FRC Blog

Name That iPS Cell Tune in Only Two Genes and a Sprinkle

by David Prentice

October 13, 2008

Researchers at Harvard announced October 12 that they have produced flexible, embryonic-like iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) by adding only two genes and “sprinkling” a helping chemical onto cells. The iPS cell method, first developed by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of Japan in 2006, involves adding four genes (via viruses) to “reprogram” normal cells so that they behave like embryonic stem cells, but without the use of embryos, eggs, or cloning. The first human iPS cells were announced in November 2007 by Yamanaka and by Dr. James Thomson. The race has been on to simplify the reprogramming process, using fewer genes and safer viruses, or no viruses at all. Over the last ten months, numerous groups have reported improved methods and use of fewer genes, including a recent published report using safer viruses that deliver the genes and then disappear. Yamanaka has just published results showing that iPS reprogramming can be done completely without viruses for the gene additions. Meanwhile other researchers have been attempting to use simple chemicals or proteins to accomplish reprogramming, rather than using any DNA. Previous work has used soluble proteins with three genes, and a combined genetic and chemical approach. Now Doug Melton’s group, building on their previous work with making mouse iPS cells, has demonstrated that human iPS cells can be produced by adding only two key genes along with a simple chemical. They eliminated the need for potential cancer causing genes, adding only the two genes Oct-4 and Sox-2, both master regulators of stem cell gene expression. The chemical additive, valproic acid, acts on the DNA-protein complex in the nucleus of cells to open its structure, making reprogramming easier. While the method they used for this study still involves viruses to deliver the genes, Melton noted that “This study demonstrates there’s a possibility that instead of using genes and viruses to reprogram cells, one can use chemicals,” and “These results support the possibility of reprogramming through purely chemical means.” With the rapidly-increasing number of researchers moving into the cell reprogramming field and away from use of embryos and cloning, it shouldn’t be long before the possibility is realized.

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Stem Cells for Hair Growth

by David Prentice

October 13, 2008

Swedish researchers have found in studies with mice that actively growing stem cells play a key role in keeping hair follicles healthy. The group found that active stem cells had a specific protein on their surface, called Lgr5. These stem cells were long-lived and showed rapid growth. In the mouse studies, just a few of these cells were able to build an entire hair follicle. While it will still be some time before the results can be applied to humans, the study provides some hope for the follicularly challenged who miss their coiffure. The published study also notes that the same protein has been identified on stem cells in the intestine. So, it may take real guts (transplanted) to grow hair…

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Adult Stem Cells from Testes as Flexible as Embryonic Stem Cells

by David Prentice

October 13, 2008

Scientists in Germany have shown that adult stem cells with the same flexibility as embryonic stem cells can be grown from human testes tissue. Like embryonic stem cells and iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells, these human stem cells are pluripotent, showing the ability to grow for long periods in the lab and to form representatives of most or all tissues of the body. This is not the first report of pluripotent stem cells from testes. A different German team had previously published their results producing such flexible stem cells from mouse testes, and a U.S. group had also published their results producing these flexible stem cells from mice, while a U.S. company had claimed they were able to produce flexible stem cells from human testes. However, this German group is the first to publish evidence (online in the journal Nature) that such cells can be made from human testes tissue.

According to senior author Thomas Skutella, “The advantage these cells have in comparison to embryonic stem cells is that there is no ethical problem with these cells and that they are natural.” Skutella is a professor at the Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine in Tuebingen, Germany.

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Reprogramming iPS Cells Without Viruses

by David Prentice

October 13, 2008

Dr. Shinya Yamanaka and his team have done it again. This time they have produced induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) without using viruses. Yamanaka was the first to show that stem cells equivalent to embryonic stem cells could be produced from normal cells such as skin, without ever using human embryos or human embryonic stem cells in his research. The process involved adding four genes to cells using retroviruses. The added genes “reprogram” the gene expression of the normal cells, making them behave like embryonic stem cells, but without the use of embryos, eggs, or cloning. However, there has been some concern that the retroviruses, which integrate into the cell’s DNA, have the potential to induce cancer (beyond that usually seen with embryonic stem cells.) Yamanaka has now accomplished in mouse cells the reprogramming without the use of any virus, by using plasmids (circular pieces of DNA.) Using the same four genes, the cells were reprogrammed to iPS cells and behaved like embryonic stem cells, but without any of the added DNA integrating into the cell’s DNA. Published online 9 October by Science, this advance continues the avalanche of results for iPS cells seen in just the last year, emphasizing the lack of results with embryonic stem cells as well as the growing movement away from the use of embryos and cloning.

