July 29, 2008
Not purposefully, mind you. A new study published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery shows that lower belly fat is rich in adult stem cells. The study examined the concentration of stem cells in liposuctioned fat taken from different parts of the body. While each source contained adult stem cells, the highest concentration was found in fat from the lower belly and inner part of the thighs. Since many Americans are putting on extra pounds, the country has an almost unlimited supply of stem cells.
But before you dismiss stem cells from fat as unimportant and reach for that extra donut, consider that adult stem cells from fat have shown some important clinical results. As just a few examples, they’ve been used to grow new bone to correct a skull defect, for breast reconstruction following surgery, and are being used to treat heart damage (maybe an attempt to make up for leading to the heart attack in the first place.) Veterinarians are already using stem cells from fat to treat dogs and horses for numerous conditions, including repairing the tendon of a winning racehorse to put him back on the track and continue winning. Several companies are developing the technology for humans and animals, and one scientific society has focused on the applications of stem cells from adipose (fat) tissue. Stem cells from fat are actually an underappreciated source for potential therapies.
Okay, so how about that extra donut now?
July 29, 2008
Back in November of 2007, Ian Wilmut, cloner of Dolly the sheep, announced his intention to give up on cloning and instead focus on the new technique of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells developed by Shinya Yamanaka of Japan. Yamanaka’s technique “reprograms” ordinary cells such as skin cells back to an embryonic state where they have characteristics similar to embryonic stem cells, but the technique does not use embryos, eggs, or cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer). In fact, Yamanaka never used any human eggs or embryos in developing the technique, only mouse. The reprogramming technique is also much easier to accomplish than cloning. In it’s August 2008 issue, Scientific American has published an article (originally titled “No More Cloning Around”) and an interview with Wilmut on his reasons for the switch in research direction. (Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council, is quoted in the news article.)
The article notes that “practicalities… seem to be driving the SCNT exodus,” and “It is hard to escape the sense that SCNT research is on the wane. The ethical barriers and short egg supply remain daunting.” Not to mention the technical problems (it doesn’t work well at all, and is horribly inefficient; as noted by many scientists, including Wilmut in the article.) Bottom line: Wilmut has given up on cloning for practical reasons.
Still, there is an interesting discussion in the Wilmut interview about the possibility of using cloning to produce an embryo with its genetic defects corrected. What he actually describes is Embryo Cell Nuclear Transfer (ECNT). An embryo is first created by fertilization, one of the cells of this original embryo is genetically altered to correct whatever might be the problem, and then the nucleus of this embryo cell is transferred into an enucleated egg, to produce a new, cloned embryo. Wilmut doesn’t seem to have any problem with this.
This is what some have described as creating 3-parent embryos. But it’s still cloning.
July 29, 2008
Another child has benefitted from umbilical cord blood treatment for cerebral palsy. Chloe Levine was diagnosed at age 1 with cerebral palsy. Her parents had saved her cord blood, and she had it re-infused in an experimental procedure at Duke University. Only two months after receiving her own cord blood stem cells, she is reported to have made a 50% recovery.
This is only the latest story where cord blood adult stem cells have helped children with cerebral palsy. Ryan Schneider and Dallas Hextell are a couple more. But it’s also important to keep in mind that while these are great feel-good stories, the treatment is still experimental; no peer-reviewed papers have been published yet on these clinical trials. Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg at Duke cautions that “it’s impossible to tell at this point” just how much progress Dallas and others in the trial will make.
One other thing is of vital importance—that we collect cord blood and bank it. Private banks are good if people can afford it, but we also need many more public banks so everyone can have access to a match.
July 27, 2008
John Adams’ Pointed Prayer
By Robert G. Morrison
The great popularity of the recent HBO series, John Adams, is well deserved. The movie, unlike the fine David McCullough book, shows how good old honest John got himself in a peck of trouble as the first Vice President. He took up six weeks of the time of the first Senate with long and tedious lectures on titles. David McCullough, when he spoke at the National Press Club in 2000, airily dismissed Adams’ disastrous misstep. “Oh, he was a good, thrifty New Englander. He didn’t want to make the titles hereditary. But he knew everyone loves distinction and he thought titles would be cheap.” The HBO series shows the revulsion of many of the senators at the very idea. Adams wanted the President to be titled: “His high Mightiness, President of the United States and Protector of their Liberties.” Behind Adams’ back, the senators snickered at the portly, balding Vice President, calling him “His Rotundity.”
The series shows Adams in the best of lights, and he deserves much good light. Even when he’s wrong, even when he’s vain and prone to temper tantrums, we see the human toll of his brave labors for Independence. His son Charles dies of alcoholism. His beloved daughter Nabbie dies of breast cancer. Our hearts go out to him and to his beloved Abigail. McCullough told the National Press Club that the correspondence between John and Abigail is on microfiche—and the indelible record of their fidelity and love is five miles long!
