Stem cell genetic manipulation produces functioning liver cells

Sanger Institute

British scientists have developed a new stem cell technique for growing working liver cells which could eventually avoid the need for costly and risky liver transplants.

A team of researchers led by the Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge used cutting-edge methods to correct a genetic mutation in stem cells derived from a patient’s skin biopsy, and then grew them into fresh liver cells. By putting the new liver cells into mice, they showed they were fully functioning…

At a briefing about the work, Allan Bradley, director of the Sanger Institute, said the technique — the first success of its kind — leaves behind no trace of the genetic manipulation, except for the gene correction…

In Wednesday’s study, published in the journal Nature, the British team took skin cells from a patient with a mutation in a gene called alpha1-antitrypsin, which is responsible for making a protein that protects against inflammation.

People with mutant alpha1-antitrypsin are not able to release the protein properly from the liver, so it becomes trapped there and eventually leads to liver cirrhosis and lung emphysema. This is one of the most common inherited liver and lung disorders and affects about one in 2,000 people of North European origin…

Having harvested the skin cells, the scientists reprogrammed them back into stem cells and then used a type of “molecular scissor” technique…to snip the cells’ genome at precisely the right place and insert a correct version of the gene…

The leftover…sequences were then removed from the cells, cleaning them up and allowing them to be converted into liver cells without any trace of residual DNA damage at the site of the genetic correction.

We then turned those cells into human liver cells and put them in a mouse and showed that they were viable,” David Lomas, a Cambridge professor of respiratory biology who also worked on the team…

The researchers said it could be another five to 10 years before full clinical trials of the technique could be run using patients with liver disease. But if they succeed, liver transplants — costly and complicated procedures where patients need a lifetime of drugs to ensure the new organ is not rejected — could become a thing of the past.


The possibilities of longer, healthier life enabled by stem cell research continue to burgeon in most nations with the common sense to realize the usefulness of modern medical science. There are only a handful of nations where positive science is hindered or runs the risk of censorship depending on election cycles.

I imagine you can guess which nations fill the latter definition.

Brits’ biggest clothing retailer selling bras for nine-year-old girls

What parents want for their little girls varies from household to household

A bra for nine-year-olds is going on sale to cater for the growing number of girls reaching puberty at an early age.

The parenting website Mumsnet helped create the design to reflect the views of parents that children should not dress provocatively at such a young age. The result is the modest Fleur First bra from Tesco and comes after the chain was previously accused of sexualising young girls through its clothing ranges.

Britain’s biggest retailer was criticised for selling pole-dancing kits and padded bras to young girls.

The concept comes as international research indicates that girls now reach puberty around one year earlier than 20 years ago, at nine years and 10 months. Obesity and changes in eating habits have been linked to the shift…

Mumsnet founder Carrie Longton added: “First bras are always a sensitive subject. The Fleur First bras are a great example of a responsible retailer listening to what parents want.

The bra is priced at £5 and comes in two styles – a crop top sports bra in size extra small to medium and a traditional soft triangle shape from sizes 28AAto 34B and they are neither padded nor wired.

Jan Marchant, Tesco Clothing Design Director, said: “Our decision to work with Mumsnet for the development of the Fleur first bras was about reaching out to more parents and asking them directly what they wanted for their daughters.”

It’s also about covering your butt in case you get hollered at by your favorite friendly neighborhood fundamentalist….[insert Baptist, Presbyterian, Free Church, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox whatever – as needed].

Legalizing marijuana tops “We the People” list facing White House

Forget jobs and spending cuts. Ask around online, and it seems Americans just want the right to get high.

Marijuana legalization has been the top issue on the White House’s new “We the People” petition site since it launched last month as a way for citizens to lobby for issues that matter most to them.

The marijuana petition already has more than 55,000 signatures — 20,000 more than any other issue on the site and much more than the 25,000-signature threshold administrators set to warrant an official response. The White House has not yet responded to the marijuana petition.

And so it has been each time the Obama administration engaged voters online: Marijuana legalization was among the most popular questions raised on Twitter, YouTube and, the president’s transition site…

“The political mind is pretty simple: What can you do for me, what can you do to harm me. … We’re not effectively casting that in either direction,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which started the White House petition…

“We are not nearly as organized [or wealthy enough] to put together the type of donations and PACs that arrest and immediately catch the attention of the elite body politic,” St. Pierre said.

