Month Archives: December 2009

Bring on the Bean!

by David Prentice

December 15, 2009

From time to time news stories float around about how coffee is good for you, coffee is bad for you, etc. For the coffee fanatics among us, let’s focus today on all the “good for you” stories.

First, if you’re interested in where to get your caffeine fix and background info on caffeine and its concentration from various sources:

    Brewed coffee (7 oz) 115-175 mg

    Coca-Cola Classic (12 oz) 34 mg

    Mountain Dew (12 oz) 54.5 mg

    NoDoz, regular strength (1 tablet) 100 mg

    Excedrin (1 tablet) 65 mg

(Of course, the following news stories, while encouraging to the caffeine-addicted, are all preliminary, so take it all with… a cup of coffee.)

Individuals who drink more coffee (regular or decaffeinated) or tea appear to have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Data presented at the Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference showed coffee consumption was associated with a reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer.

When aged mice bred to develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease began drinking caffeine before the cognitive impairments set in, they had fewer plaques and did better on memory tasks. When they began drinking caffeine after their cognitive abilities had began to decline, their memory improved to about the performance of normal mice.

Coffee can actually lead to good breath.

Caffeine consumption seems to reduce pain from physical exercise.

A study found that drinking coffee might reduce the risk of stroke.

Using mice that develop a multiple sclerosis-like condition, scientists found that drinking caffeine protected mice from developing the condition.

A study found a correlation between higher coffee consumption and lower liver cancer risk.

Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption was associated with a somewhat smaller rate of death from heart disease.

Of course, there are some possible negatives, such as the report that people who ingest a lot of caffeine are more likely to report experiencing hallucinations.

And then there’s this situation (ht: slp)

Lee Eaton: Profile in Courage

by Robert Morrison

December 14, 2009

Lee Eaton, the former Chairman of Family Research Councils Board of Directors, has passed away. Our hearts and our prayers go out to the Eaton family. I have a special place in my heart for this outstanding Christian gentleman.

In 1995, I attended a conference here in Washington at the Willard Hotel. One of the conference speakers was then-Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas. Sen. Gramm was a most knowledgeable economist. In 1981, he had co-sponsored the famous Gramm-Latta bill when he was a Democrat in the House of Representatives. Gramm-Latta was Ronald Reagans Number One economic priority. That bill passed with strong bi-partisan support. Thats something weve rarely seen recently. And it became the basis for Americas booming prosperity for nearly thirty years.

When Phil Gramm was booted out of the House Democratic caucus for helping President Reagan win his greatest domestic victory, he did a most extraordinary thing. He resigned his seat, switched parties, and ran for election to Congress as a Republican. He won overwhelmingly.

Later, as U.S. Senator, Phil Gramm always voted pro-life. And we deeply appreciated it. But Lee Eaton wanted more. He wanted a man who was going to run for President to be not just a quiet supporter of life. He wanted Sen. Gramm to have the confidence to move peoples hearts on this most troubling of questions.

Sen. Gramms prepared remarks to the conference were received with strong applause. He was clearly scoring points with this conservative audience.

Then, Lee Eaton stood up. In his most courtly manner, he thanked the senator for his consistent pro-life voting record. But Lee asked Phil Gramm why he never spoke out in behalf of the unborn.

Sen. Gramm answered: Im runnin for President, not for first preacher. The audience was stunned. There were audible groans from the people who only moments before had cheered the brave Texan.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that was the worst answer from a Presidential candidate ever, until, of course, one later said the question of the humanity of the unborn is above my pay grade.

Sen. Gramms campaign for President of the United States never caught fire. He was quickly in and quickly out.

I have never forgotten that wonderful moment. Lee Eaton stood tall and spoke for all of us in that room. He gave courage to many of us who on occasion felt beaten down. I thank God for his heart, his honor, and his fearlessness.

Multiple Sclerosis Treatment with Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

December 14, 2009

The latest success story comes from Australia. Ben Leahy, 20, was in a wheelchair and experiencing vision problems when he was treated earlier in 2009. Ben is now walking after treatment with adult stem cells. The treatment involves isolating the patient’s bone marrow adult stem cells, giving the patient mild chemotherapy to destroy the rogue immune cells that are attacking the nervous system, then re-injecting the patient’s adult stem cells.

While the Australian group has not yet published their results, the technique mirrors the treatment results published in 2009 in Lancet Neurology by Dr. Richard Burt’s team at Northwestern, where they reported that they had reversed the neurological dysfunction of early-stage multiple sclerosis patients. As Dr. Burt noted:

This is the first time we have turned the tide on this disease.”

The group is now engaged in a larger, randomized clinical trial for multiple sclerosis.

