Month Archives: December 2010

Reversing Aging of Muscle Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

December 16, 2010

A Joslin Diabetes Center team has shown that treatment of aged mice with a compound can rejuvenate their muscle stem cells. The lab of senior author Amy Wagers developed a way of screening chemicals that would promote regeneration in muscle stem cells from older mice, and identified a compound, A25, that selectively blocks a protein involved in TGF beta signaling, a cellular signaling pathway important to stem cell growth.

The drug had no effect on muscle stem cells in young mice, but in older mice the compound gave old muscle stem cells the regenerative ability of cells from young mice. Because this compound would stimulate cells throughout the body, it would not be useful in humans, but the results do show that stimulation of old muscle adult stem cells is possible. An appropriate compound could potentially be useful to repair wasted or damaged muscle in older people.

The results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in Philadelphia.

Reattaching Teeth with Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

December 15, 2010

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have shown that they can anchor teeth back in the jaw using adult stem cells. The technique could be widely applicable for replanting teeth lost through gum disease or an accident.

The scientists used adult stem cells obtained from the periodontal ligament of molars extracted from mice. The cells were grown in culture and then seeded onto clean rat molars, then the molars were placed into the tooth sockets of rats. After two to four months, the stem cells aligned and formed new fibrous attachments between the tooth and bone, firmly attaching the replanted tooth into the animal’s mouth. Molars that were replanted without adult stem cells were either lost or loosely attached and were reabsorbed by the jaw.

According to senior author Thomas Diekwisch:

Our strategy could be used for replanting teeth that were lost due to trauma or as a novel approach for tooth replacement using tooth-shaped replicas.”

The study was published recently in the journal Tissue Engineering

Federalism and Canadian Education Policy

by Chris Gacek

December 15, 2010

K. Lloyd Billingsleys article in todays Washington Times (Education Payouts Lack Payoff) on the need to cut back the influence of the Department of Education contained some interesting facts about Canada. It turns out that leftist, progressive Canada has no equivalent of the U.S. Department of Education. Education policy is set much more locally. Here is the analysis:

Canada has no federal education ministry or department and no federal Cabinet official for K-12 education. At the federal level, Canada spends virtually nothing on K-12 education and on a per-student basis, spends about 20 percent less than the United States. Yet Canada is outperforming the United States.

On the International Student Assessment, a system of tests measuring the performance of 15-year-olds in reading, math and science literacy, Canada tops the United States by a wide margin. In math, Americans score 474, well below the international average of 498, and far below Canadas 527. On the 2006 Progress in Reading Literacy Study exam, the major Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario significantly outscore the United States in fourth-grade reading.

In Canada, all funding and policymaking takes place at the provincial and local levels. In America, education is the responsibility of the states, but the federal government has increasingly pursued a top-down approach, with measures such as President Bushs No Child Left Behind and President Obamas Race to the Top. Mr. Obama - who sends his own children to an exclusive private school - has also been active at the local level.

Regenerating the Retina from the Inside

by David Prentice

December 15, 2010

Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center have uncovered a pathway to activate existing adult stem cells within the eye, coaxing them to transform into photoreceptors. The study suggests that adult stem cells within the retina can be chemically induced to regenerate photoreceptors and restore vision, without transplanting any cells into the eye. The work could provide a route to treatment of age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

The retina of mammals contains cells known as Muller cells that help with maintenance of the retina. The scientists found that a rare subset of Muller cells act as stem cells, and can be activated in the laboratory to form photoreceptor cells. When rats with retinal damage were treated to stimulate the Muller cells in their retinas, there was a significant improvement in light perception in treated animals.

Senior author Iqbal Ahmad said:

This is really exciting. It’s a tantalizing stem cell approach to correct vision loss … to harness existing stem cells and coax them into repairing the retina. Before, stem cell transplantation was regarded to be the only practical way to restore vision. This is a radically different approach, and best of all, it is relatively safe and free from controversy.”

The study was published in the journal PLOSOne.