Obama and all the other safe and secure ideologues need to realize that the majority of the American electorate know from experience that marijuana is no more of a public danger than beer – and probably less than a lot of other deleterious substances from cigarettes to PAC commercials.

What happens to transparency when the people speak and the president thinks its a joke?

Cancer fears keep scientists from toxic beach – open to the public

Ministry of Defence (MoD) scientists have refused to analyse radioactive contamination from Dalgety Bay in Fife because of the risk it could give them cancer…

The MoD has been resisting demands to pay for a clean-up of the pollution from old military planes for the last 20 years. It has persistently played down the possible health effects for members of the public…

Yesterday, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) found another 33 particles of radioactive pollution on the foreshore at Dalgety Bay, a few metres from a public footpath. One of them was small enough to be swallowed by a child, and was sufficiently radioactive to be a “cause for concern”, according to Sepa.

Last weekend, SEPA dug up a lump of radioactive metal near the footpath that was 10 times more radioactive that anything found before, and a serious hazard. As a result, a section of the foreshore has been cordoned off by Fife Council, and warning signs erected.

Since September, SEPA has found and removed more than 100 radioactive particles from near the footpath and from around the slipway of a popular local yachting club. That brings the total number found on the foreshore since 1990 to more than 1800.

Dalgety Bay was the site of the old Donibristle military airfield, where a large number of aircraft were dismantled after the end of the second world war. The dials in the planes were painted with luminous, radioactive radium so they could be read at night. The dials were incinerated and the resulting clinker dumped as landfill to help reclaim part of the headland on the bay. Radioactive contamination in the area was discovered by accident in 1990…

The MoD’s fear of working with the contamination has been uncovered by the minutes of a meeting in Edinburgh of the Dalgety Bay Risk Assessment Group in March 2009…

“It was unbelievable,” said Paul Dale yesterday. “They were saying that it would be hazardous for scientists, but not for children on the beach…”

The MoD’s refusal to monitor the pollution meant that SEPA had to conduct its own surveys, resulting in the recent finds. Sepa’s scientists will return to the foreshore today, and later this week, to check for more contamination.

Almost 20 years after discovery of radioactive contamination at the beach, the Ministry of Defense is still trying to stonewall responsibility, public concerns and avoid spending a penny on legitimate concerns for public safety.

Seems perfectly reasonable to me. After all, I live downhill from the National Laboratories at Los Alamos. This is standard behavior from the designers and manufacturers of death and destruction.

Americans already starting to hack Nissan’s Electric Leaf

Within weeks of when Nissan first began delivering the Leaf to buyers last December, do-it-yourselfers were looking for ways to make the new electric car — an engineering marvel from one of the world’s leading automakers — even better.

Phil Sadow, an independent engineering consultant…is the sort of innovator that makes such upheavals happen.

His contribution sounds innocent enough: he adapted the 120-volt charging cord that comes as standard equipment in the Leaf so it can handle a 240-volt charge. This reduces recharge times to less than eight hours, from about 20, and it lets Leaf drivers plug the Nissan charging cord into any 240-volt household outlet, typically used for appliances like clothes dryers.

Mr. Sadow’s project was inspired by his outrage over E.V. owners’ being billed as much as $6,000 to install 240-volt charging equipment. These home units, he says, with their fancy industrial designs and Wi-Fi capability, are more complex than necessary.

“If you look at your average Walgreens $10 hair dryer, it comes with almost all the same equipment as required by an E.V. cord,” he said…

With Mr. Sadow’s $239 modification, the charging cord that comes with the Leaf will replenish the battery pack at the full capacity of the car’s onboard 3.3-kilowatt charger. It can be plugged into a 240-volt outlet or combined with another device, called a Quick-220, that uses two 110-volt outlets on separate circuits…

The E.V. cord should be as simple as a garden hose,” he said…

But are these electronic engineers hackers? Mr. Sadow rejects the term, seeing himself and others as helping to find more cost-effective solutions to building E.V. infrastructure — not to mention doing something Americans have done with their cars for more than a century.

“I don’t like the term hacking because it’s been portrayed by the media as something evil,” he said. “To me, hacking is actually very American. Go out to the garage. Take it apart. Make it better.”

Rock on, Mr. Sadow. Nissan has recognized the reality of his tweaks and reduced the cost of their “factory-approved” cord system by 70%. Of course, Americans will fiddle with factory settings – and those with the most technical skills will produce modifications that make systems run better. That’s what real hacking is all about.