Edwin McClure was treated with his own adult stem cells for MS.

In a previous clinical review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2008, the evidence indicated that adult stem cells were showing success for many diseases, including multiple sclerosis.

Barry Goudy is one of the MS patients who was helped by adult stem cell treatment.

Dr. Mark Freedman of the University of Ottawa has also reported similar success treating MS patients.

Burt and Voltarelli have also published successful results treating patients for other autoimmune diseases, including type I (juvenile) diabetes.

New Book on Adult Stem Cells for Heart Treatments

by David Prentice

December 12, 2009

Strauer_book_october_2009-thumbProf. Dr. med. Bodo Strauer and his group have been developing adult stem cell therapies for heart disease, and actually using the cells to treat many patients successfully, since 2001. Now they have published a book on the subject.

Adulte Stammzellen: Therapiemoglichkeiten bei Herz- und Kreislauferkrankungen

[Adult Stem Cells: Potential Therapies in Cardiac and Vascular Diseases]

(Strauer, Ott, and Schannwell-Editors)

This book should be useful both for scientists as well as for the public. It compiles, in 18 chapters, in-depth discussions of the scientific, medical, ethical, and legal aspects of adult stem cells, including clinical practice notes and results of their use treating patients for cardiovascular diseases. About half of the chapters (including a large number of the clinical papers) are in English, with the other half in German. The editors have done an excellent job of bringing this material and these experts together for current and detailed perspectives on this important healthcare subject.

The book is published by Dusseldorf University Press, and available at Amazon-Germany.

Check it out for the latest information on uses of adult stem cells for heart treatments.

Does the Slippery Slope Lead to Stepford?

by Peter Sprigg

December 11, 2009

Advocates of same-sex marriage assert that the fundamental right of homosexual individuals to marry is infringed if they are not free to marry the person of their choice (and they often cite the elimination of laws which once banned interracial marriage as precedent for this principle). However, everyone still faces restrictions upon whom they may marry. No one is permitted to marry a child, a close blood relative, a person who is already married, or (in most states and countries) a person of the same sex.

However, if the restriction against marrying someone of the same sex is lifted, based on the assertion of a right to marry whomever you wish, what principled reason will there be to maintain the other restrictions upon ones choice of marriage partner? This is the slippery slope argumentthat legalization of homosexual marriage would make it more difficult to maintain laws against pedophile, incestuous, and (especially) polygamous marriages, as well.

Yet there are people who would willingly slide even further down the slippery slope. In my book Outrage: How Gay Activists and Liberal Judges Are Trashing Democracy to Redefine Marriage, I noted news stories about an Indian girl who was married to a dog, a French woman who married a dead man, and a Canadian professor, Stephen Bertman, who foresees the possibility of marriage between humans and their household pets or even inanimate objects such as a beloved car or computer.

Now this week, the Washington Times ran an article that began, Humans will be marrying robots within fifty years, according to David Levy, winner of the 2009 Loebner Prize for artificial intelligence.

The article, by Paul Christensen, ran online under the title, Are artificial wives on the horizon?

But the print edition was more bluntit bore the headline, Artificial wivesor sex machines?

And indeed, the article quotes Levy as saying, Robots will be programmed to be sensitive sex therapists and help them to get over their sexual problems.

Christensen declares that [t]he obsession with creating artificial human companions goes back to ancient times. However, I was surprised that his article on sexy robotic wives included no reference to the greatest example of the concept in pop culturethe 1975 film The Stepford Wives, which was remade in 2004 with Nicole Kidman in the lead role. Its the story of a couple who move from New York to the too-perfect suburb of Stepford, Connecticut. The wife comes to learn that the reason all the housewives of Stepford also seem to be too-perfect servants of their husbands whims is that the real wives have been replaced by robots.

When the film was made, it was considered a sort of feminist satire on traditional domestic roles for women. Who could have guessed that the radicals of the sexual revolution would be the ones to move us closer to making Stepford a reality?

Ameliorating Alzheimer’s with Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

December 11, 2009

An international research team has published results showing that injection of bone marrow adult stem cells into the brain can ameliorate effects of Alzheimer’s disease in a mouse model of the disease. Injection of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells reduced deposition of the protein found in Alzheimer plaques, decreased inflammatory responses often associated with the disease, and improved cognitive function. The results are encouraging, though still a long ways from clinical application.

Earlier this year scientists at UC-Irvine showed that neural stem cells could rescue memory in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Their published results indicated that the adult stem cells helped protect neural connections in the brain by secreting a factor called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Lead author Matthew Blurton-Jones noted:

If you look at Alzheimer’s, it’s not the plaques and tangles that correlate best with dementia; it’s the loss of synapses connections between neurons. The neural stem cells were helping the brain form new synapses and nursing the injured neurons back to health.”