How Homosexuals in the Military Could Cause Casualties

by Peter Sprigg

December 15, 2010

Gen. James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, suggested in an interview yesterday that allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military could not only harm unit cohesion, but could actually increase casualties. Here are the opening paragraphs of the Washington Post report on the subject:

Marine general suggests repeal of ‘don’t ask’ could result in casualties

The Marine Corps’ top general suggested Tuesday that allowing gays to serve openly in the military could result in more casualties because their presence on the battlefield would pose “a distraction.”

When your life hangs on the line,” said Gen. James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, “you don’t want anything distracting… . Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines’ lives.”

In an interview with newspaper and wire service reporters at the Pentagon, Amos was vague when pressed to clarify how the presence of gays would distract Marines during a firefight. But he cited a recent Defense Department survey in which a large percentage of Marine combat veterans predicted that repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law would harm “unit cohesion” and their tight-knit training for war.

So the Marines came back and they said, ‘Look, anything that’s going to break or potentially break that focus and cause any kind of distraction may have an effect on cohesion,’ ” he said. “I don’t want to permit that opportunity to happen. And I’ll tell you why. If you go up to Bethesda [Naval] Hospital … Marines are up there with no legs, none. We’ve got Marines at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] with no limbs.”

Amos had said previously that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly could cause “distractions” and “risks” for combat units. But his remarks Tuesday were the first time that he or any other senior military leader has suggested that repealing the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” law could directly endanger troops and cost lives.

Advocates for repeal of the current law against homosexuality in the military are scoffing at Gen. Amos remarks, insisting there is no conceivable scenario under which the presence of homosexual troops could lead to casualties.

However, retired Marine Gen. John J. Sheehan gave a specific example of how this could happen in his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee last Marchan example drawn from his own personal experience in combat in Vietnam. Here is his description of the incident, from the transcript of the March 18 hearing (bottom of p. 16 to p. 17 in the link):

General SHEEHAN. Senator, in my experience, homosexual marines create problems on the battlefield. Let me give you a case and point.

Early years of Vietnam, 9th Marines, West of Da Nang, rifle company on a ridgeline combat outpost, the intelligence was that the North Vietnamese were going to attack, that night. The unit was put on 50-percent alert, which meant one slept, one stood on watch. About 1 oclock in the morning, a fight broke out in a foxhole because the young marine was being molested by his squad leader. To the right of that foxhole, there was a machinegun section that opened up and almost killed a combat patrol that was out in the front.

Now, the natural question is, Okay. Well, fine, dont you have rules that deal with assault? and the answer to thats yes.

The real issue, though, was that, after we sorted this whole thing out, the sergeantthe squad leader essentially said, Look, I was just adjusting his equipment, waking him up because theI thought there was something out to the front. He denied it happened. The young PFC, who was new to the organization, said, Wait a minute. This really happened to me. He was molesting me. The unit took sides, naturally. The squad leader was a popular person, been around for a while. The PFC was a new kid. For about 3 days, that unit divided down the middlethose that supported the popular squad leader, those that kind of thought the new kid might be believable.

The only reason we sorted the issue out was because the sergeant committed the offense about 3 days later. But, the real tragedy of this story is, the young PFC continually insisted, for a long period of time, that nobody in his organization believed it happened. He lost faith in his chain of command.

So, I would argue the case that, if you look atand you can say that Im some old guy thats been around for a while, and beenprobably been around for too long. But, I read

Senator MCCAIN. Youre not the only one that

General SHEEHAN. Wellbut, I read the Defense Departments recently released sexual assault report. And the thing that really bothers me about this issue is that the report saysand this is last years reporttheres been an overall 11-percent rise in sexual assaults in the military; 16-percent rise in Afghanistan and Iraq; 32over 3200 cases of sexualwere not talking about sexual harassment, were talking about sexual assault. Seven percent of those thats about 226male on male assaults, where rape and sodomy took place. And the Department of Defense will clearly indicate that thats an underreporting.