When I take the Witherspoon Fellows to Monticello, I always speak of my reverence for Mr. Jefferson, that great defender of religious and civil liberty. But I always disagree with George Will. Will famously wrote that “Thomas Jefferson lived as a free man should live.” No, John Adams lived as a free man should live; he never freed his slaves because he never had any!
My favorite John Adams story dates to the year 2000. Then, Bill Clinton occupied the Oval Office. That December, the Clintons invited their nearest and dearest friends to celebrate the two hundred years that the White House had been the Executive Mansion. They asked David McCullough to come and read from his wonderful biography of John Adams.
As the liberal Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory reported, McCullough ended with John Adams’ famous prayer, the one FDR had had engraved in the mantle in the State Dining Room:
“I pray Heaven to bestow the best blessings on this house and all that shall hereafter inhabit. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”
Miss McGrory wrote that when the prayer was read, all of Bill Clinton’s best friends looked at their shoes in embarrassment. Honest John Adams had crafted that inspiring petition in 1800. He hurled it like a javelin two centuries into the future and he punctured Bill Clinton’s pretensions with his pointed prayer. God bless John Adams!
July 26, 2008
Earlier this week I returned from my first trip to the beautiful state of Alaska. I was a part of a double header service at Anchorage Baptist Temple where I preached the first service and Franklin Graham preached the second. Great folks. But I’ll have to say the highlight of the trip was a flight with two former Air Force bomber pilots who flew me in a float plane for a close up of some of Alaska’s most famous glaciers in Prince William Sound.
We flew over the Harvard Glacier at about 50 feet as it descended into the College Fjord. What an awesome view!
On the way we passed the Exit Glacier which my hosts pointed out has become a magnet for the Global Warming crowd. Global Warming alarmists point to the receding glaciers as evidence of the crisis. In fact, just a few months ago the Exit Glacier was the site where two presidential candidates pledged their support to stop Climate change. News reports say the glacier has receded a 1000 feet in the last decade.
According to my ace pilots, as the Exit Glacier, receded it uncovered trees that had been mowed down by the glacier when the big ice was on the move the other way, as the glacier was forming. The trees were reportedly carbon dated. Guess what? They weren’t 7,000 years old; they were 700 years old! That is similar to what was discovered in Switzerland. As the Schnidenjoch glacier was retreating a 4,700-year-old archer’s quiver was exposed in 2003.
This all suggested what many scientists have suggested; the planet operates in 1,500 year cycles of warming and cooling Of course you don’t hear too much from those who would proffer such a view and question global warming, because it has become modern day blasphemy.
By-the-way, most of the folks I was with in both Anchorage and Fairbanks were saying a little warming would actually be nice. Their summer has been unusually cold. Of course the explanation for that is as is the explanation for everything else these days, it’s caused by global warming.
July 25, 2008
Back on May 5, 2008, I posted a blog note about the sleazy TV show - “Gossip Girl.” Well, Gossip Girl is in the news again - see the article in Newsweek. It appears that the geniuses who produce this sleazefest have decided to quote the show’s critics in advertising posters promoting the new season of raunch. So, for example, one ad quotes Parents Television Council which had called the program, “Mind-Blowingly Inappropriate.” If you have the maturity of a 14-year-old boy this is probably mind-bogglingly clever.
I prefer to see these ads as another a piece of evidence that this country needs cable choice (a la carte) more than ever. Parents need to be able to block networks like CW - even though it is a broadcast channel - from entering their home. Perhaps then the folks at CW and Gossip Girl will be less like likely to mock the decent Americans who really do care about the welfare of teenagers and young adults more than the prospect of selling ads and making buckets of money. Oh, sorry, I should have said - producing great art.
July 25, 2008
A week ago, July 17th marked the 365th day that Chief Judge Robert Conrad has been nominated for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and has not had a hearing in the Senate. That is one year, without the basic courtesy of Senate Democrats telling him to his face why they do not want him on court. It is also one year in which the 4th Circuit has languished, short-handed, with over a quarter of its seats vacant. A recent hearing in the Senate, convened by Sen. Alexander of Tennessee, brought a distinguished panel of witnesses to show why this is unfair to Judge Conrad and the American people.
Judge Conrad is eminently qualified to sit on the 4th Circuit. In fact, as recently as 2006 the Senate deemed him qualified to head the Federal Western District Court of the North Carolina, and a year before that appointed him to that court without opposition. As the representative of the North Carolina Bar Association told the Senate panel, Conrad is a superb lawyer who deserves to be put on the court, not left in judicial limbo. (He also noted that North Carolina, the most populous state in the 4th Circuit, has only one judge on the court—a misrepresentation that Judge Conrad’s appointment would help to remedy.)