Similar results were published by researchers at the University of South Florida in July. They found that a human growth factor that stimulates blood stem cells to proliferate in the bone marrow reverses memory impairment in Alzheimer’s mice. The protein factor mobilized blood stem cells in the bone marrow and neural stem cells within the brain and both of these actions led to improved memory and learning behavior in the Alzheimer’s mice.

The concept of using GCSF to harness bone marrow-derived cells for Alzheimer’s therapy is exciting and the findings in mice are promising, but we still need to prove that this works in humans,” said Dr. Raj, a physician researcher at the Byrd Alzheimer’s Center at USF Health.

Based on their promising findings with mice, the researchers are doing a randomized, controlled clinical trial to test the safety and effectiveness of the treatment in 12 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

The Eyes Have It With Adult Stem Cells

by David Prentice

December 11, 2009

UK scientists report successful adult stem cell treatment of 8 patients with Limbal Stem Cell Deficiency, a painful, blinding disease that requires long-term, costly treatment. Corneal cloudiness has been estimated to cause blindness in 8 million people (10% of total blindness) worldwide each year. Professor Majlinda Lako, a member of the UK team, said:

This research shows promise to help hundreds of people regain their sight. These exciting results offer a new treatment and hope for people with LSCD.”

Professor Robin Ali of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London noted:

The Newcastle team has obtained some very impressive results in patients following stem cell transplants to repair the surface of the cornea. It is hugely exciting to see that a type of stem cell therapy can now be applied routinely to treat a form of blindness. These results also provide us with further encouragement to develop stem cell therapies to repair the retina in order to treat conditions such as age related macular degeneration.”

The study is published in the journal Stem Cells

Additional good news comes from a recent research presentation by scientists at the University of Cincinnati, who showed that human umbilical cord blood stem cells could clear corneal cloudiness in the eyes of mice.

Last May, Australian scientists reported successful treatment of patients with corneal disease using adult stem cells coated onto special contact lenses. A transparent corneal layer was restored in all 3 patients treated; reported in the journal Transplantation.

Last April, scientists reported in the journal Stem Cells that adult stem cells could completely restore corneas marred by scarring and cloudiness in a mouse model.

A year ago, Swiss scientists reported use of adult stem cells to renew the transparent surface of the cornea in animals.

Eyes can see clearly now with adult stem cells!

A Nobel Attempt: Barack Obama in Oslo

by Rob Schwarzwalder

December 10, 2009

Yes, the Nobel Committee gave its Peace Prize Barack Obama as a slam at George W. Bush and as a message to the United States that they like us best when we act more like a hand-wringing Uriah Heep (Im a very humble man) than a confident Ronald Reagan.

Yes, President Obama should have declined the award. A person with more humility and moral courage would have done so, although the temptation to accept it would be high for anyone.

Yes, he omitted any mention of our engagement in Iraq other than to say that our efforts there are winding down, and hypocritically mentioned that the world recognized the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait a consensus that sent a clear message to all about the cost of aggression without mentioning that the same consensus existed to remove Saddam in 2003-2004.

But for once, President Obama at least sounded like an American President, not a self-doubting teenage swain as he spoke to the assembled crowd in Oslo. Consider this stirring passage:

… the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions not just treaties and declarations that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other people’s children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

He also said that military force is sometimes justified for a liberal, not a bad affirmation:

… as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaidas leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

Interestingly, some of the Presidents greatest advocates disdained former President Bush for stating that good and evil exist and that God is not neutral between them. I wonder if these same dyspeptic ethical relativists will attack their Democratic Lochinvar for his asseveration.

The President also spoke of human imperfectability, a term that leaps from the page: A central premise of liberalism, from Rousseau to Marx, is that man can be perfected by socio-economic structures that reshape his external, and thus his internal, character (e.g., the New Soviet Man and even Obamas campaign declaration which he later disavowed that we can build the kingdom of God on earth).

President Obama mentioned the spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Badly phrased theology, surely: Within each of us God has placed a moral law written on the heart (Romans 2:15), but without regeneration in Christ no one carries within himself the presence of God. Yet to claim there is a Divinity and that the human soul exists is nice to hear from a man so identified with post-modern sensibilities.

Happily, the President also noted and sought to rectify the salient historic dispute in American foreign policy: Within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values. I reject this choice.

Good: American interests and values coincide. To abandon our interests for the sake of our values, or vice-versa, is to pose a false option. In World War II, for example, our interest was in defending our country from two aggressive, totalitarian and hegemonistic powers, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. In doing so, we ended regimes wanton with the blood of millions and violently oppressive of all essential human rights.

