What pushes scientists to lie? The disturbing but familiar story of Haruko Obokata. The spectacular fall of the Japanese scientist who claimed to have triggered stem cell abilities in regular body cells is not uncommon in the scientific community. The culprit: carelessness and hubris in the drive to make a historic discovery.
"Scientists reset human stem cells to earliest developmental state" The paper, published in Cell, is available under a CC-3.0 license. [See: earlier Mefi post] [more inside]
MIT Technology Review summarizes new directions in medical research, while a Pacific Standard writer experiments with Botox to treat depression.
Scientists Progress in Quest to Grow Muscle Tissue in Labs - "The researchers are now working on optimizing the growth of human muscle tissue, including finding a way to get blood flow to the tissue, the best source of cells and the best growing medium for the cells."
One of the first and eventually most widely available fetal stem cell strains, WI-38 was harvested (in 1962) and has arguably helped save more lives in the ensuing years than any other created by researchers. Vaccines made using WI-38 cells have immunized hundreds of millions of people against rubella, rabies, adenovirus, polio, measles, chickenpox and shingles. WI-38 has helped epidemiologists identify viral culprits in disease outbreaks and understand cellular senescence. They have served as a normal control for disease comparison, and remain a leading tool for probing the secrets of cellular aging and cancer. Nature explores the line's controversial history. [more inside]
Watch stem cells spontaneously form into an eye in the lab. Japanese scientists at the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology have successfully encouraged mouse stem cells to form a crude eye - the first time the optic structure has been created outside a living host - with hopes of human cell trials in two years.
Some scientists have used stem cells to regenerate myelin in mice, paving the way for new MS treatments. Other scientists have created mice from two fathers. Meanwhile, using stem cells to treat paralysis advances from mice to monkeys.
An awkward moment at the diner (complete with startled waiter) leads into a lengthy article about regrowing breasts from stem cells that are themselves harvested from liposuction, the procedure of which has been undergoing trials and continual improvement since 2006. The FDA has yet to approve it in the USA. (maybe NSFW sideboobs) [more inside]
Using a 3-D petri dish, Researchers at Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island have built a completely functional artificial human ovary that will allow doctors to harvest immature human egg cells (oocytes) and grow them into mature, ready-to-be-fertilized human eggs outside the body. (In vitro) The advance could eventually help preserve fertility for women facing chemotherapy or other medical treatments that may be destructive to ovarian folliculogenesis. Press Release. Article link. (paywall) [more inside]
"Con men used to travel town to town hawking medical remedies said to be made of Chinese snakes. Snake oil was useless and dangerous. So the FDA was created to put a stop to it and other food and drug scams. But, today, quack medicine has never been bigger. In the 21st century, snake oil has been replaced by bogus therapies using stem cells. Stem cells may offer cures one day, but medical charlatans on the Internet are making outrageous claims that they can reverse the incurable, from autism to multiple sclerosis to every kind of cancer."* Video Part 1 [13:15] || Part 2 [11:49]. [more inside]
The FDA has yet to approve stem cell therapies for general use in medicine, but that hasn’t stopped doctors in Colorado from providing them anyway. [more inside]
We may soon be able to clone Neanderthals. But should we? An essay from Archaeology Magazine examines the ethical, scientific and legal ramifications. (Via Heather Pringle's Time Machine blog, where essay author Zach Zorich posted a reply and elicited a response.) [more inside]
Interesting developments in med-tech: gene testing machines for doctors, a plan to engineer stem cells to kill HIV, a new way to repair damaged nerves, the next generation of retinal implants, and the first bionic fingers up for sale. (Bonus for those uninterested in medicine: the newest take on a Minority Report-style interface, courtesy of MIT.)
grumblebee's post about cell size and scale the other day was quite fascinating. Pulling back to the home for that site, the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah delivers educational materials on genetics, bio-science and health topics ranging from stem cells to gene therapy, and from epigenetics to heredity. Explore the neurobiology of normal and addicted brains and the genetic contribution to this chronic disease.
