; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Just the Facts?: Human Stem Cells Cloned From Skin Cells -- Rural Tennessee Crop Circle -- Weird Foreign Laws

Scientists successfully clone human stem cells via skin cells

Scientists have successfully changed skin cells into embryonic stem cells, marking the first time human stem cells were cloned by transferring the nucleus of another cell.

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and the Oregon National Primate Research Center (ONPRC) were able to create embryonic stem cells, which are valuable for research because they can be turned into any other cell type found in the body. Stem cells provide a way for scientists to look into replacing cells damaged through injury or illness or give them a way to treat different conditions through stem cell therapy.

The research was published online in Cell on May 15.

The researchers employed a method called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), where the nucleus of a skin cell -- the part of a cell that contains DNA -- is implanted into an egg cell that has had all of its genetic material scraped out. What's left is an unfertilized egg cell (with a skin cell nucleus), which then produces stem cells that can develop into many different types of cells found in the body.

Researchers were able to accomplish this because they found a way for the egg cell to stay in the "metaphase," a stage in the eukaryotic cell cycle where the chromosomes that carry genetic information are in the middle of the cell. This preparation step occurs right before the cell is split into two cells. By keeping the cells in metaphase, the researchers were able to scrape out the existing DNA and implant the skin cell's DNA much easier.

Dr. George Daley, a Harvard stem cell scientist who wasn't involved in the study, lauded the advance in science but pointed out to NPR that is likely to raise debate about the topic of cloning again.

However, because this method doesn't use fertilized egg cells, it is able to provide a middle ground for scientists without angering people who are opposed to using cells that can theoretically develop into fetuses.

Also, while this method can create cloned stem cells, known as therapeutic cloning, it probably will not be able to create full human clones, which is known as reproductive cloning. The researchers pointed out that we are far from that day, especially since related monkey studies have not produced a viable monkey clone. Also, human cells are very fragile, and may not be able to withstand the reproductive cloning process.

"Our research is directed toward generating stem cells for use in future treatments to combat disease," Mitalipov pointed out. "While nuclear transfer breakthroughs often lead to a public discussion about the ethics of human cloning, this is not our focus, nor do we believe our findings might be used by others to advance the possibility of human reproductive cloning."

Robin Lovell-Badge, head of developmental genetics at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, said to The Guardian that research like this legitimizes the work of therapeutic cloning as a scientific tool instead of something to be feared.

"It is an unsafe procedure in animals and it will similarly be an unsafe procedure in humans. For this reason alone it should not be attempted," said Lovell-Badge. "We are not just a product of our DNA, which is the only thing that is copied in cloning. Nurture and environment are at least as important in determining who we are, therefore cloning cannot be used to bring back a loved one."

Dieter Egli, an investigator at the New York Stem Cell Foundation, told TIME that he was impressed with the results. Egli was not involved in this study, but he was involved in cloning studies with human cells in 2011. He was able to produce human stem cells then, but they had twice the number of chromosomes.

"I think this is a really important advance," he said. "I have a very high confidence that versions of this technique will work very well; it's something that the field has been waiting for." - CBS News


Germany urges disclosure by pharmaceuticals firms

German Health Minister Daniel Bahr has called on the pharmaceuticals industry to disclose records it may still hold on secret medication trials once done in former East Germany and paid for by Western firms.

Bahr's call for disclosure follows claims by the German news magazine "Der Spiegel" that before the fall of communism in 1989 at least 50,000 patients were tested - many without their knowledge – during 600 drugs trials at 50 clinics.

The magazine said its findings were based on previously unpublished documents, including archives of the former East German Health Ministry. It said funding for an inquiry report would be provided by present-day Germany's interior ministry.

"I demand that the pharmacy industry support this process and contribute to transparency," Bahr said, adding that his own ministry did not have such data.

Heike Taubert, the health minister of Germany's eastern regional state of Thuringia, said aside from pharmaceuticals firms it was important to examine clinic archives to see if patients had been informed at the time that they were being subjected to tests with experimental drugs for ailments such as heart disease and depression.