I would stipulate that, from my days in Vietnam in the early 60s, when I had this sergeant that almost got a combat patrol killed, that a226 male soldiers and marines who are molestedthat theres something wrong with our sexual behavior policy.

ABC v. Ireland

by Family Research Council

December 15, 2010

Tomorrow, the Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights will issue its opinion on a pivotal abortion case, ABC v. Ireland. The case has been dubbed the Roe v. Wade of Europe, and will have significant bearing on abortion law internationally. The plaintiffs are three Irish women who claim that Irelands abortion law the procedure is illegal unless the mothers life is at risk placed their well being and health in jeopardy in short because they had to travel abroad to abort their babies.

In the words of one person involved in the case, ABC v. Ireland should be an open and shut win for the Irish government. One would think that the Court would not even entertain oral arguments in the ABC case, because it has to do with a sovereign states constitutional provisions on a subject on which it is permitted to do as it wishes under legal precedent from the European Court of Human Rights. Serious questions also exist regarding basic applicability/appropriateness given the fact that the plaintiffs sought no form of domestic remedy prior to bringing this case to the European Court of Human Rights.

In November, 2008, FRC joined with the Alliance Defense Fund and other pro-life, pro-family groups to provide written observations to the court. Below are short excerpts from this document and here is the link for the full statement:

The Court Must Scrutinise Domestic Remedies

2. Article 35 of the Convention requires an applicant to exhaust domestic

remedies, and Article 13 entitles applicants to a basic procedure for trying to

protect their rights. Irish law and practice establishes not only the existence of

remedies sufficient to satisfy Article 13, but a high burden of exhaustion.

3. Under Article 35(1) therefore, the Court must decide whether the

Applicant, under the collective circumstances of the case, did everything they

could reasonably be expected to do to exhaust domestic remedies.1

Member States Have Sovereignty to Protect the Right to Life

7. Irelands sovereign right to determine when life begins and to determine

the appropriate protections therein is based on the paramount importance of the

right to life affirmed in Article 2, which outweighs other Convention rights. This

Court recognised that other rights, such as the right to privacy and bodily integrity

within the context of pregnancy, are not absolute and must be analysed in

conjunction with the rights of the unborn to life and the rights of States to

determine their own definition of when life begins and how to protect unborn

children as a result.6

11. The principle of respect for national sovereignty, and not the erosion

thereof, forms the basis for Convention rights themselves, because those rights

stemmed from the treaty obligations undertaken by the High Contracting parties.

For any organ of the Council of Europe to hold that Irelands laws protecting life

must be liberalised would create a new Convention right to which Ireland never

acceded, and would place obligations on Ireland to which it never became party.

Adult Stem Cells Repair Damaged Facial Tissues

by David Prentice

December 15, 2010

Spanish surgeons have reported pioneering work using a patient’s own bone marrow adult stem cells to repair craniofacial damage. The group has recently published their results in the journal Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery for their first three patients.

One patient suffered from nerve impairment, a pathological fracture, and complete wasting of bone, muscle and skin, leading to life-threatening problems. At 12 months after the adult stem cell treatment, the patient had new blood vessel formation, bone regeneration, fracture consolidation and total nerve function recovery. Muscles later resumed function, and a destroyed salivary gland soon reactivated. Two other patients with advanced disease involving bone loss and other nerve defects were also treated. After adult stem cell treatment, bone formed rapidly and nerve function fully recovered. All patients also underwent minor surgery to receive dental implants in their newly-regenerated jawbones, and eight weeks later, doctors attached the dental prosthesis (teeth) to the implants, restoring oral function.

Paco Vidal, who was involved in the design of the stem cell production, said:

The outcome of these treatments with the stem cells has surpassed our wildest expectations. The surgeons observed early bone formation in the afflicted areas that eventually resulted in complete healing.”

Adult stem cells continue to provide real treatments for real patients, now.

