BREAKING NEWS ITEMS [2006]


"Record Oldest Woman Gives Birth to Twins in Spain"

Twins

December 30, 2006; Madrid, SPAIN (Reuters) -- "A 67-yo Spanish woman became the world's oldest new mother Saturday when she gave birth to twins, a Barcelona hospital said. "The woman, who became pregnant after receiving IVF treatment in South America, gave birth by C-section," a spokeswoman at the Hospital de la Santa Creu i San Pau told Reuters. Both the woman, from the Southern Spanish region of Andalucia, and the babies, her first children, were doing well. However, according to Barcelona media outlet Catalunya Informacio, the twins were still in an incubator following their birth.

The unidentified woman, who was giving birth for the first time, is one year older than Romanian Adriana Iliescu who had a baby girl in January 2005 at the age of 66. She had been pregnant with twins herself, but one fetus died in the womb. The previous record was held by an Italian woman who gave birth to a baby boy at the age of 62. The Barcelona hospital declined to give the woman's name or specify the gender of the babies. "The new mother will spend at least another four or five days in the hospital, which has a neonatololgy unit specializing in high-risk births," the spokeswoman said.

Ref.: "Spanish Woman, 67, Becomes a Mother with Birth of Twins," The Los Angeles Times, p. A4 (December 31, 2006).


"FDA Finds That Meat, Milk from Cloned Animals Is Safe and Need Not Be Specially Labeled"

Miss Mark Maui from Cyagra in 1994

December 23, 2006; Scientists from the FDA have concluded in the January 1st issue of the journal Theriogenology, which focuses specifically on animal reproduction, that there is no science-based reason to apply additional safeguards to food or milk from cloned animals. Though clones are more likely to die in utero or shortly after birth and to have birth defects, animals that are healthy and make it to adolescence "face no additional risk of illness or death," according to the study. "Clones are no more likely to get infections or diseases and are virtually indistinguishable from controls." Analyzing 13 additional studies on the composition of meat and milk from clones and their offspring: vitamins, minerals, proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, fat, and water content were scrutinized and found to be indistinguishable from controls from either a nutritional or toxicological point of view.

Refs.:

1. Karen Kaplan and Jia-Rui Chong, "Meat, Milk from Cloning Called Safe," The Los Angeles Times, pp. A1,21 (December 23, 2006).

2. Karen Kaplan, "Food Derived form Clones Is Safe, FDA Says," The Los Angeles Times, pp. A1, 28 (December 29, 2006).

3. Jane Zhang, Scott Kilman, and Lauren Etter, "Squeamish Consumers May Balk As FDA Backs Cloned Meat, Milk," The Wall Street Jounal, pp. A1, 6 (December 29, 2006).


"Copy Cats: CC, the Cloned Cat Has Three Kittens"

Three kittens

December 17, 2006; College Station, TX (The Guardian) -- The world's first cloned cat has given birth to a litter of three apparently healthy kittens. The kittens were revealed by researchers at Texas A&M University after being given the all-clear after extensive health checks and routine vaccinations. The university has cloned more species than any other in the world, including cattle, pigs, goats, and horses.

The mother, called CC, short for Copy Cat, was born in December 2001 using the same procedure pioneered by researchers at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh to clone Dolly the sheep in 1997. Genetic material was plucked from the cell of a tabby cat called Rainbow and transferred to an enucleated egg to create a cloned embryo, which was then implanted into a surrogate feline.

The birth of CC triggered interest in commercial cloning services for lost or dead pets and one company has since created six cloned cats, for a fee of more than $[pound sterling]20,000 ($A49,900). But CC's arrival also proved that cloning could not be relied upon to create an identical copy of an animal. Because fur patterning is determined in the womb rather than by genes, CC looked remarkably unlike her genetic Mother.

Duane Kraemer, a Professor of Veterinary Medicine who was part of the team to clone CC, brought Smokey, a male tabby, to mate with CC. Two of the resulting kittens, which were born in September, look strikingly similar to the Mother, while the third has inherited the grey shade of its Father. "We've been monitoring their health, and all of them are fine, just like CC has been for the past five years," said Dr. Kraemer. "CC has always been a perfectly normal cat and her kittens are just that way too." The health of cloned animals is not taken for granted by scientists. The process leads to imperfections in the way genes are expressed in the developing embryo and the vast majority of cloning attempts fail as a result. Of 87 cloned cat embryos transferred into surrogate females, only two led to pregnancies, with CC the only live birth. Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell, died prematurely from progressive lung disease at the age of six.


Agilent Technologies, Inc. GreeneChip: Diagnosing Infectious Disease in a Timely Manner

Ancient Gargoyle

Columbia University's Greene Lab at the Mailman School of Public Heath in NYC in collaboration with Agilent Technologies of Santa Clara, CA has developed a single chip for diagnosing nearly 30,000 different viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites in one quick $125 test. This technology will soon find its way into physicians' offices once approved by the FDA. Accurate diagnosis of infectious disease is made difficult because hundreds of different agents all cause similar symptoms (Dr. Gregory House, M.D. of FOX-TV Tuesday Nights at 9:00 PM, are you listening?). This technology will obviate the accuracy problem when time is of the essence. [1]

Refs.:

1. Thomas H. Maugh, II, "New Slide Speeds Disease Diagnosis," The Los Angeles Times, p. A16 (December 9, 2006).

2. Research:
"Panmicrobial Oligonucleotide Array for Diagnosis of Infectious Diseases"
Gustavo Palacios,* Phenix-Lan Quan,* Omar J. Jabado,* Sean Conlan,*
David L. Hirschberg, Yang Liu, Junhui Zhai,* Neil Renwick,* Jeffrey Hui,*
Hedi Hegyi,* Allen Grolla, James E. Strong, Jonathan S. Towner,#
Thomas W. Geisbert,** Peter B. Jahrling, Cornelia Bchen-Osmond,*
Heinz Ellerbrok, Maria Paz Sanchez-Seco, Yves Lussier, Pierre Formenty,
Stuart T. Nichol,# Heinz Feldmann,,## Thomas Briese,* and W. Ian Lipkin*
CDC On-Line Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 13, No. 1 (January 2007).

*Columbia University, New York, NY, USA;
*** Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA;
**** University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA;
Institute of Enzymology, Budapest, HUNGARY;
Public Health Agency of Canada, Winnipeg, Manitoba, CANADA;
#Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA;
**US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases
+Fort Detrick, Frederick, MD, USA;
National Institutes of Health Integrated Research Facility,
++Fort Detrick, Frederick, MD, USA;
+++Robert Koch Institut, Berlin, GERMANY;
Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, SPAIN;
World Health Organization, Geneva, SWITZERLAND; and
##University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, CANADA

Abstract:

To facilitate rapid, unbiased, differential diagnosis of infectious diseases, we designed GreeneChipPm, a panmicrobial microarray comprising 29,455 sixty-mer oligonucleotide probes for vertebrate viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Methods for nucleic- acid preparation, random primed PCR amplification, and labeling were optimized to allow the sensitivity required for application with nucleic acid extracted from clinical materials and cultured isolates. Analysis of nasopharyngeal aspirates, blood, urine, and tissue from persons with various infectious diseases confirmed the presence of viruses and bacteria identified by other methods, and implicated Plasmodium falciparum [malaria] in an unexplained fatal case of hemorrhagic fever-like disease during the Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever outbreak in Angola in [2004 - 2005].

[Editor's Note: Had this chip been available at that time, the particular healthcare worker could have been treated in time and saved. A postmortem diagnosis showed the fever to be due to malaria and not Marburg, which, in retrospect, would have been treatable.]

Click on the Gargoyle above for the full paper.


Applied Biosystems, Inc. 25th Anniversary Symposium at CalTech

Making Connections: From Molecular to Systems Biology Prof. Jack Richards of Chemistry Prof. Melvin Simon of Biology
Prof. Lee Hood, M.D., Ph.D. Prof. Irving Weissman, M.D. Prof. Eric Davidson, Ph.D.

December 4, 2006; On the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the start-up of Applied Biosystems, Inc. at CalTech, the Institute held a special symposium [Making Connections: From Molecular to Systems Biology] to commemorate this event with three keynote speakers who are actively engaged in different aspects of Systems Biology:

1. Leroy Hood, M.D., Ph.D.
Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, WA and
former Chairman of Biology at CalTech
"Adventures in Biological Instrumentation and Systems Biology"

2. Irving L. Weissman, M.D.
Virginia and D. K. Ludwig Professor for Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research,
Professor of Developmental Biology and by courtesy of Neurosurgery and Biological Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine
"Stem Cells, Organogenesis, and Leukemia Stem Cells"

3. Eric Davidson, Ph.D.
Norman Chandler Professor of Cell Biology at CalTech
"System Level Logic Properties of the Genomic Regulatory Code for Development"
Prof. Davidson's Lab is the first to establish the relation between the sea-urchin's genome and its hard-wired embryogenesis, by starting with sea-urchin eggs, exquisitely structured in time and space to produce perfect sea urchins, practically every single time. Curiously, the feedback loops, evident in the finite-state machine [tested for accuracy and completeness] that links about 50 genes [in endomorphogenesis], do not seem to be capable of the sorts of recursive instabilities ["ringing"] that one normally sees in conventional control systems that are built using similar design templates or modules. [It appears that the designer(s) chose not to have gone down those paths.] Also, the sea-urchin embryogenic control-system architecture appears to have been conserved throughout evolution, and so similar thematic variations and design principles appear to occur in mammals as well. Obviously, this will be a very important topic for future research.

Both Jack Richards, Professor of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry at CalTech and
Prof. Melvin Simon, Ph.D., Anne P. and Benjamin F. Biaggini Professor of Biological Sciences, Emeritus at Caltech
served as moderators.

Click on the first image of the poster for the Lecture Series "Revolutionizing Life Sciences: Tools, Innovations, and Insights" that will take you to the "Scientific Lecture Series" videos for these talks that will be posted in a few weeks when editing is completed.


Honey Bees and Lab Mouse Genomes Published

Honey Bee

October 26, 2006; Insert CNN/Reuters/LA Times stories.


Mrs. Gertrude Baines, 112 yo Honored in Los Angeles

Mrs. Gertrude Baines, 112

Noon, Wednesday, October 4, 2006; Mrs. Baines appeared to enjoy her belated birthday party attended by a number of political guests. Click on the photos for more details.


Demographics of US Life Expectancy Unexpectedly Variable by Socioeconomic/Geographic Distribution

One of the curious findings of this Harvard study published in PLoS [1] was that differential access to medical care does not seem to explain most of the differences in mortality among the eight groups. Does that mean that medical care is irrelevant in the pecking-order of life-style interventions, i.e., doctors don't matter? It is certainly frustrating that this study was a pure "demographics study" and "did not tell us about the root causes that underlie social processes that lead to statistically-significant differences in life expectancy." [2] In contrast, another study published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine says that health economists believe that health-care expenditures are highly cost effective. [3] One of the conclusions was that "treatments that extend life for a cost below $100,000 a year are deemed to be acceptable expenditures."

"US Life Expectancy: The Eight Americas"


by
Majid Ezzati, Harvard School of Public Health
Public Library of Science Medicine (PLoS) and CDC [3]


September 12, 2006; When it comes to life expectancy, the US is far from one nation. According to a new analysis of health disparities, there are in fact [at least] eight Americas some of them more reminiscent of developing countries than a global superpower.

Life expectancy in the US varies widely by race and socioeconomic status. Now researchers led by Majid Ezzati of the Harvard School of Public Health have thrown geography into the mix. They examined death records for people in more than 3,000 counties and divided the population into eight groups according to race, income, and geographic location.

Some groups were confined to a relatively small area Native Americans in the Western states, for example. Another group, labeled "Middle America," was mostly white, fairly wealthy, and accounted for the majority of the population.

There were dramatic differences in life expectancies: in 2001, urban black male babies could expect to live for just 68.7 years, whereas for Asian females the figure was 86.7 years. Such differences across the "eight Americas" have not narrowed over the past two decades.

Rural South to Inner Cities

International comparisons reinforce the picture of a deeply divided country. When Ezzati examined the probability of dying during youth [15 - 44] years or middle age [45 - 64], the figures for black men whether in the rural south or inner cities looked more like those seen in the developing world than in other rich countries. In contrast, the results for Asians and Middle Americans were similar to those of the UK and Japan.

Income and access to healthcare explained little of the variation. For instance, poor white people living in the northern plains are similar to those in the Mississippi valley and Appalachia by these measures, yet tend to live longer.

While political conservatives may seize on these results to argue that taxing high-earners to improve welfare and healthcare for the poor would be unproductive, Ezzati says that would be a misinterpretation. "We're not trying to say that broader socioeconomic factors don't matter," he says. Indeed, studies controlling for other causes have shown that low income is linked to poor health.

Ezzati is focusing on the conditions that cause early deaths in the low-life-expectancy groups. These include injuries and cardiovascular disease linked to risk factors such as obesity, tobacco and alcohol. He believes public health campaigns targeted at particular groups could yield big returns. Others argue that these may not be enough without stimulating economic development in high-risk communities.

Refs.:

1. Public Library of Science Medicine (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0030260).

Christopher J. L. Murray [1, 2, 3], Sandeep C. Kulkarni [2, 4], Catherine Michaud [2, 3], Niels Tomijima [3], Maria T. Bulzacchelli [3], Terrell J. Iandiorio [3], Majid Ezzati [1, 2] "Research Article: "Eight Americas: Investigating Mortality Disparities across Races, Counties, and Race-Counties in the United States," PLoS, Vol. 3, No. 9 (September 2006). PloS Medicine 1. Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA; USA
2. Harvard University Initiative for Global Health, Cambridge, MA; USA
3. Center for Population and Development Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; USA
4. University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA

Background:

The gap between the highest and lowest life expectancies for race-county combinations in the United States is over 35 years. We divided the race-county combinations of the US population into eight distinct groups, referred to as the "eight Americas," to explore the causes of the disparities that can inform specific public health intervention policies and programs.

Methods and Findings:

The eight Americas were defined based on race, location of the county of residence, population density, race-specific county-level per capita income, and cumulative homicide rate. Data sources for population and mortality figures were the Bureau of the Census and the National Center for Health Statistics. We estimated life expectancy, the risk of mortality from specific diseases, health insurance, and health-care utilization for the eight Americas. The life expectancy gap between the 3.4 million high-risk urban black males and the 5.6 million Asian females was 20.7 years in 2001. Within the sexes, the life-expectancy gap between the best-off and the worst-off groups was 15.4 years for males (Asians versus high-risk urban blacks) and 12.8 years for females (Asians versus low-income Southern rural blacks). Mortality disparities among the eight Americas were largest for young [15 - 44] years and middle-aged [45 - 59] years adults, especially for men. The disparities were caused primarily by a number of chronic diseases and injuries with well-established risk factors. Between [1982 - 2001], the ordering of life expectancy among the eight Americas and the absolute difference between the advantaged and disadvantaged groups remained largely unchanged. Self-reported health plan coverage was lowest for Western Native Americans and low-income southern rural blacks. Crude self-reported health- care utilization, however, was slightly higher for the more disadvantaged populations.

Conclusions:

Disparities in mortality across the eight Americas, each consisting of millions or tens of millions of Americans, are enormous by all international standards. The observed disparities in life expectancy cannot be explained by race, income, or basic health-care access and utilization alone. Because policies aimed at reducing fundamental socioeconomic inequalities are currently practically absent in the US, health disparities will have to be at least partly addressed through public health strategies that reduce risk factors for chronic diseases and injuries.

2. David Brown, "Wide Gaps Found in Mortality Rates among U.S. Groups," The Washington Post, pp. A1, 8 (September 12, 2006).

3. Sylvia Pagan Westphal, "Value of Health Care Is Tallied in Growth of Life Expectancy," The Wall Street Journal, p. A2 (September 2006).

4. The New Scientist (September 14, 2006).

I heard the Senior Author from Harvard speak about their study in an interview on "Science Friday" last night on NPR-radio; if you want to hear what he sounds like click on... (TRT = 12 min.)

"A new study demonstrates that life expectancy in the US is highly segmented, to the point that researchers say that they see 'eight Americas' defined by race, location, and income. Differences in the predicted life expectancy of the groups can be as much as 18 years! During the interview, we'll talk about the findings and what they mean. It's not due to violent trauma or HIV. The discrepancy is made dramatic by people dying at younger or middle ages from a variety of routine chronic diseases. -- Ira Flatow

Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of the Harvard Initiative for Global Heath was interviewed by Rene Montaigne on NPR's Morning Edition. Click on NPR.

One can identify the longevity statistics and rank for one's own state by clicking into a map of the USA and letting your mouse scroll over the state of interest; a pop-up window will show you the rank (out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia) and life expectancy for that state (from AP). Hawaii is ranked No. 1 with a life expectancy of 80 years, while Washington, D.C. is ranked last at 72 years.

When I looked at the Related-Stories Section, I was shocked to discover a radio interview that Robert Y. and I did with Neenah Ellis on September 30, 2004, which is still available on the NPR server at NPR, entitled "Secrets of American Supercentenarians." Due to the Internet, old radio and TV interviews are not so ephemeral as one might imagine, and the interviews could outlive all of us. Conclusion: Be careful about predictions. If they can live on forever on the web, your rivals can come back with a "Got-cha" if your predictions don't actually come true.

One of our long-time GRG Members, Robert Bradbury, comments...

One of the things that "current" demographic studies will tend to miss is the basic Foundation(s) of the organism. So, studies attempting to determine the impact of "modern" health care may not be useful. They may largely be dealing with a "stacked" deck based on both genetics and environment. As the genetics of organisms (sub-species of humans) tends to be tuned towards its evolutionary environment -- the fundamental question one might ask is *not* where one lives now, or the medical care one has access to now, but how close is the current lifestyle (diet, environment, etc.) to what the genome was originally optimized for. The proto-American Indian genome derived from Siberian ancestors is optimized for a different environment from various black genomes "out-of-Africa" which in turn are different from the genomes optimized to survive during European Winters. This shows up clearly in the predisposition of various ethnic groups for obesity, diabetes, salt retention, etc. Due to the extensive intermingling of the protogenomes in the U.S. it seems rather pointless to do subpopulation studies (one is not dealing with the 'original' genomes). Instead, one should be working with the key genomic polymorphisms involving predispositions for specific causes of premature death. Otherwise, one is dealing with generalizations from which the extraction of useful data is likely to be extremely difficult.

That point made, perhaps sufficient genome subset specificity remains within large numbers of individuals that one is observing the degree of incompatibility of those genomes with the modern lifestyles. Perhaps subpopulations have genomes tuned for the moderate variations in the external hazard function present in different environments.

One must also deal with the environment in which the various individuals matured. What was the fetal, infant, and childhood nutrition for these various population groups? If one is not taking into account things like mutation rate and or reserve (stem-cell) maintenance during the genome copying and rapid cellular replication stages of an organism's life then one has an extremely incomplete picture. Where did these populations grow up? What were their nutrient profiles, 50, 60, 70 years ago [1935 - 1955]? The question I would be interested in is whether there was/is a subpopulation lifespan effect that might have taken place during the CR experiment that might have been conducted from ~[1929-1939].

The genetic subpopulation effects are clear, for example [1,2]. It may also be true that personal mobility may have remained low enough among various subpopulations [3] that general conclusions might be drawn from the data.

One thing that might be interesting to know is whether the miscarriage rates (or childhood leukemia rates) are significantly different within these populations. In which case one is dealing with inherited variations in the ability of various subpopulations to manage the abundance of "marginal" genomes. One could imagine that environmental selection effects could lead to greater or lesser tolerance for the parental, esp. the mother's, investment in gestation and infancy if the parental genomes can figure out how to judge the survival prospects of developing genomes. This in turn interacts with the historic abundance of resources and the parental and societal environments during the evolution of those genome subsets.

A working hypothesis might be -- environmental abundance or strong family or community support networks leads to tolerance for marginal genomes which in turn might show up as increased rates of death as one ages. The complement might be that environmental shortages (ice ages?) leads to low tolerance for marginal genomes which in turn could show up as increased longevity. Of course the population intermingling makes sorting this out a genetics nightmare.

Refs.:

1. Muller, Y. L. et al, "Variants in Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 4Alpha Are Modestly Associated with Type-2 Diabetes in Pima Indians," Diabetes, Vol. 54, Nol. 10, pp. 3035-9 (October 2005).
NCBI.NLM.NIH.GOV

2. P. Kovacs, et al, "Genetic Variation in UCP-2 (Uncoupling Protein-2) Is Associated with Energy Metabolism in Pima Indians," Diabetologia Vol. 48, No. 11, pp. 2292-5 (November 2005).
NCBI.NLM.NIH.GOV

3. My personal mobility involves having lived in four different metropolitan areas in the U.S. as well as in a foreign country, so my subjective perspective may be quite different from the populations being studied.


"The Longevity Dividend: The Alliance for Aging Research One-Day Meeting for the Senate

Press Release (For Immediate Release):
Contact: Ms. Joan Hurwitz
Voice: 202-293-2856 ext. 130
Cell: 703-244-6783
E-mail: jhurwitz@agingresearch.org

PROMINENT SCIENTISTS CALL FOR POLICYMAKERS TO INVEST IN RESEARCH TO GAIN A 'LONGEVITY DIVIDEND'

September 12, 2006; Washington, D.C.; Advances in science predict relief from age-related disease, higher quality of life, and substantial economic benefits. At an international gathering organized by the not-for-profit Alliance for Aging Research, prominent scientists called for governments and health care organizations worldwide to invest in the extension of healthy human life in order to produce a "Longevity Dividend" for nations with aging populations.

A longevity dividend of lower health care costs, increased savings and worker productivity would result from a modest deceleration in the rate of aging by about seven years, explained Dr. S. Jay Olshansky of the University of Illinois. Olshansky was one of more than 90 scientists and aging research advocates from 16 nations who signed a statement asserting that slowing aging to extend healthy life in humans "is scientifically plausible," and that adequate funding could produce "dramatic advances in preventive medicine and public health within the next few decades."

The group released the statement at a symposium on Capitol Hill today, and cited successful attempts in recent years to lengthen healthy life in laboratory animals, including mammals. The group said, "we now believe that extending the duration of healthy life in humans by slowing down the processes of aging is a scientifically plausible goal."

Among those citing the social and economic benefits to nations with aging populations, such as the United States, were Dr. Robert Fogel, a Nobel laureate from the University of Chicago, and Dr. Alexandre Kolache who directs aging and health programs for the World Health Organization.

The statement by the international group asserted that more funding is needed for intervention studies in aging, because such research has "the potential to do what no surgical procedure, behavior modification or cure for any one major fatal disease can do; namely, extend youthful vigor throughout the lifespan."

Older people who retain physical and mental vigor could remain in the labor force longer, amass more income and savings, and relieve pressure on age-based entitlement programs, explained several speakers at the symposium.

The Alliance for Aging Research, which sponsored the gathering, points out that in the U.S., beginning in less than five years, the Baby Boom generation will become the largest Medicare generation in history. As a result, the incidence of chronic disease and related health care costs are projected to increase dramatically. For example:

* The costs of Alzheimer's disease, which today costs more than $100 billion, could quadruple by 2050;

* In less than 10 years, more than 300,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed each year a 50% increase since 2004; and

* More than one million Americans will have a first stroke every year by 2050, an increase of 167% for men and 140% for women.

Continued investment in medical research is critical in addressing the burden of age-related chronic disease, according to the Alliance. The National Institutes of Health are funded at $28 billion in 2006, but less than 0.1% of that amount goes to understanding the biology of aging and how it predisposes individuals to a host of costly diseases and disorders expressed at later ages.

"The goal is not to produce a 170-year-old person, but success means it should take 80 years to get to be 60," explained Daniel Perry, executive director of the Alliance. "We really have no choice but to confront our demographic future head-on with the best ideas science and medical research can discover."

