Potentially big stem cell news out of the New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory today in Nature, though in our experience it's always good to temper one's expectations when it comes to these sorts of things. After all, we've thought we cracked the code on embryonic stem cell cloning technology more than once, only to find this kind of biology is much more difficult and complex than originally thought.
With a shifting balance of power in Washington, some changes may be in store for science. Though the dust has barely settled, some political analysts are already predicting Republican-led global warming hearings, rollbacks in climate change and energy legislation and even changes to controversial science like stem cell research.
By Lana BirbrairPosted 10.26.2010 at 5:00 pm 13 Comments
Like a child, a stem cell can grow up to be just about anything. Eventually it picks a job, however, during a process called differentiation. Scientists can influence, if not always control, the outcome by applying compounds called growth factors. Now Jianping Fu, a biomedical and mechanical engineer at the University of Michigan, and his colleagues have discovered that the force exerted by a stem cell onto a surface is an important part of in both predicting and altering what type of cell it will develop into.
The retina is a lush layered field of tissue lining the back of the eye, a complex mix of specialized cells that serve as a transfer station where light signals are absorbed and sent to the brain to be translated into sight.
Researchers from University of Wisconsin, Madison have now created these unique retina cells from lowly skin cells -- opening the possibility that patients with damaged or diseased retinas might some day be able to grow themselves a cure from their own skin.
Researchers at the University of Florida claim to be the first to use targeted gene manipulation to take adult stem cells and change them into another kind of cell completely. They changed the stem cells, from bone marrow in this instance, into retinal cells. These retinal cells, when injected into blind mice, helped cure their blindness.
Brilliant Photoshopping courtesy Philadelphia Will Do
Its comforting to know that our elected officials can really grasp a nuanced concept and break it down into terms we common folk can understand. Take global terrorism, for example: In comments made earlier this week, U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) equated terrorists to the Eye of Mordor trying to harass the hobbits scaling Mount Doom (no kidding—read it here) and went on to say that right now, the Eye of Mordor (ed.: Dont you mean the Eye of Sauron, Rick?) has been drawn away from the U.S. to Iraq. Hooray! Were safe! Mission accomplished!
First of all, if the terrorists are Sauron and the U.S. hobbits, then who the heck is Saruman? The Fighting Uruk-hai? Gollum? Where is Mount Doom? How does Gandalf fit in here, and what does Tom Bombadil really stand for?
And if this is the best analogy—the best thinking—a U.S. legislator can do on a subject, can we possibly trust his judgment when looking at such a nuanced and fraught issue as stem-cell research? I cant wait to hear the analogy he comes up with for that (Perhaps the evil chest creature from Alien exploding out of the great stomach that is America?).
If you have any other ideas as to who belongs where (Osama bin Laden? Tony Blair? Poland?) in the Santorum LotR mythos, please let us know. And frankly, Im dying to hear some more fantasy/sci-fi metaphors for the big issues of today. So we common folk can understand, see? —Martha Harbison