Mini hearts added to veins and used as supplemental pumps to treat circulatory problems

When someone has chronic venous insufficiency, it means that because of faulty valves in their leg veins, oxygen-poor blood isn’t able to be pumped back to their heart. The George Washington University’s Dr. Narine Sarvazyan has created a possible solution, however – a beating “mini heart” that’s wrapped around the vein, to help push the blood through.

The mini heart takes the form of a cuff of rhythmically-contracting heart tissue, made by coaxing the patient’s own adult stem cells into becoming cardiac cells. When one of those cuffs is placed around a vein, its contractions aid in the unidirectional flow of blood, plus it helps keep the vein from becoming distended. Additionally, because it’s grown from the patient’s own cells, there’s little chance of rejection.

So far, the cuffs have been grown in the lab, where they’ve also been tested. Soon, however, Sarvazyan hopes to conduct animal trials, in which the cuffs are actually grown on the vein, in the body.

We are suggesting, for the first time, to use stem cells to create, rather than just repair damaged organs,” she said. “We can make a new heart outside of one’s own heart, and by placing it in the lower extremities, significantly improve venous blood flow…”

Day-dreaming about a storehouse of replacement parts. This is not only possible – but likely. Just not in my lifetime. Sigh.

Hobby Lobby hypocrisy – invested in contraceptives they would deny to employee health plan

When Obamacare compelled businesses to include emergency contraception in employee health care plans, Hobby Lobby, a national chain of craft stores, fought the law all the way to the Supreme Court. The Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, the company’s owners argued, forced them to violate their religious beliefs. But while it was suing the government, Hobby Lobby spent millions of dollars on an employee retirement plan that invested in the manufacturers of the same contraceptive products the firm’s owners cite in their lawsuit.

Documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012—three months after the company’s owners filed their lawsuit—show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby makes large matching contributions to this company-sponsored 401(k)…

These companies include Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which makes Plan B and ParaGard, a copper IUD, and Actavis, which makes a generic version of Plan B and distributes Ella. Other holdings in the mutual funds selected by Hobby Lobby include Pfizer, the maker of Cytotec and Prostin E2, which are used to induce abortions; Bayer, which manufactures the hormonal IUDs Skyla and Mirena; AstraZeneca, which has an Indian subsidiary that manufactures Prostodin, Cerviprime, and Partocin, three drugs commonly used in abortions; and Forest Laboratories, which makes Cervidil, a drug used to induce abortions. Several funds in the Hobby Lobby retirement plan also invested in Aetna and Humana, two health insurance companies that cover surgical abortions, abortion drugs, and emergency contraception in many of the health care policies they sell.

Nice to see primary source acknowledgement of one of my favorite dichos criticizing right-wing scumbags. “Republicans would have invented hypocrisy if Christians hadn’t beat them to it.”

UN Court orders Japan to halt whaling in southern waters

The decision to ban Japan’s annual whaling drive off Antarctica, handed down by the United Nations’ highest court on Monday, was a hard-won victory for conservationists who long argued that Tokyo’s whaling research was a cover for commercial whaling.

The ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague halts a Japanese program that has captured more than 10,000 minke and other whales in the Southern Ocean each year since 1988 in the name of biological research.

A lie.

Japan may not be ready to lay down its harpoons entirely. Though the ruling is final, it allows the Japanese to continue to hunt whales under a redesigned program, said Nanami Kurasawa, who heads a marine conservation group in Tokyo.

And the court’s decision does not affect smaller hunts that Japan carries out in the northern Pacific, or coastal whaling carried out on a smaller scale by local fishermen…

In a 12-to-4 judgment, the court found that Japan was in breach of its international obligations by catching and killing minke whales and issuing permits for hunting humpback and fin whales within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, established by the International Whaling Commission.

Reading a summary of the judgment, the presiding judge, Peter Tomka of Slovakia, said that the latest Japanese program, which was expanded in 2005, had involved the killing of thousands of minke whales and a number of fin whales, but that its “scientific output to date appears limited.” The ruling suggested that Japan’s whaling hunt was based on politics and logistics, rather than science…

Australia, a former whaling country, brought the suit against Japan in 2010, accusing the country of using a loophole to get around a 1986 worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling.

…Japan’s whaling program has struggled financially in recent years, as more Japanese consumers turn up their noses at whale meat and as environmental activists chasing whaling boats make the hunts more difficult. Hunts in recent years have relied on public subsidies, including money drawn from funds earmarked for Japan’s post-tsunami reconstruction.

Some critics said that Monday’s decision presented Japan with an opportunity to bow out of a practice that has become a drain on its finances, as well as a blow to its image abroad.

I think the Japanese politicians who constructed and defended the programmatic lie of scientific research to justify the annual whale slaughter should be converted to a diet of bat soup. From Guinea.

Naval Lab hosts robot firefighter research


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The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory…recently hosted robotics research teams from Virginia Tech and the University of Pennsylvania to demonstrate the most current developments of advanced autonomous systems to assist in discovery, control, and damage control of incipient fires.

The Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) autonomous robot is capable of finding and suppressing shipboard fires and working seamlessly with human firefighters. The objective of SAFFiR is to develop human-centric, autonomous systems for fire safety and damage control, reducing damage to Navy ships at sea and decreasing the recovery time…

Fighting fires, inherent by its extreme unpredictability, high temperatures, and rapid decline of environmental and structural integrities, can at times prove challenging to even the most seasoned firefighting veteran. Add to this scenario a cloistered platform, say many levels down inside a seagoing ship, and the challenge is exponentially increased resulting in extreme risks to human life. Yet, given these risks, a shipboard fire must be contained and extinguished for the safety of the crew and continued mission readiness of the ship.

To mitigate these risks, NRL researchers…are working with university researchers to develop advanced firefighting technologies for shipboard fires using humanoid robots…

This highly specialized research, to promote advanced firefighting techniques, includes development of the novel robotic platform and fire-hardened materials…algorithms for perception and navigation autonomy…human-robot interaction technology, and computational cognitive models that will allow the robotic firefighter to work shoulder-to-shoulder and interact naturally with naval firefighters

…Students demonstrated the complex motion, agility, and walking algorithms of the robots over natural and manmade terrain and simulated shipboard sea state (pitch and roll) conditions. Also demonstrated were ‘seek-and-find’ algorithms for locating a fire emergency, in this case an open flame, and the use of ‘artificial muscle’ for the lifting and activation of fire suppression equipment, such as opening a water valve, lifting and walking with a fire hose, and activating a nozzle…

Later this year, the robotic teams are expecting to conduct shipboard trials onboard the Navy’s only full-scale fire test ship, the ex-USS Shadwell, moored in Mobile, Alabama.

We have regular readers in that neck of the prairie I’ll make certain are apprised of the tests. Should be way cool. Or hot as the case may be.

Thanks, Mike