Click to read the scientists' statement, endorsed by more than 100 researchers.

For more information, refer to the March 2006 issue of The Scientist, "In pursuit of the Longevity Dividend," by S. Jay Olshansky, Ph.D. Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Illinois, Chicago, IL; Daniel Perry, Executive Director for the Alliance for Aging Research; Richard A. Miller, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Pathology at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; and Robert N. Butler, M.D., President and CEO of the International Longevity Center in New York. The Scientist.

To learn more about the burden of chronic disease and the promise of innovation, access the Alliance's new On-line Almanac.


"Bristle Cone Pines are the Oldest Living Things in the World"

Bristle Cone Pine Forest
The Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest in the Inyo National Forest of California. Click on the photo for the Script and Story Board for the accompanying DVD.

"Mr. George H. Johnson of the San Francisco Bay Area [1894 - 2006]"

George H. Johnson, 112

August 30, 2006; Click on the photo above to read Lt. Col. Robert W. Johnson's [no relation] thoughtful Obituary of Mr. George H. Johnson.

Steve Coles and Brian Johnson, Great Nephew
September 7, 2006; Stephen Coles and Mr. Brian Johnson, Great Nephew, Next-of-Kin, and CEO of an insurance company with 14,000 employees. Click on the photo above for the Eulogy by Stephen Coles.

Refs.:

1. Mary Rourke, "George Johnson, 112; World War I Vet Was Oldest Californian," The Los Angeles Times, p. B11 (September 1, 2006).

2. Charles Burress, "George Johnson -- State's Oldest Person," The San Francisco Chronicle, p. C6 (September 3, 2006).
More photos inside.

3. Los Angeles Office of the Associated Press (September 1, 2006).

[Editor's Note: There were at least 20 other newspapers that ran this story around the country in papers that ranged from large cities to the most obscure small towns.]


"Maria Esther de Capovilla of Ecuador [1889 - 2006]"

Maria Capovilla, 116 Maria Capovilla, 116

Refs.:

1. Editorial, "Death of a Supercentenarian," The New York Times, p. A20 (August 29, 2006)

On Sunday, the oldest woman in the world died at age 116 in an Ecuadorian hospital. Her name was Mara Esther de Capovilla, and she was born in September 1889. We are all aware that there will be an end to our lives, but Ms. Capovilla's death is a reminder of how absolute the boundary of human longevity really is. You may escape all the actuarial fates there are, and yet the body has its own term limits, a point at which the warranty expires and something furls up inside you. The woman who succeeds Sra. Capovilla as the oldest woman on earth is also 116, and the oldest person on record died at 122.

In retrospect, the life of such a very old person becomes a kind of historical timeline, in which personal milestones are laid against the impersonal events of history. (Sra. Capovilla was born the same year as Charlie Chaplin and was married the year the United States entered World War I.) But then there's always a question lurking in the Obituary of a Supercentenarian. How did she do it?

This is not the kind of question we ask of the oldest living tree. But there are so many choices lurking in human life, so many ways to live, that you can't help wondering whether Sra. Capovilla's life choices are what helped her last so long. Was it her refusal to smoke or drink hard liquor? The waltzing at parties? Or was it just good genes and a large and apparently supportive family?

There is always something a little poignant about the news that the oldest person has died. No matter what kind of life she has lived, it is always eclipsed by the strangely passive fact of having lived so long. No one sets out to be the oldest person alive. You set out to be happy, prosperous, successful, content. But in time lots of time all your intentions fade away, and you become vastly closer to death than you ever were to life. We honor Sra. Capovilla, and we hope never to grow nearly so old.

2. OBITUARIES: "Maria Esther de Capovilla, 116; Was Considered to Be the World's Oldest Person"
by
Mary Rourke, LA Times Staff Writer, p. B10

August 29, 2006; Maria Esther de Capovilla, considered to be the world's oldest living person, died of pneumonia Sunday in her native Guayaquil, ECUADOR. She was 116. Capovilla was in good health until she developed pneumonia only a few days ago, said Catherine Capovilla, a Granddaughter who lives in Aventura, FL [near Miami].

Guinness World Records recently documented Capovilla's age with the help of the Gerontology Research Group, which keeps a global database on people living to be 110 or older. There are now 73 such "Supercentenarians" in the world, said Dr. L. Stephen Coles of the Gerontology Research Group, based at UCLA. "From age 110 on, it's a 50-50 chance that you'll live another year," Coles said Monday. "There seems to be an invisible barrier at age 112. Hardly anyone lives beyond that age."

Capovilla, born Maria Esther Heredia Lecaro on September 14, 1889, was the child of well-to-do parents. In her early life, she spent part of each year on a family farm and liked to embroider, paint, and play the piano. At 27, she married Antonio Capovilla, a military man of Austrian and Italian descent, after being introduced by neighbors.

"I was at the plantation Josefina and they brought a friend," Capovilla later recalled of how she met her future husband. The couple had five children, all of them reared with the help of maids and housekeepers. Relatives attributed Capovilla's long life to her mild disposition. "She always had a very tranquil character," her Daughter Irma said in a 2005 interview with the Canadian Press. "She does not get upset by anything. She has been that way her whole life."

In recent years, Capovilla lived with one of her daughters, continued to eat three normal meals each day, and spent most of her time reading the newspaper and watching television, usually wearing lipstick and fresh nail polish. "She wasn't sociable, and she didn't talk much," Catherine Capovilla said of her Grandmother. Capovilla is survived by three Children, 11 Grandchildren, 21 Great-grandchildren, and two Great-great-grandchildren. Her husband died in 1949.

"With the death of Capovilla, the oldest living person is now Elizabeth 'Lizzy' Bolden of Memphis, TN, who turned 116 on August 15th," Coles said. "Although diet and exercise are relevant to a healthy life," Coles said, "the main ingredient of a long life is genes." "Parents do matter," he said.

3. "Died: Maria Esther de Capovilla, 116, Considered the World's Oldest Person, in ECUADOR on Sunday," The Wall Street Journal, p. A1 (August 29, 2006).

4. "World's Oldest Person Dies," CNN

August 28, 2006; Quito, ECUADOR (AP) -- Sra. Maria Esther de Capovilla believed to be the world's oldest person, has died at 116, her Granddaughter said. Catherine Capovilla, 46, a Property Manager and Real-Estate Agent in Miami, said Capovilla died Sunday at 3 AM local time in a hospital in the coastal city of Guayaquil. She died two days after coming down with pneumonia. Her funeral was planned for Monday.

Born on September 14, 1889 -- the same year as Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler -- Capovilla was married in 1917 and widowed in 1949. Robert Young, Senior Consultant for Gerontology for Guinness World Records, said Elizabeth Bolden of Memphis, TN, now appears to be the oldest person alive.

" Guinness World Records will have to make an official announcement from London," he said. "For all practical purposes, the next oldest person is going to be presumed to be Elizabeth Bolden. She is 116, but she was born 11 months after Capovilla."

Capovilla was confirmed as the oldest living person on December 9, 2005, after her family sent details of her Birth and Marriage Certificates to the British-based publisher. Emiliano Mercado del Toro, of Puerto Rico, retains the title as oldest man at age 114.

Three of Capovilla's five Children -- Irma, Hilda, and Son Anibal -- are still alive, along with 12 Grandchildren, 20 Great-grandchildren, and 2 Great-great grandchildren, Catherine Capovilla told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

In her youth, Capovilla liked to embroider, paint, play piano, and dance the waltz at parties, the family said. She always ate three meals a day and never smoked or drank hard liquor. "Only a small cup of wine with lunch and nothing more," Irma told AP last December. For the past 20 years, Capovilla had lived with elder Daughter, Hilda, and Son-in-law, Martin.

5. Slate: Explainer: Answers to Your Questions about the News.
"116, Huh? I'll Need To See Some ID. How they know the world's oldest woman is the world's oldest woman?"
by
Daniel Engber

August 29, 2006; One-hundred-sixteen-year-old Maria Esther de Capovilla died on Sunday, less than a year after Guinness World Records had verified her birthday September 14, 1889 and named her the world's oldest living person. How'd they know how old she was?"

They checked her records. To verify extreme longevity, Guinness works with the Gerontology Research Group, an organization that keeps an updated list of people who have lived past the age of 110. (These are called "supercentenarians." If you live past 100, you're a regular old "centenarian.") To get your name on the list, you have to provide an original birth certificate or baptismal certificate, along with corroborating marriage certificates and a photo ID. (The ID weeds out record-seeking impostors.)

Researchers who study the super old typically consult several independent sources before they grant centenarian status. Naturalization certificates can be especially misleading, as new immigrants may have boosted their age to qualify for work. Social Security benefits provide another incentive for age inflation. The self-reported data in the U.S. census are suspect for the same reasons. Studies of the data from 1980 found as many false centenarians as real ones. A similar examination in the late 1990s found that 16 percent of the 100-pluses had the wrong birth dates listed in the Census.

If they can't find a clean birth certificate or other records, the researchers might try a "family reconstitution." They'll gather as much information as they can on the person's children, siblings, and parents and then compare everyone's ages and birth orders to make sure they're consistent. If someone turns out to be only 10 years younger than her mother or 40 years older than her sister, they know there's a problem.

What about biological tests for age? There aren't any. You won't find any reliable age markers in humans, such as the rings on a tree stump or the inner ear bone of a fish. Some gerontologists have tried to measure age by testing a wide range of age-related characteristics including hearing loss, cataract formation, immune response, and joint flexibility. In theory, you might be able to use these measures to figure out how far along someone has gone in the aging process. At best, this would give you a measure of physiological age but not the chronological age.

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.


"ACT Employs PGD To Develop New Embryonic Stem- Cell Lines without Destroying Embryos As Reported in Nature: ACT Stock More Than Triples"

Biopsy of a Single Blastomere at ACT
A biopsy of a single blastomere from a human embryo (courtesy of Advanced Cell Technology, Inc.)

August 24, 2006; It is highly unusual for a science story to make the front page of all the major newspapers simultaneously [1, 2, 3, 4], but here is one example...

"New Stem Cell Method Avoids Destroying Embryos"


by
Nicholas Wade, Senior Science Writer for The New York Times, pp. A1, 21

August 23, 2006; Biologists have developed a technique for establishing colonies of human embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos, a method that, if confirmed in other laboratories, would seem to remove the principal objection to stem-cell research. "There is no rational reason left to oppose this research," said Dr. Robert Lanza, Vice President of Advanced Cell Technology and leader of a team that reported the new method in an article in today's Nature.

But critics of human embryonic stem cell research raised other objections, citing the possible risk to the embryo from using the technique, and the fact that it depends on In-Vitro Fertilization, the generation of embryos outside the womb from a couple's egg and sperm. The new technique would be performed on an embryo when it is two-days old, after the fertilized egg has divided into eight cells, known as blastomeres.

In fertility clinics, where the embryo is available outside the mother in the normal course of In-Vitro Fertilization, one of these blastomeres can be removed for diagnostic tests, such as for Down's Syndrome, and the embryo, now with seven cells, can be implanted in the mother if no defect is found.

Many such embryos have grown into apparently healthy babies over the ten years or so the diagnostic tests have been used. Up to now, human embryonic stem cells have been derived at a later stage of development when the embryo consists of about 150 cells. Harvesting these cells destroys the embryo.

Last year, Dr. Lanza reported that embryonic stem-cell cultures could be derived from the blastomeres of mice, a finding others have confirmed. He now says the same can be done with human blastomeres.

Although he used discarded human embryos in his experiments, he said that anyone who wished to derive human embryonic stem cells without destroying an embryo could use a blastomere removed for the test, called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or PGD. "By growing the biopsied cell overnight, the resulting cells could be used for both PGD and the generation of stem cells without affecting the subsequent chances of having a child," he said.

Ronald M. Green, an ethicist at Dartmouth College and an Adviser to Advanced Cell Technology, said he hoped the new method "provides a way of ending the impasse about Federal funding for this research." He said he believed the method should be seen as compatible with the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, the Congressional action that blocked the use of federal funds for research in which a human embryo is destroyed or exposed to undue risk.

Dr. James Battey, head of the stem-cell task force at the National Institutes of Health, said it was not immediately clear if the new method would be compatible with the Congressional restriction, since removal of a blastomere subjects the embryo to some risk. But the embryos that are PGD-tested seem to grow into babies as healthy as other babies born by In-Vitro Fertilization, Dr. Battey said.

President Bush allowed Federal funding for research on human embryonic stem cells, provided they were established before August 9, 2001. Although that might seem to rule out any new cell lines derived from blastomeres, Dr. Battey said it was not clear if that would be the case, since the embryo is not destroyed, and that he would seek guidance on the point.

Critics, however, have a range of objections to the research. Catholic Bishops, in particular, oppose both in-vitro fertilization and P.G.D. testing, and therefore still object to the research, even though the cells would be derived from an embryo that is brought to term.

Richard Doerflinger, Deputy Director for Pro-Life Activities at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the church opposed In-Vitro Fertilization because of the high death rate of embryos in fertility clinics and because separating procreation from the act of love made the embryo seem "more a product of manufacture than a gift."

Asked if he meant the parents of an in-vitro child would love it less, Mr. Doerflinger said he was referring to the clinic staff. "The technician does not love this child, has no personal connection with the child, and with every I.V.F. procedure he or she may get more and more used to the idea of the child as manufacture," he said.

Dr. Leon Kass, former Chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, said, "I do not think that this is the sought-for, morally unproblematic and practically useful approach we need." He said the long-term risk of PGD testing is unknown, and that the present stem-cell technique is inefficient, requiring blastomeres from many embryos to generate each new cell line. It would be better to derive human stem cell lines from the body's mature cells, he said, a method that researchers are still working on.

Scientists welcomed the new development, but also expressed concerns. Dr. Irving Weissman, a stem-cell expert at Stanford University, said the new method, if confined to PGD-derived blastomeres, would not provide a highly desired type of cell, those derived from patients with a specific disease.

______________________________

Letter:

Nature advance on-line publication August 23, 2006 | doi:10.1038/nature05142;
Received April 12, 2006;
Accepted August 8, 2006;
Published on-line August 23, 2006

"Human Embryonic Stem-Cell Lines Derived from Single Blastomeres,"
Irina Klimanskaya [1,2], Young Chung [1,2], Sandy Becker[1], Shi-Jiang Lu[1], and Robert Lanza [1]

Abstract:

The derivation of human Embryonic Stem (hES) cells currently requires the destruction of ex utero embryos [1, 2, 3, 4]. A previous study in mice indicates that it might be possible to generate Embryonic Stem (ES) cells using a single-cell biopsy similar to that used in Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), which does not interfere with the embryo's developmental potential [5]. By growing the single blastomere overnight, the resulting cells could be used for both genetic testing and stem-cell derivation without affecting the clinical outcome of the procedure. Here, we report a series of ten separate experiments demonstrating that hES cells can be derived from single blastomeres. Nineteen ES-cell-like outgrowths and two stable hES cell lines were obtained. The latter hES cell lines maintained undifferentiated proliferation for more than eight months, and showed normal karyotype and expression of markers of pluripotency, including Oct-4, SSEA-3, SSEA-4, TRA-1-60, TRA-1-81, nanog, and Alkaline Phosphatase. These cells retained the potential to form derivatives of all three embryonic germ layers both in vitro and in teratomas. The ability to create new stem-cell lines and therapies without destroying embryos would address the ethical concerns of many, and allow the generation of matched tissue for children and siblings born from transferred PGD embryos.

Advanced Cell Technology, Inc.
381 Plantation Street
Worcester, MA 01605; USA


*These authors contributed equally to this work.

Correspondence to: Robert Lanza [1] Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to R.L.( E-mail: rlanza@advancedcell.com). The hES cell lines generated in this study will be made available to investigators under a material transfer agreement (an application has been submitted for deposition of the hES cell lines into the UK stem Cell Bank.

______________________________________________________

"Health & Science: Firm Creates Stem Cells Without Hurting Embryos"

Listen to this story [*]...
by
Nell Boyce

______________
* Listen to Lanza Discuss His Team's New Method for Creating Stem-Cells (Audio courtesy of Nature).

(This NPR audio does work in Real Player. -- Steve Coles)

More from Lanza

Biologist Dr. Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, MA, reports his team's findings in this week's issue of the journal Nature. He discusses his work in more detail on the weekly Nature.

August 23, 2006 (NPR-Radio All Things Considered) -- Scientists Wednesday unveiled a new technique that they say could break the political deadlock over human embryonic stem cells. Embryonic Stem (ES) Cells are special cells that have the potential to form any tissue in the body. Someday, researchers hope they could be used for dramatic new medical treatments.

Obtaining embryonic stem cells, however, has always meant destroying embryos, and that's proved unacceptable to many people, including President George W. Bush. Now, researchers say they can get stem cells without harming an embryo. But not everyone is convinced.

The new advance comes from the laboratory of biologist Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, MA. A couple of years ago, Lanza was at conference when someone asked him a question: Why do scientists have to destroy embryos to get stem cells? Couldn't they learn a lesson from fertility clinics?

Stem Cells from a Single Cell?

Those clinics routinely remove a single cell from an embryo for genetic testing, to make sure the baby will be healthy. Hundreds of children have been born after these tests. So why couldn't scientists also remove a single cell and use it to create more stem cells? "I responded basically saying, 'That would be a great idea, but we don't know how to do that," Lanza says. He says one of the problems is that single cells are lonely, and aren't easy to grow. "If you pluck a cell out of an embryo and place it into a plastic dish, it's obviously not going to be happy," he says.

But the question got Lanza thinking. "And when I came back from the meeting," he says, "I was going down the steps to the building, and I hit myself on the side of the head and said, 'Ah ha! I know how to do that."

Getting a Boost from Neighboring Cells

He realized that a single cell might have a shot if it shared its lab dish with some special roommates -- some other cells that already know how to be embryonic stem cells. "If we could give it some company, and some company that would give it the right signals -- the right environmental cues that say, 'You are supposed to be an embryonic stem cell'-- that might be sufficient," Lanza says of his team's strategy. So Lanza's lab took donated embryos and started trying. The result? Two dishes of new stem cells, each grown from a single cell. Lanza says this way of producing stem cells shouldn't be controversial.

"Many people, including President Bush, are concerned about destroying life in order to save life," Lanza says. "However, this study shows now that it's possible to create embryonic stem cells without destroying the embryo, and thus without destroying its potential for life." The results appear in the journal Nature.

Lanza says his company's next step is to work with a fertility clinic. The clinic would talk to clients that are having their embryos screened for genetic diseases and ask them to donate a cell. Technicians would take one cell from the embryo, as usual. But then, instead of sending it out for testing immediately, they would wait a few hours to let the cell replicate. If the cell divided into two, one would go for testing, the other would be used for Lanza's stem-cell research.

Tempered Enthusiasm

Some scientists say the idea is intriguing, but they urge caution. Arnold Kriegstein is a stem-cell researcher at the University of California at San Francisco. Kriegstein says that, first of all, "any advance of this sort, exciting as it may be, would really need to be replicated before we can really embrace it wholeheartedly."

Other experts question whether families undergoing genetic testing will want to participate. And even if they do, scientists couldn't get federal funds under the current White House policy. (Last month, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have changed the policy in a way that would allow funding of this kind of stem-cell research.)

If White House policy changed, there's still another hurdle. James Battey, head of the Stem-Cell Task Force at the National Institutes of Health, says Congress has barred Federal funding for any research that poses a serious risk to an embryo.

"Can we say with absolute assurance that removal of a single cell from an eight-cell embryo doesn't damage the embryo in any way?" Battey says. "The answer is no, we don't know that."

Lack of Long-Term Studies

There have been no long-term studies of the children born after single-cell removals. That's one reason some experts are skeptical that this new study will end the ethical debate. Leon Kass, a Professor at the University of Chicago, recently Chaired the President's Council on Bioethics. He predicts that as long as embryos are involved in the creation of stem cells, the controversy is likely to continue. "The holy grail in this field," Kass says, "is to get cells which are every bit as capable as embryonic stem cells without using embryos at all."

Kass says one option would be to reprogram a cell from an adult so that it can act like a stem cell. And Lanza says his company has been doing that kind of research. But so far, it hasn't worked as well as taking a single cell from an embryo.

_____________________________________________

"'Ethical' Stem-Cell Lines Created"

The scientists removed single cells from the embryos "Human embryonic stem cell lines have been generated without embryos being destroyed," according to researchers. A US team created the lines by removing single cells from embryos, a process that left them intact, they report in the journal Nature. At present, growing this type of stem cell results in embryo destruction.

The researchers say their findings may remove some of the ethical barriers to this field and provide a way of bypassing current US legislation. Under US law, Federal funding is limited for research in which an embryo is destroyed. Clearly, this approach does not involve the destruction of an embryo Prof. Robert Lanza.

What are stem cells?

In 1995, the US Congress passed an amendment stating that the government would not fund research in which human embryos were destroyed. And in 2001, President George W Bush declared federal funding would only be available for research using the 61 human embryonic stem-cell lines already in existence, where a "life-or-death decision had already been made"

This meant no funding for the creation of new lines - whether from existing embryos or cloned embryos. US stem cell researchers said the funding limits had ensured the US lagged behind in this field of research, limiting new studies to private companies, while pro-lifers hailed the decision. Scientists believe stem cells may one day help to combat a range of diseases, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's Disease, or to repair spinal cord injury.

'Ethical Barriers'

A Spokeswoman for Mr Bush described the new approach as "encouraging." But the BBC's James Westhead, in Washington, D.C. says it is not yet clear whether the new technique gets around the funding restrictions.

Stem-cell research supporter petitions motorists in Denver in July.
Supporters argue the research could save many lives.

Questions about its effectiveness, and whether it really is a more ethically acceptable approach, means this is unlikely to herald the end of the deeply divisive debate, our correspondent says. Prof. Robert Lanza, Medical Director of Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) in Massachusetts, US, and lead author on the paper, said: "We have shown for the first time you can create human embryonic stem cells without destroying the embryo and thus without destroying its potential for life."

Using spare human IVF embryos, the researchers removed single cells from them, employing the same procedure used for Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), a technique that has been used in IVF so cells can be removed from the embryo and tested for genetic disorders. The process, said the team, leaves the embryo intact, enabling it to continue and grow into a healthy fetus.

Of the 16 embryos used, they developed two long-term stem cell lines, which, Prof. Lanza said, were "genetically normal and able to generate all of the cell types of the body". If the research is successfully replicated by other scientists, this could mean more stem-cell lines for research and potentially tailored stem cell lines which could be used for children born through PGD.

Limited Relevance

David Christensen, from the Family Research Council -- a US-based conservative group, said the research "shows many more researchers are seeing that we need alternatives to destroying human embryos to get stem cells". I am unconvinced by the ethical arguments - spare IVF embryos used to derive the cell lines would have been destroyed anyway said Prof. Robin Lovell-Badge: "Unfortunately what Prof. Lanza did was entirely unethical because he generated and manipulated 16 human embryos and then threw them all away," he added.

Other scientists said while the paper marked a technical achievement, they were concerned about its practical relevance. Prof. Robin Lovell-Badge, at the UK's MRC National Institute for Medical Research, said: "I am also unconvinced by the ethical arguments -- spare IVF embryos used to derive ES cell lines would have been destroyed anyway."

Prof. Chris Shaw, a neurologist at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, said: "This is a useful alternative source for embryonic stem cells but it side-steps the crucial ethical question: 'What happens to those embryos found to have a genetic mutation and those that are healthy but excess with respect to requirements?'"

___________________

Refs.:

1. Karen Kaplan, "Stem-Cell Advance Spares Embryos: Bush Officials Say It's Too Soon To Rule on the Process, Which May Ease Ethical Concerns. Critics Say There's No Certainty It Doesn't Cause Injury," The Los Angeles Times, pp. A1, 24 (August 24, 2006).

2. Nicholas Wade, "In New Method for Deriving Lines of Human Embryonic Stem Cells, Viable Embryos," The New York Times, pp. A1, 21 (August 24, 2006).

