Headline Feb 13, 2016/ ''' *THE MIRACULOUS PROMISE OF STEM CELLS '''



DESCRIBING HIS ARROGANT former student  -Robert Oppenheimer, who went on to create the atomic bomb.

Max Brown wrote, ''I have never suffered as much with anybody as with him.'' Steve Jobs, bless his soul, built that shiny piece of glass and metal in your pocket by making his employees cry.

It's unclear which of James Watson's crime is worse believing the Anglo-Saxon mind is superior to the African mind or proudly telling people that. The New Yorker said it in the very first line of its profile on Craig venter: 

''Craig Venter is an asshole.''  And they were right. 

The road to the twenty-first century was bulldozed by assholes.

Dr. Anthony Atala, the Master Scientist, is a very nice man. He is preternaturally patient. He pushes himself but not others. Every phone conversation begins the same.way, whether he's talking to someone from DARPA or an NIH official or an old acquaintance.

Or look at him on a January evening at Winston-Salem. Atala. operated early this morning on a little boy suffering from a torsion who came to the hospital dressed as  Woody  from  Toy Story, miniature cowboy, miniature cowboy boots, miniature cowboy hat.

Then a full day at the lab, a rushed lunch meeting, an interview with a potential new hire, a call about research country from the Navy, another meeting, another phone-call, another meeting...........His BlackBerry and beeper are looped through his belt, accessories of a different life.

Atala says there are two ways of doing science today. There are the brash aggressive scientists who rush to press conferences and rush to publication. And then there's the other way.

''Everything we've done, if you look at the patients that had bladders put in.....we had up to an eight-year follow up before anyone ever heard anything about it. And we certainly did the same thing with the amniotic cells. We worked on them for ten years before we published the work.''

Later this year he'll publish a paper on a new organ that has succeeded through years of clinical trials. It will likely make news around the world when it comes out. But for now, he's silent.

''It's not about, you know, all the other stuff,'' he says. That's how he describes politics and hype    -all that other stuff. ''We want to get these into patients. The best way to get these into patients is to do it carefully, judiciously, and responsibly. And to be able to make sure that long term we can get there.'' 

*Scientist Dr. Anrhony Atala is no asshole*.

But you can't help but wonder what might have happened during the past fifteen years on Capital Hill if he were.

It's been many years since the bill to fund Atala's bank were killed on Capitol Hill. In that time many believed Atala's amniotic stem-cells would be proven outdated relics from an earlier scientific age.

First because by unlocking the federal coffers, the true power of embryonic stem cells would finally be realized and eclipse what Atala's stem cells are capable of. 

And later by the promise of new, even more sophisticated iterations of embryonic stem cells.

Soon after Atala's paper was published in 2007, the scientific world was upended by the discovery in Japan of  ''induced pluripotent''  stem cells, or iPS cells. By adding four genes to an adult skin cell, a scientist managed to trick them into turning back into embryonic stem cells, Benjamin Buttoning them in an instant.

In theory, iPS cells could be derived from patients, so there would be no issues with rejection. And because they appeared to be identical embryonic stem cells, they could be potentially be used in more applications than could amniotic stem cells.

But time passes. Excitement must be tempered, tested, challenged. Like embryonic stem cells, iPS cells are inclined to form tumors, raising similar barriers to clinical applications. And while they appear to be genetic, copies of the cell from which they're derived, they may not always be treated that way by the body.

In 2011, a scientist at the University of California, San Diego, injected both embryonic and iPS cells into mice. Both sets of stem cells were genetically identical to the mice, and yet inexplicably only the iPS cells were rejected. 

Recently research has somewhat tempered these immunological concerns. But it remains far from certain whether the roguish tendencies of iPS cells can in fact be tamed for clinical use. 
Many scientists still believe that iPS cells are the future, especially when it comes to treating disease. For instance, Dr. George Daley, at Boston Children's Hospital, created iPS-cell lines from people suffering from Parkinson's, Huffington's, and other genetic ailments.

He watches these  ''diseases in a dish''   develop and tests the effectiveness and toxicity of  different drugs and antibodies against them, a method some big pharma companies are now trying.

So you can blame the federal government for never putting financial support behind embryonic stem-cell-research. Or private industry for stifling the progress by locking up advances and stem-cell lines with patents.

Or the FDA for making the rules for bringing stem-cell    treatment to market prohibitive. Or maybe you can simply concede that mastering the biology of getting embryonic stem cells to do what you want without forming the tumors was much harder than expected.

Regardless, one thing is becoming clear a decade and half after their discovery. *The miraculous promise of stem cells may come true yet*.

With respectful dedication to all the Research Scientists, Students, Professors and Teachers of the World. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society and Ecosystem 2011.

''' You Can't Rank Any Higher than This '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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