Sci·ence: a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws; systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation. Posts in this category pertain to all matters regarding science.

Stem Cell Treatment Eliminates Lupus

Filed in ScienceTags: Stem Cells

Isn't it amazing - coincidental, even - that every single instance of realized promise of stem cells have come from adult stem cells? Yet, this KGO-TV (San Jose) story finds it "surprising" that a Lupus-curing procedure comes from adult stem cells [emphasis added]:

We've all heard a lot about the promise of stem cells in medicine. Now researchers say they have taken a huge step forward, using a type of these cells to treat a devastating disease. Surprisingly, the cells are taken directly from the patient.


First, patients have blood removed to harvest the stem cells. Next, chemotherapy destroys the existing, broken immune system. Patients are then given stem cells to build a new immune system.


The treatment is now being tested in individuals with other diseases, like MS and diabetes. However, there are risks, including possible blood transfusions, infection, nausea, and an effect on fertility. So it should be weighed very carefully.

This was a small study of only 50 patients. Now the goal is to expand the research to more patients and other diseases.

If so many heads weren't buried in the embryonic sand, reports such as this one wouldn't be surprising at all.

Researchers Get OK, Reporter Gets Confused

Filed in Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

So much mis-information, so little time...

Two teams of Boston scientists announced Tuesday that they will attempt to creating the world's first cloned human embryonic stem cells.

Technically speaking, stem cells, by definition, clone themselves. Stem cells are self-replicating.

Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Boston Children's Hospital researchers said they will try to develop a powerful new tool to explore the biology of and create disease-specific stem cell lines that could lead to the treatment of a wide range of now-incurable conditions afflicting tens of millions of people worldwide.

Note to reporter: stem-cell research - especially embryonic stem cell research - is not required to explore the biology of a "wide range of now-incurable conditions." (Though, given the poor grammatical structure of the lead-in sentence, I'm unsure whether she meant "biology of...a wide range of now-incurable conditions" or "biology of...stem cell lines.")

Researchers plan to initially focus on diabetes and then expand to include neurodegenerative diseases, such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig?s Disease, and blood disorders.

Note, again, to reporter: adult stem cell treatments are already proving effective in these areas.

The method, called somatic cell nuclear transfer, involves removing the nucleus, which contains DNA, from an affected cell and replacing it with the nucleus from a donor cell, researchers explained. The cell is then forced to divide into multiple cells that are genetically identical to the healthy donor cell. The method has already proven successful in animal research. Patients with diabetes, blood disease and neurodegeneration will donate the cells. Embryos that were created through in vitro fertilization that have been deemed incapable of producing a pregnancy will be the source of the embryonic cells.

This has to be the most inaccurate explanation of SCNT I've yet seen. Just to clarify:

In somatic cell nuclear transfer the nucleus of a somatic cell (a cell other than a sperm or egg cell) is removed and the rest of the cell is discarded. In parallel, the nucleus of an egg cell is removed. The nucleus of of the somatic cell is then inserted into the denucleated egg cell. The egg, now containing the nucleus of a somatic cell, is stimulated in such a way that it begins to divide.

So, to correct:

  • Enucleated somatic cells are not necessarily "affected" cells; they are simply non-gametic cells from the person to be cloned.
  • The enucleated somatic cell is not placed into an enucleated somatic cell; it is placed into an enucleated egg.
  • The result is not simply another cell; it is a zygote genetically identical to the donor of the somatic cell.
  • The resultant zygote is not merely genetically identical to the donor somatic cell; it is genetically identical to the donor of that somatic cell.
  • The resultant zygote is not forced to divide into multiple cells; it is electrically induced to begin self-directed mitosis, from which the single-cell zygote proceeds into the various stages of embryonic development, and beyond.
  • IVF embryos have absolutely nothing to do with SCNT. Using IVF embryos is an alternate, and currently, only successful, means of harvesting embryonic stem cells.

Moving on:

Human embryonic stem cell research has long been at the center of controversy because in extracting healthy cells, days-old human embryos are destroyed. Embryonic cells are used because they are capable of developing into any cell or tissue type in the body. Opponents of the work claim that no potential medical benefit can justify the destruction of what they view as a human life.

"What they view" as human life? Embryologists universally agree that first, the blastocyst from which stem cells are harvested (and which is destroyed in the process) is an embryo, and second, that embryos, being self-directing in their growth and development, are living. Thus, human embryos are human life.

Harvard President Lawrence Summers is hopeful the research will lead to millions of people being able to live healthier lives.