3. David P. Hamilton, "Study Indicates Embryos Survive Cell Extraction," The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1, B1,4 (August 24, 2006).

4. Dan Vergano, "Embryos Spared in Stem-Cell Creation: But Ethical Debate Likely To Remain," USA Today, pp. 1A, 7D (August 24, 2006).

5. Todd Ackerman, "New Stem-Cell Method Keeps Embryos and Debate Alive Breakthrough Lauded by Many As a Step Toward Ending Impasse," The Houston Chronicle (August 24, 2006).

6. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, M.D., discussed ACT's PGD-work this morning (August 23, 2006) on CNN-TV,

Stem Cells Created without Harming Embryos, Company Says: Researchers Hope Technique Will Resolve Political, Ethical Concerns"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006; New York, NY (CNN and AP) -- Find a way to make stem cells without destroying an embryo and you might resolve one of the nation's fiercest public debates...

7. Jonathan Mummolo, "Scientific Sidestep? Researchers Say That They Have Found a Way To Produce Stem-Cell Lines without Destroying Human Embryos. A Biopsy of a Single Blastomere from a Human Embryo," Newsweek (August 23, 2006).

8. Alice Park, "Why the Stem Cell Advance May Not Be a Breakthrough: Scientists May Be Close to Developing a Way To Create Stem Cells without Destroying Embryos in the Process, But That Won't Necessarily End the Political Battles Over the Divisive Issue Time Magazine (August 24, 2006).
The news that a Massachusetts company Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) had found a way to generate embryonic stem cells without destroying the embryo from which the cells came has already predictably raised the hopes of stem-cell research-supporters. But while ACT enjoyed a nearly 360 percent jump in its stock price after the news was reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, it's not at all clear that its achievement, while noteworthy for scientific reasons, has actually succeeded in resolving any of the ethical and moral objections or even the legislative restrictions to embryonic stem-cell research.

9. ACT Press Release (August 23, 2006).

10. Listen to guest = Dr. Robert Lanza, M.D., Vice President for Research and Scientific Development, ACT, Inc. of Worcester, MA NPR Radio Talk of the Nation: Science Friday hosted by Ira Flatow, "Will a New Stem-Cell Technique Satisfy All? Researchers are reporting this week on a new way to make stem cells for research without destroying embryos. Could this settle ethical concerns surrounding this type of research?" (Friday, August 25, 2006; [9:08 - 9:20] PM PDT) (KPCC; 98.3 FM broadcast from Pasadena, CA).

11. Gareth Cook, Stem-Cell Method Preserves Embryo Mass. Lab Hopes To End Standoff The Boston Globe (August 24, 2006).

Massachusetts scientists announced yesterday that they have created the first human embryonic stem cells using a technique that does not require the destruction of an embryo -- an advance they said could end the bitter political standoff over stem-cell research.

The new research, performed at the Worcester laboratories of the biotech firm Advanced Cell Technology, shows that a single cell from an early embryo can be used to generate embryonic stem cells. Fertility clinics can already remove a single cell from an embryo to test for genetic defects, and the ACT team suggests this procedure could be adapted to create embryonic stem cells. Such cells now are created by destroying embryos.

The advance, reported in the journal Nature, attempts to address President Bush's opposition to most embryonic stem-cell research on the grounds that the destruction of an embryo is the equivalent of murder. In 2001, he banned the use of federal money for this research, except that involving the embryonic cells then in existence, and just last month Bush vetoed an attempt to lift that restriction. The new report is likely to revive debate over the policy, which scientists say holds back stem-cell research.

"My hope is that this will jump-start this field," said Dr. Robert Lanza , a Scientist at Advanced Cell Technology who oversaw the research. "We really need to get past all of this politics."

Reacting to the announcement, a White House Spokesman called the research a positive step but said the president's position has not changed. "This technique does not resolve" serious ethical concerns about the use of embryos in research, said spokesman Peter Watkins, "but it is encouraging to see scientists at least make serious efforts to move away from research that involves the destruction of embryos."

The new technique does not address all of the ethical concerns raised by critics of embryonic stem-cell research. The Catholic Church, for example, opposes the creation of embryos outside the human body, even as a part of fertility treatment.

"I don't think this represents any kind of ethical advance," said the Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Education Director for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. A key congressional opponent of current embryonic stem-cell research, Rep. David Weldon (R, FL) said yesterday he also was unswayed.

Scientists called the work an important advance, but said other researchers must verify the findings. Scientists say human embryonic stem cells, which have the capacity to become any cell in the body, are a powerful tool for research that could lead to new insights into diseases and, potentially, cures.

The president's ban on using federal money to study stem cells created after Aug. 9, 2001, has sparked increasingly vocal complaints from scientists because few batches of the older stem cells have proven useful, and the scientists must raise private donations and set up separate labs for work on newer, improved batches of embryonic stem cells.

At the same time, scientists around the world have been looking for a way to make cells that behave like embryonic stem cells, but do not require the destruction of an embryo. A member of the President's Council on Bioethics has proposed a technique, called "altered nuclear transfer," that would genetically engineer an egg so that it is incapable of becoming an embryo, but can still produce embryonic stem cells. This has not been attempted, however. Earlier this year, German scientists reported they could modify cells found in the testes of mice and create cells that behave like embryonic stem cells. And Japanese scientists recently reported that they could make human skin cells take on some of the characteristics of embryonic stem cells.
The ACT technique, however, is the first to yield human embryonic stem cells. Most of the embryos in the ACT experiments were destroyed, because researchers wanted to test the potential of all the embryo's constituent cells to create stem cells. But the technique they propose would not require using more than one of the embryo's cells, leaving a viable embryo capable of starting a pregnancy.

The technique builds on a fertility clinic procedure known as "Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)." With PGD, after technicians fertilize an egg in a laboratory dish, they allow it to grow into an embryo of approximately eight cells. They then remove one cell and test it for signs that the embryo carries chromosomal abnormalities or genes for diseases such as cystic fibrosis. The results guide decisions about which embryos to implant in a woman. The precise risk PGD poses to embryos is not known but is thought to be relatively small, and many healthy children have been born from embryos from which a cell was removed.

To create stem cells, the ACT team proposes working in the future with couples already having PGD performed. The key difference is that after the cell is removed, "it would not be immediately tested," Lanza said. Instead, it would be allowed to grow in a laboratory dish overnight, in the hope that it would divide, creating two cells. One of the cells would be used for the genetic testing and the other to create a batch of embryonic stem cells, using a recipe the scientists described in the Nature paper.

In the company's testing, a single cell divided overnight 58 percent of the time, according to the paper. All told, the company used 91 single cells taken from 16 embryos, and from those it was able to produce only two batches of human embryonic stem cells. The team performed a standard set of tests to demonstrate they were embryonic stem cells. "The scientists used frozen embryos that a fertility clinic planned to discard," Lanza said.

Before the technique could be used as a part of PGD, doctors would have to be confident that it would not interfere with the genetic testing, according to Dr. Richard Scott , Director of Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey, in Morristown, NJ.

Lanza said his team is working to resolve these issues with an American fertility clinic. The clinic, which he declined to name, contacted him after he published a paper last year that showed the technique worked in mice.

One potential ethical complication is the question of whether a single cell from an embryo could develop into a human life. In the paper, the authors state that single cells taken from the stage of embryo used "have never been shown to have the intrinsic capacity to generate a complete organism in any mammalian species." But critics said this does not entirely prove the case. Last year, the President's Council on Bioethics issued a report on alternative methods of creating embryonic stem cells, which criticized the idea used by ACT as raising ethical questions, including whether one cell could become a human.

In addition, a provision of Federal law known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment may prohibit funding the creation of stem cells using the ACT technique, because the law prohibits funding certain kinds of embryo manipulation, according to Prof. Alta Charo , a prominent Bioethicist who is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, WI..

ACT created a controversy in 2001 when it announced it had created a cloned human embryo, a claim that was widely dismissed by other scientists. Unlike in that case, however, the new report appears in a respected peer reviewed journal, and stem-cell scientists interviewed yesterday said the work appeared to be well done.

Gareth Cook can be reached at cook@globe.com.

Human Embryonic Stem Cells from 8-cell Blastocyst in Nature

12. Gretchen Vogel, STEM CELLS: Scientists Derive Line From Single Embryo Cell," Science, Vol. 313, No. 5790, p. 1031 (August 25, 2006).

13. "Claim of Stem-Cell Breakthrough: Attracts Scrutiny for Accuracy"
by
Antonio Regalado, Stem-Cell Specialist for The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1, 10 (September 1, 2006)

A company that last week claimed a breakthrough in creating stem cells without harming embryos is coming under scrutiny for the accuracy of its statements, renewing questions about the credibility of stem-cell science. The stock of the company, Advanced Cell Technology, Inc., Alameda, CA, soared after it issued a news release saying it had created embryonic stem cells "using an approach that does not harm embryos." The method, which appeared to short-circuit ethical concerns raised by the Bush administration over stem-cell research, was widely reported in the media.

Yesterday, following concerns raised by critics, Advanced Cell confirmed that none of the embryos used in its experiments, published by the journal Nature, had actually survived the process. The embryos' failure to survive wasn't previously made clear by the company, and critics are now charging the company misled the public and investors.

William M. Caldwell, Advanced Cell's CEO, said its company's claims were accurate because its method of removing individual cells from embryos is used in a different field -- diagnostic testing without harming embryos. Therefore, in principle, he said, it could also be used to create stem cells without harming embryos. "We did not put out anything misleading," said Mr. Caldwell, whose company announced a financing round last week to coincide with the attention created by its paper. Robert Stanislaro, an Assistant Vice President at Financial Dynamics, a public-relations firm with headquarters in New York and London, who said he wrote and sent the release with ACT's approval, also defended the wording, saying it was "not at all" misleading. "Technically, the embryos were disposed of," Mr. Stanislaro added.

The British journal Nature, which published the paper, added to the confusion last week by issuing a news release saying ACT had created stem cells "while leaving the embryo intact." The journal, which plays a central role in vetting and publicizing important scientific research, issued a correction to its release two days later.

Ruth Francis, a Nature Spokeswoman, blamed the error on short staffing, saying editors were unavailable, and "we ended up with communication problems." By then, the finding already had been widely reported. Advanced Cell, a tiny company that has kept investor and public interest with a series of striking reports, stoked media interest in its results by saying the breakthrough could profoundly change stem-cell debate. It "takes away the President's last excuse to oppose the research," Robert Lanza, M.D., Vice President of Research and Scientific Development at ACT, told Reuters.

Richard Doerflinger, Deputy Director of Pro-Life Activities at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, says the study was unfairly used to challenge opponents of research involving human embryos. "There was almost immediate kind of pressure on critics of stem cell research" to embrace the new approach or "be cited as extremist," he said. Mr. Doerflinger accused Dr. Lanza of "lying" about the fate of the 16 embryos used in the experiment, which generated two supplies of stem cells.

Dr. Lanza denied misleading anyone. He said that following a request from Nature, the company planned to clarify some data that accompanied the paper. Dr. Lanza said that the two embryos that had yielded stem-cell supplies had each had seven cells removed, a fact not directly reported in the Nature article.

Because such early-stage embryos contain only [8 - 10] cells to begin with, Dr. Lanza confirmed they didn't survive the process. However, he said the technique could be adapted in a way that would yield both stem cells and viable embryos. The announcement August 23rd sparked a nearly fourfold increase in the price of Advanced Cell Technology's shares from the previous day's close. Since then the company's share price has steadily dropped. Yesterday, the company's shares fell 17 cents, or 22%, to 61 cents in over-the-counter trading.

Write to Antonio Regalado at antonio.regalado@wsj.com (September 1, 2006).

14. "Religious, Scientists Debate Stem Cells"
by
Lindsey Poisson
State News
The State News Michigan State

Researchers last week announced a new method that could extract stem cells without harming the embryo but many aren't convinced the controversy surrounding the practice will end. Advanced Cell Technology, which researches human embryonic stem cells for regenerative medicine purposes, announced the procedure that parallels an in vitro fertilization procedure that removes and tests a cell for genetic abnormalities.

In the study, the embryos were intentionally deconstructed by scientists, but they are expected to survive in actual practice, reported Nature, a weekly international science journal. Pediatrics and human development professor Chia-Cheng Chang said in an E-mail Monday the effects of the procedure when used for stem cell research purposes needs to be thoroughly tested. He said using embryonic stem cells for clinical medicine could still produce adverse effects, such as tumors. "It is possible that the manipulation of the embryo may affect the embryo's normal development," Chang said. "I am not sure the manipulated embryos will develop into persons without undesirable effects." Representatives from Advanced Cell Technology did not return repeated calls from The State News all week. Stem cells can form into other types of cells in the body and create organ tissue anywhere in the body. Embryonic stem cells are highly adaptable, have a long shelf life and can develop into different body tissues.

Adult stem cells are limited in their development into other cells and have a shorter shelf life. But they are easier to manage and can be taken from consenting adults' body tissues, such as the umbilical cord. Federal law doesn't prohibit stem cell research, but federal funding is allocated only to areas of research that don't involve destroying or harming embryos, including adult stem cells. State law permits stem-cell research as long as the cells are not extracted from within Michigan. Chang said the stem-cell controversy in Michigan might not change with the new technique because the embryo is still being manipulated, which the Vatican considers a sin. "The religious people will not be satisfied," he said. Ed Rivet, legislative director for Grand Rapids-based Right to Life of Michigan, said there are still problems with the procedure. He said there are cells in an embryo that can both develop into different types of cells and can form into more embryos. The two kinds of cells aren't easily identifiable, and researchers run the risk of eliminating a twin from forming, Rivet added. But he said researchers are finally getting the right idea, which seems to be more on the "pro-lifers' terms," he said. "It still is a very difficult and unproven area to date," Rivet added. "We should have been going this direction in the first place," he said. "If we can find a way there, let's do it."

MSU Professor Emeritus Charles Sweeley, who formed a non-profit cooperation in January to study stem cells, said the controversy will "rattle around for a while." Researchers have been trying to find a method to preserve the lives of the embryos for many years, he said. "This has been a breakthrough in that sort of view," he said. "I'm sure other laboratories now will try to duplicate that."

15. "Journal Will Clarify Human embryo study..."
by
Jeremy Manier, Chicago Tribune Staff Reporter

September 1, 2006; In an effort to correct a misunderstanding about a study that described a way of creating embryonic stem cells while sparing human embryos, officials at the journal Nature said Thursday they plan on changing the paper to make it clearer that all of the embryos used were destroyed.

The move comes after news outlets around the world reported last week that a research team at Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology Inc. had succeeded in growing stem cells without destroying embryos in the process. In reality, the Nature paper proposed that such a process could work, based on the research team's unprecedented success in developing stem cells using single cells taken from early embryos. But none of the embryos from which the team harvested cells was left intact.

"The fate of the embryos isn't obvious" in the paper, said a Nature spokeswoman. Although the study's main findings are unchallenged, she said the journal may modify the study Abstract and a potentially misleading diagram. In the study, the research group took four to seven cells from 16 human embryos, then tried to grow stem cells from each individual cell. The researchers say this was to maximize the number of cells they could test and improve the chances of obtaining stem cells.

Having proved the method, the scientists hope to show they can make stem cells from intact embryos that have had just one or two cells removed. The clarification "doesn't change the scientific point of the paper," said study leader Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology. Yet in interviews last week, Lanza did not make it clear that none of the embryos in the study survived stem cell extraction.

In an audio interview for Nature last week, Lanza said, "in this instance there is no harm to the embryo that we're biopsying." Company CEO William M. Caldwell, IV told The News Hour on PBS-TV, "In this case, we do not destroy the embryo." Many newspapers, television stations and Web sites portrayed embryo survival as the study's main innovation, using terms similar to the August 24th Washington Post headline: "Stem cells created with no harm to human embryos."

( The Tribune began its story by saying "scientists have demonstrated a method that could allow creation of human embryonic stem cells without destroying the embryos.") One reason for the misstatements was a Nature news release that inaccurately said the embryos were left intact, a mistake the journal corrected last Friday, after the study came out.

But the study itself and comments by Advanced Cell Technology officials may have contributed to the misunderstanding. The paper does indicate the embryos were taken apart to extract single cells, or blastomeres, from which the team grew stem cells. But an accompanying figure titled "Derivation of [stem cells] from single blastomeres" shows a photo of a "blastomere-biopsied" embryo at a later stage of development. None of the embryos yielding stem cells survived to that stage.

A company news release last week also said the scientists had created stem cells "using an approach that does not harm embryos." Ronald Green, a Dartmouth University ethics professor who advises the company, said he does not object to that description. "The approach does not harm embryos; the experiment did," Green said.

This isn't the first time Advanced Cell Technology has run into publicity problems. In 2001 the company said it had cloned human embryos in the hope of developing useful stem cell lines. But other scientists said the effort was a failure because the cells divided only a few times before dying. Company representatives said the Nature clarification plays into the hands of people who oppose stem cell research. The fact that all the embryos were destroyed drew objection from Richard Doerflinger, an official with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


"California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Loans CIRM $150 Million"

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzennegger

July 20, 2006; Both the Governor and former First Lady Nancy Reagan asked the President to change his mind on the proposed veto of HR 810 which had been announced prior, but they were ignored. However, the Governor didn't get mad; he got even. Bravo Arnold!

Refs.:

1. Lee Romney, "California Takes Lead in Stem-Cell Efforts: A Day after President Bush's Veto, the Governor Orders a $150-Million Loan To Kick-Start Research Now Stalled by Litigation," The Los Angeles Times, pp. A1, B1,10 (July 21, 2006).

2. Laura Kurtzman, "Schwarzenegger Gives $150 Million Stem-Cell Loan," The Boston Globe (July 21, 2006).

3. Warren Olney, Interview with Mr. Robert Klein, Chairman of the Oversight Committee of CIRM and Ms. Terri Summers, a reporter for a San Diego Newspaper," "Which Way LA?," KCRW FM Radio (July 20, 2006; 7:00 PM PDT).

4. David P. Hamilton, "California Stem-Cell Program Wins State Loan," The Wall Street Journal, p. A4 (July 21, 2006).


"President Bush Summarily Vetos HR 810 Passed by the US Senate the Day Before after Two Full Days of Debate"

President Bush in East Room of the White House President Bush in East Room of the White House
President Bush in the East Room of the White House Announcing His Veto to Supporters


July 19, 2006; Today's presidential photo-op with several 'snowflake babies' squirming in the background, gave the impression that the American public was strongly in support of what was righteously described as a "deep moral concern." Click on one the photos above for a video clip of this scrupulously-contrived event ( MS-NBC-TV; TRT = 14.5 min.). The logical fallacies become more dense in the latter part of Bush's speech punctuated by staged applause and standing ovations that were probably triggered with the use of cue cards just like they use on audience-participation TV quiz-programs or laugh-tracks/music-clips in post-production edited soap operas to make sure that you know when to laugh or cry, just in case you may have missed it.

However, Bush's speech writer ended with a rhetorical flourish that most reporters missed. Toward the middle, Bush addressed the "Let's not cross this moral line." [the cross-a-line argument was repeated often.] "I believe that it would be a mistake. Once crossed, it would be about impossible to turn back." [the slippery-slope argument, also used frequently]. Then he/she really gets going...

"As science brings us ever closer to unlocking the secrets of human biology, it also offers temptations to manipulate human life and violate human dignity [the Frankenstein-Monster cautionary-tale argument]. Our conscience and history as a nation demand that we resist this temptation [20]. America was founded on the principle that 'we are all created equal and endowed by our creator with the right to life'." ... "we can harness the promise of technology without becoming slaves to technology." ... "we will achieve the great breakthroughs we all seek with reverence for the 'gift of life.' I believe that America's scientists have the ingenuity and skill to meet this challenge, and I look forward to working with the Congress and the scientific community to achieve these great-and-noble goals in the years ahead.
Thank you for coming and may God bless." --- G. W. Bush, President of the United States of America; Thursday, July 20, 2006; ~3:00 PM EDT; The White House, Washington, D.C.; USA

Now, as I read through this paragraph and attempt to deconstruct all of the agonizing concerns and uncover the intimate reasoning that goes on in the minds of evangelical conservatives, I appreciate more why they feel afraid of science and how they are trying to control it as best they can (even as it goes on in foreign countries where they have no jurisdiction). In other words, if science goes off and 'unlocks the secrets of human biology,' it may change the world, and thus threaten their own world view [zietgeist]. It's OK to let scientists take taxpayer money from NIH to go off and cure diseases one-at-a-time; but what if, in the process, some of them want to "read the book of life [DNA], make sense out of it, and actually attempt to intervene [fetal farming or whatever]." They might actually do something to take matters into their own hands that were previously within the sole province of the divine; the very thing that drove the young Dr. Victor Frankenstein, M.D. to stay up at night working out surgical techniques for assembling a fabulous man who could not die (at least in the normal way by aging and senescence). He never thought that two brains could get mixed up. It wasn't his fault (with apologies to Mary Shelly, since that variation may have been invented by a Hollywood script writer in 1931 and may not have been in her original 1831 gothic novel). Is there an expert out there home.tiscali.nl/~hamberg/ who can search the source text and answer this question?

Satire:

As several Senators pointed out on Monday during the debate, but were subsequently ignored... Reasoning by analogy, if one ought not to destroy a frozen pre-implantation IVF embryo (or 'murder' a human being, using the politically-correct language of evangelicals) by (intentionally or inadvertently) allowing the embryo to thaw (and not immediately implanting it in an adoptive surrogate mother who has been hormonally prepared in advance to gestate a snowflake baby) on moral grounds then it should also be made illegal to do so (presumably a felony) on legal grounds as well. Thus, any OB/GYN infertility-specialist or their licensed agent who declines or through negligence fails to top-off his or her supply of frozen embryos with fresh liquid Nitrogen (as must be done periodically, secondary to evaporation) should be sent to jail tout-de-suite. Furthermore, one ought to expect the taxpayers to furnish the cost of liquid Nitrogen if this were to be too burdensome for the prospective parents who no longer had a requirement, in principle, for the surplus embryos. Finally, if any such infertility storage facility were to fall into bankruptcy or be evicted for failure to pay rent -- whatever -- then the Federal Government should rightfully confiscate the dewars and retain them in a central government storage facility where they could be looked after in a more efficient manner, such as in the basement of the White House where our good President could keep an eye on all of these hundreds-of-thousands of future [Republican] American citizens to make sure that they were nice and cozy [Sorry, I meant to say 'cool'] who would then grow up with a moral indebtedness to our dear leader's ingenious moral creativity. - L. Stephen Coles

Refs.:

1. Sarah Lueck, "Stem-Cell Bills Top Senate Agenda: As Frist Pushes for Vote, Democrats Aim To Capitalize on the Issue in Midterm Elections," The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1, 4 (July 18, 2006).

2. Antonio Regalado and David P. Hamilton, "How a University's Patents [Wisconsin's] May Limit Stem-Cell Research," The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1, B1,5 (July 18, 2006).

3. Sarah Lueck, "Bush Repeats His Vow to Veto Bill Easing Limits on Stem-Cell Funds," The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1,4 (July 18, 2006).

4. Janet Hook, "As Senate Begins Stem-Cell Debate, Emotions Run High," The Los Angeles Times, pp. A1,12 (July 18, 2006).
According to Sen. James Bunning (R-KY), "Just because the budding life will not survive does not mean that we should ghoulishly conduct experiments on them."

5. Editorial, "Voting for Science," The Los Angeles Times, p. B12 (July 18, 2006).

6. Carl Hulse, "Stem-Cell Bill Neaers Passage in the Senate," The New York Times, pp. A1,18 (July 18, 2006).

7. Editorial, "Standing Up for Stem-Cell Research," The New York Times, p. A24 (July 18, 2006).
Voters will need to hold all recalcitrant legislators [and the President himself] accountable for slowing research that holds great medical potential."

