Tuesday, April 1. 2014
While it is April Fool's Day, this is for real. Shoukhrat Mitalipov, the Orgeon scientist that last year used somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) better known as therapeutic cloning to clone human embryos AND created human embryos with three-genetic parents, has new research published in Nature that has not gotten a lot of attention, but we should be aware of it none-the-less.
Mitalipov and his team have cloned mice. So what you say? Researchers have been cloning mice for years. This is different because instead of using eggs to clone those mice like in traditional SCNT, Oregon scientists used 2-celled mouse embryos. Contained in the egg are factors that can reprogram the nucleus of an adult cell and create a new organism with the same genetic make-up; what we know as cloning. It was thought that after an egg is fertilized and the resulting embryo divides, the embryo no longer had that same reprogramming abilities as the egg. Mitalipov has shown that at the 2-celled stage of the embryo those factors are still present.
From the Oregon Health and Science University website:
An Oregon Health & Science University scientist has been able to make embryonic stem cells from adult mouse body cells using the cytoplasm of two-cell embryos that were in the "interphase" stage of the cell cycle. Scientists had previously thought the interphase stage — a later stage of the cell cycle — was incapable of converting transplanted adult cell nuclei into embryonic stem cells.Why is this important? Human eggs are hard to come by making human cloning using eggs expensive and difficult. As quoted above, embryos on the other hand are "more accessible" making human cloning with existing human embryos more doable.
Mitalipov and his team will move on from mice and try this technique in monkeys and then in humans. The goal has always been to perfect human cloning for the research and, in my opinion, for reproduction.
BioEdge comments on the ethics of this research:
Embryos will be far cheaper as a raw material for research than eggs – but also far more controversial ethically.That is why this announcement is important. If Mitalipov is successful using this technique to clone human embryos for research (and he has been successful with his other research on embryos so far), two embryos will be sacrificed in the cloning process instead of just one. It is doubly evil.
And considering that cloning is not necessary anymore for obtaining patient-specific stem cells it is even more insidious. Induced pluripotent stem cell technology can create patient-specific pluripotent stem cells without creating or destroying one embryo, let alone two.
Wednesday, March 26. 2014
Ray Kurzweil predicted in his book, The Singularity is Near, that we will be mostly non-organic beings by the 2030s. In the 2030s, I will be getting ready to retire and take care of my grandkids. My children will be starting their families. In other words, not in the distant future, but in this lifetime. So now is the time to take notice of emerging technologies because they will be upon us before we know it.
One of the ways that transhumanists envision that man will live forever is by interfacing the human brain with computers, uploading our consciousness into the digital realm. A new movie "Transcendence", starring Johnny Depp, will tackle this very scenario. The plot:
Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed—to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can…but if they should. Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him.Here is the trailer:
I cannot wait to see this film, and not just because Paul Bettany is in it. I am hoping it goes beyond simply the technological aspects of artificial intelligence but sparks a discussion about what it means to be an organic human, full of flaws and limitations, and yet sublimely beautiful at the same time. That is true "transcendence." The "I can't feel anything" line is promising.
If this film does turn out to be a true cautionary tale as the trailer seems to suggest, then I hope we all take note. "Gattaca" was a visionary movie that was filled with warnings about embracing genetic determinism. We didn't take heed and are now deciding which lives get to be lived simply by genetics alone. Maybe "Transcendence" will be different.
Friday, March 21. 2014
“Thank you, Professor Lejeune, for what you did for my father and my mother. Because of you, I am proud of myself.”Unfortunately, today, a prenatal diagnosis of an extra 21st chromosome is a death sentence to many with Down Syndrome. We have come so far in our understanding of the disorder but gone down the wrong path in dealing with it. There is a seek-and-destroy mission being waged instead of an all out push for treatments to deal with the challenges that face Down Syndrome patients and families.
So why is "happy" the word of the day? A recent study revealed that 99% of adults with Down Syndrome report being happy with their lives. That is a number you will never find in any "normal" adult population. A diagnosis of Down Syndrome means an almost certain guarantee that a child will be happy. Is that not what all parents want for their children?
