Month Archives: May 2009

Update on iPS Cells

by David Prentice

May 26, 2009

In case you haven’t kept track (very hard to do with this area), there are an increasing number of publications detailing the advantages of iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) over ES cells (embryonic stem cells).

iPS cells provide a relatively easy and inexpensive method for creation of ES-type cells directly from virtually any tissue source or individual. They were first developed in 2006 in mice by the Japanese scientist Shinya Yamanaka, and in November 2007 both Yamanakas lab and the lab of James Thomson in the U.S. showed that this same technique could work for human cells as well.

The original Yamanaka reprogramming technique involved adding four genes directly to a human cell such as a skin fibroblast cell, with the genes added using a viral vector. The technique has advanced rapidly in less than three years, and reprogramming of iPS cells has now been accomplished completely without the use of added DNA sequences, by using added protein reprogramming factors.

The behavior of iPS cells appears virtually indistinguishable from ES cells. Thomsons group in their seminal paper producing human iPS cells noted:

The human iPS cells described here meet the defining criteria we originally proposed for human ES cells, with the significant exception that the iPS cells are not derived from embryos.

Thomson has also pointed out the ethical advantage of iPS cells:

These cells possess the therapeutically desired characteristics of ES cells, namely indefinite self-renewal and pluripotency, without the requirement of human embryo destruction.

iPS cells fulfill the desire to create ES cells, with the added advantage of easy and cheap creation directly from a patient, and the potential for transplant match, but do all of this without the use of embryos, eggs, or cloning. Within one year of the first report of human iPS cells, at least 315 human iPS cell lines had been generated, and over 500 total human iPS cell lines have now been reported. In addition, iPS cell lines from patients suffering from various diseases have been created, covering 13 different diseases.

iPS cells provide all of the desired characteristics of pluripotent ES cells, and also distinct advantages in terms of their ethical creation as well as ease and cost of creation, and production directly from patients.

To see a semi-complete listing of recent iPS cell publications

To see a summary of human iPS cell lines created

Hate Speech that is Destabilizing

by Family Research Council

May 24, 2009

On Friday government officials from the regime of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela raided the offices of Globovision, the only remaining television broadcaster in the country that openly criticizes Chavez. The pretext for the raid has something to do with the station’s news reporting on an earthquake in Venezuela in early May, which asserted that the government had been slow to report on the incident. According to press reports and comments from worried United Nations officials, Globovision stands to lose its license, which would mean the end of the last media outlet that dares to disagree with Chavez or his increasingly oligarchic powers. Interestingly, Venezuelan government officials characterized the Globovision report as “hate speech” that risked alarming the country and “destabilizing” the populace. Government’s facile use of such expressions is reason for alarm.

As The Washington Post notes this morning, Latin American caudillos are no novelty, but the silence of the United States (i.e., the Obama administration) in the face of such repression is a first. Not a first, but similarly worrisome, is the news that Nancy Pelosi, fresh from accusing the C.I.A. of lying to Congress in private briefings, is off to Beijing with nary a word prior to her trip of criticism of China’s abusive human rights practices. Time was, U.S. Democrats like former Rep. Dick Gephardt (Mo.) were among the leaders of efforts to hold the Chinese accountable for their abuses of workers, and other Democrats spoke of Chinese denial of religious freedom and its record of forced abortion and sterilization. Pelosi instead wants to engage the oligarchs in Beijing only on climate change. But it is the climate for political freedom that is turning adverse.

Daily Buzz

by Krystle Gabele

May 22, 2009

Here’s what we are looking at today.

Daily Buzz

by Krystle Gabele

May 21, 2009

Here’s what we are reading today.

Blogosphere Buzz

by Krystle Gabele

May 20, 2009

Here’s some of the buzz from the blogosphere today.

Adult Stem Cells Target Tumor Destruction

by David Prentice

May 20, 2009

Scientists at University College-London report that they have engineered adult stem cells to seek out and destroy cancer cells in mice. Mesenchymal stem cells, a type of adult stem cell found in bone marrow and connective tissue, have been shown to be good vectors to carry factors to different parts of the body, as well as seek out cancer cells throughout the body. The research team, led by Dr. Michael Loebinger, altered these adult stem cells to express the cancer-killing protein TRAIL (TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand), which causes the death only of cancer cells. In the lab, the cells were able to find and kill cells from lung, squamous, breast, and cervical cancer. They also injected the cells into mice with breast tumors and showed they were able to safely kill the tumors but leave healthy tissue intact. Results were presented at the American Thoracic Society’s 105th International Conference in San Diego.

Adult Stem Cells Improve Chronic Heart Patients

by David Prentice

May 20, 2009

Doctors from the Netherlands report in the Journal of the American Medical Association that bone marrow adult stem cells injected into the hearts of patients with chronic heart disease can improve heart function and patient health. Fifty patients, average age 64, who had chronic myocardial ischemia—decreased oxygen to the heart, often due to blocked arteries—were tested in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The results were assessed at 3 months and 6 months after injections of the adult stem cells. Patients who received the adult stem cell injections had improved blood flow, reduced pain, and were able to exercise more.

The results continue to confirm the work of Bodo Strauer of Germany and others who have pioneered similar strategies for use of adult stem cells for various cardiac conditions.

Handy Doctor Does Brain Surgery With A Power Drill

by David Prentice

May 20, 2009

Sometimes it helps to have a handyman for a doctor. An Australian doctor saved a boy’s life with quick thinking and using the tools at hand, in this case a home power drill. The 12-year-old boy had hit his head in a fall from his bike (he wasn’t wearing a helmet), fracturing his skull and causing internal bleeding. The clot and pooling blood within the skull were putting increasing pressure on his brain and could have killed him within minutes. Dr. Rob Carson was on call at the local hospital in the small town of Maryborough in Victoria, and recognized the signs, but had no neurosurgical drill at the hospital to relieve the pressure. So he borrowed a handyman’s drill (reportedly a DeWalt model) from the maintenance man, disinfected it, and used it to drill a hole in the boy’s skull. The boy, Nicholas Rossi, was out of the hospital soon after and celebrated his 13th birthday. Dr. Carson must have gotten an “A” in wood shop.

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