Functional Neurons Induced From Adult Stem Cells. Meanwhile, stem cells may be better than bone marrow for certain cancers, and have the potential to revolutionize the supply of blood. Anecdotal success stories continue to pile up.
Scientists Repurpose Adult Cells - "Scientists have transformed one type of fully developed adult cell directly into another inside a living animal, a startling advance that could lead to cures for a variety of illnesses and sidestep the political and ethical quagmires associated with embryonic stem cell research." [nature abstract, nature writeup, audio announcement]
Scientists report a breakthrough in stem cell production: Stem cells created from ALS patient and used to make neurons. [Via]
Scientists have discovered that "endometrial regenerative cells" (ERC's) -- in other words, human menstrual blood -- contains stem cells. ERC-derived stem cells seem to have a number of superior traits to both bone marrow derived and umbilical cord derived stem cells, the previous gold standards: they can give rise to a variety of different cell lines without differentiation, they multiply more quickly than other stem cells, they are able to replicate more times without adversely mutating, and they apparently do not need to be closely genetically matched to the recipient. Now some women have even begun banking their menstrual blood to preserve their stem cells through a company called "C'Elle: Your Monthly Miracle" -- check out their FAQ and online video. This follows last May's announcement that menstrual blood derived cells can pretty much cure Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in mice, a disease for which there is no current therapeutic treatment available.
After recent promising results demonstrating the ability to change mouse skin cells into stem cells, researchers have replicated this change in human skin cells in papers published in Science and Cell (access to full articles requires subscription) . The White House, somehow, is trying to take credit for this. The potential of all this: huge.
Stem Cell Treatment in China. A site showcasing Beike Biotech, a company that seems to be getting more attention nowadays, with a very straightforward approach. Meanwhile, some recent hard science.
More cuckoo than cuckoos: mate two salmon, get a... trout! Just give the parents a sperm transplant. And the sperm stem cells work in females too:
...Injecting the male cells into female salmon sometimes worked, too, prompting five female salmon to ovulate trout eggs.... The stem cells were still primitive enough to switch gears from sperm-producers to egg-producers when they wound up inside female organs....
Canadian scientists heal spinal injuries with stem cells from skin (in rats). "Over the course of their research, the team found that skin-derived stem cells share characteristics with embryonic neural stem cells, which generate the nervous system. ... After 12 weeks, the rats were able to walk better, with more co-ordination." [more inside]
I'm sure everyone remembers last year's kerfuffle about Hwang Woo-Suk, the disgraced scientist who fraudulently claimed to have created human embryonic stem cells by cloning. Well, it turns out he actually did something more remarkable - he created human stem cells from unfertilised eggs by parthenogenesis. The verification of this was published with a suitably dry title for consumption by scientists, but the popular press was quick to jump on more loaded phrases.
Simple switch turns cells embryonic. "Researchers have finally hit the jackpot: Embryo-free embryonic stem-cells!"
A British research team led by the world's leading heart surgeon has grown part of a human heart from stem cells for the first time.
For the first time, researchers have used adult bone marrow stem cells to regenerate healthy human liver tissue, according to a study published in the April issue of the journal Radiology.
Sea Squirt Regrows Entire Body from One Blood Vessel. Most famous as the creature that settles down and eats its own brain (though that is not exactly correct), it appears the humble sea squirt has spectacular regenerative abilities as well, thanks to regeneration niches packed with stem cells. All glory to the sea squirt!
"Molecular scientists . . . have developed a new procedure for the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells, with which they have created the first transplantable source of lung epithelial cells."
The gay. So New Jersey approved civil unions for same-sex relationships joining Connecticut and and Vermont in the CUS-SR club.
Need another reason to move to the Garden State? Here's one. And another.
Don't worry, we have room for everyone. Er...maybe not.