And yet society acts like it did before Jérôme Lejeune's discovery, with fear and ignorance. The Jérôme Lejeune Foundation asks us to act on behalf of all persons with Down Syndrome, both in and out of the womb:
The oft-quoted statistics of terminations following prenatal diagnosis are tragic testimony to the lack of acceptance we still face in our modern culture of inclusion. How can we have, on one hand, sociological data that show overwhelmingly the happiness and love children with Down syndrome bring to families; and yet on the other, consuming fear and fatal rejection by a majority? Today we should not only advocate for those living with Down syndrome – but also for those who were not given a chance to live. Even more, we should insist on getting good information into the hands of mothers and fathers who face the terrible decision whether or not to terminate, and try to spare them the consequences of a choice that often brings so much sadness and despair.This video can do in a few minutes what a lifetime of words cannot: show the precious lives that are lived with a little bit of extra genetic material. Pass it on because the world needs to know the truth about happiness in a life with Down Syndrome.
Wednesday, March 19. 2014
In light of my recent piece in the National Catholic Register "Genetically Modified Food: Bad; Genetically Modified Humans: Good", Chelsea asks, "Why are we going to great lengths to raise awareness about and regulate the use of GMO in our food supply, while largely ignoring the direct genetic modification of human beings??" A great question we discuss in the latest episode of BioTalk.
Tuesday, March 11. 2014
This is a great read for anyone who worries about the various reprogramming techniques for creating stem cells. I would include myself in that category. Dr. Maureen Condic, Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine, makes an excellent case at Public Discourse that stem cells are not embryos.
She highlights the important distinction between true "totipotency" that can give rise to a developing organism and the common usage of "totipotent" which is often employed to describe a cell that can differentiate into all the different tissue types including placenta. The former is a zygote that has the ability to become a multi-celled embryo, then a fetus and so on. The latter are just cells that can become all different cell types, but lack the organizational ability of true totipotency. Dr. Condic writes:
The term “totipotent” is used in the scientific literature in two radically different ways. The strict sense of totipotency refers to a one-cell embryo or zygote that is “capable of developing into a complete organism.” The second, weaker sense of totipotency refers to the ability of a cell to differentiate into any of the cells or tissues of the body, including cells of the placenta. A zygote is “totipotent” in both senses, yet pluripotent stem cells are “totipotent” only in the second sense.Dr. Condic reveals that stem cells, even ones that can become all the tissue types of the body and placenta as well (often called "totipotent" cells in the media), are not embryos because they lack the ability to complete an organized development. If placed in a womb such stem cells would create tumors, not a fetus. She argues that we should call stem cells that are plastic enough to become all the tissue types including placenta "plenipotent" to differentiate them from both pluripotent stem cells and truly totipotent embryos:
In contrast, a cell that can produce but not organize all of the cells of the body (including cells found in the placenta) is not an embryo. If transferred to a uterus, it will produce a tumor, not a baby. Such cells are sometimes referred to as “totipotent” in the second, weak or cellular sense, a misuse of the term that causes great confusion for many non-scientific readers. I have proposed the term “plenipotent” (from the Latin plenus, or “full”) to distinguish such cells from pluripotent stem cells (i.e., stem cells that do not produce placental tissue) and to avoid confusing mere tumors with actual, totipotent embryos.The egg (more properly called an oocyte) has critical factors that guide development. Reprogrammed stem cells, since they are not made from or use eggs, lack those factors and so therefore are not embryos. In contract, somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), also known as cloning does create embryos because an egg is used in the cloning process.
Dr. Condic concludes:
Totipotent zygotes are distinct from pluripotent or even plenipotent stem cells because they undergo development. The ability to both produce all cell types and to organize them into a coherent body plan is the defining feature of a totipotent human organism. And totipotency critically requires multiple factors derived from oocytes. Human embryos can be produced by fertilization or by cloning, yet both of these procedures start with and require the cytoplasmic factors contributed by a human egg. All other scientific techniques that result in embryos containing mixtures of stem cells start with an embryo produced by either fertilization or by cloning.
