Stem cell treatment for Parkinson’s moves closer to reality

Click on the graphic
for true size

In a major breakthrough for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, researchers working with laboratory rats show it is possible to make dopamine cells from embryonic stem cells and transplant them into the brain, replacing the cells lost to the disease.

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the gradual loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain. Dopamine is a brain chemical that, among other things, helps regulate movement and emotional responses.

There are no cures for Parkinson’s disease; there are drugs that ease symptoms, but none that slow it down. Deep brain stimulation can alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s in certain patients.

Human embryonic stem cells – precursor cells that have the potential to become any cell of the body – are a promising source of new dopamine cells, but they have proved difficult to harness for this purpose.

Now, a breakthrough study from Lund University in Sweden shows it is possible to get human embryonic stem cells to produce a new generation of dopamine cells that behave like native dopamine cells when transplanted into the brains of rats…

The team says the new cells show all the properties and functions of the dopamine neurons that are lost in Parkinson’s disease, and the potentially unlimited supply sourced from stem cell lines opens the door to clinical application…

Study leader Malin Parmar says – “These cells have the same ability as the brain’s normal dopamine cells to not only reach, but also to connect to their target area over longer distances. This has been our goal for some time, and the next step is to produce the same cells under the necessary regulations for human use.”

The team hopes the new cells will be ready for testing in human trials in about 3 years.

Fortunately these researchers don’t have to worry about the direction of their research being interrupted by elections. Scandinavia has their share of idjit parties; but, so far none of those espousing government by Christian Sharia has shown any sign of coming close to legislative dominance.

Anyone who has provided care for someone close, a family member, knows what a debilitating disease Parkinson’s becomes. We can only hope this will be one of those breakthroughs that provides a solid medical answer to despair.

Thanks, Mike

Police replaced by military in half the Mexican state of Tamaulipas

Mexican troops fanned out across the border state of Tamaulipas this weekend, taking over security operations in half the state’s cities and towns.

About 2,800 soldiers were deployed to 22 of 43 cities in the state, which borders Texas and is among the most violent in the country. The show of force came as President Felipe Calderon defended his drug war strategy in the face of mounting criticism from activists.

The soldiers took over policing duties in the state’s largest cities, including the capital, Ciudad Victoria, and the border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros…

However, a municipal official in Nuevo Laredo told CNN that local police have been taken off the streets in the 22 cities while they are investigated for corruption. Crooked cops are among the biggest obstacles to combating the country’s drug cartels. The official spoke anonymously due to the sensitivity of the subject. “Sensitivity”? He could be killed.

In Nuevo Laredo, the military influx was so large that the soldiers couldn’t find room in the city’s barracks and had to lodge in two hotels, the official said…

Other towns taken over by the military include San Fernando, where authorities found mass graves containing more than 200 bodies this year. They began finding the graves while investigating the kidnapping of passengers from a bus in late March.

San Fernando is also where last year, the bodies of 72 migrants from Central and South America were discovered at a ranch.

The Zetas drug cartel have been blamed for the mass graves and for the deaths of the migrants…

Ciudad Mier, San Fernando and the city of El Mante will also be the locations for soon-to-be-built military installations.

There aren’t a bunch of reasons left for anyone to cross the border into Mexico. I wouldn’t go to a Farmacia to buy medications at prices below the highway robbery authorized by Congress here in the States – except in daylight with a full tank of gas. That’s about it.

Green Tire chemistry with an assist from trees

Automobile owners around the world may some day soon be driving on tires that are partly made out of trees – which could cost less, perform better and save on fuel and energy.

Wood science researchers at Oregon State University have made some surprising findings about the potential of microcrystalline cellulose – a product that can be made easily from almost any type of plant fibers – to partially replace silica as a reinforcing filler in the manufacture of rubber tires.

A new study suggests that this approach might decrease the energy required to produce the tire, reduce costs, and better resist heat buildup. Early tests indicate that such products would have comparable traction on cold or wet pavement, be just as strong, and provide even higher fuel efficiency than traditional tires in hot weather.

“We were surprised at how favorable the results were for the use of this material,” said Kaichang Li, an associate professor of wood science and engineering in the OSU College of Forestry, who conducted this research with graduate student Wen Bai.

This could lead to a new generation of automotive tire technology, one of the first fundamental changes to come around in a long time,” Li said…

In the search for new types of reinforcing fillers that are inexpensive, easily available, light and renewable, OSU experts turned to microcrystalline cellulose – a micrometer-sized type of crystalline cellulose with an extremely well-organized structure. It is produced in a low-cost process of acid hydrolysis using nature’s most abundant and sustainable natural polymer – cellulose – that comprises about 40-50 percent of wood…

More research is needed to confirm the long-term durability of tires made with partial replacement of silica, Li said. Further commercial development of this technology by a tire manufacturer could be undertaken at any time, he said. The newest findings were just published in a professional journal, Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing.

As much as we’re headed towards success in replacing hydrocarbons in transportation, we ain’t getting rid of the wheel for a spell. Replacing carbon black and refined silica would be a boon.

Especially if the replacement comes from a renewable – instead of consumable raw materials.