cure to diseases. Well, not quite: Dr. Hinton moved to China and became a devoted Maoist Communist. I’m not making this up.

According to the Times, “For the past 40 years, she worked on a dairy farm and an agricultural station outside Beijing, tending a herd of about 200 cows.”

Did she regret her choice? Not in the least. The Times goes on to quote an interview she gave in 2008 to The Weekend Australian: “It would have been terrific if Mao had lived … Of course I was 100 percent behind everything that happened in the Cultural Revolution it was a terrific experience.”

Just how “terrific?” Minimally one million people died during the Cultural Revolution due to persecution by the infamous Red Guards. Religious persecution was intense, and the families of “running dogs” (Chinese whose devotion to Communism was deemed insufficient) were brutalized; there are even reports of the cannibalism of young children by some Red Guards.

In total, roughly 30 million Chinese (possibly as many as 70 million) died under Mao’s reign from enforced starvation or outright murder.

Through it all, American born Dr. Hinton remained a devotee of Chairman Mao. In an interview with NBC News in 2004, journalist Catherine Rampell wrote that “Hinton gushes fervent praise for the Cultural Revolution, Maos mass mobilization of Chinese youth to criticize party officials, intellectuals and bourgeois values, from 1966 to 1976.” Dr. Hinton even used archaic and ludicrous Maoist language to denounce the “renegades” and “capitalist roaders” - code terms for freedom-lovers who would not fully bend the knee to Beijing’s dictators.

Dr. Hinton now faces the Judge of all the earth, not the beatific images of Mao Zedong with which she festooned her apartment. How sad. How very sad.

Peter Sprigg testifies before the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability

by Carrie Russell

June 11, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C.- June 11 Family Research Council Senior Fellow Peter Sprigg

testifies before the Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability (ACBSA), urging the committee to maintain the current policy which permanently defers men who have had sex with men since 1977 as blood donors.

Read the entire written testimony here.

The ACBSA voted 9-6 against lifting the ban. For more, read today’s Washington Update and FRC’s Press Release.

Protecting the Dignity of Girls

by Jeanne Monahan

June 11, 2010

Earlier this week I was awakened by my alarm clock to the disturbing news that a group of local high school boys recently created a fantasy sex league, that is, a draft list —- not of sporting teams to bet on — but of young adolescent girls with whom they aimed to sexually score with. The league of high school boys would gain points by successfully accomplishing any one of a variety of sexual goals. The boys hosted parties where they would prey upon their victims. The draft involved a list of attractive rising ninth graders from other local private schools. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd had an excellent piece on this earlier this week:

Before they got caught last summer, the boys had planned an opening day party, complete with T-shirts, where the mission was to invite the drafted girls and, unbeknownst to them, score points by trying to rack up as many sexual encounters with the young women as possible.

They evidently got points for first, second and third base, said one outraged father of a drafted girl. They were going to have parties and tally up the points, and money was going to be exchanged at the end of the season. He said that the boys would also have earned points for schmoozing with the parents.

The boys and their victims descriptions (height, weight, chest size) were actually posted on the internet. A savvy mother of one of the girls found the information and turned it into the high school administration, who promptly suspended the boys.

To me, this story and everything behind it begs a deeper question: Why is it that girls are so frequently sexually objectified in our culture?

The topic of the oversexualization of girls is one we all need to take more seriously. Back in January I blogged on an offensive statement made by Washington Post TV Critic Tom Shales when he defended the rape of a 13 year-old with the line …in Hollywood I am not sure a 13-year-old is really a 13-year-old.

One group who has had enough of the exploitation of girls and is fighting back is Collective Shout, based out of Australia. In their own words, Collective Shout is for anyone concerned about the increasing pornification of culture and the way its messages have become entrenched in mainstream society, presenting distorted and dishonest ideas about women and girls, sexuality and relationships. Only four months since its inception, the group has been successful in having groups remove offensive products for sale; and by publicly naming and shaming major corporations, advertisers, marketers and media selling products and services that objectify women. Their message seems to be deeply resonating with many people.

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