Thank-you Dr. Condic for such a complete and illuminating explanation.
Hat Tip: The Mike Janocik Show
Monday, March 10. 2014
In the November 2012 elections, voters of Washington state had to decide on Initiative 522. I-522 would require food sold in the state to be labeled if any of its components were produced by genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Proponents made a necessary distinction between selectively bred plants and animals and those that are GMOs. Selective breeding has been standard practice in agriculture since man began herding animals and growing crops. GMO plants and animals are those that have a genetic makeup that would not occur naturally through normal breeding. For example, a plant that has had a gene inserted that gives it resistance to weed killer and a cow that has been cloned so it is immune to mad-cow disease are GMOs.
It was a contentious battle, with supporters of I-522 telling consumers that genetic engineering has unintended consequences and that ingesting GMO products may make us sick. Proponents insisted that we have a right to know what is in our food.
Ads against I-522 did not suggest food made from GMOs was perfectly safe or that the concerns of food purists were unfounded. The opposition focused on the wording of the initiative and on the impact labeling would have on the price of food.
I-522 was defeated with 45% of voters supporting the initiative and 55% opposed. A similar initiative in California, Proposition 37, also did not pass. In 2012, California voters were 49% in support of labeling food made from GMOs; 51% voted against Prop. 37.
Analyzing these votes, it is apparent that nearly half of the voting residents in California and Washington are concerned about eating GMOs and want to be informed about which foods contain GMO products. A poll conducted by ABC News found that 65% of Americans either believe GMOs are unsafe to eat or are unsure about their safety, and 93% of those polled believe that the government should require labeling.
At the same time, in another West Coast state, genetically modified human embryos are being made with little objection from the general public.
Continue reading at the National Catholic Register >>
Tuesday, March 4. 2014
(Image from New Scientist)
Monday, March 3. 2014
Last week the House of the Oklahoma State legislature overwhelmingly passed the Protection of Human Life Act of 2013. This act prohibits the destruction of human embryos for research and prohibits research on cells that were obtained from the destruction of a human embryo.
No person shall:Continue reading at LifeNews>>
Tuesday, February 25. 2014
My husband watches the new TV show "Intelligence" starring Josh Holloway (previously Sawyer from Lost) as Gabriel, a man with a rare genetic mutation (or some such) that allowed the U.S. government to put a chip in his brain. This chip gives Gabriel unlimited access to the Internet directly into his consciousness. As an agent for a super secret intelligence agency, that comes in super handy. Gabriel, the best of all guys, uses his enhancement only for good. He saves people and catches bad guys and he looks good doing it. Gabriel is the quintessential enhanced American hero reminiscent of Captain America, just without the tights and shield.
In a recent episode, Gabriel has to enter a middle eastern country to rescue two American journalists sentenced to death for being spies. A former U.S. president tags along to distract the middle eastern government with diplomacy while Gabriel breaks the journalists out of prison using his enhancement to hijack security cameras and pinpoint his targets' exact location.
After many twists and turns, the objective of their mission complete, the former U.S. president asks Gabriel why he would let the government put that chip in his head.
Gabriel answers, "Because I love my country."
And there it is. A good American would do anything for his country, including volunteering to be an experiment and allowing the government to violate his or her bodily integrity with a microchip in the brain.
And why not, when we ask those who serve our country to place their lives at risk? Why not ask them to alter their bodies, with possible permanent side effects, to make the job easier? Why not if it means an American victory?
Many Catholics do not see the harm in such enhancements for our soldiers and intelligence agents. In a discussion at a Catholic blog about genetically enhancing soldier's eyes to have night vision like a cat, one commenter saw no moral issue with such an intervention. Why would we not give our soldier's such an advantage?