8. Paid full-page advertisement by DEFCON, "Thanks to a Few Religious Extremists, Stem-Cell Research Doesn't Have a Prayer: Bush Threatens To Veto the Stem-Cell Bill, Choosing Religious Extremists over American Lives," The New York Times, p. A9 (July 18, 2006).
"I trust God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn't do my job" - President George Bush, July 9, 2004.

9. Sarah Lueck, "Stem-Cell Bill Passes Senate; Override of Expected Veto Unlikely," The Wall Street Journal pp. A1, 8 (July 19, 2006).
63-37 was sufficient for a filibuster-proof pass but not a veto-proof pass (2/3 = 67 votes needed)
Here are the tallies for the three Bills that were voted on at 3:45 PM EDT on Tuesday afternoon (July 18, 2006)...

1. S 3504 - - "Fetus Farming Prohibition Act of 2006"
PROHIBITS THE SOLICITATION OR ACCEPTANCE OF TISSUE FROM FETUSES GESTATED FOR RESEARCH PURPOSES.
Section 498B of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 289g 2) is amended --
SOLICITATION OR ACCEPTANCE OF TISSUE FROM FETUSES GESTATED FOR RESEARCH PURPOSES
It shall be unlawful for any person or entity involved or engaged in interstate commerce to
(1) solicit or knowingly acquire, receive, or accept a donation of human fetal tissue knowing that a human pregnancy was deliberately initiated to provide such tissue; or
(2) knowingly acquire, receive, or accept tissue or cells obtained from a human embryo or fetus that was gestated in the uterus of a nonhuman animal.
This Bill passed in the Senate 100 - 0 unanimously.
Note: This Bill was subsequently passed by the House and signed into law by the President.

2. S 2754 - - "Supports Adult Stem-Cell Research" Passed 100 - 0 unanimously
Note: This Bill was not passed by the House due to technicalities of debate by Democratic House members hoping to use it as an issue later in the year, as we get closer to November elections.

3. HR 810 - - "Supports Development of New Embryonic Stem-Cell Lines Using Surplus Frozen Embryos from IVF"
This Bill Passed 63 - 37 by an extra margin of 3 (But not by a veto proof by margin of 4 more).
Note: This Bill failed in a House vote to gain an over-ride margin, so the veto was sustained. Thus, gratefully for conservatives, it never made it back to the Senate for a re-vote to establish whether any wavering votes had shifted in the brief interim.

See C-SPAN or GovTrack.us for the full text of each of these Bills. What the penalties are for violating S 3504 are not clear. It would be fun to know what the teeth are in this law banning "the creation of zombies, such as are featured in a variety of science-fiction movies."

Relevant Statistics:

1. ~50,000 babies have been born in this country using Assisted Reproduction Methods, including IVF.

2. A total of only [128 - 138] "Snowflake babies" have been born. These babies have been born using "adopted" frozen IVF embryos that would otherwise have been discarded (i.e., thawed).

3. There are ~400,000 such frozen embryos in storage still waiting to be discarded. [RAND Corp.; 2003]. About 11,000 or these frozen embryos have been designated by patients as available for 'research purposes.' From those, about 275 new stem-cell lines could be created. Note that most of the embryos would be lost during thawing and the initial stages of development.

4. All 21 human embryonic stem-cell lines still available for Federally-funded research (from the ~60 lines that were originally promised in 2001) have been grown on a layer of potentially contaminated mouse feeder-cells and/or bovine (cow) broth, and thus are not suitable for human clinical trials, owing to the possibility of infection by murine viruses. This fact was not known at the time the 60 lines were proposed as adequate to meet the needs of researchers by the Bush Administration. New methods, eliminating the need for growth media using animal cells of any sort, have been developed by the University of Wisconsin and Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, CA. The new media are completely 'sterile,' i.e., uncontaminated by any microorganisms that could be inadvertently transferred to a human recipient.

5. There is a wide variety of national laws governing ESC research: The UK allows research cloning; China has no laws governing ESC research; Ecuador bans all ESC research.

Conclusion: "Snowflake" babies are simply a "red herring" in this entire debate, except for the fact that they're cute. But, then again, all babies are cute.

10. Lee Romney, "Wider Stem-Cell Research Sought: Taxpayer Advocacy Group Challenges Three Patents It Says Have Discouraged Work on Embryonic Tissue," The Los Angeles Times, p. B6 (July 19, 2006).
This article discusses problems with the overly-broad scope of the original James Thomson's WARF (Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation) patents held by the University of Wisconsin for the US but which are not recognized abroad.

11. Janet Hook, "Senate OK's Stem-Cell Bill; Veto Expected: The Measure Would Expand federal Spending for Embryonic Research. Bush and Social Conservatives Oppose the Bill, Calling it Immoral," The Los Angeles Times, pp. A1, 12 (July 18, 2006).
Most of the Senators who spoke in favor and against HR 810 appeared to be reading from prepared scripts targeting their own constituencies rather than talking to each other in the style of a formal debate with the aim of addressing or refuting issues raised by others and thereby winning debate points. As a stand-alone speech, the passionate words of Sens. Feinstein and Kennedy brought tears to one's eyes, they were so compelling in their arguments. However, the Senior Senator from New York, Sen. Charles Schumer, was the most combative of the supporters of HR 810 with the strongest sense of righteous indignation and a pleasure to watch. He labeled the Bush White House supporters "Theocrats" and stated repeatedly that "they would be held accountable" for their potential veto, if that were to come to pass. Later in the day, Sen. Rick Santorum (R, PA) took umbrage at the word "theocrat" and politely suggested that it "went too far" (as a slander of him and his colleagues). This is the only (relatively mild) instance of name- calling across the aisles during the entire two days (including 14 hours of video taping).

12. Sarah Lueck, "Bush Vetoes Sem-Cell Bill; House Override Fails," The Wall Street Journal pp. A1, 4 (July 20, 2006).
Supporters of the Bill in both parties said they would "try to resurrect the legislation next year."
President Bush attempted to put a positive spin on his position, too. Eighteen families who had adopted unused frozen embryos (so called snowflake babies) were in the East Room as Bush made his case in a 15-minute speech that came about 40 minutes after the veto. On stage, behind the President and in the audience were two dozen children, squirming in their Sunday best, born from those leftover embryos.
Also in the crowd were four embryo-donor families and four patients who have been aided by Adult Stem Cells. Those cells are found in various tissues, including bone marrow. Bush supports research involving adult stem cells.

13. Janet Hook and James Gerstenzang, "Stem Cell Bill Vetoed; Override Effort Fails," The Los Angeles Times, pp. A1, 20 (July 20, 2006).
The President said, "This Bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others. Thus, it crosses a moral boundary that our society needs to respect, so I vetoed it. The Bill would upset the balance I tried to strike between the needs of science and the demands of conscience." Referring to the snowflake children present, the President said, "these boys and girls are not spare parts! They remind us what is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research... Taxpayers should not finance procedures that many consider to be murder. If this Bill had become law, American taxpayers would for the first time in our history be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos, and I'm not going to allow it."[loud applause and a standing ovation followed.]

The President separately signed into law S 3504, the so-called "Fetus Farming Prohibition Act of 2006" that was passed unanimously by the Senate and passed subsequently by the House.

There was a curious twist of logic made by The House Majority Leader, Rep. John A. Boehner (R, OH). "If (1) all people were once embryos [true], and (2) I take it upon myself to allow the murder of surplus embryos as policy, then it follows that (3) you may murder yourself or even me as a special case. [sic](non-sequitur) in a time-travel sense, and thus, we may have never lived. (Horrors!) Of course, killing your own Father (or Mother) by going back in time may have the same effect, and is a favorite theme of certain flawed-logic science-fiction novels.
Similarly, Sen. Sam Brownback (R, KA) said "Snowflake babies are not raw material, they are real people, and here are some of them!" This begs the question of whether a potential thing should be placed in the same equivalence class as the thing itself. This is the same argument as to whether a Home Depot burns down or it is legitimate to say that "three houses burned down," simply because there were parts sufficient to make three houses available at that location, if one had wanted to. This gets close to whether all women who have unprotected intercourse followed by a menstrual period two weeks later (disappointed uterus) should dress in mourning clothes, which seems sort of silly to me.

14. Editorial, "Bush's First Veto," The Los Angeles Times, p. B12 (July 20, 2006).
"Now that Bush has shown that the ink cartridge hasn't dried up in the veto pen, he should use it more often. Next time, though, he should try not to use it to crush the hopes of millions of suffering Americans in order to please a [conservative] special-interest group."

15. Cartoon by Mat Davies, "I feel that Israel has a right to defend itself... So long as no embryos are harmed.," The Los Angeles Times, p. B13 (July 20, 2006).

16. USA Today (July 20, 2006).

17. Four letters to the Editor, "Good Intentions Won't Keep People from Dying. Action Will," The Los Angeles Times, p. 12 (July 21, 2006).

18. Peter Steinfels, "Beliefs," The New York Times (July 22, 2006).

19. Statement by Senator Tom Harkin regarding President Bush's First Veto...

"I will mince no words about the President's action. This veto is a shameful display of cruelty and hypocrisy. It is cruel, because it denies hope to millions of Americans who suffer from Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, ALS, juvenile diabetes, cancer, spinal-cord injuries, and many other diseases and debilitating conditions. Most of all, though, it is simply sad."

"HR 810 would have expanded federal funding to pursue this research. But with a stroke of his pen today, the President vetoed this bill and vetoed the hopes of millions of suffering Americans."

"The President is closing his heart and mind to this fact, and putting himself in the company of people like Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino, who told Galileo it was heresy to claim that the Earth revolved around the sun, and not the other way around. Galileo was later sentenced to life term of house arrest."

"Let's be clear, nothing could be more pro-life than signing this bill into law. We all know people - friends or family members -- with ALS or Parkinson's or juvenile diabetes or spinal-cord injury. What could be more pro-life than using the scientific tools that God has given us to help heal them?"

"We carefully crafted HR 810 to impose strict ethical standards on embryonic stem cell research. HR 810 would not allow federal funding to be used to create or destroy human embryos. The only embryos we're talking about using are those that are already slated for destruction.

"Once again, the President has staked out an extreme, ideological position -- a position that flies in the face of science and common sense. And he refuses to listen to other points of view, including the pleas of Nancy Reagan. Republican supporters of the Bill requested an opportunity to talk to the President, and they were turned down.

"There is an election in November, and we need to know where every candidate stands on embryonic stem cell research. Because we intend to reintroduce this bill in the next Congress. And we intend to prevail."

20. Lauren Etter, "Bush's First Veto: Taking a Stand on Stem Cells," The Wall Street Journal, p. A9 (July 22, 2006).
"About 88 percent of the ~400,000 frozen embryos in storage are slated to be used for family building. The chance that a frozen embryo placed in storage actually develops into a live birth is about 1/10th, according to Prof. Arthur Caplan, a Bioethicist from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia."
A major HR 810 advocate, Sen. Tom Harkin (D, IA) complained in response to the President's East Room speech on July 19th, "Who set up the President of the United States - this President - as our moral Pope? The President of the United States is not our moral Ayatollah. He may which to be, but he is not."

21. Editorial, "Splitting Stem Cells: Believe It Or Not, A Constructive Senate Debate," The Wall Street Journal, p. A10 (July 22, 2006).
"To many scientists and Democrats, this issue can be distilled to a choice between America's leading the world in medical progress, or lapsing into Luddite religiosity." ... "Our own view is that the embryos from which stem cells are collected have the potential to be - - but are not yet - - human beings. This is the dominant view across U.S. society, which is one reason there is little controversy over fertility treatments, in which embryos are routinely created and discarded [IVF, followed by freezing of unused embryos once the best looking are employed as fresh embryos, and subsequent thawing and elimination as medical waste, following a successful pregnancy to term (~nine months later)]. [BTW,] private stem-cell research on these discarded embryos remains [perfectly] legal [once informed consent is established]..."
"The Senate still hasn't passed a Ban on Human Cloning, a practice that the public widely opposes and which dozens of countries (and even the U.N.) have already outlawed."

[This peculiar anomaly is not yet widely known by the public because of the secretive manner in which bills are allowed to die by inaction in Senate Committees when it is politically expedient for majority-party Senators to allow this to happen. For example, Sen. Brownback (R, KA) is a master at this sort of prestidigitation. After all, how could a Bill that would have passed easily {banning human reproductive cloning}, and indeed is still needed, not have been brought up for a vote, presumably on the grounds that a still stronger bill is needed, according to some, one that would be much more controversial {banning all forms of human cloning - - both therapeutic and reproductive - - with severe penalties for violation] and therefore might not pass a full Senate vote? Could it be imagined that if the weaker Bill were allowed to pass, it would take the pressure off the Senate to pass any stronger measure, and the proponents of the stronger measure wanted to keep the pressure on, as it were, and so they "cut off their nose to spite their face."}]

"[regarding the WARF patents at the University of Wisconsin]...intellectual property and trade secrets in medial research are still contentious and unsettled."

22. L. Sandy Maisel, Director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College, "Bush's Anti-Intellectual, Callously-Cynical Stem-Cell Veto," The Morning Sentinel (Augusta, ME)(July 23, 2006)...

I never thought I would begin a column by quoting Sen. Bill Frist -- the conservative Senate Republican Majority Leader -- positively. On Thursday, citing research advances in the last five years, Frist responded to President Bush's veto of the embryonic stem cell research bill by saying, "Given the potential of this research and the limitations of the existing [human embryonic stem cell] lines eligible for federally funded research, I think additional lines should be made available."

In his veto message, the President said, "In 2001, I set forth a new policy on stem cell research that struck a balance between the needs of science and the demands of conscience." He continued, "If this bill were to become law, American taxpayers for the first time in our history would be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos. Crossing this line would be a grave mistake." After vetoing the legislation, the President held a ceremonial press conference, surrounded by babies who had been born as a result of in vitro fertilization.

I could not decide if I was more offended by the President's anti-intellectualism, his imposition of his moral convictions on the nation, or his callous cynicism.

This is the President who, in his Commencement Address at his alma mater, Yale University, bragged that his mediocre academic record had not impeded his career. He is proud of the fact that he rarely reads books. And he apparently has no interest in scientific advances. It is as if he said, "I made up my mind five years ago. Don't confuse me with anything that has happened since." Our nation cannot afford to ignore advances in science. The work of scientists on embryonic stem-cell lines has shown great promise in curing diseases that afflict literally millions of Americans. To the President, apparently, that work is irrelevant.

Iowa's Sen. Tom Harkin, commenting on the veto, chided the President for imposing himself as the nation's "moral Ayatollah." Harsh criticism, but true. The President draws a moral line not to be crossed, defining the use of embryonic stem cells as violating the sanctity of human life. The vast majority of Americans do not share that moral view. The President and those who share his position on medical ethics stretch arguments much further than most Americans are prepared to go. Debating this issue is one thing; imposing the President's moral stance on the nation is another.

Perhaps most offensive is the White House's clear view that this is a wedge issue ripe for exploitation. The President's orchestration of the veto clearly played to the pro-life elements in the country, to social conservatives, to his political base. The circle is now complete.

The "compassionate conservative" of 2000 has become the cold-hearted political exploiter of 2006. We'll see whether his political calculation is a correct one, but there is no doubt about the President's goal of reigniting the abortion issue for the upcoming election.

With his political back to the wall, George Bush and his team show their true colors. Just as they used racial politics for their political benefit at the expense of Sen. John McCain in 2000, just as they used character assassination for their political benefit at the expense of John Kerry in 2004, now they turn to the abortion issue and its latest variation, the spending of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research. Have they no shame?

I disagree with those who draw a moral line here. Fertility clinics currently are holding approximately 400,000 embryonic cells that will not be used for in vitro fertilization. They will be destroyed -- or will remain frozen until they become useless for fertilization [sic][implantation]. Neither the President nor any of his pro-life allies have come forth with a plan for using these embryos.

Where are the 400,000 couples who will use these cells? The alternative the President proposes for the use of these cells is totally unrealistic, and he knows it. Will the President and his allies propose bills to fund these procedures? Of course not.

President Bush touts his own record, claiming to have funded more embryonic stem cell research than any previous president. The procedure was only discovered in 1998. Talk about a self-serving claim. He ignores five years of research that does not support his position. He all but belittles the potential for ending suffering for millions of American families. And he does so in a way calculated to divide the nation and garner political game [points]. We deserve better.

23. Robert J. Hughes, "Stem-Cell Funding's Private Side," The Wall Street Journal, p. W2 (July 28, 2006).

24. Constance Holden, "Biomedical Research: States, Foundations Lead the Way After Bush Vetoes Stem Cell Bill," Science, Vol. 313, No. 5786, pp. 420-1 (July 26, 2006).


"SENS Survives Its Challengers"

Cartoon of Dr. de Grey
Is Defeating Aging Only a Dream?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006; According to the Editor-in-Chief of MIT's Technology Review, Jason Pontin, "Not one of the three qualified challengers has won the '$20,000 Challenge' to disprove Aubrey de Grey's anti-aging proposals [SENS]." For details, click on the cartoon above, which, by the way, has generated quite a bit of controversy in its own right.

Click for a Press Release from the Methuselah Foundation.

Refs:

1. "Reviews: Books, Artifacts, Reports, Products, Objects: Anti-Aging Science: Is Defeating Aging a Dream: A Panel of Independent Scientists and Technologists Reviews Criticism of Aubrey de Grey's Anti-Aging Proposals," MIT Technology Review, Vol. 109, No. 3, pp. 80-4 (July/August 2006).

2. Aubrey de Grey, "Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence ( SENS).

3. Preston W. Estep, III, Matt Kaeberlein, Pankaj Kapahi, Brian K. Kennedy, Gordon, J. Lithgow, George M. Martin, Simon Melov, R. Wilson Powers, III, and Heidi A. Tissenbaum, "Life-Extension Pseudoscience and the SENS Plan."


"World's Oldest Crow Dies at 59"

Tata the Crow

July 7, 2006; Bearsville, NY (Yahoo News) -- There's no way to prove Tata was the world's oldest crow when he died Sunday at age 59. But an expert on crows says it's possible. Tata's tale began in 1947 when a thunderstorm blew the fledgling out of his nest in a Long Island cemetery, a mishap that likely led to his long life. "Injured and unable to fly, the bird was scooped up by a cemetery caretaker and brought to a local family with a reputation for taking care of animals," Tata's most recent owner, Kristine Flones, told the Daily Freeman of Kingston. "He was never able to fly, so he became their family pet," said Flones, a wildlife rehabilitator in the Woodstock, NY, hamlet of Bearsville, 95 miles North of New York City.

The Manetta family took care of Tata for more than half a century but gave the bird to Flones in 2001 because of their own health problems. "Blinded by cataracts and 54 years old when she got him, Tata was still a wonderful pet," Flones said. "When you came around him, his energy was very beautiful," she told the newspaper. "It was as if he were exuding or giving off a loving energy."

"It's an incredibly old bird," said Kevin McGowan, an Ornithologist at Cornell University who has studied crows for more than 20 years. "They don't live that old in the wild." McGowan said "the oldest living crow he has documented in the wild is a bird he banded as a fledgling and has tracked for 15 years." There is an unsubstantiated claim of a 29- or 30-year-old crow in the wild, but he knows of no older crows, tame or otherwise. While claims of animal longevity are tough to verify, McGowan said, "This one sounded pretty reasonable to me." "In an environment without predators, communicable diseases, or the likelihood of a fatal accident, a crow could grow as old as Tata," he said. Flones said "Tata was still active and alert in his later years, to the point each Spring that he called out from inside the house to crows outside, often loudly and beginning at 5 AM."


"Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist Sets Conditions for a Three-Bill Package on Stem Cells for Full Senate Vote"

Stem Cell Vote in Senate

June 29, 2006; Just this afternoon, Sen. Frist announced that The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act (H.R. 810) will be brought to the Senate floor for a vote next month. He successfully obtained what is called "unanimous consent" from his Senate colleagues to move forward with a vote on a package of bills that includes H.R. 810. The other Bills in the package are The Alternative Pluripotent Stem Cell Therapies Enhancement Act, S. 2754, and The Fetus Farming Prohibition Act of 2006, S. 3504. Under the agreement, amendments will not be permitted and each Bill will have a separate vote and will require at least 60 votes to pass. While a date-certain has not been set, Sen. Frist has now entered into a formal compact with all of his colleagues in the Senate that a vote will indeed occur soon.

Indeed, it seems that the way has now been cleared for a full Senate-Floor Vote in July. Any more delays could push the vote until just before the Senate takes a break in October. However, it now appears that Republicans would like to get this relatively- volatile stem-cell research question dispensed with relatively quickly before the November election season begins.

Recall that, in yielding to pressure, including pressure from former First-Lady Nancy Reagan, Sen. Frist apparently struck a deal with Republican foes of ESC-research to schedule a Senate floor vote to expand Federal funding. Such funding is currently prohibited by virtue of the policy announced in President Bush's Speech to the nation from the Crawford Ranch on August 9, 2001. Moreover, the White House again reiterated its continuing threat to veto this measure. Thus, the legislation faces two major hurdles: (1) It must first obtain 60 votes to pass; and then (2) it must receive 67 votes to override the expected veto, subject to any Senate/House compromise language that might be needed to get the joint wording into the range of political acceptability. Finally, I would expect that a Senate "vote to over-ride" would require some additional testimony. If that is the case, that might introduce another set of delays by throwing it back to Committee. Also, note that Sen. Frist himself is weighing a run for the Presidency in 2008. The last thing he would want is to become a lightning-rod for this particular controversy and thereby damage his chances. The good Senator, need I remind you, is a physician (a pediatric heart surgeon by subspecialty).

Refs.:

1. "Frist: Senate To Consider Stem-Cell Bill in July," CNN and AP (June 29, 2006).

2. AP, "Frist Revives Stem-Cell Funding Bill," The Los Angeles Times, p. A26 (June 30, 2006).

3. Sarah Lueck, "Frist Sets Outline for Debate on Stem-Cell Research Bills," The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1,6 (June 30, 2006).

Washington, D.C. -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, under heavy pressure to bring up a proposal to broaden federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research, cleared the way for a vote on the issue, possibly in July. The House already has passed a bill expanding stem-cell research funding, and the measure has strong bipartisan support in the Senate. It faces two major hurdles before enactment, though: It must get 60 votes to pass the Senate, and even if it does President Bush has said he will veto it.

The coming vote is a breakthrough for Mr. Frist, who faced criticism from Democrats for not bringing up the stem-cell bill sooner. After months of talks, he overcame objections from other Republicans, at least for now. Many conservatives oppose the research on the grounds that it destroys human life. But supporters, including health advocacy groups, hold out hope that it will lead to cures for debilitating illnesses.

Mr. Frist, who is weighing a run for president in 2008, last night announced a framework for debate that likely will allow Republicans to dispense with the volatile issue of stem-cell research relatively quickly, months before November's elections. Under final agreement, three bills will be debated at the same time. All will require 60 votes to pass. Once the allotted time is over, regardless of the outcome, no more stem-cell proposals will be considered for the rest of the session, Mr. Frist said.

In addition to the House-passed bill, the Senate also will vote on a proposal prohibiting "fetal farming," the implantation of embryos for the purpose of harvesting their tissue, as well as a bill encouraging stem-cell research that doesn't destroy embryos. Bringing up all three proposals at the same time will help "address the profound questions" surrounding stem-cell research, said Mr. Frist, a surgeon who supports the research.

"We'll see what happens," said Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R- KY). Republican and Democratic aides didn't rule out that all three bills might reach the 60-vote threshold. The House-passed measure is the most important politically. Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who has pressed Mr. Frist to bring up the measure, said "We have 44 Democrats; we need 16 Republicans. I think we have a real shot at ours."

