; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Fortean / Alternative News: Lab-Grown Organs, Students Interact With UFO and Cannock Chase Solved?

Bioartificial Organs For Humans Are Now Being Grown In Labs

NatGeo - More than 100,000 people are waiting for organ transplants in the U.S. alone; every day 18 of them die. Not only are healthy organs in short supply, but donor and patient also have to be closely matched, or the patient's immune system may reject the transplant. A new kind of solution is incubating in medical labs: "bioartificial" organs grown from the patient's own cells. Thirty people have received lab-grown bladders already, and other engineered organs are in the pipeline.

The bladder technique was developed by Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Researchers take healthy cells from a patient's diseased bladder, cause them to multiply profusely in petri dishes, then apply them to a balloon-shaped scaffold made partly of collagen, the protein found in cartilage. Muscle cells go on the outside, urothelial cells (which line the urinary tract) on the inside. "It's like baking a layer cake," says Atala. "You're layering the cells one layer at a time, spreading these toppings." The bladder-to-be is then incubated at body temperature until the cells form functioning tissue. The whole process takes six to eight weeks.

Solid organs with lots of blood vessels, such as kidneys or livers, are harder to grow than hollow ones like bladders. But Atala's group—which is working on 22 organs and tissues, including ears—recently made a functioning piece of human liver. One tool they use is similar to an ink-jet printer; it "prints" different types of cells and the organ scaffold one layer at a time.

Other labs are also racing to make bioartificial organs. A jawbone has sprouted at Columbia University and a lung at Yale. At the University of Minnesota, Doris Taylor has fabricated a beating rat heart, growing cells from one rat on a scaffold she made from the heart of another by washing off its own cells. And at the University of Michigan, H. David Humes has created an artificial kidney from cells seeded onto a synthetic scaffold. The cell-phone-size kidney has passed tests on sheep—it's not yet implantable, but it's wearable, unlike a dialysis machine, and it does more than filter toxins from blood. It also makes hormones and performs other kidney functions.

Growing a copy of a patient's organ may not always be possible—for instance, when the original is too damaged by cancer. One solution for such patients might be a stem cell bank. Atala's team has shown that stem cells can be collected without harming human embryos (and thus without political controversy) from amniotic fluid in the womb. The researchers have coaxed those cells into becoming heart, liver, and other organ cells. A bank of 100,000 stem cell samples, Atala says, would have enough genetic variety to match nearly any patient. Surgeons would order organs grown as needed instead of waiting for cadavers that might not be a perfect match. "There are few things as devastating for a surgeon as knowing you have to replace the tissue and you're doing something that's not ideal," says Atala, a urologic surgeon himself. "Wouldn't it be great if they had their own organ?" Great for the patient especially, he means.


Cannock Chase Sightings Solved?

chasepost - For decades, there have been reports of big cats in the Cannock Chase area.

There have also been sightings of kangaroos, wallabies and even Bigfoot. Strange noises in the night, including piercing howls, and mysterious paw prints in the snow have only created further speculation that something is lurking in this little corner of Staffordshire.

However, one must question where these animals originated from.

During the late 1800s, a resident doctor, renowned zoologist and recognised expert on big cats, lived in Cannock and housed a whole host of animals in his own back garden that stood on the grounds of Cannock’s police station. Dr John Butter was well known for his ‘lair of beasts’ which included giant snakes, elephants, emus, ostriches, a wild ocelot and even a life-sized giraffe which, some neighbours said, regularly peered at them over the garden fence. An obscure character, Butter established a wide reputation. He often made house calls to his patients whilst being carted around the town by a zebra. For those who made it to his surgery, they were greeted in the waiting room by his pet monkey, Antony.

But what became of these animals? Are these the ancestors of the strange beasts spotted on Cannock Chase?

The Boer War showed just how respected Butter was, as the whole town gathered to bid him farewell when he went to do battle. However, it is a well-known fact that during this time, some of his creatures simply disappeared from his home. Were they stolen or did they escape?

At the outbreak of the First World War, further animals appear to have vanished as food supplies became rationed. No records can be found of them being donated to local zoos, to a travelling circus or even being put to sleep. Could it be that the doctor himself released his beloved animals into the wild during the night when nobody was watching? And what became of Antony the monkey? No-one knows.

Perhaps what residents have been witnessing are descendants of the animals that Dr Butter cared for. However, it is also possible the animals found new homes and no documentation of the transactions were ever recorded.

Whatever happened to Butter’s magnificent menagerie, we will never know. The doctor died in April 1920 having suffered from a mystery illness for ten days. Whether he released his creatures into the wild or not, remains a mystery. He took his secrets to the grave.

One thing is for sure - almost 100 years ago, exceptional animals were kept not too far from Cannock Chase, a place where there have been countless reports and sightings of animals and strange creatures not at all native to Britain.


Adam Davies Launches 2011 CFZ Expedition to Sumatra

From Jon Downes at CFZ: Sumatra, and the Orang-Pendek in particular, hold a special affection for me. Since I first visited this beautiful country, with its dense virgin rainforest and proud tribal people, I have always been fascinated by the orang-pendek, the `short man` of the forests.

I have no doubt the orang-pendek exists. Over the years I have interviewed many witnesses who have seen this creature. In 2009 the CFZ expedition was fortunate to have an eyewitness ourselves in Dave Archer, and Sahar Didmus saw one pinned against a tree, before it scurried away from us into the jungle. The experience so moved Sahar that he burst into tears!

Importantly, there has been a considerable body of scientific evidence that has been gathered to support the existence of the orang-pendek. For example, previous expeditions I have led in 2001 and 2004 brought back both prints and hair samples. These were analysed by various international experts, including Drs Chivers, Meldrum and Brunner, who all came to the conclusion that they were from an `unknown primate`. Continue reading at Adam Davies Launches 2011 CFZ Expedition to Sumatra.