But is that treating the soldier as a person or a means to an end? What about the possible side effects? The human brain is not wired to "see" in the dark permanently.
Why not instead equip our soldiers with the best in night vision goggles that they can take off at the end of the day and at the end of a career?
Do we really need to ask those that serve American interests to radically alter their bodies?
But I am afraid that with shows like "Intelligence", the seed had already been planted. I doubt any parent turned to their child after Gabriel announced that he loved his country and said, "This is a fun show and that was a nice sentiment, but in reality it would be immoral for a government to do that to one of its citizens."
Not everyone is buying what shows like Intelligence are selling. Here are some comments from viewers on IMDB:
my next question however is: "when will they find the unusually large mass in his brain next to that constantly radiating chip?"This gives me hope that some Americans are thinking critically about radical enhancements and the physical and moral implications of the "super soldier."
I fear though that not enough of us are dissecting such mainstream depictions of transhumanism, especially when they are placed in such a patriotic package.
Sunday, February 16. 2014
On February 25th and 26th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be having a meeting to discuss allowing the technique that creates embryos with three genetic parents to proceed to clinical trials. The "three-parent" embryo technique is also called mitochondrial replacement, maternal spindle transfer, or oocyte modification.
In an effort to "treat" mitochondrial disease, this technique would intentionally modify IVF embryos to have the genetic material from three persons. This modification is also one that will extend beyond the children produced and will be passed onto future generations. (For more information about "three-parent" embryos read my article at the National Catholic Register.)
Over 40 countries have banned such inheritable genetic modifications. Regrettably, the United States has no such laws and it is up the FDA to regulate the practice. They are currently taking written opinions on the subject, but only until this Tuesday, February 18th. The FDA needs to hear from the public on this issue.
This is a pivotal point in human history. Will we allow the intentional genetic modification of our children and grandchildren? I do not believe I am exaggerating when I say the future of our species depends on how we answer that question.
Please tell the FDA what you think. The contact information given on the advisory panel web page is Gail Dapolito, Fax 301-827-0294, e-mail: gail.dapolito[at]fda.hhs.gov or Rosanna Harvey, Fax 301-827-0294, e-mail: rosanna.harve[at]fda.hhs.gov
Here is the letter I wrote to the committee. Please feel free to use any or all of it.
FDA Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapies Advisory Committee:Alternatively, the Center for Genetics and Society has a letter you can sign. They suggest embryo screening as a "safer" alternative which pro-lifers cannot agree with, but overall the content of the letter is excellent. The Center for Genetics and Society is a progressive organization. It is important that the FDA hear from all points on the political spectrum. This is one issue that both the left and right can agree on.
Wednesday, February 12. 2014
After the ground-breaking news last week that Japanese scientists were able reprogram adult cells to embryonic-like cells in mice by simply bathing them in weak acid, the next step was to try this with human cells. The technique is called "stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency", or STAP.
With lightening speed, Dr. Charles Vacanti and his team at Harvard Medical School has announced that they have created STAP human cells. New Scientist has the story:
Talk about speedy work. Hot on the heels of the news that simply dipping adult mouse cells in acid could turn them into cells with the potential to turn into any cell in the body, it appears that the same thing may have been done using human cells.The Independent also reports that more tests are needed to see if these stem cells are for real:
"The process was very similar to the one we used on mouse cells, but we used human dermal fibroblasts that we purchased commercially," Dr Vacanti said. "I can confirm that stem cells were made when we treated these human cells. They do the same thing [as the mouse cells].Clearly this breakthrough has yet to be proven or published in a peer-review journal, but that does not mean that we should not be concerned.
Unlike induced pluripotent stem cell technology (iPSCs) that uses a different method to reprogram adult cells, STAP, in mice, looks like it produces totipotent cells, not just pluripotent cells.
What is the difference? Pluripotent cells cannot become placenta and so could not implant and grow a new organism if placed in a uterus. Totipotent cells can become placenta and so are able to implant and grow into a fetus.