4. "Victory: Bill Frist Will Hold Stem-Cell Vote," DefCon Blog (June 30, 2006).
DefCon, an ESC Lobby Group in Washington, D.C., learned that one senator -- religious-right sweetheart Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma -- was committed to 'rejecting the package,' dashing hopes for the vote. DefCon, along with an dedicated array of stem-cell advocacy groups, leapt into action. In a matter of hours the public had sent nearly 18,000 E- mails, calling on our senators to demand that The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act -- which provides for Federal support for embryonic stem-cell research -- be given a real chance.
To better visualize our adversaries, see the DefCon "Meet the Religious Right" Photo Gallery.

5. Rick Weiss, "Senate to Consider Stem Cell Proposals: Fertility Patients Could Donate Embryos, The Washington Post, p. A5 (June 30, 2006).

Senate leaders from both parties agreed yesterday to schedule a vote on a package of bills that would loosen President Bush's five-year-old restrictions on human Embryonic Stem Cell research. With head-counts suggesting there are enough votes to pass the legislation and with Bush having promised he would veto it, yesterday's action sets the stage for what could be the first full-blown showdown between the chamber and the President.

The package, which includes language identical to that passed by the House, would allow Federal funding of research on embryos that have been slated for destruction at fertility clinics. Those days-old embryos are rich in embryonic stem cells, which scientists say have great potential to treat a wide variety of ailments, including spinal-cord injuries, Parkinson's Disease, and Diabetes.

But the destruction of human embryos for research is opposed by many, including Bush, who has called them "society's most vulnerable members." Late yesterday the White House reiterated that view. "The president does not believe we are forced to choose between science and ethics," said White House Spokesman Ken Lisaius, adding that the legislation "crosses an important moral line." The president, he said, "would veto legislation that crosses this moral line."

"We applaud the majority leader on his exemplary leadership for bringing this up," said Sean Tipton, President of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, which has spearheaded the charge for policy reform. "We are confident that the votes are there."

In August 2001, Bush announced that Federal funds could be used to study stem cells only from embryos that had been destroyed by that date. He favors more emphasis on " Adult Stem Cells," which can be obtained from adult bone-marrow and other sources but which many scientist say show less therapeutic potential than embryonic cells.

Bush's limits have proved frustrating to U.S. stem cell scientists, most of whom are dependent on Federal grants. Increasingly over the years, they have watched colleagues overseas gain access to newer and possibly more promising colonies of embryo cells. Some have warned that the United States is losing its lead in what is widely viewed as one of the most revolutionary new branches of experimental medicine.

The Senate package, announced by Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and quickly agreed to by Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV), has three components. At its core is H.R. 810, the House-passed Bill, which would allow fertility clinic patients to donate their spare embryos to federally-financed researchers.

Also included are two bills sought by conservatives, which stem cell research proponents have said they can support. One, sponsored by Pennsylvania GOP Sens. Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter, encourages the National Institutes of Health to finance work that might someday allow scientists to produce cells equivalent to embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos.

The other, sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KA) and known as the Fetus Farming Prohibition Act, would make it a crime for anyone to trade in tissues from fetuses that were conceived and aborted expressly for research purposes.

Under the terms of the agreement, the three Bills will be debated for 12 hours on a date to be agreed upon by Frist and Reid -- "probably next month," the leaders said. Each Bill will need at least 60 votes to pass; no amendments will be allowed; and all three must pass for the package to fly. The mix of bills offers moderate and conservative lawmakers something to offer constituents as they approach the midterm elections.

Frist surprised many last Summer by expressing support for a loosening of the Bush rules -- a move some saw as a strategic element of a presumed Presidential bid. Public opinion polls show strong backing for the research, which has also received vocal support from former First Lady Nancy Reagan. Yesterday he went to great pains to reassure Americans of his conservative values. "I am pro-life," he said. "I personally believe that human life begins at conception."

But the few cell colonies available to Federally funded scientists under the Bush policy are aging and not as high quality as scientists had hoped, he continued. "The responsible thing to do is to come to the floor and consider modifying that policy," Frist said.

"I know this hasn't been easy," Reid said, after accepting Frist's proposed terms. And by all accounts, Reid was not exaggerating. Until an hour before the announcement, several aides said, Frist was still wrestling with a last holdout -- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who was threatening to voice his objection. Under Senate rules, that would have scuttled the consent agreement.

Enthusiasm for the agreement was tempered only by fears that the vote could get endlessly delayed -- a fear expressed by Reid on the Senate floor, given Frist's failure to lock in a specific date. "I'm relying on your good faith and your word and reputation," Reid said. "I don't want to have to keep coming out here every week and saying, 'Why haven't we done this yet?' " Frist assured Reid he would get the debate and vote scheduled soon -- "in all likelihood next month." "I'm very pleased we now have a process in place," Frist said.

6. Joanne Kenen, "Senate Sees Progress Toward July Stem-Cell Vote."

June 29, 2006; Washington, D.C. ( Reuters) -- A conservative Oklahoma lawmaker who has described himself as "an obstacle" to embryonic stem-cell research backed off on Thursday threats to hold up Senate votes on Federal funding for the research indefinitely. Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn said he is "negotiating with fellow Republican, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, on an accord to allow the vote," but declined to say if he would try one final time to block stem-cell research legislation when Frist tries to win a Senate agreement later Thursday. "We'll see what happens today," Coburn said, "I don't have a plan right now." He and Frist are both doctors.

Frist, who may seek the Presidency, last Summer embraced legislation passed by the House of Representatives that would allow Federal-funding of embryonic stem-cell research. The embryos would be leftover from fertility clinics. On the other hand, President George W. Bush has vowed to veto the legislation.

Most polls show widespread public support for the research which scientists say could lead to treatments or cures for many diseases including Diabetes and Parkinson's. Frist has not brought the House-passed bill to the Senate floor in part because of opposition from conservatives who oppose research which involves destruction of human embryos. Coburn acknowledged that at some point the Senate would pass the bill, although he said he did not think now was the best time for a vote. Backers of the Bill were elated that Frist was trying to move ahead. "Sen. Frist is fulfilling his commitment," said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), a Co-Sponsor of the Bill.

Two other strongly anti-abortion Republican Senators, Sam Brownback (R-KA) and Rick Santorum (R-PA), say they will no longer block a Senate vote, even though both of them will vote against the House-passed Bill. Their changed stance allowed Frist to simplify his task. Instead of trying to strike a deal involving six (6) complex Bills on stem cells and cloning, he is now addressing a simpler three-Bill package, two of which are less controversial than the House stem-cell Bill.

[Editorial Remark: The most likely case is that all three Bills will pass 1, 2, 3, since the other two are sort like Motherhood, and, in principle, no reasonable person should object to them (except for some ulterior motive or some subtle technicality. Steve Coles.]

One would ban fetal farming, or implantation of embryos into women for the purpose of harvesting cells or tissue. The other would promote more research into ways of using stem cells without destroying an embryo. "I'm OK with a vote on the three-Bill package," Brownback said. An aide to Santorum said, "The senator is not attempting to block consideration of [the House-passed embryonic stem-cell Bill] although he does oppose the Bill and expects the President to veto it."


"'Darwin's Tortoise' Dies, Age 176"

Harriet, 176 Year-Old Tortoise
Crocodile-hunter Steve Irwin (R) and his wife Terri (L) with the late Harriet (center)

Saturday, June 24, 2006; Sydney, AUSTRALIA ( AP and CNN) -- A 176- year-old tortoise, believed by some to have been owned by Charles Darwin, has died in an Australian zoo. The giant tortoise, known as Harriet, was long reputed to have been one of three tortoises taken from the Galapagos Islands by Darwin on his historic 1835 voyage aboard the HMS Beagle.

However, historical records, while suggestive, don't prove the claim, and some scientists have cast doubt on the story, with DNA tests confirming Harriet's age but showing she came from an island that Darwin never visited. According to local legend, Harriet was just five years old and probably no bigger than a dinner plate when she was taken from the Galapagos to Britain. She spent a few years in Britain before being moved to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens in Australia's tropical Queensland state in the mid-1800s, where she was mistaken for a male and nicknamed Harry, according to Australia Zoo, which later bought the 150-kilogram (330-pound) tortoise.

The Queensland-based zoo is owned by "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin and his wife Terri. "Harriet sadly died last night after, thankfully, a very short illness," senior veterinarian Jon Hanger told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Friday. "She'd been sick yesterday with, in effect, heart failure. She had a very fairly acute heart attack and thankfully passed away quietly overnight," Hangar said. Irwin said he considered Harriet a member of the family. "Harriet has been a huge chunk of the Irwin family's life," Irwin said Saturday. "She is possibly one of the oldest living creatures on the planet and her passing today is not only a great loss for the world but a very sad day for my family. She was a grand old lady."

Harriet was believed to be the world's oldest living tortoise, and one of its oldest living creatures. Despite her longevity, however, Harriet is not the world's oldest known tortoise. That title was awarded by the Guinness Book of World Records to Tui Malila, a Madagascar radiated tortoise that was presented to the royal family of Tonga by British explorer Captain James Cook in the 1770's. It died in 1965 at the ripe age of 188. Scientist Paul Chambers cast doubt on Harriet's Darwin connection in an article in the New Scientist journal and a book, The Unexpected History of the Giant Tortoise.

Refs.

1. HREF="http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/06/24/tortoise.die.ap/index.html"> CNN (June 24, 2006).
2. AP, 'Darwin's Tortoise' Is Dead: Harriet Was 176. She Was Believed To Have Been Taken from Galapagos by the Naturalist," The Los Angeles Times, p. A31 (June 26, 2006).
Curiously, this piece appeared two days later and was less informative than the original CNN story above. Why is that?


"After Two Years, Harvard University Begins Project to Create Human Embryonic Stem-Cell Lines"

Dr. Douglas Melton, M.D. Dr. Douglas Melton, M.D.

June 7, 2006; After more than two years of intensive ethical and scientific review, Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers at Harvard and Children's Hospital Boston have been cleared to begin experiments using Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) to create disease-specific stem cell lines in an effort to develop treatments for a wide range of now-incurable conditions afflicting tens of millions of people. The work is being entirely supported with private funds because of the Federal restrictions on human embryonic stem-cell work. If successful, it will mark a major step forward in the effort to use stem cells to treat chronic diseases

Harvard University Provost Steven E. Hyman said during a June 6th telephone press conference that the work has been the subject of "more than two years of thoughtful, Intensive review by as many as eight different Institutional Review Boards and Stem-Cell Oversight Committees at five different institutions," including Harvard, Children's Hospital, Partners Health Care, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston IVF, and Columbia University.

Refs.:

1. Harvard Stem Cell Institute Press Conference (June 6, 2006).
A full ~30-minute audio clip of the Harvard University Press Conference with all participants (including Douglas Melton, Kevin Eggan, and George Daley) and the media can be played by browsing this website. It's educational to note the sharp contrast between a set of edited prepared remarks by the various institutions and a string of fast-paced media questions from journalists, some of whom are on a Speaker Phone at different remote locations.

2. Jonathan Bor, Baltimore Sun, "Harvard To Make Stem Cells from Cloned Embryos," The Los Angeles Times, p. A6 (June 7, 2006).
Dr. Robert Lanza, M.D., Vice President for Research at ACT, Inc., is quoted as saying that "the Company has placed over 100 advertisements in newspapers since December 2005 seeking women to serve as research egg-donors [without compensation (beyond the cost of the drugs for hyperstimulation and the final harvesting procedure)]; and, although there were many replies initially, as women realized the discomfort and risks involved in hormone treatments, the numbers have dwindled to two or three potential candidates. We don't have a single egg at this point," he said. [Editor's Note: Surprise! Surprise! How did I put it last year? "If we adopted the NAS/IoM Recommendations (restricting the possibility of cash or in-kind compensation on the order of $US5,000), we would be 'Shooting ourselves in the foot!'"]
Lanza also said that "Fresh eggs are important, and so IVF-derived eggs are less likely to be useful, since they are already two days old [before freezing]." Leftover eggs are also subject to freezing and thawing damage on top of everything else. Dr. Leonard Zon, Director of the Stem Cell Research Program at Children's Hospital in Boston, stated that they will seek to avoid the risk of Hyperstimulation Ovarian Syndrome by reducing the dose of hormones, and, as a side effect, reduce the number of eggs harvested.
Richard Doerflinger, Deputy Director of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said "The Harvard effort will likely be a waste of money and a waste of lives... people imagine that there is some sort of miracle cure around the corner, but for now they'll be exploiting women and killing embryos." [Editor's Note: Notice the evocative use of the word "kill" in this context. Does it make sense, semantically, to speak of "John killing his fingernail clippings" [*] once they were clipped from his fingers?
* The asterisk is used in linguistics publications to refer to any non-grammatical, non-meaningful, or pragmatically-incorrect sentences (or sentence fragments) to illustrate a pedagogical point by the writer. (Prof. Noam Chomsky's [1957; MIT] classic example of a syntactically-correct but semantically-meaningless English sentence is...

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. [*]

So, in goes the asterisk, so that you and I will jointly appreciate that this sentence is an intentionally-anomalous string of words.)

In our case particular the verb "kill" has semantic restrictions on both the subject and object that can legitimately be involved in the process of "killing." Therefore, this provocative sentence is a rhetorical abuse of the English language, providing that one does not accept the assumption entertained hypothetically by the writer upon which it is based, i.e., a pre-implantation zygote has all the legal and moral rights to 'personhood' that any living human being would have. As this premise is false then the sentence obliterates any pretense of meaningful dialog and is therefore a repugnant use of language.]

3. Sylvia Pagan Westphal, "Harvard Joins New U.S. Push in Stem Cells," The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1, B1,3 (June 7, 2006).
[Comment: It is remarkable to appreciate the hoops that the Harvard researchers have been forced to jump through with regard to this issue of "private funding"... Of course, the work is to be conducted in specially-equipped labs in separate buildings with utilities (water, electricity, telephones, etc.) accounted for separately from the rest of the university. Indeed, "Every single pipette, test tube, petri dish, and reagent bottle is bar-coded to reflect its origin as having been purchased with private funds, lest there be an overly-zealous Federal-government auditor who seeks to slow down the work under way by conducting an unannounced audit for compliance with Federal guidelines. The sponsoring institutions (The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Boston's Children's Hospital, Columbia University, and The New York Stem Cell Foundation {*}) will maintain a squeaky-clean reputation in their support of this work with private funds. There will be no Federal funds diverted from other research grants or contracts, neither in fact nor in appearance. So there, Mr. Bush! What say you? Has Harvard has followed the letter and spirit of the law, or not? - Steve Coles]
* Check out the top-notch 15-member Medical Advisory Board for this private foundation.

4. AP and CNN "Harvard to Clone Human Embryos" (June 6, 2006).

5. Nicholas Wade, "Two New Efforts to Develop Stem-Cell Line for Study," The New York Times, p. A17 (June 7, 2006).

6. Dan Vergano, "Harvard, Boston Hospital To Attempt Embryo Cloning," USA Today, p. 1A (June 7, 2006).

7. Constance Holden, "Stem-Cell Research: Harvard Cloners Get OK To Proceed with Caution," Science, Vol. 312, No. 5780, p. 1584 (June 16, 2006).
There will be limits set on blood levels of estradiol resulting from hormonal ovarian hyper-stimulation. Dr. Kevin Eggan said, "No more than [8 - 10] eggs will be harvested during one retrieval from any female donor." At this time, Harvard is the only group in the world with permission to work with fresh research-donor oocytes.


First Public Meeting of the Supercentenarian Research Foundation:
Meeting Report by Stan Primmer, President of the SRF"

SRF Meeting in Boston SRF Meeting in Boston

Sunday Evening; June 4, 2006; [8:00 - 10:00] PM EDT; Boston, MA This meeting was open to all who wanted to attend, but unfortunately several who stated that they wanted to come (including Paul Glenn and Mark Collins of The Glenn Foundation for Medical Research ), but were unable to, due to a conflicting meeting. After welcoming remarks by Dr. Doros Platika and myself, Steve Coles described the surprising results of three autopsies of Supercentenarians in which the cause of death was Senile Systemic Amyloidosis for all three cases. He also summarized project proposals submitted by Drs. Pepys and Hawkins on Amyloidosis, and a proposal on autopsies submitted by Steve and myself. We now know that four out of the six autopsies performed on Supercentenarians in all of history has found Amyloidosis to be the cause of their deaths! These numbers are too small to be certain of their significance, but they are intriguing. Even if Amyloidosis is a significant cause of death of Supercentenarians, we don't know if it is also relevant to the demise of those who die at younger ages, although statements in the literature suggest that it may be. Dr. Aubrey de Grey gave a short presentation based on his proposal that addressed the question of whether studying Supercentenarians has value in comparison to simply studying centenarians. He suggested that "any characteristic that predisposes to extreme longevity will tend to be even more enriched in Supercentenarians than in centenarians." I then spoke about the various types of genetics that we should consider for genetic analysis of Supercentenarians. If anyone would like, I would be happy to send you a copy of my text and my PowerPoint slides. I also postulated that we should consider the potential epigenetic effects of alteration of normal proteins in the nuclear envelope and nuclear matrix in normal aging. In addition, I reviewed a recent article by Scaffidi and Mistelli ( Science) that concluded that a cryptic splice site in the normal Lamin-A Gene could contribute to normal aging due to its similarity, in effect, to Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGPS). In normal cells this splice-site only occurs rarely.

Prior to the public meeting we held an organizational-strategy meeting for about an hour. Doros Platika asked each of us to state what we thought the SRF should attempt to accomplish. Additional topics of discussion included: the Capovilla sampling; Steve Coles' initiating a formal relationship with the IRB at the UCLA School of Medicine, and strategies for near-term goals of the SRF. A two-phase strategy emerged: First, we should attempt to obtain biological samples from as many living Supercentenarians as possible, plus, when practical and efficient to do so, samples from family members. Family members could be included when they reside close to the Supercentenarian or if they are present at a family gathering. In other circumstances when they are geographically separate or are otherwise unavailable, collecting samples from family members would be given lower priority. Scientifically, it is very desirable to include family, but budgetary constraints might limit this activity. Autopsies of Supercentenarians with concurrent tissue sampling will also be given high priority. A computer database must be designed to store the data we collect. Initial fund-raising will be to obtain sufficient seed money to accomplish these tasks. This strategy will make the SRF the world-wide repository for tissue samples of Supercentenarians. Accomplishing this goal in conjunction with the parallel development of a comprehensive Research Plan will simultaneously give us the credibility to enter the second phase:

. To attract high-profile scientists and public figures to the SRF

. To attract significant donations to fund research

. To fund selected research projects.

An additional decision was made to hold a series of weekend focus discussions that would be limited to a specific scientific topic. Members of the SAB and other scientists and/or physicians appropriate for the selected topic would be invited to attend in person, if possible. Our goal is to hold the first of these discussions in August. In my opinion the first topic should be how to conduct sampling and autopsies of Supercentenarians. This would include, but not necessarily be limited to:

. Informed consent

. Sampling procedure

. Shipping

. Analyses to be performed on unfrozen samples

. Interview procedure

. Obtaining medical records

. Building a family tree with family history

. Sample storage

. Tests to be performed

. Decisions on analyses to be performed on samples frozen in liquid nitrogen can be postponed.

The proposal prepared by Robert Cockrell and Karlis Ullis, plus a portion of the Outline for Research on our website could form the basis for this discussion.

The SRF is now taxiing on the runway and preparing to take off (coincidentally, as I am writing this report, my plane has just left Logan Airport in Boston for my flight to Miami). - Stan Primmer, President, SRF


"Last and Longest Chromosome in the Human Genome Has Been Sequenced"

DNA Two Copies of Chromosome 1
The first photo is a digital representation of the human genome.
Each color represents one the four chemical components of DNA (A, C, G, and T).

May 18, 2006; London, UK (Reuters and CNN) -- Scientists have reached a landmark point in one of the world's most important scientific projects by sequencing the last chromosome in the Human Genome, the so-called "book of life." Chromosome 1 contains nearly twice as many genes as the average chromosome and makes up eight percent of the human genetic code. It is packed with 3,141 genes and linked to 350 illnesses including cancer, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease.

"This achievement effectively closes the book on an important volume of the Human Genome Project," said Dr Simon Gregory who headed the sequencing project at the Sanger Institute in England. The project was started in 1990 to identify the genes and DNA sequences that provide a blueprint for human beings. Chromosome 1 is the biggest and contains, per chromosome, the greatest number of genes. "Therefore it is the region of the genome to which the greatest number of diseases have been localized," added Gregory, from Duke University.

The sequence of Chromosome 1, which is published on-line by the journal Nature, took a team of 150 British and American scientists ten years to complete. Researchers around the world will be able to mine the data to improve diagnostics and treatments for cancers, autism, mental disorders, and other illnesses.

Final Chapter

Chromosomes, which are found in the nucleus of a cell, are thread-like structures that contain genes which determine the characteristics of an individual. The human genome has an estimated [20 - 25],000 genes. The sequencing of Chromosome 1 has led to the identification of more than 1,000 new genes. "We are moving into the next phase which will be working out what the genes do and how they interact," Gregory told Reuters.

The genetic map of Chromosome 1 has already been used to identify a gene for a common form of cleft-lip and -palate. It will also improve understanding of what processes lead to genetic diversity in populations, according to Gregory.

Each chromosome is made up of a molecule of DNA in the shape of a double helix, which is composed of four chemical bases represented by the letters A (Adenine), T (Thymine), G (Guanine), and C (Cytosine). The arrangement, or sequence, of the letters determines the cell's genetic code.

The scientists also identified 4,500 new SNP's -- Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms -- which are the variations in human DNA that make people unique. SNPs contain clues about why some people are susceptible to diseases like cancer, or malaria, the best way to diagnose and treat them, and how they will respond to drugs.

Ref.:

Simon G. Gregory, et al., "The DNA Sequence and Analysis of Chromosome 1," Nature, Vol. 441, pp. 315-21 (May 18, 2006).

Abstract:

The reference sequence for each human chromosome provides the framework for understanding genome function, variation and evolution. Here we report the finished sequence and biological annotation of human chromosome 1. Chromosome 1 is gene-dense, with 3,141 genes and 991 pseudogenes, and many coding sequences overlap. Rearrangements and mutations of chromosome 1 are prevalent in cancer and many other diseases. Patterns of sequence variation reveal signals of recent selection in specific genes that may contribute to human fitness, and also in regions where no function is evident. Fine-scale recombination occurs in hot-spots of varying intensity along the sequence, and is enriched near genes. These and other studies of human biology and disease encoded within chromosome 1 are made possible with the highly accurate annotated sequence, as part of the completed set of chromosome sequences that comprise the reference human genome.


Injected Cells Cure Tumors In Mice

May 9, 2006; Researchers in North Carolina possess a truly remarkable strain of mice. They appear to be resistant to injections of cancer cells that kill all ordinary mice. Even better, the researchers say, "the immune system cells from these mice, when injected into non-resistant mice, will cure their cancers!" These mice are named S.R./C.R., which stands for "Spontaneous Remission/Complete Resistance." At Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, there is now a colony of [700 - 2,000] SR/CR mice all bearing the same cancer-resistance characteristic.

Refs.:

1. "BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES/IMMUNOLOGY: Transferable Anticancer Innate Immunity in Spontaneous Regression/Complete Resistance Mice," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA Vol. 103, No. 20, pp. 7753-8 (Published on-line before print on May 8, 2006; May 16, 2006).

