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.


2 comments so far

  1. Teresa on

    My,my my, I HAVE made your dookie docket, haven’t I?

    “some people”, indeed. 🙂

  2. blc303 on

    Boy, am I out of touch.

    I had to go to the Urban Dictionary to figure out the phrase dookie docket. *sigh*

    No. you haven’t been docketed. Next time I’ll use SAHM aka Kung Fu Goddess with the obligatory obsequious fawning.

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