The only other place we find totipotent cells is directly after fertilization. In other words totipotent cells, are very early embryos. New Scientist, in an earlier story, explains why this is such a big deal:
"The team haven't just made pluripotent cells like embryonic stem cells," says José Silva from the University of Cambridge, "they appear to have made totipotent cells." This means the cells have been rewound to a state with even more flexibility than pluripotent cells, which means they should be easier to manipulate. The only cells known to be totipotent – able to form an embryo and a placenta – in the body are those that have only undergone the first couple of cell divisions immediately after fertilisation. "They are like precursors to embryonic stem cells," says Silva.So if STAP produces totipotent cells in humans like it seems to do in mice, then STAP would be a way to clone human beings. And, these would be true clones, not like the ones produced so far with somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) which have DNA from the egg used in the cloning process.
Vacanti admits the possibility of using STAP for cloning to The Independent:
Asked whether it would be possible in theory to follow on from the mouse research to show that skin cells could be turned into viable human embryos – effectively a clone of the donor of the skin samples – Dr Vacanti said: "This is an offshoot, an unintended consequence, so the answer is 'yes' …. This would be the natural conclusion, but I won't be the one that does it."I have no doubt that someone will dare to go where Dr. Vacanti says he won't; especially since the United States has no federal laws against human cloning for research or for reproduction.
Whether or not STAP produces stem cells in human cells still has to be proven and whether those stem cells are pluripotent or totipotent remains to be seen.
What is clear is that, if all it takes to clone a human being is taking a skin cell and placing it in an acid bath, then the world as we know it is about to change drastically.
It may be the only time, but I agree with Robert Lanza:
"The reprogramming step seems to be quite simple, it could be very inexpensive technology for reproductive medicine," agrees Lanza. "But it has more potential for abuse than iPS cells. It'll be interesting how this all plays out, but if it's possible to do this in humans, it changes everything."
Wednesday, February 5. 2014
Today more and more people are whole-heartedly embracing eugenics. They probably don't know it as eugenics, but every time a human life in the womb or in the lab is cut short because his or her genetics is not up to snuff, that is undoubtedly eugenics.
Many associate the eugenics of old with a lack of compassion and with government coercion. Today's eugenics, in contrast, is perceived as an exercise of free choice and a compassionate endeavor. In modern sensibilities, tossing out embryos or aborting fetuses with genetic disorders, even disorders that will not surface until adulthood (with time for a cure to be found), is the right, moral and smart thing to do.
And yet, modern eugenics is as devoid of compassion and as coercive as the early 20th century variety.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Wednesday, January 29. 2014
Scientists in Japan have developed a way to cheaply and easily take adult cells from mice and reprogram them back to a pluripotent or embryonic-like state. They demonstrated that these cells were capable of becoming all the cells in a full grown mouse.
They call the technique “stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency” or STAP. Unlike, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that use viruses to reprogram a very small percentage of adult cells back to pluripotency, STAP uses stressors like acid baths or physical pressure to quickly reprogram a much larger portion of cells.
Monday, January 27. 2014
IVF advocates desperately want us to believe that biology is irrelevant when it comes to "family," but the testimonies of countless donor conceived children, prove otherwise. In episode 7 of BioTalk, Chelsea and I discuss the ironic legacy of third party reproduction: that couples are so desperate for a child to love and yet concern for what’s good and right for the child itself is actually put last.
Wednesday, January 22. 2014
This personal narrative by Ali Margo at ELLE about her experience with the fertility industry will break your heart. She chronicles her two rounds of IVF that end with a call from the clinic telling her that all 20 of her embryos are dead. Read between the lines and you will find greed, exploitation and snake-oil. Margo paints a very unflattering picture of a billion dollar industry that she points out has a 70% failure rate. Here are some excerpts from "$47,000 Dollars Later, I Have No Baby: The IVF Scam":
“You think your uterus is why you’re here, but that’s not why you’re here,” the fertility doctor said, sitting behind his desk in a crisp white lab coat, his name embroidered in bright blue thread. His smile was broad and slightly distorted. He reminded me of a car salesman.20 embryos dead! Price for human life! Indeed, is this what medicine should be?