Amy M. Hicks*, Gregory Riedlinger{dagger}, Mark C. Willingham*, Martha A. Alexander-Miller {ddagger}, C. Von Kap-Herr, Mark J. Pettenati, Anne M. Sanders*, Holly M. Weir*, Wei Du*, Joseph Kim*, Andrew J. G. Simpson, Lloyd J. Old,||, and Zheng Cui*,||

Departments of *Pathology,
{dagger}Cancer Biology, and
{ddagger}Microbiology and Immunology, and
Department of Pediatrics
Section on Medical Genetics
Wake Forest University School of Medicine
Winston-Salem, NC 27157; and
Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research
New York, NY 10158

Abstract:


Spontaneous Regression/Complete Resistance (SR/CR) mice resist very high doses of cancer cells that are lethal to WT mice even at low doses. In this study, we show that this resistance is mediated by rapid infiltration of leukocytes, mostly of innate immunity, in both primary and repeated challenges. Formation of rosettes with infiltrating Natural Killer T-cells, Neutrophils, and Macrophages was required for the subsequent destruction of cancer cells through rapid cytolysis. Highly purified Natural Killer cells, Macrophages, and Neutrophils from the SR/CR mice independently killed cancer cells in vitro. The independent killing activity by each subset of effector cells is consistent with the observation that the resistance was abolished by depleting total infiltrating leukocytes but not by depleting only one or two subsets of leukocytes. The resistance was completely transferable to WT recipient mice through SR/CR Splenocytes, bone marrow cells, or enriched peritoneal Macrophages, either for prevention against subsequent cancer challenges or eradication of established malignancy at distant sites.

Key Words: Cellular Cancer Immunity | Adoptive Transfer | Cancer Therapy | Macrophages | Leukocyte Depletion

Contributed by: Lloyd J. Old, March 28, 2006

Author contributions: A.M.H., G.R., M.C.W., M.A.A.-M., J.K., A.J.G.S., L.J.O., and Z.C. designed research; A.M.H., G.R., C.V.K.-H., A.M.S., H.M.W., W.D., and J.K. performed research; C.V.K.-H. and M.J.P. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; A.M.H., G.R., M.C.W., M.A.A.-M., L.J.O., and Z.C. analyzed data; and A.M.H., G.R., M.C.W., and Z.C. wrote the paper.

Conflict-of-Interest Statement: No conflicts declared.

||To whom correspondence may be addressed. E-mail: zhengcui@wfubmc.edu or lold@licr.org.

2. Nicholas Wade, "A Strain of Mice Appears Able to Resist Cancer Cells," The New York Times, p. D8 (May 9, 2006).

3. Thomas H. Maugh, II, "Injected Cells Cure Tumors in Mice: Researchers Hope the Phenomenon Can Lead to a New Path in Treating Cancer in Humans," The Los Angeles Times, pp. A1,21 (May 9, 2006).


Plan B Recommendation by ACOG

Plan B
The Plan B pill, also known as the "morning-after" pill is a high dose of regular birth control pills.

"To Doctors: Have Emergency Birth Control Pills On Hand: Plan B"

Monday, May 8, 2006; Washington, D.C. ( AP and CNN) -- "Get an advance prescription for emergency contraception so it will be on hand if you need it," the nation's largest gynecological group advised women Monday. The new campaign aims to increase access to the morning-after pill following the Bush Administration's refusal to allow the emergency birth control to be sold over the counter nationwide.

"We want women to be prepared, well before a contraceptive failure or unprotected sex occurs. Afterward may be too late," said Dr. Michael Mennuti, President of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). The morning-after pill is a high dose of regular birth-control pills. It cuts the chances of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if used within 72 hours of rape, condom failure, or just forgetting routine contraception. The earlier it's taken, the more effective it will be. But it can be hard to find a doctor to write a prescription in time, especially on weekends and holidays.

Citing assessments that easier access could halve the nation's 3 million annual unplanned pregnancies, ACOG and many women's groups have backed an attempt by Plan B's maker to sell the morning-after pill without a prescription, the way it's sold in Britain and Canada -- and in a handful of U.S. states. But last year, top-ranking FDA officials overruled their own scientists' decision that nonprescription sales would be safe and, citing concern that young teens might use the pills, indefinitely postponed a decision.

The drug has no effect if a woman is already pregnant. It works by blocking ovulation or fertilization.

Conservatives who consider the pill tantamount to abortion have intensely lobbied the White House to reject non-prescription sales, saying "they could increase teen sex." [*]

The new "Ask me" campaign takes the discussion back to doctors' offices. ACOG is providing its 49,000 members with waiting-room posters to urge women of childbearing age to ask about a prescription they could keep on hand in case they need emergency contraception in the future." Accidents happen!" the posters say.

[* Editorial Remark: This is a complete misrepresentation of the facts. Teen sex does not increase in those states that have made Plan B available OTC. However, mothers who hope to maintain control over their daughters' behavior through fear and intimidation do, in fact, harbor the misconception that their daughters would behave like sluts if they didn't have the Sword of Damocles (shamefulness of an unwanted pregnancy outside of wedlock) hanging over their heads, since they know how they themselves might behave in similar circumstances and it makes intuitive sense to them that their daughters would indeed exploit the opportunity to indulge in pre-marital intercourse without untoward consequences [sic], even though, in practice, this hypothesis has been demonstrated to be false. Attempting to disabuse these mothers through the use of scientific, statistical arguments is a waste of effort. Their minds are made up. Instead, we get FDA Commissioner who resigns in the face of pressure and another high-level woman executive in the FDA who resigned in anger when the will of the FDA Safety and Effectiveness Review Board was frustrated by the White House for clearly political reasons, and apparently there was nobody else to step up to the plate and tell these mothers to "back off; make Plan B OTC nationwide; and, by the way, get a life." Curiously, those teens who are invited to sign a written vow of chastity outside of marriage typically break their promises within 12 months, and this appears to be true regardless of gender.** Go figure. (Yes, Virginia such written vows do exist; they were created in the 1990's as part of The Christian Sex Education Project whose adult champions hail these promises as a major step toward "reducing teen pregnancy and raising moral values." So where's the data to support this abstinence approach? Or would contradictory data even matter, so long as one "felt good about what one is doing." The fact that this vow-approach represents a complete denial of the onset of the normal biological hormones in teenagers seems to be ignored by the aspirations of these evangelicals. The availability of birth-control methods in the current generation is what has made a statistical difference in the rate of unwanted teen pregnancy in the last 40 years. It seems that we have what appear to be smart, articulate people asking us to "shoot ourselves in the foot"! Even the Catholic Church is currently contemplating a reversal of its traditional "no condoms" policy in central Africa where the AIDS virus is still spreading rapidly and superstition suggests that 'intercourse with a virgin' will cure one of the disease.{sic}) I wonder what the White House now thinks of ACOG proudly teaching the public how to do an end-run around their central dogma of moral virtue. Well I guess that they can't go around bad mouthing doctors too much, since even the Administration still needs obstetricians on those rare occasions when their wives are about to deliver babies or gynecologists, when their wives may need a hysterectomy. -- Steve Coles]

Ref.: ** Elizabeth Mehren, "Many Youths Disregard Their Virginity Pledges, Harvard Study Says: According to Interviews, More Than Half Have Sex Within a Year. But One Pro-Abstinence Group Disputes the Findings," The Los Angeles Times, p. A21 (May 7, 2006).
The survey was based on 14,000 subjects aged [12 - 18] interviewed between [1996 - 2001].


Happy Birthday Snuppy! Cloned Dog Celebrates First Birthday

Snuppy at 1 yo

April 24, 2006; Seoul, SOUTH KOREA (Reuters and CNN) -- The world's first (and only) cloned dog celebrated his first birthday on Monday, as the leader of the South Korean team that produced the Brindle Afghan Hound faced a criminal investigation for possible fraud and ethics violations. The team led by scientist Hwang Woo Suk unveiled the dog named Snuppy last August amid global fanfare. Time Magazine even named Snuppy one of the most amazing 'inventions' for 2005. Hwang once basked in acclaim for his scientific achievements, with some in the country labeling him "the pride of Korea." By the end of last year, however, his reputation was in tatters amid charges his team deliberately manipulated data and violated ethical standards in human-egg procurement.

Hwang has since lost his Professorship at Seoul National University and the case has been described by scientific experts as one of the biggest scientific frauds in recent history. The birthday celebrations at the university where Hwang once ran his lab were subdued. Snuppy, short for Seoul National University puppy, is "in good health and weighs about 64 pounds," University Officials said.

For his birthday, Snuppy enjoyed two of his favorite foods: ice cream and sausages. In January, an Investigation Panel at the University said Hwang's team fabricated key data in two studies once hailed as landmark works on cloning human embryonic stem cells. However, the Panel verified that Snuppy was an actual clone. Soon after the report, South Korean prosecutors started a criminal investigation into Hwang and his team. Hwang has maintained he is a victim of a conspiracy to discredit him. He has not been available for comment for several months.

"This makes us remember that Hwang had a successful career and was on the cutting edge of the science before the scandal broke," David Winickoff, an Assistant Professor of Bioethics at the University of California Berkeley, said by telephone.

Even without Hwang, the Lab at Seoul National University is continuing with its research into cloning technology. "The government has agreed to support us and promised us significant funding," Prof. Kim Min-Kyu said by telephone.

Cloning any species of mammal has always been considered a risky business [1], but dogs are considered one of the most difficult because of their idiosyncratic estrus cycle in which the ovaries release eggs which are immature (the mature later in the uterine tubes at a later time). Snuppy was born after a normal pregnancy carried by a yellow Labrador surrogate bitch. The process was difficult and costly: A total of 1,095 reconstructed embryos were transferred into 123 surrogates to create only two living puppies. The other cloned dog died after 22 days from pneumonia. Both puppies were created from an adult skin cell taken from a male Afghan Hound, using the same technique that was used to create Dolly, the world's first cloned sheep. "The Afghan was chosen because of its striking looks," remaining members of Hwang's Team said. The process, they said, was "far too costly and inefficient to be used to clone pet dogs" [2].

[Editorial Remarks: In my youth, while working for a team of veterinarians, I was taught never to feed sugar to dogs or cats in any form. It's bad for their teeth! Furthermore, Prof. Sang Chul Park of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Seoul National University College of Medicine, whom I met at the beginning of this month in Palermo, ITALY, told me that Dr. B. C. Lee (one of the senior authors of the Nature paper), was the investigator who really did the most work in creating Snuppy, and not Prof. Hwang. -- Steve Coles]

Refs.:

1. Greta Lorge, "The Killer Task of Cloning: Copying Mammals Fails 98 Percent of the Time," Wired Magazine, Vol 14, No. 4, p. 48 (April 2006).

2. Probably an indirect reference to the work of Genetic Savings & Clone of Sausalito, California (See references to their work in the News Section of this website for the years 2003 and 2004).

3. Gretchen Vogel, "Picking Up the Pieces after Hwang," Science, Vol. 312, No. 5773, pp. 516-7 (April 28, 2006).
Dr. Miodrag Stojkovic, who published in Reproductive Biomedicine On-Line in 2005 that he, Alison Murdoch, and colleagues of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne had created a single human blastocyst, but from which they were not able to extract any ES cells, said that he is confident that "someone will soon succeed where Hwang and his colleagues failed. I have no doubt that soon someone will have cloned human stem cells, as I don't know of any technical, biological, or ethical reasons why we should not continue."

4. Antonio Regalado and David P. Hamilton, "Cloning Efforts Resume in U.S.," The Wall Street Journal, p. B6 (May 8, 2006).
ATC's cloning effort was last active in 2003, Dr. Robert Lanza said, "and stopped because of political pressures and because the company lost its source of human eggs."

5. AP, "S. Korea Charges Stem-Cell Pioneer" (May 11, 2006)

Seoul, SOUTH KOREA -- South Korean prosecutors on Friday indicted disgraced cloning scientist Hwang Woo Suk for alleged fraud, embezzlement, and violation of bioethics law in a scandal over faked stem-cell research. Prosecution official Lee In-kyu announced the indictments of Hwang and five members of his research team during a nationally televised news conference. Lee said prosecutors had decided not to take them into custody. He did not elaborate.

Hwang -- once hailed as a stem cell pioneer and treated as a national hero -- was fired in March from his post as a professor at Seoul National University's veterinary department after admitting he fabricated data in two high-profile papers published in academic journals in 2004 and 2005. His now-discredited claims of breakthroughs in cloning and stem cells had offered hope of new treatments for millions of patients suffering from paralysis and debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Hwang was charged on Friday with fraud for accepting 2 billion Won ($2.1 million) in private donations based on the outcome of the falsified research, Lee said. Hwang also embezzled about 800 million won ($856,000) in private and government research funds, the official said. "Hwang also paid money to receive human eggs for research, a violation of the country's bioethics law," Lee said.

Prosecutors said Hwang falsified his research papers, but decided not to charge him for that, because "there has been no precedent in the world" of bringing criminal charges for fabricating academic papers.

Out of Reach


Hwang was unreachable for comment. The office of Hwang's attorney Lee Geon-haeng said Lee did not come to his office Friday. A call to his cell phone was answered by a recording saying it was switched off. Of the five researchers, one was indicted for obstruction of duty, three for fraud and one for violation of the bioethics law.

In February, the Board of Audit and Inspection said it was unclear how Hwang spent 2.5 billion won ($2.6 million) he received in government funds and private donations for his research. Through last year, Hwang received 30.9 billion won ($33 million) in government funds for his research as well as 6 billion won ($6.4 million) in private donations, the audit board said.

Prosecutors on Friday also backed up earlier findings by Seoul National University that Hwang's research team had not created the world's first cloned human embryos and extracted stem cells from them, including those genetically matched to patients, as they had claimed. Those claims were published in the two papers in 2004 and 2005.

6. Barbara Demick and Jinna Park, "S. Korea Scientist Charged with Fraud," The Los Angeles Times, p. A33 (May 12, 2006).
Hwang has spent most of the last five months in a Buddhist Monastery.

7. "South Korean Prosecutors Indicted Stem-Cell Scientist Hwang Woo Suk for Fraud and Violations of Bioethics Laws," The Wall Street Journal, p. A1 (May 12, 2006).

8. Nicholas Zamiska and Lina Yoon, "Korean Stem-Cell Researcher Is Indicted on Charges of Fraud," The Wall Street Journal, p. A5 (May 13, 2006).

9. D. Yvette Wohn and Dennis Normile, "Prosecutors Allege Elaborate Deception and Missing Funds," Science, Vol. 312, No. 5776, pp. 980-1 (May 19, 2006).
In a 150 page report, prosecutors confirmed earlier reports that Prof. Hwang had used many more oocytes than the several hundred he acknowledged, collecting 2,236 eggs from 122 women, 71 of whom were compensated. "Paying for oocytes continued, even after a bioethics law banned the practice in January 2005," the report states. Hwang misappropriated $2.99 million in state funds and private donation. The report outlines an elaborate scheme in which Hwang withdrew large amounts of cash and carried it in bags to other banks to avoid a paper trail of bank transfers. He had 63 different bank accounts under his control under different names. To cover up some of the alleged embezzlement, he wrote false tax statements claiming to have bought pigs and cows for research purposes. (He is a veterinarian.) He now faces up to three years in prison for violation of the bioethics law and ten years for misuse of state funds.

10. "Two South Korean Professors Are Suspended," The Wall Street Journal, p. B7 (June 5, 2006).
Profs. Kang Sung Keun and Lee Byung Chun have been suspended on fraud charges in connection with the scandal involving faked stem cells. The two are accused of misappropriating state funds in the amount of 112 million and 296 million won, respectively (on the order of US$450,000 total). Hwang Woo Suk, who admitted to fabricating data in two papers published in Science, was indicted on charges of fraud, embezzlement, and bioethics violations. Dr. Hwang now faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, if convicted. The first hearing is expected in mid-June.

11. AP, "South Korea: Fraud Trial Begins for Stem Cell Scientist," The Los Angeles Times, p. A18 (June 21, 2006).
Dr. Hwang will be tried for embezzling ~US$831,000 in private and government research funds along with five colleagues who face similar charges.

12. AP, "Disgraced South Korean To Resume Cloning Work," The Los Angeles Times, p. A25 (July 1, 2006).
Lee Geon Haeng, Dr. Hwang's lawyer, said private contributors had provided the funds to put him back into the laboratory.

13. AP, "South Korean Scientist Testifies about Having Staff Falsify Data," The Los Angeles Times, p. A8 (July 4, 2006).

14. Reuters, "South Korea: Scientist Admits Faking Stem-Cell Data," The New York Times, p. A4 (July 5, 2006).
Dr. Hwang is charged with misusing and embezzling US$2.96 million in state funds and donations.


Americans Living Longer, Men Gain on Women in 2004

US Life Expectancy US Life Expectancy Graph

April 23, 2006; Atlanta, GA; The Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the annual number of deaths in the country dropped by about 50,000, the largest such decline in more than 60 years (1944)! "Drops in the death rates for heart disease, cancer, and stroke accounted for most of the surprising development," health officials said. Overall, age-adjusted death rates fell to a record low of 801 per 100,000 population in 2004, down from almost 833 deaths per100,000 in 2003 (a drop of about 2 percent). Life expectancy now stands at a record high of 77.9 years, making it an historical event. [3]

CDC Releases Report Shows Death rate at Record Low for 2004

April 20, 2006 -- A report released yesterday shows life expectancy continues to increase and the gap between women, who live the longest, and men has narrowed for the second year in a row. Life expectancy for those born in 2004, says the analysis from the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control, was 77.9 years. For females, however, it was 80.4 to 75.2 for men.

This report provides selected key findings from 2004 preliminary mortality data for the United States. The findings come from a substantial portion of the records of deaths that occurred in CY 2004 and were received and processed by NCHS as of September 12, 2005.

Longevity Continues to Increase

Year All Men Women Gap (Men-Women)

2004 77.9 75.2 80.4 5.2
2003 77.6 74.8 80.1 5.3
2002 77.3 74.5 79.9 5.4
2001 77.2 74.4 79.8 5.4
2000 77.0 74.3 79.7 5.4

Mortality records are based on information reported on death certificates as completed by funeral directors, attending physicians, medical examiners, and coroners.

A report that includes a more complete analysis of the preliminary data will be released later.

Highlights from Preliminary Mortality Data, 2004

The preliminary, estimated number of deaths in the United States for 2004 was 2,398,343 (Table 1).

The estimated age-adjusted death rate, which accounts for changes in the age distribution of the population, reached a record low of 801.0 per 100,000 U.S. standard population. The preliminary crude death rate for 2004 was 816.7 per 100,000 population (Table 1).

Men Narrow Longevity Gap

From 1900 to the late 1970s, the gap between longevity for women and men widened from 2 years to 7.8 years. It stayed at 5.4 years from 2000 to 2002, but has now narrowed to 5.2 for 2004.

Year Men Women Gap (Men-Women)
2004 75.2 80.4 5.2
2003 74.8 80.1 5.3
2002 74.5 79.9 5.4
2001 74.4 79.8 5.4
2000 74.3 79.7 5.4
1995 72.5 78.9 6.4
1990 71.8 78.8 7.0
1980 70.0 77.4 7.4
1970 67.1 74.7 7.6
1960 66.6 73.1 6.5
1950 65.6 71.1 5.5

The preliminary estimate of life expectancy at birth for the total population in 2004 reached a record high of 77.9 years (Table 1). The 15 leading causes of death in 2004 (Table 2) were as follows:

Diseases of heart (heart disease);
Malignant neoplasms (cancer);
Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke);
Chronic lower respiratory diseases;
Accidents (unintentional injuries);
Diabetes mellitus (diabetes);
Alzheimer's Disease;
Influenza and pneumonia;
Nephritis, Nephrotic Syndrome, and Nephrosis (Kidney Disease;
Septicemia;
Intentional self-harm (suicide);
Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis;
Essential (primary) Hypertension and Hypertensive Renal Disease (Hypertension);
Parkinson's Disease; and
Pneumonitis due to solids and liquids

The 15 leading causes of death in 2004 were the same as in 2003 except Alzheimer's Disease moved up a notch higher, shoving Influenza and Pneumonia down one. Alzheimer's moved up to number 7 with 65,829 deaths and was one of only two of the leading causes of death to increase.

White Senior Citizens Declining Rapidly as Percent of Older Population.
Immigration reform highlights changing population demographics

The preliminary infant mortality rate for 2004 was 6.76 infant deaths per 1,000 live births (Table 1).

The Ten Leading Causes of Infant Mortality for 2004 (Table 3) were as follows:

Congenital malformations, Deformations, and Chromosomal Abnormalities (Congenital Malformations);
Disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight, not elsewhere classified (low birth weight);
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS);
Newborn affected by maternal complications of pregnancy (maternal complications);
Newborn affected by complications of placenta, cord and membranes (cord and placental complications);
Accidents (unintentional injuries);
Respiratory distress of newborn;
Bacterial sepsis of newborn;
Neonatal hemorrhage; and
Intrauterine hypoxia and birth asphyxia.

The slight decrease (1.3 percent) in the infant mortality rate between 2003 and 2004 was not statistically significant.

Trends:

The age-adjusted death rate reached a record low 801.0 per 100,000 U.S. standard population. This value is 3.8 percent lower than the 2003 rate of 832.7 (Table 1). All the sex, race, and Hispanic origin groups described in this report showed significant decreases in the age-adjusted death rate between 2003 and 2004. The relative magnitudes of these decreases were:

Non-Hispanic white males (3.5 percent);
Non-Hispanic white females (3.2 percent);
Non-Hispanic black males (4.4 percent);
Non-Hispanic black females (3.9 percent);
American Indian males (5.9 percent);
American Indian females (5.9 percent);
Asian or Pacific Islander males (5.1 percent);
Asian or Pacific Islander females (3.5 percent);
Hispanic males (6.1 percent); and
Hispanic females (6.3 percent).

Life expectancy at birth for the total population in 2004 reached a record high of 77.9 years. This represents an increase of 0.4 year relative to 2003. Record-high life expectancies were reached for white and black males, as well as for white and black females (See the Graph at the top).

The trend toward convergence in mortality figures across the sexes continued in 2004. The difference in life expectancy at birth between male and female has decreased an average one-tenth of a year every year since 1980. The difference between male and female life expectancy was 5.2 years in 2004, the smallest such difference since 1946.

The trend toward convergence in mortality figures across the major race groups also continued in 2004. The trend that began between 1993 and 1994 has meant an average decrease of one-fifth of a year every year since 1993. The difference between white and black life expectancy in 2004 was 5.0 years.

The 15 leading causes of death in 2004 (Table 2) remained the same as in 2003 with the exception that Alzheimer's disease and Influenza and pneumonia swapped positions with each other relative to their previous placement in 2003. The age-adjusted death rate declined significantly for 10 of the 15 leading causes of death. Long-term decreasing trends for heart disease, cancer, and stroke (the three leading causes of death) continued. Increases occurred for hypertension and Alzheimer's disease.

Refs.:

1. Arialdi Minino, Biostatistician, et al., Report (April 20, 2006).

2. "Americans Living Longer," Senior Journal (April 20, 2006).

3. AP, "U.S. Deaths Fall by Largest Figure in Over 60 Years," The Wall Street Journal, p. A1, D6 (April 20, 2006).

4. "CDC Preliminary Report for 2003," National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 53, No. 15, pp. 1-23 (February 28, 2006).


Judge Upholds Prop. 71: Lawsuits That Have Delayed the Issuing of Bonds Are Found To Be Without Merit

Robert Klein, Chairman of CIRM

April 21, 2006; Alameda County Superior Court Judge Bonnie Lewman Sabraw issued a 43-page decision today ruling against the plaintiffs ( The Life Legal Defense Fund, People's Advocate, The National Tax Limitation Foundation, and The California Family Bioethics Council), saying that the alleged Conflicts-of-Interest by CIRM Board Members was not as serious as they had described, that California voters were not misled, and most importantly that the State Constitution was not violated by creating a publicly-funded entity that was not "under the exclusive management and control" of the state. In particular, she contradicted this last charge saying, the Institute and its oversight board are "operating in the same fashion as other state agencies with adequate state oversight." Except for a 30-day time period in which appeals can be filed, the Institute is, in principle, now free to go ahead with the sale of bonds to finance stem-cell research at the rate of $300 million a year over the next ten years.

