Month Archives: March 2011

They Treat Horses, Don’t They? #2

by David Prentice

March 21, 2011

[caption id=”attachment_5342” align=”alignright” width=”300” caption=”Newborn Appaloosa foal”][/caption]When it comes to recognizing and accepting the benefits of adult stem cell treatments, veterinary science is usually far ahead of human medical science. But one area where human patients have had the advantage is with umbilical cord blood, a rich source of adult stem cells. As the realization dawns that adult stem cells are already treating a wide variety of diseases, banking of cord blood has increased. Canada has announced a national cord blood bank, and various states, regions, and cities have started their own cord blood banks, e.g., in Maryland, in addition to numerous private (family) cord blood banks.

 

Now horse owners will have the opportunity to store the umbilical cord blood from newborn foals, thanks to a program started at the Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. The program provides kits for a horse owner or veterinarian to collect umbilical cord tissue and send to the UC-Davis lab for processing and storage. When the adult stem cells are needed for treatment, they can be thawed, expanded in numbers, and ready for injection within two weeks.

Dr. Sean Owens, medical director of the Regenerative Medicine Laboratory, said:

The advantage is that, unlike collecting stem cells derived from bone marrow or fat, umbilical cord banking doesnt require the horse to undergo a traumatic or invasive procedure

As anyone who has watched for a mare to foal knows, catching the mare in the act of the quick foaling event requires diligence. But for those who want to bank the foal’s cord blood, there’s now an added incentive to stay awake and watchful.

photo by Tina M

Canada Proposes National Cord Blood Bank

by David Prentice

March 21, 2011

Canada has approved $48 million to start a national umbilical cord blood bank, expected to start functioning in 2013. Umbilical cord blood is a rich source of adult stem cells similar to those from bone marrow, and has been used in place of bone marrow adult stem cells for life-saving transplants.

The announcement was by provincial and territorial health ministers, who said that the national plan will be implemented over eight years. It aims to bank 20,000 cord blood units, and will include two accredited cord blood stem cell labs and a collections network across Canada. Canadian Blood Services (CBS) will develop and manage the national cord blood bank. Quebec runs its own cord blood banking program through Hema-Quebec.

The U.S. has previously put taxpayer money into public cord blood banking. The Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ), was passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in December 2005 as Public Law 109-129. The Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act of 2010, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT), renewed funding and became Public Law 111-264 in October 2010. The U.S. government provides some general information about cord blood donation and options. Besides the option of public cord blood banks (and there are state and regional banks in the U.S.), there are also various private (or family) cord blood banks.

Besides the increasing use of cord blood adult stem cells for treatment of leukemias and meeting minority needs, cord blood stem cells have been used for treatment of anemias, including sickle cell anemia, and are being tested for use in treating traumatic brain injuries, a fatal genetic skin disease, and in a trial to treat cerebral palsy, just to name a few of the newer applications being developed.

More lives are being saved, by preserving the lifesaving adult stem cells from cord blood.

Does the Minnesota Medical Association Support Human Cloning?

by David Prentice

March 21, 2011

The short answer is yes. But the real question is what they support doing with cloned human embryos.

They apparently support creating cloned human embryos, using the cloning technique of somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) to create the cloned embryos. This is the cloning technique that was used to create Dolly the cloned sheep. In that case, the cloned sheep embryo was gestated to birth. Some term this use of cloned embryos as “reproductive cloning”. When the cloned embryos are disaggregated to pluck out their stem cells, some term this use of cloned embryos as “therapeutic cloning” (even though it is obviously not therapeutic for the embryos, and there are no therapies from this technique).

So, does the Minnesota Medical Association support the idea of gestating human clones to birth? That’s what their press release a few days ago suggested. But their 2010 policy book states that while MMA supports cloning human embryos for experiments, MMA opposes gestating cloned human embryos to birth (see item 560.13).

So which is it? Perhaps they could clarify their position on cloning.

UPDATE

Shortly after this was posted at 11 am EDT on 21 March 2011, the MMA updated their press release with a correction, noting that MMA supports cloning of human embryos for experiments, and opposes gestating cloned human embryos to birth.

Who Should Decide How Children Are Educated?”

