Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Prove You're a Human!

Alright, this drives me really crazy. You are a visually impaired blogger but you put a captcha on your blog to filter spam comment. Next I know, I will have to decipher a captcha even for viewing some posts. Please stop using challenge-response systems for comments. No one likes spam. But you can moderate your comments instead of putting a captcha. And if you didn't know they have figured out how to bypass captcha.

There is no dearth of CAPTCHA on the web. I've a plethora  of those squished, squiggly, irksome letters to deal with for payment gateways. And of course, every time I forget a password of my nth account, I am sent straight to the captcha gallows. (breach of some electronic code of conduct?). And if entering correct password wasn't enough, I'm given a 10 minute captcha treatment for even changing system. What is next? Browsing habit? Say if I login at 4 am to Facebook on a weekday!?!

Sometimes I wonder if the new technology is rather creating more accessibility issues.

June 25, 2012, Update - I guess I was just high on irk quotient that day. Even simple navigation is quite a challenge if you have low vision, so troubleshooting is obviously tedious. Lot of my low vision friends may not know that captchas can be disabled! We get so used to seeing them everywhere anyway.

 To disable word verification for blogger comments, go to your blog settings > Posts and comments and disable "show word verification" option. You can still avoid spam by selecting comment moderation.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I read 3 books in one week, roughly some 1000 pages (after work, in transit, waiting for friends in cafes, on roadside because I didn't want to go home). I've not read as much in such short period after university days. I'm surprised.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Advances in Stem Cell Therapies

More advances in stem cell therapies with every passing day. Stroke patients show signs of improvement in earlyy phase clinical trials in Scotland. A ten year old girl gets vein growth from her own stem cells. ReNeuron to present the pre-clinical data related to its ReN009 therapy for critical limb ischaemia, a chronic and debilitating disease that restricts blood flow in the limbs at a major stem cell a conference in Japan this week.

Optimal way of growing embryonic stem cells

A team of European researchers discovered that embryonic stem cell properties are impacted by the laboratory conditions used to grow them. The study, supported by four EU projects - HEROIC, PLURISYS, EUROSYSTEM and ATLAS - evaluated the gene expansion (transcriptome) and chromatin modifications (epigenome). The results show differences between pure stem cells and embryonic stem cells grown in laboratory conditions. Stem cells being both unstable and primed to differentiate, the researchers now know the key information on what is the optimal way of growing them. The transcriptome analysis allows scientists to identify which genes are turned on or off inside the cells. The gene's level of activity is also calculated through this method. The epigenome analysis provides researchers insight into how genes are controlled.

Human embryonic stem cells may be totipotent

Another study led at Salk Institute uncovered that a small number of human embryonic stem cells believed to be pluripotent may be totipotent. Totipotent stem cells have the potential to develop into any cell found in the human body, including placental cells. Whereas Pluripotent stem cells cannot produce "extraembryonic" cells such as those in the placenta. More information on this study here.

Funding problems: Scientists urge EU parliament to not cut funding

Leading researchers, institutions and patient groups urged EU parliament not to cut funding for embryonic stem cell research in Horizon 2020. With Europe and UK being world leaders in embryonic stem cell research, any cuts will seriously jeopardize the future of stem cell research. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"It will be years before there are treatments made from stem cells on the shelves."

I'm out of town. Just a quick post with a link to quite an informative article on stem cell clinical trials development.  Here is the link to the main article : Stem cell scientists take hope from first human trials but see long road ahead

Even though the stem cell research has come a long way from the first discovery of embryonic cells in 1989 to clinical trials today, we might need to wait several more years before we can find on-the-shelf treatment for a lot of currently untreatable diseases like Parkinson's disease, Type 1 diabetes, Chronic liver disease and heart diseases and ofcourse Stargardt's disease.

A lot still depends on the outcome of the  world's first human trial using RPE (retinal pigment epithelium) cells from stem cells derived from humon embryos. In phase one trial earlier this year, some Stargardt's and Age-related macular degeneration patients were injected with a tiny amount of RPE cells (50,000). Patients have reported small improvement that have nonetheless significantly changed their lives.  The chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology Inc., Dr Robert Lanza thinks that "It is very hopeful if we are seeing this with a small number of cells at the very advanced stage, imagine what we could do with those young children who are going blind at the age of six to 10, sometimes."

Although the patients treated with the stem cell trial are taking precautionary drugs, they might not need to take immuno-suppressant drugs for lifelong unlike most transplant patients. Eyes are "immune privilleged" and "can better tolerate a graft of human tissue without the immune system mounting an all-out attack and causing rejection" says Prof Pete Coffey, of the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London,

Ethical Problem and Funding issues

From the start, there has been strong political opposition on the use of embryonic stem cells. The destruction of an embryo is viewed as tantamount to murder of an early staged human life .And it violates the belief system that life begins when a sperm cell fertilizes an egg cell to form a single cell.  The opposition in Europe led to European court's ban on stem-cell patents in Europe in October last year. This means that any future clinical trials or research in stem cell therapy would not be protected in Europe. As a result, the biotech companies supporting stem cell research are facing serious funding challenges from investors. There is still strong views from political parties to stop European funding.
IPS cells vs Embryo cells

Despite the more recent advance regarding induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS), which are cells from skin or other parts of the patient's own body, IPS cells still remain an unworkable, enormously expensive and unrealistic solution in comparison to embryonic stem cells as of today.

"The embryonic cells are affordable and "you can treat many people with one batch of cells. That makes it somehow conceivable that it could be economically viable for the healthcare system.". ACT's Lanza says they have enough RPE to treat everybody on the planet.""

Embryonic/IPS cells vs Mice cells

Scientists believe that a great deal of research is still required because both embryonic and IPS cells are not the same as the true embroyinc cells from the mice.
"Mice embryonic stem cells, which have been used in so much early stage research, appear to be slower than human embryonic cells to divide and differentiate. Basically, the human cells taken from a blastocyst (a five- or six-day embryo) have already moved on to the next stage, where equivalent mouse cells have not. That makes it hard to produce standardised cells that will all, for instance, make exactly the same nerve cells. There have been some partial successes but, says Smith, "we don't have a human cell either from an embryo or re-programmed that is held at this ground state." Taking cells at an earlier moment in the blastocyst development won't work, he says. "It is not the starting point that is important. The biology is subtly different between rodents and primates.""

Outcome of First safety trials in human

There is a lot of hope in the scientific community on the current stem cell clinical trials to cure Stargardt's Disease. Positive outcome will also mean that human embryonic stem cell trials for other diseases like Parkinson's and diabetes could also begin in next 4-5 years.No damage has been so far reported by Advanced Cell Technology for those who were treated with RPE cells.