In the end, Margo says she is not considering adoption because IVF has taken away all of her money and her hope. Prayers are needed for her family, including her lost little ones.
Bravo to Margo for telling the truth about her experience and not sugar-coating it. She is the first writer I have read that has called IVF a scam. Hopefully, she will not be the last.
Wednesday, January 15. 2014
Everyone knows that sex-selection is rampant in the places like China and India where ultrasound and legalized abortion mean that roughly 160 million women are "missing." What many people do not know, or refuse to acknowledge, is that the practice of aborting girls just because they are girls is growing in the West as well.
A study done by Douglas Almond and Lena Edlund, of UC Berkeley that looked at U.S. 2000 Census data. They found that among U.S.-born children of Chinese, Korean, and Asian Indian parents there is a male bias especially in third children. They report, "If there was no previous son, sons outnumbered daughters by 50%." And they concluded, "We interpret the found deviation in favor of sons to be evidence of sex selection, most likely at the prenatal stage."
A study of 2 abortion clinics in the San Francisco Bay area that service a high South Asian immigrant population found shocking evidence of sex selection. Forbes reported that not only did 89% of pregnant women who were carrying girls abort their child during the study period, but there was evidence of coercion, sometimes violent, by husbands and in-laws to do so.
This is would be expected in the United States where sex selection is completely legal in most states. But in the UK, sex selective abortion is illegal. Surely, the law is enough of a deterrent.
It does not seem so. The Independent looked at the UK's recent census data and found that in certain immigrant groups, girls have gone "missing."
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report>>
Monday, January 13. 2014
After my many years of writing about stem cell research, I am still shocked when the media get the facts horribly wrong. I guess that comes from the assumption that to report the news, one must actually understand the subject matter.
After last month's confusion over whether research that produced mini-kidneys in the lab used induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) or embryonic stem cells, this Associated Press report caught my eye. It is about an Oregon doctor that has had his license suspended over stem cell treatments he was performing. Read this:
In 1998, researchers discovered how to derive stem cells from human embryos, and in 2006, they determined how to induce some specialized adult cells to take on the genetic characteristics of stem cells. These are called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSC.This reporter is clearly confused. Regular adult stem cells, which have been used to treat leukemia and lymphoma for decades, are found naturally in bone marrow and other tissues. In contrast, iPSCs are adult cells, like skin cells, that have been reprogrammed back to an embryonic-like state. So while adult stem cells are naturally found in many parts of the body, iPSCs are embryonic-like stem cells that are created in the lab. iPSC technology is relatively new and is not being used to treat patients. As far as I know, there is only one clinical trial going in the world right now using iPSCs in humans.
Because iPSCs are pluripotent, or able to become most or all of the 200 cells types in the body, they carry the same safety risks as embryonic stem cells. Regular adult stem cells, like those that come from bone marrow, do not carry the those risks because they are not quite as plastic as embryonic stem cells and that is why adult stem cells have already been used for decades to treat patients for a multitude of conditions.
So iPSCs are not what "doctors are using when they do bone marrow transplants."
Honestly, I do not know how the public is expected to be able to navigate the issues surrounding stem cell research if basic news reports can get the facts so muddled. Once again the media, whether intentionally or not, misleads the reader. Just more reason for us to be skeptical of what we read in mainstream news outlets and look deeper for different sources of information.
Wednesday, January 8. 2014
Ever since the dawn of embryonic stem cell research, the media has rarely gotten the facts straight. Either the reporter is unaware of the scientific and moral differences between adult and embryonic stem cells or he has an agenda to push. Some news outlets were so bold as to call embryonic stem cells "early" stem cells to make sure their readers were kept in the dark about where exactly "early" stem cells originate.