Refs.:

1. Alameda County Superior Court Case No. 5106705687 [HG05 235177 and HG05 206766] Dept. 512; Hayward Hall of Justice; Judge of the Superior Court Bonnie Sabraw presiding (April 21, 2006).

2. David Jensen, California Stem-Cell Report (April 22, 2006).

3. Sandy Kleffman, "Judge Affirms Legality of Stem-Cell Program," Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury (April 21, 2006).

4. Lee Romney, "Judge Upholds Stem-Cell Initiative: Religious and Taxpayer Groups That Sued Vow To Appeal, But Institute's Plans May Proceed," The Los Angeles Times, p. B1,6 (April 22, 2006).

5. "A California Judge Ruled the State's $3-Billion Stem-Cell Research Institute Is a Legitimate State Agency, Rejecting Suits Tied to Antiabortion Groups," The Wall Street Journal, p. A1 (April 22, 2006).

6. Editorial, "Let the Science Begin," The Los Angeles Times, p. B10 (April 27, 2006).

7. Jocelyn Kaiser, "Stem Cells: Court Rules in Favor of California Stem-Cell Institute," Science, Vol. 312, No. 5773, p. 509 (April 28, 2006).
Ms. Nicole Pagano, CIRM spokesperson, mentioned that "A separate Federal lawsuit trying to block CIRM by arguing that 'fertilized eggs are persons' was dismissed last year for lack of venue, but has now been appealed." [Editor's Note: So, who are these critics? They must be the people who prefer to remain in the background and whom we really need to expose by name, so that they can be made 'to pitch their tent and steal silently away in the night.' I will try to find out later today and report back soon.]

8. Robert Lee Hotz, "Stem-Cell Labs Take Private Path: Two New Facilities in New York Sidestep Federal Limits on Human Embryo Research and Help State Scientists Keep Pace with Others," The Los Angeles Times, p. A4 (June 11, 2006).
The Starr Foundation pledged $50 million to Rockefeller University, The Weill Medical College of Cornell University, and The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

9. Lee Romney, "Court Asked To Expedite Stem-Cell Research Suits," The Los Angeles Times, p. B7 (June 15, 2006).
The plaintiffs confirmed that they will appeal. These include The Life Legal Defense Foundation, The People's Advocate, The National Tax Limitation Foundation, and The California Family Bioethics Council.


Panel Discussion: "The Science and Ethics of Reproductive Cloning"

Panel at the California Science Center

April 15, 2006; Los Angeles, CA -- The California Science Center located near the USC main campus, offered the third and final two-hour ([1:30 - 3:30] PM) public panel discussion for this year's series "Science Matters" on the subtopic of "The Science and Ethics of Reproductive Cloning". There appeared to be a consensus among the panelists that the technology for this type of application is maturing rapidly and that sooner or later "human cloning will be accomplished," despite the recent deception by Dr. Hwang Woo Suk of Seoul, SOUTH KOREA whose fabrications were exposed in the last few months, which resulted in the withdrawal of two important papers published in Science in 2004 and 2005. (Nevertheless, the Nature paper describing the cloning of a dog at the Seoul National University remained in tact. Scroll down this web page to January 10th for a picture of Snuppy, the male Brindle Afghan Hound for more details.).

However, one of the five featured panelists,
Dr. Panos Zavos
Dr. Panayiotis Zavos, Ph.D. an Andrologist (one who specializes in defects in human sperm [male factor infertility]), Director of The Andrology Institute of America, Lexington, KY and Associate Director of the Kentucky Center for Reproductive Medicine and IVF, offered a very different perspective on the science, practice, and ethics of human cloning compared with the other four panelists. Dr. Panos approved of the notion of Reproductive Cloning, which all the other panelists disavowed (the motive was as a treatment for worst-case infertility) as we knew he would, since his off-shore clinic (in a secret location whose non-US location he declined to specify despite a direct question about this location from one of the panelists) is dedicated to achieving the first documentable human clone in the next five years (as distinguished from the dramatic but still unproven claim of Baby Eve from The Ralean Sect, from whom little has been heard in the last couple of years), while he disapproved of the notion of Therapeutic Cloning using the language of the Vatican and the White House to describe it ("To 'kill' a pre-implantation human blastocyst or to 'dismember' it for the purpose of creating a histocompatible stem-cell line to treat a bunch of 'old' people is immoral and should be banned."). Curiously, Dr. Panos's website seems to approve of the creation of such stem-cell lines (he has a created a professional website devoted to this topic called StemCure.com, in English, Spanish, and Russian, just for this purpose), so long as the origin of the initial stem cell in culture is not a zygote. Indeed, this is hard to understand, since it is not well explained on the website as to how this will be accomplished. [Editor's Note: I have not yet clicked all the way through to his PowerPoint presentation (35 slides) at this time, but this must be done to exhaust the logic of Zavos's arguments, which seems to have to do with bovine eggs and maybe even human/animal chimera ( Little Minotaurs?), which many would consider to be even more unethical than working with stem cells derived from a blastocyst.] The other panelists, however, approved of Therapeutic Cloning while disavowing Reproductive Cloning; so all other panelists was diametrically opposed (or orthogonal) to the views of the last speaker.

The other four members of the panelist were as follows:

Prof. Geoff Cowan
Prof. Geoffrey Cowan, LL.B. -- Moderator and Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California

Prof. Lori B. Andrews
Prof. Lori B. Andrews, J.D., Esq.-- Distinguished Professor, Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology and Associate Vice President of the Illinois Institute of Technology

Prof. Ed McCabe, M.D., Ph.D., UCLA
Prof. Edward R.B. McCabe, M.D., Ph.D. - - Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and Human Genetics of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Co-Director of UCLA's Center for Society and Genetics

Prof. Hassan Hathout, M.D., Ph.D.
Prof. Hassan Hathout, M.D., Ph.D., Islamic bioethicist and author of the acclaimed book Reading the Muslim Mind (that was distributed free of charge ot all members of the audience) and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Kuwait University

Mark Ridley
Thomas
Mark Ridley Thomas a Councilman of the City of Los Angeles and an Ethicist was asked to make some closing remarks at the conclusion of the public question period.

The fact that there was one panelist who was diametrically opposed to all the others (Zavos) makes for an entertaining afternoon, particularly since he was quick to put forth 'zingers' against his adversaries (e.g., If you don't know what you're talking about, maybe you should 'leave the driving to us'."). But one wonders whether a singular outlier who may be articulate or charismatic in stating his position but singularly unpersuasive in convincing anyone else in the scientific community of the actual correctness of his views. This reminds one of the controversy over teaching Intelligent Design in the nation's high schools as an alternative to Darwinian Evolution on the grounds that Darwinian Evolution cannot adequately explain what seems to be the 'irreducible complexity' of biological systems [sic] (how could half a wing ever by useful?, so it couldn't have evolved by incremental random steps to let birds fly) which could never be explained by a "blind watchmaker." President Bush offered what seemed, on the surface, a reasonable proposal that, "since the matter does not appear to be settled, maybe our children should be taught both explanations." This makes one think that one ought to be teaching phrenology as well as 'psychiatry' or astrology as well as astronomy or 2+2 = 5 as well as 'standard arithmetic', since in all of these cases, the matters do not appear to be settled and there are large constituencies of serious groups who come down on different sides of these issues. This is reminiscent of the principle of "Equal Time" so well-honored the media. But should we give equal-time to 'counterfeiters' who want to get rich quick by printing there own money? Should we give equal-time to bank robbers, who also want to get rich quick, since, as we are frequently told, "that's where the money is." People who want to get rich quick represent a major constituency in our capitalist society - just look at our stock markets and the inside traders who bend the rules, now and then, to accomplish (surreptitiously) their nefarious aims.

Ultimately, the notion of scientific rigor that presupposes "the detailed scrutiny of claims" needs to rule in our scientific/academic community. Can someone please look into the claims of Dr. Zavos and get back to us? One example, was Dr. Zavos claim that the rate of bovine cloning was far superior to that of other mammals. However, a recent one-page summary of statistics on the specific failure rates amongst five different mammalian species, including cows/bulls, is not consistent with this claim. [Ref]

Ref.:

Greta Lorge, "The Killer Task of Cloning: Copying Mammals Fails 98 Percent of the Time," Wired Magazine, Vol 14, No. 4, p. 48 (April 2006).


Darwinian Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

Prof. Todd O. Yeates
April 14, 2006; [1:00 - 3:00] PM, Prof. Todd O. Yeates, of the UCLA Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry and member of the UCLA California Nanosystems Institute, presented "The Blind Molecule-Maker: Darwin and Dawkins in Wonderland" as part of the 2005-2006 Marschak Colloquium Series at UCLA. But do we need to invoke Intelligent Design in order to explain the intricate complexity and elaborate variation in cellular motors at the molecular level because they appear to be 'irreducibly complex'? After all, what good would 'half a wing' do for any bird in terms of flying? What good would half an eye do for any animal? How could a lock without a key do one any good, or conversely a key without a lock do anyone any good. What would be the incentive within evolution for Nature to synthesize both a full-blown lock and key simultaneously, out of whole cloth, for example. That seems too implausible to accept on scientific faith. Yet, all of these seeming violations of our intuition can be explained! It all depends on how one comprehends the notion of a stochastic process and random mutation as the driving forces of variation, selection, adaptation, and "Survival of the Fittest" subject to environmental boundary conditions. Randomness (or stochasticity) is not to avoided, but embraced! Just as some of us felt compelled to invoke the existence of aliens as the true builders of the remaining Egyptians pyramids (through a plausible process-of-elimination that left aliens as the only ones who were clever enough to do it), since it was alleged that the Pharaohs and his minions were not smart enough nor could have developed the right tools to build pyramids themselves, even if they put an entire army of slaves to the task over dozens of years (BTW, the real builders were proud artisans and construction workers, not slaves whipped to pull these heavy stones with ropes). Even after an entire hour-long TV Discovery Program that demonstrated in exquisite detail how the pyramids were built [using large single wooden wheels to transport the heavy stone blocks needed from the location where they were quarried to the location of construction site and then scaffolding to slide the blocks up ramps toward the top of the pyramid (which was subsequently removed when the work was completed), all within the laws of physics, and without the invocation of any supernatural observers who left us no sign of their intervention], certain people still declined to accept it as genuine. What a colossal failure of imagination. It simply didn't make any sense to them that "primitive" folk could be capable such remarkable feats! "Therefore, they contended, "These TV programs must simply be seductive fabrications." And there really are people who repeatedly buy the Brooklyn Bridge (its modern day equivalent is to send a cashier's check to somewhere in Nigeria with the promise of facilitating the electronic transfer of a much larger amount of money (millions) for which you will receive a significant share for your obviously substantial participation.)

Similarly, there are some who still believe that the Apollo Moon landings in 1969 shown to the public on television were likewise faked. This task remains simply too hard for mere mortals to have actually done such a thing. Therefore, we must seek out evidence for the alleged fraud by consulting with psychics and other conspiracy theorists to penetrate the secrecy of UFO-type government cover-up as alleged by paranoid evangelists. According these 'skeptics,' "The entire moonscape was actually a Hollywood set located on a massive, secret NASA sound-stage in Houston, TX where everything was taped, photographed, and edited in post production."

At the molecular level, complex structures have continued to evolve while all the incremental, missing tinker-toy links became extinct along the way; this makes it difficult to understand their origin, since they didn't leave any trace or fossil record behind to remind us of what they might have looked like. Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection has been the subject of constantly re-emerging challenges. Some twenty years ago, Prof. Richard Dawkins of Oxford University provided a popular and compelling defense of modern Darwinian ideas in his book The Blind Watchmaker, (as well as several follow-on books) which focused mainly on evidence for step-wise adaptation at the level of whole organism behavior (instincts), down to the level of complex organ systems, such as the eye or a pair of wings.

The last decades have led to wondrous and extraordinary revelations about the workings of living systems at the molecular level. These discoveries have provided overwhelming evidence in support of Darwinian evolution. However, opportunities to convey the evolutionary significance of those discoveries to the general public have not been fully realized. Instead, unexplained molecular features have been singled out by some, and used to re-invigorate the notion of Intelligent Design, a seductive hypothesis stripped of its religious terms, but little more than Creationism in disguise, no more an explanation than the Tooth Fairy for why money was left under your pillow when you lost a childhood tooth, or colored eggs were brought by an Easter Bunny for you to find, or Santa left you Christmas presents under the tree despite the lack of a fireplace with sufficient girth to support his in/egress, or Tinker Bell could happily converse with Peter Pan on important matters of survival.

In his presentation, Dr. Yeates discussed the 'design' of several highly complex molecular machines, like bacterial flagella, drawing parallels from the analogous work carried out over the centuries by human designers, and demonstrating the existence of useful 'intermediate forms' that are central to the debate. Providing that one needs to invoke a designer at all, it is instructive to undertake a re-design of certain features of human beings [c.f. Jay Olshansky, et al., Scientific American] like the relative location of the mouth and the nose with common internal plumbing for air and water (Do whales cough and sneeze like we do?), one would be hard pressed to deny that the wild-type design implementation, in our particular case, should be explained more by the puttering-around of a 'Stupid' rather than by an 'Intelligent' Designer.


Gene Therapy for Chronic Granulomatous Disease

April 2, 2006; In the current issue of Nature Medicine [1], German, Swiss, British, and American scientists report that a rare affliction called Chronic Granulomatous Disease (CGD), inherited commonly by males and which makes victims especially vulnerable to fungal or bacterial infections, may be corrected using a conventional gene-therapy technique. In a surprise to the scientists, the gene-corrected blood cells tripled in number, hopefully improving the prospects for success using this type of therapeutic intervention. [2]

Critics have suggested that the enormous promise of gene therapy faltered in 1999 when Jessie Gelsinger, an 18 yo boy from Arizona afflicted with a congenital liver-enzyme disease, received gene therapy at the University of Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania and died of anaphylactic shock secondary to an allergic response, not to the gene that may well have corrected his genetic deficit but to the vector (a modified adenovirus) being used to transport the gene into his liver where it presumably would have done some good (obviating the need for an extraordinarily expensive pharmaceutical drug that Jessie would have needed to have taken for the rest of his life just to stay alive). The parents of Jessie (who hired astute lawyers who in turn uncovered a conflict-of-interest by one of the Principal Investigators, involving an equity position in a private company that was not initially revealed to the parents) sued the University of Pennsylvania even though they had signed an Informed-Consent Form explaining all of the potential untoward consequences of this experimental treatment, including the possibility "death." Lawyers for the University subsequently concluded a confidential out-of-court settlement with the parents, whose amount was not disclosed publically, but was estimated to be in the millions of dollars [3].

In practice, this one unfortunate case placed a pall over the entire field of genetic engineering, preventing the initiation of future clinical trials for years to come, even though, in principle, it should not have had such an effect. Jessie could have been viewed by the media in heroic terms for the sacrifice of his life as a contribution to scientific/medical knowledge, since no one suspected beforehand that the viral vector in question could have such different antigenicity in different patients. Indeed, the procedure had worked well for other similar patients. Instead, what we got from the parents was "You never told us Jessie could die," and a lot of hand-wringing by all the parties about how sorry we all were for their unexpected loss. Nothing in a clinical trial is without some risk or it wouldn't be a trial, would it? Medicine is an art, not a science.

Still another setback was related to a French gene-therapy trial aimed at treating another rare disorder called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) (the same disease that afflicted the so-called "bubble boy" in Houston, TX in the 1970's and the same disease that was "cured" by Prof. W. French Anderson, M.D., of NIH and now of USC and, to my knowledge, still under a cloud of criminal charges that have not yet gone to trial for several years over the alleged sexual abuse of a young girl whom he was teaching marshal arts, a daughter of one of the women who worked in his lab and a long-time friend of the family. French has been a high-level black-belt instructor in Tae Kwon Do for many years). Of the 28 European children, 26 were deemed to be successfully treated, but 3 others developed a leukemia-like disease (possibly secondary to the ectopic insertion of the gene into a pathological location within the native DNA).

Hopefully, this new trial of two adult patients with CGD will serve to turn things around.

Refs.:

1. Marion G. Ott [1], 16, Manfred Schmidt [2, 3, 4, 16], Kerstin Schwarzwaelder [3, 4, 5, 16], Stefan Stein [6, 16], Ulrich Siler [7, 16], Ulrike Koehl [8], Hanno Glimm [2, 3], Klaus Khlcke [9], Andrea Schilz [9], Hana Kunkel [6], Sonja Naundorf [9], Andrea Brinkmann [8], Annette Deichmann [3, 4], Marlene Fischer [2, 3, 5], Claudia Ball [3, 4, 5], Ingo Pilz [3, 5], Cynthia Dunbar [10], Yang Du [11], Nancy A. Jenkins [11], Neal G. Copeland [11], Ursula Lthi [12], Moustapha Hassan [13], Adrian J. Thrasher [14], Dieter Hoelzer [1], Christof von Kalle [2, 3, 4, 15, 16], Reinhard Seger [7, 16], and Manuel Grez [6, 16], "Correction of X-Linked Chronic Granulomatous Disease by Gene Therapy, Augmented by Insertional Activation of MDS1-EVI1, PRDM16, or SETBP1," Nature Medicine, Vol. 12, pp. 401-9 (April 2006); Published online: April 2, 2006.

[1]. Department of Hematology/Oncology
University Hospital
Theodor-Stern-Kai 7
60590 Frankfurt, GERMANY;
[2]. Department of Internal Medicine I
University Hospital
Hugstetterstrasse 55
79106 Freiburg, GERMANY;
[3]. Institute of Molecular Medicine and Cell Research
Albert-Ludwigs-University
Stefan-Meier-Strasse 17, 79104 Freiburg. GERMANY;
[4]. National Center for Tumor Diseases
Im Neuenheimer Feld 350
69120 Heidelberg, GERMANY;
[5]. Faculty of Biology
Albert-Ludwigs-University
Schaenzlestrasse 1
79104 Freiburg, GERMANY;
[6]. Institute for Biomedical Research
Georg-Speyer-Haus
Paul-Ehrlich-Strasse 42
60596 Frankfurt, GERMANY;
[7]. Division of Immunology/Hematology
University Children's Hospital
Steinwiesstrasse 75
8032 Zürich, SWITZERLAND;
[8]. Pediatric Hematology
Oncology and Hemostaseology
University Hospital
Theodor-Stern-Kai 7
60590 Frankfurt, GERMANY;
[9]. European Institute for Research and Development of Transplantation Strategies (EUFETS) AG
Vollmersbachstrasse 66
55743 Idar-Oberstein, GERMANY;
[10]. Hematology Branch
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20892; USA;
[11]. Mouse Cancer Genetics Program
National Cancer Institute
Center for Cancer Research
1050 Boyles Street
Frederick, MD 21702 USA;
[12]. Central Laboratory of Electron Microscopy
University of Zürich
Gloriastrasse 30
8006 Zürich, SWITZERLAND;
[13]. Department of Medicine
Division of Hematology
Karolinska Institute
SE-17177 Stockholm, SWEDEN;
[14]. Molecular Immunology Unit
Institute of Child Health
30 Guilford Street
London WC1N 1EH, UK;
. [15]. Cincinnati Children's Research Foundation
Molecular and Gene Therapy Program
3333 Burnet Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45229 USA;
[16]. M.G.O., M.S., K.S., S.S., and U.S. contributed equally to this work; C.v.K., R.S. and M.G. share Senior Authorship.
Correspondence should be addressed to Manuel Grez grez@em.uni-frankfurt.de or Christof von Kalle christof.kalle@nct-heidelberg.de

Abstract:

Gene transfer into hematopoietic stem cells has been used successfully for correcting lymphoid but not myeloid immunodeficiencies. Here we report on two adults who received gene therapy after non-myeloablative bone marrow conditioning for the treatment of X-linked Chronic Granulomatous Disease (X-CGD), a primary immunodeficiency caused by a defect in the oxidative antimicrobial activity of phagocytes resulting from mutations in gp91phox. We detected substantial gene transfer in both individuals' neutrophils that lead to a large number of functionally corrected phagocytes and notable clinical improvement. Large-scale retroviral integration site distribution analysis showed activating insertions in MDS1-EVI1, PRDM16, or SETBP1 that had influenced regulation of long-term hematopoiesis by expanding gene-corrected myelopoiesis three- to four-fold in both individuals. Although insertional influences have probably reinforced the therapeutic efficacy in this trial, our results suggest that gene therapy in combination with bone marrow conditioning can be successfully used to treat inherited diseases affecting the myeloid compartment such as CGD.

2. Gautam Naik, "Gene Therapy Corrects Immune-System Disease," European Edition of The Wall Street Journal, p. A29 (April 3, 2006).

3. "Gene Therapy under Scrutiny," CBS- TV Worldwide News (1999).


First Cloned Horse(s)

Royal Blue Boon Too (L), Colt Born in February and Royal Blue Boon, Mare

March 31, 2006; ViaGen of Austin, TX and Encore Genetics, Ltd. of Weatherford, TX announced that foals, Royal Blue Boon Too and Tap O'Lena are the first commercially cloned (cutting) horses. The price for creating a clone of a horse they say will be set at $150,000 for the first and $90,000 for the second clone of the same animal. On March 9th, a clone of the mare Tap O Lena and another clone was born to a filly at the same farm. "Two more clones of the mare Bet Yer Blue Boons are expected to be born any day," said Executives for ViaGen and Encore Genetics.

As distinguished from The National Cutting Horse Association, which trains horses to help rope calves from a larger herd, The Jockey Club, which organizes thoroughbred racehorses, has strict prohibitions against cloning, as does The American Quarter Horse Association. Curiously, The Humane Society of the United States issued a statement Thursday criticizing these two Texas companies for subjecting horses to commercial exploitation, saying that it has "no legitimate social value." "The high failure rate in cloning and the high rate of congenital birth defects and other illness are reasons to avoid this technique."
[Editor's Note: Sigh! What does the Humane Society think about cloning cows or pigs for food? - Steve Coles]

ViaGen is controlled by Dr. John Sperling of Phoenix, AZ, an octogenarian billionaire. He is also the owner of Genetic Savings and Clone, Inc. that has been working on cloning dogs for some years and is expected to make an announcement some time later this year.

Refs.:

1. Andrew Pollack, "Goodbye Dolly: Up from Sheep to Cloned Horses," The New York Times, p. C4 (March 31, 2006).
2. Andrew Pollack, "Latest Clone Line: Champion Horses," The International Herald Tribune (April 1, 2006).


Biomedical Ethics Lecture at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles

Bernard Strauss, M.D., Emeritus Medical Staff, 101 Years Old with Stephen Coles

March 24, 2006; Noon; PST; The Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of Los Angeles hosted The Annual Henry and Lilian Nesburn Lectureship this afternoon at the Harvey Morse Auditorium. Click on the photo above for an earlier version of the 143 PowerPoint slides used in this talk on the topic of "Biomedical Ethics for Anti-Aging Medicine" by L. Stephen Coles, M.D., Ph.D., Co-Founder of the LA Gerontology Research Group. However, a half- dozen video clips have been removed from the on-line version to conserve band width. We have heard that "ofoto.com" may provide free video-clip disk space ono their server that we can link to but that remains to be seen.


UCLA Stem Cell Symposium: From Biology to Therapy

Prof. Rudolf Jaenish, M.D., MIT Prof. Jeffrey Rosen, M.D., Baylor Prof. Harley Kronblum, M.D., Ph.D., UCLA Prof. Peter Dirks, M.D., Ph.D., Toronto

March 3, 2006; The one-day Symposium on Stem Cells, Pathways, and Cancer: From Biology to Therapy, was sponsored by the W. M. Keck Epithelial Cell Cancer Biology Program, the UCLA Institute for Stem-Cell Biology and Medicine, and the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. The UCLA Extension Program supported CME credits. A few of the Professors who presented were (from L to R) Rudolf Jaenisch, M.D. for MIT and the Whitehead Institute; Jeffrey M. Rosen, M.D. of Baylor University in Houston, TX, Harley Kronblum, M.D., Ph.D., UCLA; Peter Dirks, M.D., Ph.D., The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto; and, below, Irving Weissman, M.D, of the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Prof. Jaenisch said at one point, "let's look at the biochemistry of the constituents of the egg prior to fertilization. After all, it's not a miracle, is it?"