Flamingos Drop From Siberian Sky: Locals Mystified

NPR - We're in Siberia, shivering. It's November, November 11, 2003, and two boys, Kolya and Maksim Muravyev, are ice fishing along the Lena River, where it's 13 below zero. All of a sudden, up in the sky, they see what looks like a flamingo. "We thought it was a swan or a stork," Kolya says, a flamingo being so preposterously improbable.

It was large, and made ever lower circles in the sky. It seemed to be losing energy until finally it fell and lay quietly on the snow. The two boys ran over, called their father, Vasily, who picked up the bird and took it home. It was still alive. "[This is the ] first time I see a bird like this," he told a TV reporter.

They fed the flamingo fish and buckwheat saturated in water (not normally flamingo food) and pretty soon it was up, active and knocking around the Muravyev's apartment. Here it is, head in a feeding bucket.

And here it is again, posing in front of the television. (It appeared on several news programs, that's where we got the quotes from above.)

The Muravyevs have a dog. Dogs and flamingos don't cohabit easily in living rooms, so the flamingo was eventually moved to a local greenhouse and then to the zoo in nearby Krasnoyarsk.

That should be the end of the story. Except that one year later, also in November and also in Siberia, it happened again. Another flamingo flew out of the sky, landed by another Siberian river, was also brought to the greenhouse, then sent to the zoo and the locals began to wonder, "Where are these birds coming from? What are they doing here?"

This tale appears in Ian Frazier's new and wonderful travelogue, Travels in Siberia and when I read it, I called up my buddy (and sleuth-on-tap) Ezra Block and said, "Let's see if we can solve this puzzle."

Ezra checked and discovered that while we normally associate flamingos with tropical lagoons, they are not always warm weather birds. Marita Davison, who studies flamingos at Cornell University, says she regularly sees Bolivian flamingos up in the Andes Mountains. And at that high up — 16,000 feet — the lakes freeze around their feet. She sent us this video of flamingos stuck in ice. There are two on the right trying to get free.

"It's really an amazing sight to see," she told us. "They'll just wait for it to thaw and then go on [with] their business." So, we asked her, were you surprised to hear about flamingos in Siberia?

She was. First of all, Siberia in November is much colder than Bolivia. Then she pointed out, flamingos are social animals. They always travel in flocks. To have two single flamingos drop from the sky suggests that there were more flamingos up there, that the two who fell were part of larger groups. (Meaning, there could be flocks of Siberian flamingos flying over Siberia!)

Checking the library, she discovered that 100 years ago scientists also reported multiple sightings of flamingos, again deep in Siberia, and again it was November.

November is the month when flamingos normally fly south from their nests in Kazakhstan to Iran. So, she thought, maybe this is an example of "reverse migration", a behavior known in migrating birds but not – thus far — in flamingos.

Here's the idea. Suppose a bird is wired to fly one direction every fall and for some reason the wiring screws up so the animal goes 180 degrees the wrong way, exactly the opposite direction. This happens to a few birds in migrant populations every year. When she looked on a map, she noticed that the village of Vernemarkovo in Siberia, where the first bird landed, was roughly the opposite distance and the opposite direction from the flamingo's normal winter quarters in Iran.

So maybe what happened is a bunch of birds in 2003 and 2004 got turned around on their way to Iran, and flew exactly where they didn't want to go. By this logic, they weren't the first flamingos in Siberia and they won't be the last.

So this may not be a global warming story or a one-in-a-billion story or a winter miracle. It may be just a statistically predictable case of faulty wiring that brightened up the winter for two sets of boys in Siberia.

As for the birds, they got names: Phila and Phima, and a warm place to live at the Krasnayarsk Zoo, which they shared with a bunch of (imported) zoo flamingos. Until one of them got sick. We called the zoo and a spokesman told us that one of the birds died "after a long illness". One imagines the surviving flamingo quietly dreaming of warm nights in Persia, sipping pond-scum, their favorite food. The flamingos we know don't care much for borscht.


30 Students Interact With UFO

MUFON CMS - Bucks County, PA - Summer 1967 - unedited: During the summer of ’67 I went to a Performing Arts camp in Center Bridge, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Phil Woods conducted the jazz band and was married to Chan, former spouse of Charlie Parker.

One early evening a girl from the camp and I were headed to a wooded area and we couldn’t help but notice a bright pulsating light in the sky. It was miles off and moved randomly within a small section of sky and then it blinked off reappearing instantly in another small section of sky. From the time we saw it, it steadily got closer.

We watched it for a few minutes and then started running back to the main house to tell the others. On the driveway we were met by about 30 students running towards us. They had seen the light and were running to a high field to get a better look, so we turned around and headed for the field, and it got closer and closer.

It hovered above and down range a little without making a sound. It looked metallic, with bars of white lights singed with green on the underside edge of the saucer. I remember thinking that I am looking an aircraft that looked similar to the flying saucer from “The Earth Stood Still”.

After hovering for about a minute or two it moved to the other side of a tree line. It did this in a fluid motion, unlike before when its movements in the distant sky seemed like sometimes it blinked in and out of existence.

All of us ran out of the field to the other side of the tree line and there it was hovering closer to us. This lasted for about 20, 30 seconds and then it moved back over the trees. We ran back to the field and were awarded again with the craft hovering closer still.

This continued several more times, each time the saucer hovered closer. When it jumped over the trees again, *(Name deleted--CMS/sg) and I had had enough so we stayed in the field. When the saucer flew to the field again it hovered closer to us than it had before. The others ran back to the field where the UFO continued to hover for a little while and then it started moving off.