A recent breakthrough in stem cell science was reported as starting with skin cells when it looks to have actually used human embryonic stem cells.
A couple of weeks ago it was widely reported that scientists in Australia were able to grow a mini-kidney from stem cells. Many news outlets stated that the researchers began with skin cells. Reports hinted that the researchers used induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology to reprogram the skin cell to an embryonic-like state and then coaxed those iPSCs into self-organizing kidney cells. Here is an excerpt from The Telegraph:
The breakthrough, published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, followed years of research and involved the transformation of human skin cells into an organoid – a functioning "mini-kidney" with a width of only a few millimetres.And one from the Sydney Morning Herald:
A mini-kidney has been grown in an Australian laboratory from what were originally skin cells, boosting hopes for the future treatment of kidney disease.It was the mention of "embryonic" stem cells in that last line that had me scratching my head. If this was an induced pluripotent stem cell advance, why weren't the stem cells described as "embryonic-like" instead?
I then found this transcript from an ABC News report that says these kidneys were grown from embryonic stem cells not skin cells:
SAMANTHAH DONOVAN: The research team was led by Professor Melissa Little from the University of Queensland and also involved scientists from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and Monash University.The abstract for the paper titled "Directing human embryonic stem cell differentiation towards a renal lineage generates a self-organizing kidney," also says that embryonic stem cells were used:
In this study, we have successfully directed the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) through posterior primitive streak and IM under fully chemically defined monolayer culture conditions using growth factors used during normal embryogenesis.So it seems some news outlets mislead us. I doubt this was a deliberate attempt to confuse the public. This may be a genuine case of confusion about the differences between ESCs and iPSCs on the part of the media.
Nonetheless, it is becoming more and more difficult to piece together what research is ethical and which is not just from mainstream media reports.
We pro-lifers are going to have to get biotech savvy and search out original sources to be sure.
Wednesday, January 1. 2014
This e-mail from a reader broke my heart. It is a cry for help from a young IVF-conceived woman who mourns the loss of her siblings that didn't make it. It is also a look at the darker-side of IVF that no one wants to talk about: the massive loss of life inherent in the IVF process. She writes:
I was wondering if you knew of any websites or resources that support people struggling after being conceived using IVF. I've been searching and searching online, and I've been unable to find a single source of advice.The support groups I know of are for those conceived with donor gametes. I do not know of any support groups for those conceived with IVF without donor sperm or egg.
Does anyone know of a group that could help this young woman? Her pain is very real, but I am sure when she talks about it, she is dismissed and told that she should just be grateful for her life. She needs others who can understand what she is feeling.
Tuesday, December 10. 2013
Most of society is under the impression that human augmentation is something that our grandchildren will have to deal with. Stuff for T.V. and big screens. I have been screaming from the rooftops that this is something we need to discuss now because it is happening now.
Case in point, this crowd-funded project that is looking into augmenting human vision so that we can see in the near infrared range. Infrared light is light that has a longer wavelength than red light and so is not in the range that we call "visible light." Their goal is to use dietary restrictions and supplements to increase porphyropsin in the human eye. It is porphyropsin that would allow the eye to see wavelengths longer than the visual range. The website asks "Can we biologically extend the range of human vision into the near infrared?" and explains how they plan to proceed:
We have developed a protocol to augment human sight to see into the near infrared range through human formation of porphyropsin, the protein complex which grants infrared vision to freshwater fish.So this study is simply using diet to try and augment human sight. Sounds harmless enough, but there may be a good reason that our cells have four times the affinity for vitamin A over vitamin A2.
Also, these researchers are clear that this is only one step. They want to go further:
We are also hoping to use this study as a proof of concept to continue working on a more long term modification to human vision that doesn't rely on dietary restrictions / supplementation.Long-term modification that is not diet based. I wonder what they have in mind?
The important thing here is to understand that human augmentation for the otherwise healthy is already being attempted. This project was fully funded meaning that the public is interested in enhancements. This is not something we can all ignore and pretend is not happening. Today it is simple dietary changes. Tomorrow it will be something much more invasive.
