Saturday, January  19, 2002 to Wednesday, January 23, 2002
T h u r s d a y ,  J a n u a r y  2 4,  2 0 0 2
T h u r s d a y ,  J a n u a r y  3 1,  2 0 0 2
Friday, February 1, 2002 to Friday, February 8, 2002

Scientists Cross Pigs With Spinach
Thursday, January 24, 2002

The experiment involved inserting the
spinach gene into a fertilised pig
egg - the GM pigs produced less fat
than normal

Excerpts from article describing a new spin on Popeye's "I'm strong to the finish 'cause I eat my spinach" pitch:

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Scientists in Japan say they have successfully implanted vegetable genes in a living animal for the first time. Researchers at Kinki University near Osaka inserted genetic material from spinach into a pig, which they say will produce healthier pork.

The experiment, which began several years ago, has yielded two generations of pigs with the spinach gene known as FAD2.

Research team leader Akira Iritani said the pigs with the spinach gene had produced less fat than normal.

"It is confirmed for the first time in the world that a plant gene is functioning properly in a living mammal, not in a cultured cell," said Professor Iritani. ...

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Scientists Develop Possible 'Cloning Alternative'
Thursday, January 24, 2002

Excerpts from article describing research into the possibility that adult stem cells may be able to be differentiated into any adult cell in a manner similar to embryonic stem cells:

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An American scientist may have discovered a cell in adults that can turn into every single tissue in the body. Until now, it was thought that only embryonic stem cells could do this.

... Work is in its early stages but efforts are now being made to turn the adult cells into tissues such as muscle, cartilage and brain cells, which can be transplanted back into the patient.

The research has not been published in a scientific journal. However, it has been carried out by a highly respected team and received favourable reviews from those familiar with the work.

... scientists say that at this early stage of research, it is prudent to keep all options open. One expert is sceptical about the findings, questioning the nature of stem cells.

... Stem cell researchers say it is too early to tell whether the ultimate stem cell has been discovered and most believe research with embryonic stem cells must continue.

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In Senate, Findings Intensify Arguments on Human Cloning
Friday, January 25, 2002

Embryonic stem cells

Excerpts from article describing Senate hearings on human embryonic cloning:

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A Senate subcommittee yesterday heard impassioned arguments for and against a proposed ban on research involving human embryo clones, an ethically charged topic that grew even more so this week with the release of controversial scientific findings.

Yesterday's hearing highlighted the increasingly convoluted politics of human embryo research, a field of science that proponents believe will lead to an exciting new era of regenerative medicine and that opponents decry as unethical.

... Scientific and political currents collided again yesterday when proponents of a ban touted new evidence that bone marrow cells taken from adults might have the same curative potential as embryo cells -- and as the scientist who led that research countered that her work was being misinterpreted to suit legislative agendas.

"Even though we're excited about the fact that there seem to be cells in adult tissue that seem to have greater potential than we thought, it's too soon to say they have the same potential and capabilities as embryo cells," said Catherine M. Verfaillie, the University of Minnesota biologist who led the recent studies.

Verfaillie opposes any ban on embryo research. The new work, she said, "does not mean we should eliminate a whole line of research." ...

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Antioxidant Prevents Type 1 Diabetes In Mice
Friday, January 25, 2002

Excerpts from article describing the possibility that type 1 diabetes may some day be a preventable disease and that the chances of organ transplant rejection may some day be decreased though the use of a synthetic antioxidant:

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A new study shows that a synthetic antioxidant can delay and prevent the onset of autoimmune diabetes in mice.

The antioxidant protected insulin-producing beta cells from lethal oxygen radicals generated in diabetes.

To the researchers’ surprise, the antioxidant also blocked the ability of the immune system to recognize beta cells, the target of the autoimmune attack in diabetes.

The findings ... suggest that antioxidants may be useful against diabetes as well as other autoimmune diseases and organ-transplant rejections.

“These data show that antioxidants protect against diabetes on two fronts. They not only mop up destructive oxygen radicals, but also alter the immune response.”

... “That suggests the intriguing possibility that we might one day treat a variety of autoimmune diseases by altering the oxidant/antioxidant balance of immune system.”

In autoimmune, or type 1, diabetes, the immune system mistakenly recognizes beta cells as foreign invaders and initiates an attack against them.

During the attack, inflammatory cells release oxygen radicals that damage beta cells and eventually cause them to die.

As increasing numbers of beta cells are destroyed, the body produces less and less insulin, leading to diabetes.

Approximately 1 million people in the U.S. have type 1 diabetes, and about 30,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. ...