"While we understand and respect the sincerely held beliefs of those who oppose this research, we are equally sincere in our belief that the life-and-death medical needs of countless suffering children and adults justifies moving forward with this research," Summers said in a release about the work.

Then again:

"Given that embryos are human beings, they have a right to self and a right to life. Exploiting their parts (ie, cells) or killing them for research is moral trespass that society should not allow. Even if the research might, and let’s be clear, might benefit others, this trespass is not justified."

--James Sherley, Ph.D. associate professor of biological engineering at MIT

Parents See Success in Stem Cell Treatment

Filed in ScienceTags: Stem Cells

From the Cape Cod Times [emphasis added]:

Doctors at Nanshan Hospital in Shenzhen, China, gave Jonathan five injections of 10 million umbilical cord stem cells each into his spinal column to try to trigger a healing process in his damaged brain cells. He has a condition known as hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, or HE, from a near-drowning in the family pool 11 years ago. As a result, he is unable to walk, talk or see anything beyond shadows.

Raylove, a West Barnstable acupuncturist, and Tonelli, a family therapist, heard about Nanshan Hospital's stem cell program through an Internet network of parents of children with brain damage. The center was founded by the Beike Biotechnology Co. and is located across the border from Hong Kong.

According to the Beike Web site, Nanshan doctors have focused on stem cell research since 1999 and have treated more than 500 patients, including those suffering from ALS, brain trauma and cerebral palsy.

Setting aside the issue of seeking treatments administered outside of regulatory control (which I don't advocate, but also certainly don't condemn, either - especially in cases like this one), here we see cord blood being used in humans, to treat conditions for which ESC research is touted as the Great Hope.

I Wonder What the Coalition Has to Say About Her Story?

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Media Bias, Stem Cells

From the State Register-Journal in Springfield, IL, comes the story of this courageous young woman who will be speaking in favor of Adult Stem Cell (ASC) research, and in opposition to Embryonic Stem Cell (ESC) research:

Jacki said she wants to help other patients benefit from adult stem cells.

She said she is going to Washington to draw attention to the promise of treatments involving these cells, which already are used in the United States in bone marrow and umbilical cord-blood transplants.

She said she opposes the use of embryonic stem cells because embryos must be destroyed for those cells to be used.

"It is like an abortion," she said. "I don't think you need to kill a life to help somebody else whose already living. But adult stem-cell research I'm for, because it's not hurting anybody or affecting anybody. It's just using your own body to help yourself."

This girl's story is just amazing, and incredibly inspirational:

A former standout volleyball player, she spends at least an hour a day at her church, First Baptist in Waverly, where she practices walking with her braces.

When Jacki went through the surgery, she thought she would be walking without braces by now - an outcome that none of Lima's 80 patients has achieved since he began doing it in 2002. Now she would settle for more feeling in her trunk and legs.

The depression she said she sometimes feels doesn't discourage her for long, she said. But she has been disappointed lately by not being able to find a job in retail or at an office.

She said she has put her college plans on hold and has applied for jobs at many locations in Springfield and previously worked at an ice-cream shop in Waverly. She refuses to apply for federal disability payments.

"I'm motivated, and I do my best in everything I can, and I'm very independent," said Jacki, who drives and graduated fourth in her senior class of 21 at Waverly High School.

Of course, since her procedure involved adult, rather than embryonic, stem cells, the MSM will largely ignore it - and that is tragic, not just with respect to the stem cell issue, but also because of the character and determination of this young woman as she fights for her own betterment, and advocates for the benefit of others.

ESC Research Nearing Obsolescence?

Filed in Science, Social IssuesTags: Cloning, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

The Missouri Roundtable blog reports that German scientists have acquired pluripotent stem cells from an adult mouse testis, the discovery of the presence of multi-lineage stem cells in amniotic fluid, and the development of a technique to acquire in large numbers blastomere-like stem cells (BLSCs), which have been demonstrated to be able to differentiate into most tissue types of the body, from peripheral blood.

If ESC researchers don't hurry up, their work will be rendered useless.

Definition Of Embryo Death Criteria May Open Doors For Stem Cell Research

Filed in Science, Social IssuesTags: Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

From Medical News Today comes this interesting report that could perhaps avert some of the ethical controversy surrounding the use of IVF embryos:

A research team from Columbia has, for the first time, identified criteria through which embryo death can be confirmed. The implications for stem cell research are huge - by confirmation of embryo death, embryos could be harvested, just as organs are for transplantation, in order to generate stem cells for research and, ultimately, therapeutic purposes.