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 18, 2011

Is “public education the same thing as “government education?” Dr. Jack Klenk argues it is not, but that the two terms have been conflated, in our time, to mean the same thing.

Dr. Klenk is the author of a new FRC booklet titled, “Who Should Decide How Children Are Educated?.” His new publication, which you can download at no charge, answers this probing question through the application of both careful analysis and common sense.

It’s a question well worth asking. According to the federal Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, in constant dollars, spending per pupil in public elementary and secondary schools went from $2,769 in the 1961-62 school year to $10,041 in 2007-07 school year.

What have we gotten for this massive investment? According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, “the reading skills of 12th graders tested in 2005 were significantly worse than those of students in 1992, when a comparable test was first given, and essentially flat since students previously took the exam in 2002.”

Jack Klenk believes we can, and must, do better. He makes a strong case that parents should be allowed and empowered to decide how to education their children. Here’s an excerpt from his new FRC publication:

(W)hat we need today is education that serves the public: education where power flows back to parents; where empowered parents are able to choose schools as they see fit (public charter schools, other government schools, private schools, homeschools, cyber schools, or other schools yet to come); where schools of all stripes that offer quality education are free to compete to serve parents; where the success of schools depends more on satisfying parents who freely choose them than on pleasing bureaucracies; and where nongovernmental schools retain their independence.”

Dr. Klenk’s impressive credentials lend support for his case. He served for twenty-seven years in the U.S. Department of Education under five presidents and eight secretaries. He directed the Office of Non-Public Education which is responsible for fostering the participation of nonpublic school students and teachers in federal education programs and initiatives. Dr. Klenk worked on policies and programs affecting school choice, private schools, home schools, urban faith-based schools, and the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Who Should Decide How Children Are Educated?” is an important contribution to the debate over the future of American education. This is more than an academic discussion — it’s about the well-being of our children and the nation they inherit.

Heart Damage Reversed with Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

March 18, 2011

Researchers have used patients’ own adult stem cells to shrink enlarged hearts, showing that adult stem cells injected into enlarged hearts can reduce heart size, reduce scar tissue and improve function to injured heart areas. The results of the small initial clinical trial, testing the treatment on eight patients, were published in the journal Circulation Research. Senior author Dr. Joshua Hare of the University of Miami noted that more than five million Americans have enlarged hearts due to damage sustained from heart attacks, with limited options such as a heart transplant..

Patients in the study had adult stem cells taken from their bone marrow, then injected into their damaged heart. The heart patients showed a significant improvement in heart performance within months, and a significant reduction in both scar tissue and heart size within a year after the initial therapy. According to Dr. Hare:

This therapy improved even old cardiac injuries. Some of the patients had damage to their hearts from heart attacks as long as 11 years before treatment.”

The researchers used two different types of bone marrow adult stem cells in their study—mononuclear and mesenchymal stem cells—and while the study could not separate the effects of one type of adult stem cell from the other, all the patients in the study benefitted from the therapy and tolerated the injections with no serious adverse events.

Adult stem cells have previously shown evidence of the ability to treat chronic heart failure

Minnesota Moves Ahead with Prohibition on Human Cloning

by David Prentice

March 18, 2011

Minnesota House and Senate committees have approved on voice votes, bills that would prohibit human cloning for any purpose; the bills have now been referred to further committees. The Human Cloning Prohibition Act, companion bills SF 695 and HF 998, would specifically prohibit creation of cloned human embryos for any purpose, but would not affect any stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research. Some have proposed using cloning (technically termed somatic cell nuclear transfer) to create embryos, which would then be cannibalized for their stem cells, even though no one has yet successfully harvested stem cells from cloned human embryos, and only one lab has even been able to create a handful of clones.

Most scientists have turned their backs on cloning (nuclear transfer) technology, including Ian Wilmut, who is the cloner of Dolly the sheep. This is because nuclear transfer cloning techniques can be abused to create born human clones. In addition, newer techniques can reprogram skin cells into “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPS cells) that act like embryonic stem cells yet potentially match the patient from whom they were created, by methods that are cheaper and easier than nuclear transfer cloning, and bypass the ethical problems in use of embryos, eggs, or cloning.