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Post-abortion Mental Health Effects, Awareness, and Politics

by Moira Gaul

October 8, 2008

Thursday October 9th, 10 am to noon, FRC will host a panel discussion of distinguished researchers and clinicians on the topic of abortion and mental health. Challenging the recent special report findings of the American Psychological Association (APA), the panelists will present and discuss the scientific body of evidence which establishes a causal link between abortion history and subsequent mental health effects including post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, and substance abuse. Clinicians will discuss direct, long-term psychological and psychiatric provision of professional care to women and men they’ve treated for post-abortion psychological sequelae.

Additionally, results from a recent poll commissioned by the Illinois-based Elliot Institute will be shared to highlight Americans’ views on post-abortion awareness and their political bent. FRC’s own Tom McClusky will then provide comment on how anti-women’s health policy, ignoring the negative mental health effects of abortion, could proceed and affect protections against coercive abortion, statutory rape, and general women’s and maternal health.

Please join us for what will be an eye-opening and in-depth review of the science, recent polling, and implications of the recent wreckless APA findings.

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FRC Submits Comments to HHS on Conscience Protection

by Chris Gacek

October 5, 2008

      On August 26, 2008, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) asked the public for comments about rules it proposed to protect the rights of conscience of health care providers - in particular, to permit them to refuse to assist in, provide, or refer patients for abortions.  These conscience rights were created by three historic federal statutes known more commonly as the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments.

     The Family Research Council and several other groups filed comments on September 25th responding to HHS.  Get a copy of them here.

     Here is a summary of our main points:

  • HHS’s proposed rules (regulations) are needed because many participants in the health care system are violating the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments. Many intended beneficiaries of these landmark civil rights laws - intended to protect health care providers’ right of religious and moral conscience - do not know their rights under the law. HHS regulations are needed to clarify the extent of these statutory protections.
  • HHS should adopt a fertilization-based definition of pregnancy (and thus abortion) because that is consistent with the prevailing medical dictionary definitions, religious thought, and medical science on when life begins: these are, after all, conscience protections, so they should protect the conscience’s of the various health care providers.
  • Even if HHS does not adopt a fertilization-based definition of pregnancy, it should reject the implantation-based definition in HHS’s human-subject regulations for a number of reasons.

 o   For example, non-uterine, ectopic pregnancies demonstrate that uterine implantation cannot define the onset of pregnancy.

  • As a final alternative, HHS should recognize that the reasonable, subjective religious or moral conviction of the individual or institutional health care provider should govern, given the statutory focus on protecting conscience. Religious freedom and conscience in this country plainly reflect the views of the individual or institution, not the views of third parties.
  • Recognizing a right of conscience does not discriminate against women or violate any concepts mandated in Roe v. Wade and its progeny which do not purport to require any particular health care provider to participate in abortions.
  • HHS should enforce the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments in the same manner as it enforces other civil rights statutes, like Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
  • HHS’s Title X regulations, which require grant recipients to counsel and refer for abortions, appear to violate the law as set forth in the Church, Coats, and Weldon Amendments.

 

 

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Homosexual TV Characters — Proportional Representation, or Propaganda?

by Peter Sprigg

October 2, 2008

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) reported in triumph last week that the number of “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)” characters on broadcast TV will more than double in the new TV season.

Of course, TV writers, producers, and networks are free to create whatever type of characters they want, but the public needs to look at those characters and programs with a discerning eye. Are they just there to reflect what America actually looks like (GLAAD’s claim)? Or are they really there for propaganda purposes, to promote a sociopolitical agenda demanding affirmation of homosexual conduct?

There are two ways to test this question. One is to ask whether the depiction of homosexual characters is accurate. Does it accurately reflect the higher rates of sexual promiscuity, STDs, mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse among homosexuals? If the homosexual characters are always depicted as the smartest, funniest, most noble characters on the show, on the one hand, or only as victims of persecution, on the other, then you know you’re seeing propaganda.

The other test is whether other groups are proportionally represented on TV as well. For example, how many evangelical Christian characters are there on TV series, and how are they portrayed? There are many times as many evangelical Christians in America as there are homosexuals, but I doubt you’ll find that reflected on TV.

[See also CNN.com: In Hollywood, sexuality is less secret, still can be big deal]

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