Perhaps the worst part about what is going on is the dishonesty of it all. Sen. Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has already unfairly smeared Judge Conrad by wantonly mischaracterizing his religious beliefs. Now he has taken refuge behind the so-called “Thurmond Rule” in holding up the nomination of Conrad and others like him. Leahy alleges that Republicans, led by deceased Sen. Strom Thurmond in 1980, purposefully obstructed the nominations of President Carter’s federal judges since it was an election year, so, in the words of Leahy, they might “remain vacant in order to be filled with the nominations of the next president.” The Congressional Research Service debunked that claim. In fact, in September of 1980 the Senate confirmed 12 judicial nominations. The Senate even confirmed Stephen Breyer (now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court) to the 1st Circuit after Reagan’s election. All in all, of the 14 nominations pending in 1980 12 received hearings, 10 were reported, and 10 were confirmed—71.4%. Compare that to the 35% treatment Bush has received.
Sen. Leahy should be honest about the Thurmond Rule, and follow Sen. Thurmond’s example by holding hearings on 8 more judges—starting with Robert Conrad.
July 24, 2008
One of the most bizarre aspects of the July 23 Congressional hearing on homosexuals in the military was the effort to read 21st-century political correctness back into American history.
Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) insisted, “We’ve had gays in the American military from the first unit that was ever formed.” Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) echoed this astonishing claim, saying that “gays have served in every conflict, every war” this country has fought.
In fact, Shays was even more specific, noting a patriotic event in his district at which they read the names of “everyone who lost his life in the French and Indian War—some of whom were gay.”
Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) declared that allowing homosexuals to serve would be an expression of the high value Americans place on the principle of equal opportunity. He even claimed the father of our country, George Washington, as an ally who believed that “the way to the top should be open to everyone.” In context, that referred to the respect Washington had for enlisted men in relation to officers—but Sestak apparently would have us believe that Washington felt the same way about equal opportunity for homosexuals.
Actually, though, we have some very precise evidence in the historical record of what Gen. Washington thought about homosexual conduct. It can be found in his General Orders issued on Saturday, March 14, 1778, toward the end of his army’s long, bitter winter at Valley Forge. Like today, his army was at war. Like today, his army had serious problems of recruitment and retention. Perhaps, like today, there might have been some people who would have argued that his army could not afford to lose a soldier over something like his sexual conduct.
But that argument carried no water with Washington. On the 10th of March, a General Court Martial was held to try Lieut. Frederick Gotthold Enslin “for attempting to commit sodomy, with John Monhort a soldier.” Having been convicted, he was sentenced “to be dismiss’d the service with Infamy.”
That may have been the verdict of the court martial, but is there any evidence of what Washington himself thought? In fact, there is: “His Excellency the Commander in Chief approves the sentence and with Abhorrence and Detestation of such Infamous Crimes orders Lieutt. Enslin to be drummed out of Camp tomorrow morning by all the Drummers and Fifers in the Army never to return . . .”
If members of Congress and homosexual activists want to argue for repeal of the existing law in order to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military, let them make their case. But it is sheer nonsense to claim that such an action would be anything but a radical deviation from the unbroken practice of the American military throughout our country’s history.
July 22, 2008
It seems that the San Diego LGBT Pride Parade has a long history of problems associated with pedophilia, including hiring a number of registered sex offenders. However this year they truly crossed the lines to practically endorsing pedophilia by naming pedophilia activist Peter Tatchell as the International Grand Marshal. The fact that such a person even exists, let alone to be endorsed by an organization that also receives taxpayer funded services, is incomprehensible.
Mr. Tatchell’s website (which I won’t link to but which can be found easy enough) includes topic titles such as
- “Lowering the unrealistic age of consent will help teenagers: The criminalisation of teen sex inhibits advice and protection,”
- “SEX RIGHTS FOR THE UNDER-16s, Young people under 16 have sexual rights too,”
- “I’M 14, I’M GAY & I WANT A BOYFRIEND, Fourteen year old LEE tells about first sex, boyfriends, coming out, paedophilia, and why an age of consent of 16 won’t help under-age gays like him.”
- “CONSENT AT 16: PROTECTION OR PERSECUTION, Young people under 16 have a right to make their own sexual choices without being victimised by the law.”
How this man is not immediately arrested instead of being honored at a parade is beyond me.
July 22, 2008
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spoke on abstinence programs at the uber-liberal “Netroots Nation” blogger conference (formerly called “YearlyKos”). The Speaker accused abstinence-only programs as being “dangerous” to America’s youth and that the only solution is to elect more pro-choice politicians. She went on to criticize the proposed regulations on conscience protections as also being “dangerous” and that if “you don’t like abortion you should love contraception.” She goes onto say she is speaking as both a mother of five and a “devout Catholic,” despite her beliefs on both abortion and contraception running counter to the teachings of the Catholic Church. This Friday marks the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on human life, Humanae Vitae, which upholds the Catholic Church’s long-standing prohibition on artificial contraception. As a politician Rep. Pelosi has every right to disagree with her Church’s teachings on abortion and contraception (and in the case of criticizing the proposed HHS regulations she is directly opposing the Catholic Church as this letter from the USCCB shows), just as doctors, nurses and pharmacists should have every right to live by their respective church teachings and not be forced to perform abortions or distribute drugs that would violate their beliefs. America does not need more pro-choice politicians - but more politicians that believe people should be able to make choices of conscience without fear of retribution.
Hat Tip: Friend on the Hill