Prof. Irving Weissman, M.D., Stanford University

In discussing his placement of neural human embryonic stem cells in the developing brain of a fetal mouse and allowing the mouse to be born and grow up to adulthood, Prof. Weissman noted that some persons raised moral objections - now humorously called the Stuart Little Phenomenon (derived from the Sony comedy film with the same name, and is really based on a science-fiction-type premise that sees to violates the laws of embryology). A commonly-asked naive question was "Could the animal in question really grow up to become a human trapped inside the body of mouse?" Well, a formal ethics board requested by Weissman, chaired by a professor from the Stanford the Law School, was empaneled precisely to deliberate this case. Fortunately, these experiments were deemed ethical after all and allowed to proceed, and we can now say with great certainty, looking at the results, that no such thing as the "Stewart Little Phenomenon" can occur. Indeed, the human stem cells migrated throughout the brain of the mice, synthesizing a number of specialized, differentiated cell types and resulted in a very murine (non-human) looking brain (on histology). So, it seems that the microenvironment is the crucial boundary condition in development (architecture of tissues) and subsequent repair processes following injury, and not the embryonic stem-cell's origin or initial instruction set. The human neurons appear to take on a mouse (and not human) morphology within the context of the mouse skull, the olfactory center being a good example where the mouse's sense of smell is much more well developed than that of humans. Conversely, placing murine embryonic stem cells into a human fetal brain would be considered unethical and, of course, would not be done.

Referring, to President Bush's recent State-of-the-Union Speech [*], however, Weissman noted that the President said that "All human/animal chimera experiments should be considered an abomination!" Weissman went on to say, " If I were ever to speak about this topic with the President, I would ask him "Which of the various uncured neurodegenerative diseases don't you want me to cure?" The only way to develop a mouse model of Parkinson's Disease, for example, is to create these sorts of human/mouse chimera in order to see how new ideas about therapies can be tested.

_____________
* President George W. Bush in his January 31, 2006 State of the Union Address decided to include the following gratuitous paragraph about human cloning...

"A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not cut ethical corners, and that recognize the matchless value of every life. Tonight, I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling, or patenting human embryos. Human life is a gift from our Creator -- and that gift should never be discarded, devalued, or put up for sale." [Applause]

Refs:

1. The White House.gov
2. The Los Angeles Times, p. A19 (February 1, 2006).

Editorial Remarks: Here is a systematic line-by-line deconstruction of this absurd paragraph with comments interdigitated in boldface type...

A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not cut ethical corners,

So, Mr. President, what are your credentials to give our scientific and medical institutions advice regading ethics? Do we accept your jurisdiction in this field of endeavor, just because you're the President, considering the wide range of ethical lapses that have occurred under your own Administration? Maybe you need a course in ethics before we can trust your judgement on matters of moral certitude.

and that recognize the matchless value of every life.

Do we hear, "I am holier than thou." in your tone of voice?

Tonight, I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms,

including Therapeutic Cloning (what you and your staff have chosen to call Research Cloning, for your own rhetorical reasons) as well as Reproductive Cloning which we both agree should be banned? And this latter ban (reproductive) could have already been Federal law for several years, had you not chosen to lump the two types together, so that you could get your way. (Fallacy of the Slippery Slope: If we allow one type then we will certainly slip into the other type, whether we legislate against it or not.) That way, nobody has gotten their way; and we as a nation remain in a state of paralysis as a result, hardly a role model for the rest of the world.

creating or implanting embryos for experiments,

But how, Sir, is science to make progress, if we don't experiment with human embryos? Yet, no respectable scientist wishes to implant experimental human embryos whom we know of. There is only one, self-proclaimed religious sect (The Ralians) who have deliberately sought to create human clones, and we haven't heard from them in quite a while.

creating human-animal hybrids,

Proof by Intimidation: Ignoring that 'human/mouse chimera at the cellular level' are a standard technique for investigating certain neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson's Disease. Are these to be considered an abomination, as you and your Bioethics Council have suggested before? Which are the diseases you don't want medical scientists to try and cure?

and buying, selling, or patenting human embryos.

And why not? Don't pre-implanted embryos have a price tag like any other commodity? Aren't new inventions worthy of being protected under patent law? It is rumored that a facility in San Diego has been established for storing human embryos specifically donated for research purposes, but its exact location has been kept secret for reasons of security.

Human life is a gift from our Creator

This is your assumption, Sir, not ours. And since this statement has a religious cast, we imagine that you ought to exclude such references from a national political speech. I always thought that there was something in our US Constitution about the separation of 'church' and 'state', which you have sworn to uphold? Are we wrong?

-- and that gift should never be discarded, devalued, or put up for sale.

We have numerous "definitional" issues to be dealt with. What is human life, anyway? Are my finger-nail clippings life? Are the hair clippings on the barbershop floor life because they have human DNA in them? Is potential life life? Or is it merely potential. And to whom are you speaking regarding its devaluation? The Raelian Sect? Or legitimate scientists or gynecologists who routinely treat infertile couples?

[Applause]

Clearly, the audience was unable to figure out what you were talking about on such short notice, or they wouldn't have applauded such an absurd polemic as this.


Marion Bigelow Higgins, 112 Years Old [June 26, 1893 March 2, 2006]

Mrs. Marion Higgins, 112

March 4, 2006; Click on her photo for her Obituary by Mr. Jon Thurber of the Los Angeles Times.

March 8, 2006; Photos of the grave-side service that took place this afternoon at the Pomona Valley Memorial Park are as follows:

Funeral Service
Sons Robert and Horace with Stephen Coles of UCLA and Shirley of UCI
Horace and Elizabeth Higgins

Saturday, March 25, 2006 at 3:30 PM in Clubhouse-4 at Leisure World in Seal Beach, CA, the family of Mrs. Higgins had a memorial service attended by 150 persons, including many relatives from other parts.
Memorial Service at Leisure World

Click for a short 52-second video clip of Marion with her Son Horace, who were featured in a one-hour BBC Television Documentary entitled "Time and Aging" (the second in a series of programs on Time narrated by a Japanese theoretical (string-theory) physicist from New York, Dr. Michio Kaku. Also featured in this documentary were Prof. Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate, Dr. Judy Campisi of the Buck Institute and Lawrence Berkeley Labs in Northern California, and Dr. Aubrey de Grey of Cambridge University, UK.

Editor's Note: After clicking, if you are having trouble opening the Higgins BBC- TV video clip above, you should be aware that I myself have had many problems in getting this particular video clip to play back properly in Microsoft Internet Explorer, as it defaults to its own Microsoft Windows Media Player within the Windows XP Operating System and generates an instantaneous error message of the form... "Windows Media Player has encountered a problem and needs to close. We are sorry for the inconvenience. Please tell Microsoft about this problem by clicking on 'Send Error Report'" which is completely useless. The latest version of Windows Media Player, in fact, is not better then the older version, it strikes me as worse! It is extremely difficult to manage as a general-purpose player, since it seems increasingly tailored to an audience of viewers who wish to listen commercial videos and music, and although the full functionality is still there, it has been hidden and rendered more opaque, as the designers have made it easier for the commercial people to get to see the controls that they asked for and eliminate the clutter of controls they didn't want, behind very subtle myterious buttons. However, if you, instead, employ a Netscape 8.1 or a Mozilla 1.7.3 Browser, you will first get an option to down load the clip to your hard drive (which takes about 5 minutes with a Broad Band Connection, since the size of the file is 196 MB, even in B&W) after which the clip will playback quite nicely in an Apple Quick Time 7.0.4 Player or equivalent. I haven't tested it in a RealOne Player, since my by version is broken and will not work until I install the newest operating system from Microsoft Windows Vista, now scheduled for release sometime in January 2007.

March 9, 2006; I reviewed the 30-odd stained histological slides of Mrs. Higgins' organs with Prof. Michael Fishbein, M.D., Chief of the UCLA Autopsy Service, his afternoon along with Kevin Young, the Attending Resident, and a preliminary microscopic diagnosis (based on Congo-Red stain) is that the Cause-of-Death was indeed " Senile Systemic Amyloidosis (SSA) of the Heart and Lungs, Leading to Congestive Heart Failure," the same as our other two Supercentenarian cases ( Mrs. Elma Corning and Mr. Henry Hartmann). This tentative diagnosis was consistent with our gross examination of organs last Friday. This amyloid rubbery-glue-like material infiltrated all the organs of her body including her ovaries! It coated the interior lumen of practically every blood vessel we looked at, especially the veins. However, it still remains to establish which of the various types of amyloid was responsible, and that should be known by next Tuesday. If it turns out to be the "pre-albumin" or TTR (Transthyretin) type rather than an immunoglobulin-type (Kappa or Lambda Light Chains) then we will have a "hat trick," and this will definitely be a publishable series of cases. [Note: This has now been established to be the case.] So, what does this mean clinically? Well, we don't know yet. The suggestions in a recent paper [*] from Texas, are more like a "band-aid" than a solution to the root-cause of the problem of accumulating precipitation in the veins, arteries, and lymphatics, sort of like mineral deposits in the water pipes of an old house. The solution for an old house (>30 years) is to simply replace the pipes. Did you ever notice that after you do the re-plumbing, the water pressure in your shower jumps way up? "Like wow! How did that happen?" Well, the plumbing option is not so readily available for our own miles of biological pipes. More likely we will have to find either a chemical means for dissolving it or a nanotechnology means for roter-rootering it. More discussion of this vital topic will take place at the next meeting of AGE coming up at the beginning of June in Boston. -- Steve Coles

Refs.:

1. Walid Hassan, Hani Al-Sergani, Walid Mourad, and Rashed Tabbaa, "Amyloid Heart Disease: New Frontiers and Insights in Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Management," Texas Heart Institute Journal, Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 178-84 (2005).

2. Jeffrey Zaslow, "Moving On: Longevity Eases Families' Grief," The Wall Street Journal, p. D2 (April 20, 2006).


Susie Gibson, 115 [October 31, 1890 - February 16, 2006]

Mrs. Susie Gibson at age
  114

February 16, 2006; Click on Susie's photo for her Obituary by the Associated Press.


Bettie Wilson, 115 [September 13, 1890 - February 13, 2006]

Mrs. Bettie Wilson with Great Granddaughter

February 13, 2006; Click on Bettie's photo for her Obituary by Mary Rourke of the Los Angeles Times.


Stem Cells at the 10th Annual UCLA Health Care Symposium

UCLA Panelists

Saturday, February 11, 2006; Covel Commons, Sunset Village, UCLA Health Care Symposium: Stem Cells: Dispelling Myths and Exploring Truths

The Panelists included:

Prof. Judith Gasson, Ph.D., Co-Director of the UCLA Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Medicine and Director of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center;
Dr. Irving Weissman, M.D., Professor of Pathology and of Developmental Biology and, by courtesy, of Neurosurger, and Director of the Stanford University Institute of Cancer, Stem Cell Biology, and Medicine;
Mr. Robert Klein, J.D., Author of California Proposition 71 and Chairman of the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee (ISOC) of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM); and
Dr. Stanley Korenman, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Ethics at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.


Endowed Pathology Lectureship at UCLA: Stem Cells and Cancer

Prof. Irving Weissman, M.D.

February 8, 2006; Irving Weissman, M.D., Virginia and D. K. Ludwig Professor for Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research of the Departments of Pathology and Biology at the Stanford University School of Medicine gave the Harrison and Lya Cordova Latta Lectureship this afternoon on "Stem Cells: Regeneration, Neoplasia, and Evolution" at the UCLA Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine of the David Geffen School of Medicine. Irv placed a special focus on leukemia: "One cannot expect to completely eradicate a metastatic cancer with chemotherapy or radiation treatment alone, even though all cancer cells may die temporarily. One must also kill the underlying stem cells that first gave rise to the cancer. This could be the reason why cancers frequently regrow a short time after chemotherapy and radiation treatments are stopped."


Robert Young and GRG in Atlanta Constitution

Mr. Robert Young, 31
Mr. Robert Young, 31, of Atlanta, Georgia, GRG Senior Claims Investigator

January 31, 2006; Click on the photo above for more details.


NIH Director, Richard Hodes, M.D. Delivers First Annual Roy Walford Endowed Lectureship at UCLA on Telomere Biology

Prof. Jonathan Braun, M.D., Ph.D. Prof. Rita Effros Dr. Richard Hodes, M.D.

January 25, 2006; 8:15 AM; Prof. Jonathan Braun, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine introduces Dr. Effros who in turn introduces Dr. Hodes, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Aging of the NIH. Click on Dr. Hodes photo [a former speaker to our Group in Washington, D.C. on March 9, 1994] to go through his 68 PowerPoint slides From Immunobiology to Telomere Biology. [ Note: A copy of a VHS tape of his talk may be purchased for $19.95 in the standard manner. -- L. S. Coles]


Panel: Defining Life and Death

Panel at the California Science Center
The Panelists from L - R:
Ms. Shirley Otis-Green, Senior Research Specialist, Nursing Research and Education Department, City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, CA;
Dr. Geoffrey Cowan, Dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at USC, who served as Moderator of the Panel;
Prof. Neil Wenger, M.D. UCLA Department of Medicine and Chairman of the Medical Center Ethics Committee;
Dr. Jay Wolfson, Professor of Public Health and Medicine and Associate Vice President of Health, Law, Policy, and Safety at the University of South Florida as well as Special Court-Appointed Guardian of Mrs. Terri Schiavo before her feeding tube was withdrawn and she passed away last year; and
Rev. Cecil "Chip" Murray, Tanzy Chair of Christian Ethics at USC and Pastor Emeritus of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Saturday, January 21, 2006, [1:30 - 3:00 PM PST]; California Science Center near the main campus of USC in downtown Los Angeles; The panel discussed such issues as (1) how our society ought to define "Death"; (2) how should one make one's personal wishes known to relatives and legal guardians; and (3) and whether euthanasia could make sense in certain cases. The Panel was introduced by former Gov. of California, George Deukmejian. The audience included more than 450 attendees. The last program in this series of three programs on Science Matters at the California Science Center will be held on Saturday, April 15th and will address the topic of "Cloning."


Green with Envy?:Taiwan Boasts of Transgenic Pig As it Eyes Stem-Cell Research"

Green Snout Pig
A transgenic pig jostles for food this week in Taipei, TAIWAN.

January 13, 2006; Taipei, TAIWAN ( Reuters and CNN) -- Taiwan, home to the world's first transgenic glowing fish, has successfully bred fluorescent green pigs that researchers hope will boost the island's stem-cell research, a Professor said. By injecting fluorescent green protein into embryonic pigs, a research team at the island's leading National Taiwan University managed to breed three male transgenic pigs, said Prof. Wu Shinn-Chih of the University's Institute and Department of Animal Science and Technology.

"There are partially-fluorescent green pigs elsewhere, but ours are the only ones in the world that are green from inside out. Even their hearts and internal organs are green," Wu said on Thursday. The transgenic pigs, commonly used to study human diseases, "would help researchers monitor and trace changes of the tissues during the physical development," Wu said.

In 2003, a Taiwan company began selling the world's first genetically-engineered fish, sparking protests by environmentalists who said the fluorescent green fish posed a threat to the earth's ecosystem.

In neighboring SOUTH KOREA, disgraced stem-cell scientist Hwang Woo Suk apologized on Thursday for wrongdoing at his laboratory, but hinted at a conspiracy to discredit him and said he was blinded by the zeal of advancing stem-cell studies. An investigation panel at Seoul National University said on Tuesday that a team led by Hwang faked two landmark papers on embryonic stem cells, but did indeed produce Snuppy, the world's first cloned dog.

Ref.:

AP, "Researchers Give Pigs Inner Glow," The Los Angeles Times, p. A10 (January 14, 2006).

Last year, another team of Taiwanese researchers said they developed an alternative to laboratory mice for testing new medicines - fluorescent zebra fish. They took a gene that makes jellyfish fluoresce and transplanted them into the livers of zebra fish, which were later implanted with cancer cells. The cancerous tissue was highlighted with a special tint, allowing researchers to monitor the effect of drugs.


Korean Panel: All Human Cloning Was Faked; However, Snuppy, the Afghan Puppy, Is a Genuine Canine Clone

Chung Myung-hee, Chairman
Panel Chairman Chung Myung-hee presents his findings.

January 10, 2006; Seoul, SOUTH KOREA -- We are sad to report that although Snuppy, the Afghan-Hound puppy, was found to be a genuine clone of Tai, the adult male Afghan-Hound from whom he was derived, both of the 2004 and 2005 publications in Science regarding human therapeutic cloning were acknowledged to be fabricated, and these papers are in the process of being formally retracted. Particularly significant is the fact now revealed that contrary to what the 2005 paper said that the team used "185 human eggs from a small number of women who volunteered to serve as Research Egg-Donors," the actual number was 2,061 human eggs from 129 female donors who were paid for their services (not volunteers as originally reported). Now that Prof. Hwang's passport has been confiscated, along with nine other South Korean scientists on his team barring them from leaving the country pending a criminal investigation of how US$65 million of government funds may have been misspent, his professional career has imploded and he is reported to be in seclusion in a Buddhist monastery.

Refs.:

1 . Full Text of the South Korean University Committee Investigating Cloning (January 10, 2006). Click on the photo above for a better English translation.

2. Alice Park and Stella Kim, "Independent Panel Confirms Stem-Cell Fraud: Outside Investigators Determine that Cloned Stem-Cell Lines from South Korean Lab Were Faked," Time Magazine (January 9, 2006).

3. AP, "School: Human Stem-Cell Work Faked," CNN (January 9, 2006).

4. AP, "Hwang's First Human Embryonic Stem Cell Faked," USA Today (January 9, 2006).

5. Barbara Demick, "Hopes Founder on 'Big Lie': Scientific Scandal Has Shattered the Vow Made by a South Korean Veterinarian that Cloned Stem Cells Would Help a Paralyzed Boy Walk," The Los Angeles Times, pp. A1,8 (January 9, 2006).
This is a front-page, shamelessly human-interest piece that has nothing to do with science.

6. Nicholas Wade and Choe Sang-Hun, "Human Cloning Was All Faked, Koreans Report," The New York Times, pp. A1,12 (January 10, 2006).
Prof. Irving Weissman, M.D. of Stanford and Dr. Robert Lanza, M.D., VP and Medical Director of Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, MA are quoted.

7. Barbara Demick (Seoul) and Karen Kaplan, "Report: S. Korean Created No Human Stem Cells," The Los Angeles Times, pp. A1, 6 (January 10, 2006).

8. Antonio Regalado and Lina Yoon, "Stem-Cell Claims by Korea Scientist Found To Be Untrue," The Wall Street Journal, pp. A1,B2 (January 10, 2006).
Dr. Jose Cebelli, Ph.D. of Michigan State University's School of Agriculture in Ada, MI is quoted.

9. Rita Rubin,"Science Takes Hard Look Inward," USA Today (January 10, 2006).

10. AP, Seoul, SOUTH KOREA, "University: Stem-Cell Scandal a 'Blemish' on Our Country," USA Today, p. 4D (January 11, 2006).

11. Gordon Fairclough, Lina Yoon, and Antonio Regalado, "South Korea Prosecutors Consider Probe of Scientist Over Cloning," The Wall Street Journal, p. B8 (January 11, 2006).

12. Takayuki Asahara and Cantas Alev, "Book Review: Human Embryonic Stem Cells," The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 354, No. 1, p. 102 (January 5, 2006).

13. J. Odorico, S. Zhang, and Roger Pedersen, Eds., Human Embryonic Stem Cells ( ISBN: 1-8599-6278-5; 391 pages; Garland Science/BIOS Scientific, New York; 2005; $165).

14. Barbara Demick, "Scientist Defends Cloning Claim," The Los Angeles Times, op. A6 (January 12, 2006).

15. AP, "Journal Science Retracts Two Stem-Cell Papers," The Wall Street Journal, p. A11 (January 13, 2006).

16. AP, "Journal Science Retracts Faked Stem-Cell Studies," The Los Angeles Times, p. A11 (January 14, 2006).

17. Dennis Normile, Gretchen Vogel, Constance Holden, Li-soo Kim, Mark Russell, and Yvette Wohn, "Stem Cells: Cloning Researcher Says Work Is Flawed but Claims Results Stand," Science, Vol. 310, No. 5756, pp. 1886-7 (December 23, 2005).

18. Ian Wilmut, Michael D. West, Robert P. Lanza, John D. Gearhart, Austin Smith, Alan Colman, Alan O. Trounson, Keith H. Campbell, "Letter to the Editor: Human Embryonic Stem Cells," Science, Vol. 310, No. 5756, p. 1903 (December 23, 2005).
19. Helen Pilcher, "Dial "E" for Ethics, Nature, Vol. 440, pp. 1104-5 (April 27, 2006).

20. K. W. Jung and Insoo Hyun, The American Journal of Bioethics, Vol. 6, pp. W199- 22 (2006).
Bioethicist Insoo Hyun from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, spent three months during the Summer 2005 in Hwang's Lab studying the cultural, social, and legal implications of Hwang's Informed-Consent Procedure for research egg donation. Subsequently, this paper was retracted Hyun said "When it became obvious that Prof. Hwang ignored their recommendations."

21. G. McGee, The American Journal of Bioethics, Vol. 6, pp. W33 (2006).


Prop. 71 Bond Funds Unlikely in 2006

January 3, 2006; Editorial: Contrary to the optimistic tone of today's headline in the lead article of The California Section of the Los Angeles Times, we detect and wish to expose a pessimistic note in the comments of Mr. Robert Klein [author of Prop 71 and Chairman of the CIRM (California Institute of Regenerative Medicine)] despite the fact that he was nevertheless attempting to put a "positive spin" on our apparent misfortune. He stated at the very end of the article saying "... Even if the bond [offering] is upheld [by the Court], however, [the] appeals [process] could keep the money tied up for more than a year,..." What this is saying is that, we already know what the future strategy of our enemies is, since they've already told us so on their website(s), i.e., after each loss in court to continue to appeal to a still higher court [all the way to the California Supreme Court and then on to Federal Courts and ultimately to the US Supreme Court, as necessary], dragging out this sham unconstitutionality issue for as long as possible. What this means to me is that a relatively small number of people with a modest budget (who were our acknowledged enemies even during the campaign for Prop. 71) have leveraged the legal system to their maximum advantage after losing the game at the polls. The lawsuit system contains so much inertia that "even King Kong couldn't lift it onto a fast track." Our enemies have exploited institutional weaknesses in our system of social justice that has drained CIRM financial resources for lawyer fees just to keep even (treading water) without making any progress toward the cures that were promised in our TV-ad campaign. So, why does Klein make statements like "They can slow us down, but they can't stop us." Is the Emperor wearing clothes? The answer is one of leadership. And as our leader, Klein needs to rally the troops. One of the outstanding characteristics of a good manager (and I have seen this up close as a staff person to very senior managers and president's of companies over my career) is the ability to maintain contradictory notions in one's head simultaneously and intuitively know each different audience or constituency well enough to know what to tell them in furthering your private agenda." To one audience you may say one thing, while to another you may say something that certainly sounds like the opposite, all for the sake of timing and influencing public opinion at that moment. And Klein is very good at that. Let's hope that 2006 turns out better than last year. -- Steve Coles

Ref.: Rong-Gong Lin, II, "Stem-Cell Programs Forge Ahead: Universities Hire Scientists and Build Labs Even Though Prop. 71 Funds Are Tied Up In Court. Officials Say They Can't Afford To Wait," The Los Angeles Times, pp. B1,7 (January 3, 2006).



News Items for 2005

Click for News Items from 2005.