Wednesday, December 4. 2013
I have always said that if you want accurate information about stem cell research and its possibilities, you should be reading the business section. Anything else is probably misleading, hyped or even flat out lies. In other words, follow the money. The money will tell you what is truly promising research.
The money is painting a very clear picture of what pro-lifers knew all along: adult stem cells are worth investing in. Embryonic? Well, they haven't lived up to the incessant hype surrounding their potential.
In just a few years, budgets that used to go almost entirely to embryonic stem cell projects are being quietly allocated to adult stem cell research.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report>>
Tuesday, November 26. 2013
King's College in London is proud that they have provided 16 new embryonic stem cell lines to the United States' National Institutes of Health (NIH) registry of stem cell lines eligible for federal funding. On the King's College website they explain that they have created these stem cell lines with a variety of genetic disease for US researchers to work on:
Scientists from King’s College London have announced that 16 human embryonic stem (hES) cell lines have been approved by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and placed on their Stem Cell Registry, making them freely available for federally-funded research in the USA. The stem cell lines, which carry genes for a variety of hereditary disorders such as Huntington’s disease, spinal muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis, are considered to be ideal research tools for designing models to understand disease progression, and ultimately in helping scientists develop new treatments for patients.Where are they getting these "disease-specific" embryonic stem cell lines? By looking for IVF embryos with genetic disease and ripping them open for their stem cells. At least they clearly admit it:
Embryonic stem cell lines are grown from frozen embryos donated by patients undergoing preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in conjunction with IVF treatment. Unlike ‘adult’ stem cells, embryonic stem cells can differentiate into any type of cell within the body and are considered to be more useful for stem cell-based therapies. Disease-specific stem cell lines are created from embryos found to be affected with genetic disorders and therefore not suitable for implantation, but offer huge potential for research into disease development.The article says these embryos are "not suitable for implantation." That means that because of their genetics, these embryos are deemed are not suitable to live. (Does that mean every human being with genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis are not suitable to live. Are they also better utilized for research?)
Does anyone see how horribly Orwellian this practice is? There is a seek-and-destroy mission for embryos with genetic disease. They are condemned in pursuit of cures for others with their same genetic condition. They are being destroyed for research that is intended to help them; that is if they were considered "suitable to live." And our tax dollars can go to fund research using cells from these lives sacrificed on the altar of medicine.
All of this is unnecessary, of course, because disease-specific pluripotent stem cell lines can be created with induced plutipotent stem cell technology. Instead of searching for and destroying embryos with genetic disease, researchers can create pluripotent stem cells by reprogramming cells from a patient with a genetic disorder. iPSC technology allows for the creation of stem cell lines for disease research without destroying the very lives the research is supposed to help.
Friday, November 15. 2013
It seems that integration of technology into our otherwise healthy bodies may be on the horizon. Motorola has applied for a patent for a throat tattoo that can act as a microphone for many devices. PC Mag has the story:
Motorola has applied for a patent for an electronic skin tattoo that acts as a mobile communication device.Other stories indicate that Motorola, owned by Google, mentioned a lie detecting capability:
The patent states that this temporary tattoo could “include a galvanic skin response detector.” If the user is “speaking falsehoods,” the tattoo can detect skin response caused by nervousness.PC Mag says this is "permanent" while others say it is a "temporary" tattoo. This seems like a big detail. If it is a permanent microphone tattooed on your neck, then that is clearly transhumanism. If it is temporary then I would say it is just technology that can be removed at the user's discretion.
Motorola does not seem to want to talk about it, declining to make a statement about their application.
I suppose, we shall see.
Monday, November 11. 2013
The piano player at my parish died last week. Her name was Maralyn. We barely knew each other. I didn't even know her last name. But I will miss Maralyn every Sunday, probably until the day I die.
Let me explain.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Tuesday, November 5. 2013
Chelsea puts together another awesome episode of BioTalk:
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