Archive for December 6th, 2006|Daily archive page

God Only Knows

This is just a shout out to the likely disappointed Ugandian who found my blog with the google search ‘Miracles from God that happened in 2006.’

God only knows why my blog is 5th in the list for that. Could this be a sign?

Of Mormons and Chopsticks – A Stem Cell Story

The other day I posted ranted about stem cell research. Some people thought I hit “enough triggerpoints to start an all-out flame-war if he just had a couple thousand readers.”

Staying on the subject, I may as well post the two interesting discussions I recently found about the issue.

The first is about slug presidential hopeful lame duck governor Mitt Romney’s stand on science and stem cell research. (Note: not only the Pentecostals seem to be batshit crazy on science, Romney shows that Mormons can be just as stupid.) From Matt Nisbet’s Framing Science blog,

The Associated Press reports that outgoing MA Gov. Mitt Romney has appointed Aaron D’Elia, a state budget director with no formal scientific background, to be executive director of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, an agency created by the legislature to distribute state funding for stem cell research.

TPM Cafe notes that in selecting D’Elia, Romney is signalling that he prefers idelogical compatriotism over expertise, pandering to social conservatives in the lead up to his planned 2008 presidential run.

University of Massachusetts President Jack Wilson voted against the appointment, saying it was made without a search. The UMass president said during an interview with The Associated Press, “I also feel that when we select leadership for an organization like this that we should use professional procedures, that we should have searches and that we should hire the best available person.” Asked whether Romney was seeking an ideological compatriot in D’Elia, Wilson said: “All I can say is that I think that Gov.-elect Patrick really wants to make sure that there is openness for research in stem cells.”

In other stem cell/Science blog meme-ing, the intelligent and parrot loving science blogger Shelly Bates describes the connection between a bizarre chopstick accident and stem cell treatments.

Reported in this week’s Economist (hat tip Bob Abu for the scan), is fascinating story of science meets serendipity. A Chinese woman was admitted to Huashan Hospital in Shanghai, with a chopstick in her brain (!)—specifically the inferior prefrontal subcortex. The chopstick was removed by a Dr. Zu, who took the opportunity to culture the brain tissue that came out with the chopstick. He wanted to verify whether there existed adult neural stem cells there.

The cultured tissue thrived, and many of the resultant cells contained proteins that were characteristic of neural stem cells. In order to make sure they were really stem cells, Dr. Zu cultured cells in isolation and watch and see if it divides into daughter cells. He found that about 4% of the ‘chopstick cells’ went on to form neurospheres (a ball of daughter cells), indicating that they were stem cells. Inspired, Dr. Zu began collecting tissue for various other patients who had suffered traumatic brain injuries and tried to derive neural stem cells from them as well. 16 out of 22 patients successfully yielded stem cells; tissue from the inferior prefrontal subcortex (the chopstick injured area) seem to be the best source.
…] They transplanted cultured neural stem cells derived from 8 patients with brain injuries back into those same patients’ brains. They then asked a separate group of neurologists to blindly examine these experimental patients and compare them with un-treated control patients who also had similar injuries. The treated patients had lower disability scores (a good thing), possibly paving the way for this therapy to be used clinically. And all because of one mis-aimed chopstick!

First I need to admit a Mea Culpa. I said that there hadn’t been any real advances in stem cell research. It would seem this article proves me wrong.

But one sees that the reality of the issue is unimportant in politics. Matt Nesbit is right, there is no reason to fight ideology with reason. It must be shown that other countries are pulling away from the US. Perhaps if fewer and fewer scientists in the US get ‘first patent,’ people and companies will start to wake up.

Or maybe we could just use a chopstick on stupid presidential hopefuls.

Global Climate Change: The Train Wreck

You probably know about the Point of Inquiry podcast with D.J. Grothe. I, being rather slow only just found it.

The first episode I listened to was the fascinating interview with Matt Nisbet, an Assistant Professor at the School of Communication at the American University and Science Blogger. He is involved in trying to reframe the public discussion of science issues in order to deflate the arguments made by anti-science think-tanks. He wants to support science without talking about science itself. I fully support his way of trying to discuss this issue.

During his interview he talks about both his research and the importance of using scientific research – social scientific research – to train scientists on how public opinion and by extension public policy is formed. He realises that most people are not convinced to support science through the technical discussion of the issues. It is far better to redirect the discussion to the effects of ignoring the science. He uses the example of the evolution/idiotic intelligent design debate. My examples would say that can’t convince a non-scientist that evolution occurred by describing the 40 something proteins involved in the evolution of some obscure bacterial appendage. Far more important is to point out that top universities won’t admit students who don’t understand science or by pointing out that the US ranks ahead only of Turkey in international rankings on the belief in evolution.

Ass. Prof Nesbit also referenced an ad campaign about Global Climate Change created and funded by the AdCouncil. For more information go to  Their description of the campaign,

Three-quarters of all Americans accept that global warming is real, but only one-third believes that it requires immediate attention and action. These ads mark a watershed moment in the effort to stir the public’s consciousness about global warming.

In a survey conducted by pollster Whit Ayres of Ayres, McHenry and Associates, 71 percent of Americans recognized that  global warming is happening and more than half attribute the problem to human activity. But while an overwhelming majority (70 percent) of people polled agree that it’s possible to reduce the effects of global warming, only three-fifths (59 percent) thought it was possible they could do something about it as individuals.

I present the PSA’s below. The theme of both ads focuses not on the science and not on the here and now, but on the generations to come.

The first ad, ‘Train’ is probably the better of the two. It is both powerful and important. You might think about passing the word –um – video.