Stem Cells Hit The Fan

The field of stem cell research has seen a lot of progress this year. It’s hard to keep up with all the announcements and publications.  Thirty years from now, some more saps are going to have a hard time choosing who gets the Nobel Prize.

On May 4, 2010, University of Georgia introduced the world to 4 pigs (out of 34). Yes, pigs! No, not Babe. Much cooler! They discovered a way to incorporate induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS; capable of becoming any cell type) into embryos that would grow into a pigs. What?!?!?! I smell Nobel Prize. They have some kinks to work out, but all in all a phenomenal progression in the field of stem cell research. Read about their accomplishment here and here.

In September, a research team at National Cheng Kung University, published the results of another amazing study. This research team used stem cell therapy to reduce cardiac muscle cell damage and form new cardiovascular vessels in pigs. Go pigs! The researchers did stress they were unable to regenerate heart tissue. You know what I say to that? “Don’t be so hard on yourselves researchers. It took Harry Potter and friends 7 books to defeat You-Know-Who. You will do it, eventually.” You can read about this here.

 

University of Georgia's Homegrown Pigs. image via onlineathens.com

 

In July, researchers from Russia (collaborating with a team from Harvard) released their findings. This group used a 2 step process in which they first removed the plaque from arteries and then inserted stem cells to promote healing of those arteries. Can you guess the animal model? Yep, pigs! The news article for this group is here.

Three days ago, the Geron Corporatin announced that they had started the first human clinical trial involving embryonic stem cells at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. HAZAA! Currently, they have enrolled 1 person, but the study will have a total of 10 people with spinal cord injuries.  For the record this is a Phase I Clinical Trail, which means the study is primarily concerned with safety.  If you are so inclined, read about this here and here. USA Today, had a Q&A session with a stem cell expert from Johns Hopkins University. It is very informative and gives information that the news articles do not delve into.

 

President Obama signs the executive order on stem cell policy. image via cnn.com

The last point I will touch on is the repeal of the meta-ban on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. So back story: Obama signed an executive order in 2009 overturning Bush’s ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Scientists rejoiced! Then, in August, US District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that funding from the federal government should be suspended while the court decides if federal funding is legal. Researchers entered a state of scientific depression. But an appeals court overruled that decision and now funding continues until the court reaches a final decision. Scientists aren’t sure how to feel and are seeking therapy. Read about it!

There was too much progress for one post! I will highlight other achievements in the field of stem cells in a later post.

Happy October 12th Holidays!

October 12th is:

World Arthritis Day,

Farmer’s Day,

Moment of Frustration Day,

Freethought Day,

National Gumbo Day,

and

Cookbook Launch Day!

Who knew? I certainly didn’t!

If you know any freethinking farmers who are beyond frustrated because they weren’t able to launch their cookbook today because their nagging arthritis kept them from cooking and writing, then you should make them some gumbo to cheer them up!

Happy October 12th holidays!

Stop Bullying Now!

Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.

– Benjamin Disraeli

 

image via stop bullying now! website

This past Friday, the Associated Press had this story to share with us. I couldn’t believe that 4 students at the same high school had committed suicide over a course of 2 years because of bullying. The suicides of the young gay teens, highlighted in this blog, shines the light even brighter on the issue of bullying. Generally, bullying only makes the headlines if there is a death, either by suicide or mass shootings. This may come as a surprise, but not every bullied teenager commits suicides or goes on a shooting spree. For every teen that commit suicides, how many other teens  continue to live with the torment? 

The first word that comes to my mind is accountability. In one of the cases at Mentor High School, some parents went to school officials, but nothing changed. It’s implied that a math teacher at the school ignored the bullying occurring in his classroom. The bullies, school officials, and parents should all be held accountable. I don’t particularly think that parents are at home teaching their kids to bully, but I bet the parents of these bullies aren’t teaching these kids to respect others, or to stand up for someone even if it’s not what their friends are doing. No one should fear going to school, because of verbal, physical or emotional abuse.

There are organizations dedicated to ending bullying. The Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER) has designating October, National Bullying Prevention Month. PACER has resources and activities on their website . The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has the Stop Bullying Now! Campaign. Their website has games and cartoons to teach kids how to deal with bullying. There are also prevention programs that schools can carry out. The Olweus Program and the different programs offered by The Committee for Children are two available programs that schools can use to help solve the problem of bullying.

As of June 2010, there are 9 states (Alabama, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin) that do not have anti-bullying laws.  Even though most states have such laws, it is not enough! Children be protected the very first time they step foot in a school. Teachers and students should be trained to identify, and handle bullying situations. While some schools have taken these steps and used programs such as Olweus, I believe it should be a mandatory implementation for all public schools in the United States.


Dear Diary: Passive-Aggressive Entomologist at the Family BBQ

Dear Diary,

Today was the family BBQ. I spent all afternoon with a bunch of bug murdering, pretentious humans. My day was awful, Diary, just awful!

As soon as I arrived, I saw my Uncle squash a beetle. I stared him down. “What? What did I do?” he asks me. “There’s nothing but weevil in your heart, pure weevil” I respond. I know he didn’t get it. I just scoffed at him and walked away.

I had to stand in the food line and talk to Aunt Bertha. “Oh look a monarch butterfly she tells me.” “Well that’s weird,” I responded as I pointed to her son, “someone has brought their pet chimpanzee.” She was offended and confused, but I didn’t care. If she can’t tell the difference between a Monarch and a Viceroy, then why should I pretend to tell the difference between her tactless, obnoxious son and a chimp? That was a moral victory, Diary. A moral victory for all the Viceroy butterflies mistaken for Monarchs.