Senator Brownback is a... vagina? Another esteemed politician's take on something he may not be fully informed on. Full video and transcript if you'd like to skip the YouTube Jon Stewart commentary.
Bush's threat to veto stem cell funding is a joke. Scott Rosenberg says flat out why Bush's threat is shamelessly amoral and hyporcritical, and purely political in nature. (via)
Jewsfilter: Rabbinic Council of America bans smoking for all Orthodox Jews "Jewish law is fully able to incorporate new realities, recognize new and reliable scientific findings, and embrace the need to change heretofore acceptable behavior." Read the full technical legal opinion here. [pdf] Now if only the Orthodox Union would stand up for the LBGT community in same the way that it has for Darfur, stem cell research, heck, even global warming...
Nature has a somewhat technical but free supplement on stem cells (alongwith a podcast and related blog).
Mouse balls aren't the only testes that can heal. PrimeGen Biotech has announced just a few days later that they have discovered the same thing in human balls. That was quick.
Debating the Moral Status of the Embryo. A favorite scenario of some bioethicists in this debate is often a variation of "if a fertility clinic were on fire and you had only enough time to run in once to effect a rescue, which would you grab—the unconscious clinic worker/or a tank full of hundreds of frozen embryos?" Sometimes the debate degenerates...
Glowing green pigs. Scientists from Taiwan have successfully created a bioluminescent pigs with genes from a jellyfish.
Use of human embryonic stem cells gives (probably real) reason for hope in spinal cord injuries. Professor Hans Keirstead from the The Reeve-Irvine Research Center (yes, that Reeve) at the University of California publishes his findings today in which early treatment with the stem cells produces demonstrably positive results (yes, rats). [stem cell basics] previous threads and particularly this.
The National Academies have finally released suggested guidelines for research with embryonic stem cells and chimeras.
"Russian Oligarachs Want Immortality". Vladimir Bryntsalov has had a course of stem cell injections and feels no older than 20, though his biological age is about 60. Treatment will cost you $10,000-20,000 in Moscow. In many Western countries, such clinics would not even get the opportunity to open their doors. During a recent speech, President Bush denounced stem cell therapy as "godless."
Come out, experts from the woodworks! Neu5Ac and Neu5Gc are sugars found on cells present in nearly every mammal, from chimps to pigs. When scientists altered the genes of mice so that they couldn't produce them, the mice died. However, unlike our closest relatives, humans lack a gene that makes Neu5Gc. The gene is not gone, but rendered silent by a fatal mutation, one that occured approximately 500,000 ago. Now, note that it is illegal to produce any new embryonic stem cell lines. Any scientist will tell you that extant and legal human stem cell lines have been existing in calf serum and often on layers of mouse "feeder" cells for growth. As such, they are immersed in a bath of antigen and if re-introdcued would elicit a strong immune response. I.e. although of human origin, they would be treated as foreign cells if injected. It is likely they would be rejected if injected with today's techniques anyway, but this may represent another significant hurdle for research, one that could be sidestepped with more progressive policy. (Via The Regular)
First look look into the surgery of of Dr Huang Hongyun who cultivates the cells of aborted foetuses and injects them into the brains and spines of his patients. His method is controversial, but his results have led hundreds of westerners to his Beijing surgery. (MI)
A team of Korean scientists have enabled a woman who has not been able to stand up for the last 19 years due to a spinal cord injury to walk on her own (103 MB .wmv), thanks to a transplant of stem cells from umbilical cord blood. [Via Future Hi.]
Stem cells target cancer tumors. There has been some promising research with embryonic and adult stem cells in the fight against cancer. Meanwhile, California approved $3 billion for stem cell research, good news (debatably) since the 22 stem cell lines available for federally-funded research are contaminated with mouse cells and unusable for treatment in humans, but I wonder if California might end up in a federalism showdown with the new Senate over this. Maybe it will be less of an issue now that researchers have figured out how to derive stem cells from a morula, a four-day old embryo, without destroying it.
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