The Minnesota Medical Association has come out against the cloning prohibition bills, and in support of nuclear transfer cloning both for experiments as well as for born human clones. They say in the last paragraph of their press release:

The MMA supports research on multipotent stem cells (including adult and cord blood stem cells); using somatic cell nuclear transfer technology in biomedical research (therapeutic cloning); the use of somatic cell nuclear transfer technology for producing a human child (reproductive cloning), and strong public support of federal funding for research involving human pluripotent stem cells.”

So, they support anything and everything.

UPDATE

The MMA have now updated their press release with a correction, noting that MMA supports cloning of human embryos for experiments, and opposes gestating cloned human embryos to birth.

Oklahoma House Votes Against Destruction of Embryonic Humans

by David Prentice

March 18, 2011

The Oklahoma House has passed a bill that would prohibit human embryo destruction for experiments, by a vote of 86 votes in favor and 8 votes opposed. Contrary to what some news reports claim, the bill (HB 1442) sponsored by Rep. George Faught does not directly address embryonic stem cell research. Rather, the bill prohibits conducting “destructive research on a human embryo”. According to the bill:

Destructive research means medical procedures, scientific or laboratory research, or other kinds of investigation that kill or injure the subject of such research. It does not include:

a. in vitro fertilization and accompanying embryo transfer to a womans body, or

b. any diagnostic procedure that may benefit the human embryo subject to such tests.

The legislation would also prohibit trafficking in human embryos, or gametes that would be used to create human embryos, if the embryos would be used for destructive research.

The focus of the proposed legislation is on embryonic humans. In short, the legislation would prohibit destroying human embryos for experiments in Oklahoma, but not embryonic stem cell research, or any stem cell research for that matter.

State of Pro-Life Legislation in the States

by Brianna Walden

March 17, 2011

Polling data affirms that more Americans now consider themselves pro-life than pro-abortion with the percentages coming in at 51% to 42% according to a Gallup poll conducted May 7th - 10th, 2009. This pro-life view was voiced at the polls last November resulting in the election of many pro-life legislatures across the states. Pledging their commitment to support the rights of the unborn child, legislators in many states have sponsored a broad range of pro-life bills. These bills range in subject matter from requiring ultrasounds, to parental consent, to stricter abortion clinic regulations, to bills that would outlaw abortions from the point at which the unborn can feel pain, but all are uniformly based on the fundamental idea that life is precious and should be protected at all stages of development.

The following maps will begin to give you a picture of the state of pro-life legislation in the states. More maps documenting pro-life legislation will be forthcoming.

State of the States: Rhode Island

by Brianna Walden

March 17, 2011

Same-sex “marriage” bills (H 5012 and S 29) have been heard in both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, but have not yet received a vote. Gordon Fox, openly homosexual and the speaker of the largely Democratic House, wants to delay the vote on the House version of the bill until he can be sure it has enough supporting votes to pass. This hesitance to move forward with same-sex marriage is good news for supporters of marriage defined as one man and one woman.

Even if the votes are obtained to pass the House, Senate passage is far from certain especially since the Senate President, Theresa Paiva-Weed, opposes same-sex marriage. Governor Lincoln Chafee, however, supports the bills, even urging their passage in his inaugural address, and has pledged his signature should one of them reach his desk.

These two same-sex marriage bills are not the only legislation regarding marriage and relationships in Rhode Island. Also heard in the Senate Judiciary committee last Thursday were two constitutional amendments defining marriage (S 162 and S 115). Senate Bill 162 defines the only valid marriage in RI as between a man and a woman, while Senate Bill 115 also defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but leaves open the possibility of establishing civil unions for same-sex couples. Should either of these bills pass (or the House version, H 5260), it would be submitted to the citizens of Rhode Island for a vote.

Two bills regarding domestic unions between persons of the same sex have also received a hearing. Senate Bill 376 would legalize domestic unions between any two adult spouses regardless of sex, and Senate Bill 377 would establish reciprocal beneficiary agreements for any two adults who do not fit within the legal definition of marriage, essentially granting the rights, benefits, and protections of marriage to same-sex couples.

Also in both House and Senate committees are bills that further expand the definition of “hate crimes,” making the motivation behind a crime a crime itself and including gender identity and sexual orientation as a protected class (H 5089 and S 121). In addition, several bills implementing abortion restrictions or unborn child protections are currently in committee.

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