My mom picked up on the tension between me and my uncle. She wanted everyone to have a good time, so she tried to make pointless conversation with the two of us while eating. Without warning, she started screaming like a mad person. “There’s a bug on a shirt.” With the memory of that innocent beetle in mind, I stared at my Uncle  and said “but not on the bottom of my shoe, Mom, not on the bottom of my shoe.” My uncle sighed and walked away. I think he understands now, bugs are people too.

Having made progress with my Uncle, I was hopeful the rest of the BBQ would go well. I was wrong, Diary. Little Johnny was squirting ants with his water gun. I stared at his mother and shook my head in disapproval. She didn’t notice so I took it up a notch. I breathed deep, heavy sighs until she had to ask if something was wrong.  “Oh, I’m just wondering if young Bizarro Oskar Schindler will be ready to answer to Bralm?” She was speechless. I left her  fumbling for words she’d never find.

Mom and Dad approached me; they were worried.  Little Johnny’s mom was concerned the heat was getting to me. “It’s not the heat, it’s the anti-insect atmosphere” I told them.  Mom felt bad and asked if I was having a good time? I replied, “Good time? No, no, no, I’m having a frass-tastic time!” I walked away and let them soak that one in. They didn’t seem to get it, but the bugs understood. And that’s all that matters.

I wanted to end things on a happier note, so I spent the last hour chatting with my grandma. Diary, she’s the only one that understands me besides you. So what if she’s blind, partially death, senile, and thinks I’m an etymologists. She gets me.

Good night,  Diary!

Love,

Vanessa Cardui

Eye on the “Test-Tube Baby” Prize

image via cnn.com

Today, Dr. Robert Edwards won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on in-vitro fertilization (IVF).  Dr. Edwards along with colleague, Patrick Steptoe, successfully created human embryos outside the body. Genius! This technique birthed the term test-tube baby, which is a misleading term. The procedure takes place in a petri dish, not a test tube.  IVF was a major breakthrough for couples unable to conceive and has given many infertile couples a little bundle of joy. The NY Times featured an article on Dr. Edwards and IVF. Enjoy!

Congratulations Dr. Robert Edwards for giving the world IVF.

2GE+HER: The Best Fake Band Ever!

image via IMDb

On Wednesday, this post was Freshly Pressed.  I anticipated the ending of the story and thought of the perfect anthem for that post. It turns out, what I anticipated was wrong, because unlike my ending, she got her CD back . In my version of the story, the ex-boyfriend refused to give it back, making the theme song for her post this great classic (OK , so classic in this sense of the word classic is a very  loose interpretation):

This brings me to the real topic of my post. I am officially proclaiming 2GE+HER the BEST FAKE BAND EVER!

When I was a sophomore in high school, MTV released 2GE+HER, a made-for-tv movie that spoofed boy bands such as N’SYNC, New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, etc. I will admit, this movie absolutely ROCKED my world! I thought it was THE funniest movie I had ever seen. I remember going to basketball practice and raving to my teammates about it. I watched it as many times as MTV replayed it. Judge me not, WordPress community.  I know I’m not the only one who enjoyed it , because I have an awesome friend that didn’t enter my life until 3 years ago and she loved it as much as I did. Because I’m such a good friend, I bought her the first 2GE+HER CD for her birthday 2 years ago. I’d be a terrible friend if that was the only thing I got her, but it wasn’t.  I diverge.

Let’s face the facts here people. The movie was quite possibly, indefinitely, without a doubt, hands down, maybe the best parody ever. I think I just made another proclamation,  albeit an unofficial one. As one who lived through the Boy Band era, I have to say this movie was spot on. They had all the stereotypical boy band characters filled: The heart-throb, the cute one, the shy one, the bad boy and the older one (this character doubled as the older brother). Now I ask you, think back to all the boy bands that you listened to and I guarantee there is a person to fill that role.

The movie and spin-off series was great.  The music was catchy and cheesy and I daresay good. Good as in, could it be played on your local top 40 station? I think so! Dancing? Check! Stereotypical boy band characters? You betcha! The stamp of my approval? Two stamps of my approval!! Thus, BEST FAKE BAND EVER!!!

You may disagree, but I will doubt you as a person if you do. Just kidding. Maybe. If you disagree with my proclamation: 2GE+HER is the BEST FAKE BAND EVER, than which fake band gets your stamp of approval? Inquiring minds would love to know 🙂

I’ll leave you with a music video to feast your eyes and ears upon.

End The Maternal Death Clock

Each year, half a million women die in pregnancy or childbirth; 99% of these deaths occur in developing nations (UNFPA). Developed countries such as  the USA are not without maternal death problems. It is most certainly a global health issue!

Two events happened on September 20, 2010 at 9:00am in New York City. The United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) kicked off and  Amnesty International (AI) launched a Maternal Death Clock. The MDG is a blueprint for the fight against global poverty through 2015. The Maternal Death Clock has been ticking and counting the total number of maternal deaths since the start of the summit.

The Summit launched The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. With a pledge of over $40 billion, the strategy has the potential to save the lives of 16 million women and children. It is an ambitious goal, and the tools/resources to actualize this goal are available. The etiology of these deaths are known, and in most cases, these deaths are preventable.

Knowing that the problem exists, we can help! If you have the money, give money; if you have the time, volunteer or write a letter to lawmakers; if you have a friend, spread the word about the issue. The more people aware of an issue means the more people available to help with the solution.