The details:

They found that many nonviable embryos (n = 142 out of 444) were hypocellular and lacked compaction on embryonic day 5 (ED5). All of the hypocellular embryos failed to progress to compacted morula or normal blastocyst when observed further. The research team conclude that arrested development at the multicellular stage on ED5 indicates an irreversible loss of integrated organic function, and hence, the condition of death.

The practical implication:

Approximately a fifth of all embryos generated for in vitro fertilization - conventionally classified as ‘nonviable' - are in fact dead on ED5 by Landry's criteria... The researchers propose that the ethical framework currently used for obtaining essential organs from deceased persons for transplantation could be applied to the harvesting of live cells from dead human embryos for the creation of stem cells.

If these embryonic death criteria can be further investigated and confirmed, and if such nonviable embryos can, in fact, yield usable tissue for research, then these researchers may have just found a way to harvest embryonic stem cells without the ethical/moral stigma of having destroyed viable human life in order to do so.

I would guess that these observations are in their infancy with respect to practical use and widespread acceptance, but for the time being, I'll take a "cautiously optimistic" stance.

Can the Heart Heal Itself?

Filed in ScienceTags: Stem Cells

From comes this report on the discovery of clusters of stem cells in the heart:

A team of US researchers has discovered the “home” of stem cells in the heart, lending credence to the idea that the heart has the capacity to repair itself. The finding raises the possibility that these cardiac stem cells could one day be manipulated to rebuild tissues damaged by heart disease – still the leading cause of death in the US and UK.

Comparing Stem Cell Poll Questions

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Anne Leonard of the Stem Cell Research Blog compares stem cell poll questions, and their divergent results.

The first poll question, from the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR), which polled 72% strongly/somewhat in favor:

Embryonic stem cells are special cells which can develop into every type of cell in the human body. The stem cells are extracted from embryonic cells produced in fertility clinics and then frozen days after fertilization. If a couple decides the fertilized eggs are no longer needed, they can choose to donate the embryos for research or the clinic will throw the embryos away. Scientists have had success in initial research with embryonic stem cells and believe that they can be developed into cures for diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, heart disease, juvenile diabetes, and spinal cord injuries. Having heard this description, do you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose medical research that uses stem cells from human embryos?

The second poll question, from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which polled 48% opposed:

Stem cells are the basic cells from which all of a person's tissues and organs develop. Congress is considering the question of federal funding for experiments using stem cells from human embryos. The live embryos would be destroyed in their first week of development to obtain these cells. Do you support or oppose using your federal tax dollars for such experiments?

She then, after comparing the two poll questions, comes to the following conclusion:

I find the CAMR question better designed (despite its use of “success”) and more objective than the Bishops’ question, which has a lot of ambiguity in it. Maybe I am reading with my own biases and knowledge—but I think providing information about an issue yields a better question than vague and unspecific language.

Huh? The Bishops' question is more "vague" and has more "ambiguity" than the CAMR question? Let's compare, shally we?


The stem cells are extracted from embryonic cells produced in fertility clinics and then frozen days after fertilization.

Stem cells are not extracted from "embryonic cells", they are extracted from embryos (destroying them in the process).

Not Ambiguous:

The live embryos would be destroyed in their first week of development to obtain these cells.


Scientists have had success in initial research with embryonic stem cells and believe that they can be developed into cures for diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, heart disease, juvenile diabetes, and spinal cord injuries.

Embryonic stem cell (ESC) research has yielded no success whatsoever in treating any human injury, illness, or condition.

Not Ambiguous:

Congress is considering the question of federal funding for experiments using stem cells from human embryos.

So, exactly, which poll question is more vague and ambiguous?

More interestingly, and which the post doesn't even address, is this follow-up question in the Bishops' poll, which polled 81% against:

Should scientists be allowed to use human cloning to create a supply of human embryos to be destroyed in medical research?

This question is actually better in comparison to the CAMR question, since the two are more comparable. The entire IVF embryo question is really a red herring, since ESR research proponents prefer "fresh" embryos, and consider frozen embryos to be inferior. Thus, ESR research will come primarily from SCNT-cloned embryos, against which this poll question shows strong opposition.

Stem Cell Success

Filed in ScienceTags: Stem Cells

Well, of course, that would be adult stem cell success...

Never Give Up, Indeed

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Missouri, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

Apparently, Lene Johansen doesn't think that those who support banning human cloning should keep challenging the Stem Cell Initiative.

No, we will never give up. It has something to do with the Initiative, through an intentionally deceptive attempt to re-define "cloning", claiming that the Initiative bans human cloning, while in reality it constitutionally prohibits the legislature from banning human cloning.

So, no; we won't give up, until every Missourian knows the truth. Missourians have the right to make informed decisions about this issue.