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Unfertilised Monkey Eggs Give Stem Cells
Saturday, January 26, 2002

Excerpts from article describing the use of parthenogenesis to yield stem cells in monkeys (for references to parthenogenesis, see the 112401 and 112601 issues of the Pro-Humanist FREELOVER Daily) ...

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US scientists have given details of how they managed to get the unfertilised eggs of monkeys to start dividing like embryos - a process known as parthenogenesis - and then "harvest" them for special cells.

Parthenogenesis is well documented in insects and lizards but is not normal in higher animals.
The researchers ... are trying to develop the technique in humans.

They believe parthenogenic embryos could provide a useful source of stem cells. ... Researchers think that because parthenotes are incapable of developing into a foetus, their use may bypass some of the ethical objections that have dogged current experiments on normal embryos.

... Parthenotes have been created from mice eggs - and even monkey eggs before. But this new research ... goes a few steps further.

Chemical triggers directed the
development of stem cells

It shows that 77 monkey eggs were exposed to chemicals designed to make them think they had been fertilised by sperm. Twenty-eight of the eggs started dividing like embryos, with four continuing the development up to the blastocyst stage, where researchers can extract the stem cells that are the "parents" of all the tissues in the body.

The research team used more chemical triggers to direct their monkey stem cells into becoming muscle and fat cells and even beating heart cells. But ... the most remarkable differentiation was the development of neurons that produced the important brain chemical lacking in Parkinson's sufferers, dopamine.

... The monkey stem cells were also injected into living mice to further demonstrate that they could develop into useful cell types.

... "The potential clinical applications include treatment of diseases where specific cell types have become dysfunctional," he said. "These diseases include a broad array of medical problems, such as Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases, heart disease and diabetes."

... But such applications would most probably be limited only to women of reproductive age. Men do not produce eggs and to transplant into them tissues derived from parthenotes containing a female genetic "signature" would invite rejection. ...

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Throwing the DNA Switch
Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Excerpts from article detailing the capability to manipulate DNA, an advance which may some day lead to a cure for genetic diseases such as cancer:

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With the kind of precision that makes engineers drool, scientists can now manipulate DNA using remote control. By the mere flick of a switch, they can make small loops of the "life molecule" snap open and shut. This could advance the treatment of certain life threatening diseases in the future.

In particular, it might eventually enable doctors to switch genes on and off at will which, in theory, could revolutionise the way cancers are tackled. The development is the latest example of so called nano-engineering, which involves the fabrication and control of structures that measure just a few millionths of a millimetre across.

... "One could even imagine turning genes on and off electronically in the future" ... And that, in a sentence, is the holy grail of many research doctors. One of the most feared diseases could be treated with far greater efficiency if this kind of control was possible.
Cancer occurs when oncogenes, the accelerators, get out of control, causing massive cell growth; or when suppressor genes, the brakes, jam and fail to stop it.

"If you could control these genes, you could control cancer," Dr Wassan told BBC News Online. By turning off overactive accelerator genes or turning on faulty brake genes the disease could, theoretically, be cured.

The therapeutic application is a long way off, but this discovery is undeniably a step in the right direction. "It sounds ingenious." ...

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Hundreds Missing After Lagos Blasts
Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Excerpts from article describing the devastating loss of human life due to an explosion at a military armoury in Nigeria:

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The Nigerian Red Cross says more than 1,000 people are still missing in Lagos - three days after explosions at a military armoury which caused more than 600 deaths. Most of the missing are young children ... aged between four and 11 years.

Public anger turned on the military after the devastating blasts which sent shells, bombs and rockets raining down over the city.

The biggest loss of life occurred when hundreds of people fleeing the area ran into a canal and drowned. ...

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Gene Chips Predict Breast Cancer Outcome
Thursday, January 31, 2002

Excerpts from article describing the experimental use of gene profiling to attempt to ascertain the type of breast cancer tumour an individual has, thereby allowing the proper treatment to be applied:

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Faint dots glowing on thumbnails of glass could help diagnose and treat breast cancer. By revealing which genes are switched on in tumours, the dots may help doctors tailor therapy to maximize its effectiveness and minimize side-effects.

One in ten women in the United States and Britain get breast cancer; half die from it.

... most women receive a toxic combination of hormone treatment and chemotherapy, in case cancer cells lurk elsewhere in their bodies. Yet only about 20% of women have tumours aggressive enough to require this worst-case-scenario therapy. "The rest would be cured by radiotherapy and surgery alone."

... Stephen Friend ... and his colleagues have developed a way to recognise aggressive tumours from the genes they express. If it works in the clinic, the technique should "significantly reduce the number of patients who receive unnecessary treatment", says Friend.

... painting a tumour's genetic portrait is almost certainly the future of oncology, says Aparicio. In nearly all cancers, classifying what kind of tumour a person has is crucial to their long-term survival. ...

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