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5 posts from September 2011

September 29, 2011

The skinny on stem cells and weight loss

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Please read it on its new home, Signals BlogThe skinny on stem cells and weight loss

September 21, 2011

Should the fight against bogus stem cell therapies be turned back to the lab?

by Lisa Willemse

This morning's news scan turned up yet another sad tale about the dangers of unproven stem cell therapies and a warning to consumers to once again be skeptical of the claims made by the many unscrupulous clinics operating abroad. For the most part, the article echoes repeated calls made on this blog and numerous other sources, including the ISSCR's Closer Look at Stem Cells, to draw more attention to the issue of "stem cell tourism" in hopes of reducing the numbers of patients paying for such potentially harmful treatments.

Interestingly, I also had an email in my inbox today that contained a recently published paper in EMBO reports that addresses the same topic, albeit in a very different fashion. The authors of the paper, Zubin Master and David Resnik, argue that stem cell scientists could do more to curb stem cell tourism in the face of the questionable success gained from such public education initiatives such as Closer Look at Stem Cells. In fact, the authors suggest that in the case of stem cell tourism, a successful strategy requires the active involvement of scientists.

Continue reading "Should the fight against bogus stem cell therapies be turned back to the lab?" »

September 14, 2011

The quest for eternal youth: Atwood v. Smith

by David Kent

A prize-winning author sits down in an Edinburgh pub across from a world famous stem cell biologist. Together they begin to ponder mankind’s desire for eternal youth. Though it may sound like the first lines of a joke, it is the opening scene of a documentary film, supported by the UK’s Wellcome Trust. Oddly enough, this film represented a collision of my seemingly polar worlds.

As many of my readers know, I hold a Genetics/English degree, and this opening scene was a bizarre blending of both -– Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood vs. Cambridge stem cell biologist Austin Smith. As their conversation progresses throughout the film, one cannot help but become acutely aware of the highly relevant casting choices -– Atwood often writes about the potential consequences of science/technology (e.g.: Oryx and Crake, Year of the Flood) and Smith is at the very leading edge of some of the most exciting advances in pluripotent stem cell biology. 

This full length feature, entitled Stem Cell Revolutions:
A Vision of the Future, is a snapshot of the current state of stem cell technologies and offers some insight into how we arrived here and where the field might take us. It was created by science producer Clare Blackburn and Director/Producer Amy Hardie, the same filmmakers that created the acclaimed Eurostemcell short films: A stem cell story, Conversations: ethics, science, stem cells, Cell Culture, Dolly and beyond.

Continue reading "The quest for eternal youth: Atwood v. Smith" »

September 08, 2011

A researcher’s guide to stem cell ethics

Ethicswebsitescreenshot While ethical considerations can sometimes appear to take a back seat to lab results within the world of research, they are an integral part of any successful project -– or project proposal. Stem cell research is no exception –- in fact, given the vibrant and, at times, controversial history of this field, stem cell research has been used as an example of best practices in cross-disciplinary research, which includes ethics.

Despite this integration of ethics within stem cell research, for most lab researchers, it’s not always obvious where they ought to be applied. Recently, the W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics at the University of British Columbia, led by Dr. Michael McDonald, developed a stem cell ethics web site that can be used by Canadian and international researchers and trainees. The site is a useful starting point on the ethical aspects of stem cell research and presents a huge array of topics from the ethical use of tissues to the commercialization of stem cell research. For those new to the field, the site can answer questions about the ethics of publishing your work, the ethical review process, or the protection of animal and human subjects.

The content of site, as well as its various functions, reflect the needs and perspectives of stem cell community members. These views were determined through an extensive two-year ethics needs assessment that sought to identify ethical issues regarding stem cell research by drawing feedback from those actively involved in the field in Canada. As part of the assessment, the research team completed interviews, focus groups and an online survey with trainees, principal investigators, research ethics board members, and governance experts from across Canada. All results were analyzed to identify significant themes and topics that were then used to inform the web site content. The final validated list of 13 themes are the ones that appear on the site.


September 02, 2011

Lasting memories of a pancreatic beta cell

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Please read this article on its new home, Signals BlogLasting memories of a pancreatic beta cell