Rainer Wagner, the chairman of an association representing victims of the former East German communist region, said the Spiegel report showed "how authorities in the unjust GDR state pursued Western money and had no moral scruples."

"Capitalist firms had exploited the situation for their own purposes," Wagner told the "Berliner Zeitung" newspaper. Victims should be compensated, he said.

German authorities have begun probes against former West German drug companies that allegedly used unknowing East German patients for testing. Lawmakers across the country's political spectrum are calling for justice. (13.05.2013)

On Tuesday, several pharmaceuticals firms, such as Novartis and Bayer, which in recent decades took over firms said by Spiegel to have been involved in the communist-era testing said at the time ethnical principles were adhered to.

On Monday, Berlin's renowned Charite hospital, which was the largest East German clinic before reunification, said it had launched its own historical probe into the claims.

"A proper scientific study is planned, but we are waiting for funding," said Charite spokeswoman Manuela Zingl. - DW

Murderous Medicine: Nazi Doctors, Human Experimentation, and Typhus

Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall


Crop circle appears in rural Tennessee

BLT Research has reported a crop circle found in a hay-field in rural Tennessee. The circle was found on May 13, 2013 in a field near the town of Gray, which is in northeastern Tennessee near the border with Virginia. Nancy Talbott, the president of BLT, says, “The design is reported as consisting of two ‘half-moon’ shapes facing in opposite directions connected by a ‘bar’ of some kind, with two complete circles ‘inside’ each of the half-moons.”

The circle is in high grass that has been reportedly pushed down, and there are no footsteps or vehicle tracks leading up to the formation. - OpenMinds

Secrets in the Fields: The Science and Mysticism of Crop Circles

Crop Circles, Gods and Their Secrets: History of Mankind Written in the Grain

The Heck Hypothesis: Crop Circle Insight
- Excellent source...Lon


Weird foreign laws

Ignorance may be bliss, but it can cause innocents abroad to unknowingly run afoul of local laws.

And there are plenty of legal oddities to run afoul of. Witness this list of top 10 unusual foreign laws compiled by GlobalVisas.com.

No word on how often these ordinances are actually enforced, but consider yourself warned.

It is illegal to:

1. Feed pigeons in St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy. The practice was outlawed in 2008, much to the dismay of seed vendors there, because the historical buildings (and many sightseers) were bearing the brunt of the byproduct.

2. Run out of gas in Germany. More precisely, it's verboten to stop on the nation's fast-paced autobahns, where German motorists tend to get all Fahrvergnugen behind the wheel.

3. Drive while wearing flip-flops in Spain. It's also illegal to drive with groceries on the back seat of a convertible. Best to stay on your toes no matter what's on your feet.

4. Spit in public in Barcelona. Not a bad call, and one a few more cities might want to consider.

5. Wear high heels at Greek archaeological sites such as the Acropolis. Pointy heels pierce the delicate "skin" of these antiquities, officials determined in 2008 when they first sought the ban. Indeed, stilettos can transmit more pressure per square inch than an elephant, experts say.

6. Drive in Scandinavia during daylight without headlights switched on. The reasoning behind the law is sound: Daylight hours are limited during long northern winters.

7. Chew gum in Singapore. The government instituted the ban in 1992 in response to sticky wads gumming up the subway system and other public spots. It has resisted occasional calls to revoke the ban, though medically therapeutic gum is OK.

8. Eat during Ramadan in the United Arab Emirates. Muslims abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset during the month of Ramadan. And non-believers are expected to follow suit. Same goes for Saudi Arabia, where offending foreigners can get their visas canceled for the infraction.

9. Step on currency in Thailand. Thai baht bear the picture of the King of Thailand.
Defaming, insulting or threatening the royal family is illegal — and so is stepping on paper currency.

10. Pee in the ocean in Portugal. No word on whether anyone has ever actually gotten busted for this. - USA Today