Using Chemicals to Reprogram iPS Cells

by David Prentice

December 15, 2010

The field of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells continues to move rapidly. It was only 2006 when Yamanaka published the first paper showing that a normal cell, such as a skin cell, could be reprogrammed to behave like an embryonic stem cell, by adding four genes through the use of viruses. In 2007, Yamanaka’s lab and Thomson’s lab independently showed that the technique could work with human cells. Since that time there have been numerous reports of different tissues, different species, and variations on the reprogramming (here is a brief review.) One goal has been eliminating use of DNA as a tool for the reprogramming, eventually using only simple chemicals.

Recently a Scripps lab has come close to using only chemicals for reprogramming normal cells to iPS cells. The report, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, describes the use of a few drug-like chemicals to replace all but one (Oct-4) of the added genes. A future goal is to replace Oct-4, a master regulator of pluripotency, in the chemical cocktail.

Senior author Sheng Ding says:

That would be the last step toward achieving the Holy Grail. Our latest discovery brings us one step closer to this dream. We are working toward creating drugs that are totally chemically defined, where we know every single component and precisely what it does, without causing genetic damage.”

Because iPS cells can be made without the use of embryos, eggs or cloning, the technique provides an ethical route to pluripotent (embryonic-like) stem cells. Using only a chemical mixture would eliminate one other ethical problem—some of the tools used (some genes, viruses, and cell lines used) are derived from human tissue. This leaves some of the tools as ethically-tainted, even if the technique itself is not problematic.

Still, there remains a problem with any pluripotent stem cell—their propensity to grow, leading to tumors. Meanwhile, adult stem cells are already treating thousands of patients now.

Men Might Produce Their Own Insulin-Secreting Cell Transplants

by David Prentice

December 15, 2010

Georgetown University Medical Center researchers have shown results that suggest men may be able to make their own new insulin-secreting cells, potentially providing their own transplants for treatment of Type I (juvenile) diabetes. Why just men? Because the scientists took the stem cells from testicular tissue. In particular, the scientists isolated spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) extracted from testicular tissue, and found that in culture the cells can morph into insulin-secreting beta islet cells normally found in the pancreas. They tested the cells by transplanting some into the backs of immune deficient diabetic mice, and found they were able to decrease glucose levels in the mice, demonstrating the cells were producing enough insulin to reduce hyperglycemia.

The results, so far unpublished, were presented at the American Society of Cell Biology annual meeting in Philadelphia.

The lead investigator, G. Ian Gallicano, says:

These are male germ cells as well as adult stem cells. We found that once you take these cells out of the testes niche, they get confused, and will form all three germ layers within several weeks. These are true, pluripotent stem cells.”

This is not the first report of pluripotent stem cells derived from testicular tissue. Previous reports were published in 2004, in 2006, in 2007, and in 2009 by an international collaboration and a German group. But the Georgetown report appears to be the first using human tissue to show production of insulin-secreting cells.

Adult Stem Cells from Cord Blood Enhance Aging Brain Cells

by David Prentice

December 15, 2010

Researchers from the University of South Florida have shown that adult stem cells from human umbilical cord blood can enhance the survival and maturation of brain neurons from both young and old laboratory animals. The research may have implications for degenerative diseases of the brain, as well as for brain trauma.

The study was done in the laboratory using neurons taken from a specific area of the brain—the hippocampus. According to Dr. Alison Willing, senior author of the study:

As we age, cognitive function tends to decline. Changes in cognitive function are accompanied by changes in the hippocampus, an area of the brain where long term memory, as well as other functions, are located, an area of the brain among those first to suffer the effects of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.”

The aging population is more susceptible to the stresses and diseases that affect this part of the brain. Interestingly, the positive effects of adult stem cells from cord blood were more pronounced with neurons from older animals. In addition, not only were the cord blood stem cells able to protect and stimulate growth of the neurons, they also stimulated growth of cells known as dendrites, the branching neurons which act as signaling nerve communication channels.

The results of the study have just been published in the journal Aging and Disease.

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