The same could be said for Afghanistan and, based on the evidence we believed we had about Saddams potential threat in 2003, Iraq.

Finally, it was good to hear the President allude to the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice …

… those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women some known, some obscure to all but those they help to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

He is right: As noted above, a man of greater nobility of spirit would have declined accepting the Nobel Prize and asked that it be bestowed on others more deserving. But at least he mentioned these people generally.

To put a face on at least one of them, Ill mention one of them. Gao Zhisheng is a Christian attorney who has spent many years defending the religious liberties of his fellow Chinese. For his efforts, he has been tortured, kidnapped and held in prison without any due process repeatedly. Married with two children, Gao has been subject to what respected Chinese human rights activist Bob Fu has called the most severe persecution in modern Chinas history.

Gao has not been seen since February 4, when he was taken away by police. Recent reports indicate he is alive but still being held and tortured.

In 2007, Gao was incarcerated unjustly for nearly two months and brutalized throughout his entire prison stay. From electric batons shoved in his face to unspeakable tortures to his extremities, Gao was brutalized in a manner that defies description. All this, simply for protecting and defending his countrymens rights of religious liberty and free exercise of conscience.

Gao Zhiseng has sought to bring peace to thousands by working for true religious liberty in China. Alfred Nobel would have been proud to bestow his Peace Prize upon him. We can only wonder what Mr. Nobel would have thought of the achievements of this years recipient.

Treating Adult Sickle Cell Disease

by David Prentice

December 10, 2009

B0000521 SEM sickled and other red blood cellsAdult stem cell transplants from bone marrow and cord blood have been used successfully in the past to treat children with sickle cell anemia. Results with children, using related donors, have been very encouraging as noted by Bernaudin et al.:

Allogeneic hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (HSCT) is the only curative treatment for sickle cell disease”

and by Shenoy in 2007:

Currently, hematopoietic SCT (HCT)is the only intervention that can restore normal hematopoiesis to provide a cure in sickle cell disease.”

But as these authors note, application on a wide scale for sufferers of sickle cell disease has been limited, due to the harshness of the treatment, and more often due to finding a relative for a transplant match (see this video, “My Brother Saved My Life”, for one story of success.)

In 2008 a study found a way to decrease the risk and harshness of the treatment

Bone marrow transplant is the only known cure for sickle cell disease. But doctors have avoided performing them in these patients because complications from a traditional bone marrow transplant can be life-threatening,” said Dr. Krishnamurti, director of the Sickle Cell Program at Children’s Hospital. “Through the reduced-intensity approach we developed, the potential for complications is dramatically lessened. This study offers hope for a cure to thousands of patients with severe sickle cell disease.”

Further studies have shown that even mismatched umbilical cord blood can provide an effective treatment for children with sickle cell anemia.

NOW a new study indicates that adults can also be successfully treated for sickle cell anemia with adult stem cells. The successful treatment involved a gentler radiation therapy and antibody treatment, and matching of donors. After 30 months, all of the patients are alive, and nine of the ten patients had successful grafts and are considered cured of sickle cell disease, according to the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It’s been transforming for these patients,” Tisdale said. “These were the sickest of the sick patients. Some were in the hospital every other week for pain or other crises. Today, some have gone back to school and to work. One patient had a baby.”

The results emphasize that adult stem cells provide the only successful stem cell treatments, and also that much more needs to be done to make resources available for adult stem cells, putting the patients first.

Science at Christmas

by David Prentice

December 10, 2009

Even scientists can get into the spirit at Christmas, in their own ways.

If you’re looking for science-themed cookies for Christmas, you might like these lab mouse cookies

or maybe these petri-dish cookies that look very much like a bacterial streak plate petridishcookies200
or for the molecular crowd, how about some lovely gel electrophoresis cookies! Gel_Electrophoresis_Cookies200
David Cox, a scientist at the National Physical Laboratory in the UK, used his skills at nanofabrication techniques to construct the world’s smallest snowman, measuring just 0.01 mm across (about one-fifth the width of a human hair) with the nose just 0.001 mm diameter. He created the snowman “by hand” using a system for manipulating nanoparticles (“nano” is 1,000 times smaller than “micro”.) The snowman’s head and body are made of tiny beads normally used to calibrate electron microscope lenses, welded together with platinum, with a tiny blob of platinum for the nose, and the eyes and smile carved using a focused ion beam.

To give you some idea of the size of this tiny snowman, the average snowflake is around 10 mm, i.e., 1,000 of these snowmen could be lined up across one snowflake.


This video from NPL gives you a good idea of the actual size of the snowman.

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