Human-Pig chimera is a step towards replacement organs


Human cells (green) differentiated into endoderm progenitors (red)

Every day, 22 people in America die while waiting for an organ transplant. But when scientists can grow replacement livers or kidneys or pancreases inside of animal hosts, medicine’s organ shortage may end. That’s the hope anyway—and this week there’s more reason to hope than ever that it might become reality.

❝ The key to producing human organs in other animals is the chimera, a mixture of cells from more than one species growing together as a single animal. For decades, researchers have struggled to coax Petri dishes of stem cells into functional, three-dimensional tissues and organs, hampered by technical challenges and political stonewalling. Now, two milestone papers have taken two big steps toward solving the chimeric riddle. Will you be ordering up a homo-porcine gallbladder on Amazon this time next year? No. No, definitely not. But researchers have done two things they’ve never done before: 1. Combine two large, distantly-related species into one embryo. And 2. Use organs from one species grown in another to actually treat disease…

❝ With other advances, scientists are hoping to do away with artificial insulin altogether. About 30 million Americans have diabetes; more than 3 million of them rely on artificial insulin to stay alive. Chimeras could potentially help those patients make their own insulin—and Hiromitsu Nakauchi, a stem-cell biologist at the University of Tokyo and Stanford, showed you can do just that in a paper published yesterday in Nature. At least, you can in rats. His team used genetic tweaks to prevent rats from making their own pancreases. Then they injected mouse stem cells (complete with all the necessary pancreas-making genes) into the developing pancreas-less rat embryos. The rats grew normally. The only thing different was their pancreases were made almost entirely of mouse cells.

Then they went a step further. From those rat-mouse chimeras, Nakauchi’s team took out tiny clusters of pancreatic cells that make insulin (called islets) and transplanted them into diabetic mice. The islets settled in and made enough insulin to keep the host mice’s blood glucose levels in a normal range for more than a year. In layman’s terms? The mice were cured. It’s the first time a chimera-created organ has ever treated a medical condition.

❝ …Scientists will have to improve human stem cells’ colonization of their animal hosts. The Salk team’s next hurdle is trying to embed one human cell in 1,000, or even 100 pig cells. “That’s when we can start thinking about practical applications,” says Wu. But that’s also when ethical questions start to become more urgent.

More urgent, that is, for people who consider religious ideology more important than keeping someone alive. Folks more concerned with the creation of new species or sub-species and the uses thereof – instead of reducing numbers in the thousands and more of individuals who have to die – are socially, criminally out of touch with human needs.

Milestone: Entire management team of the State Department has resigned

From Josh Rogin at the Washington POST

❝ Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job running the State Department just got considerably more difficult. The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior foreign service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.

❝ Tillerson was actually inside the State Department’s headquarters in Foggy Bottom on Wednesday, taking meetings and getting the lay of the land. I reported Wednesday morning that the Trump team was narrowing its search for his No. 2, and that it was looking to replace the State Department’s long-serving undersecretary for management, Patrick Kennedy. Kennedy, who has been in that job for nine years, was actively involved in the transition and was angling to keep that job under Tillerson, three State Department officials told me.

Then suddenly on Wednesday afternoon, Kennedy and three of his top officials resigned unexpectedly, four State Department officials confirmed. Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions, followed him out the door. All are career foreign service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations…

❝ In addition, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Gregory Starr retired Jan. 20, and the director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, Lydia Muniz, departed the same day. That amounts to a near-complete housecleaning of all the senior officials that deal with managing the State Department, its overseas posts and its people…

❝ Several senior foreign service officers in the State Department’s regional bureaus have also left their posts or resigned since the election. But the emptying of leadership in the management bureaus is more disruptive because those offices need to be led by people who know the department and have experience running its complicated bureaucracies. There’s no easy way to replace that via the private sector, said David Wade.

“Resist” comes in many flavors. Civil servants haven’t a lot of choices. Resigning is closest to the honorable definition of boycott.

In fact, this is closer to an expression of honest political clarity than anything I expect from Congress. While there will be a number of principled Congress-critters who will speak out and vote against Trump’s crap appointees, the overall votes will come down to obedient sheep in the Republican Party exercising their diminishing majority.

Trump executive order on Dakota Pipeline violates law and tribal treaties

standing-rock
Click to enlargePhoto/Sacred Stone Camp

❝ The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said…that President Donald Trump’s executive action towards an approval of an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline risks contaminating tribal and American water supplies while disregarding treaty rights. The Trump administration’s politically motivated decision violates the law and the Tribe will take legal action to fight it.

❝ The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers rejected DAPL’s request for an easement late last year, finding that the agency had failed to fully consider the impacts of the pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The Department of the Army pledged to conduct a full environmental review of the Missouri River crossing and evaluate alternative sites, which would not put the Tribe at risk of an oil spill. However, that environmental review would be circumvented under today’s Executive Memorandum, allowing the project to immediately resume construction.

❝ Trump’s press secretary said on Monday that Trump intended to approve the easement with an aim towards job creation. But tribal leaders note the bulk of pipeline jobs are in pipeline construction. The pipeline only creates a total of 15 permanent jobs in North Dakota. A reroute would protect the Tribe’s water and create hundreds of jobs, Chairman Dave Archambault II said.

Archambault said Trump’s decision appears to be a political payback. “By granting the easement, Trump is risking our treaty rights and water supply to benefit his wealthy contributors and friends at DAPL,” he said. “We are not opposed to energy independence. We are opposed to reckless and politically motivated development projects, like DAPL, that ignore our treaty rights and risk our water. Creating a second Flint does not make America great again.

Trump’s flexible racism has no problem treating Native Americans as criminally as he would treat Mexican immigrants. In his demented world, the right to profit supersedes any constitutional rights, all human rights.