Rappler news article: Health chief flip-flops on support for stem cell treatment

19 Aug
This relates to our topic on genetic engineering and the ethical issues for the use of stem cells for medical purposes. This news article shows how there is a debate over stem cell treatment in the country.
Link to the news article from rappler: http://www.rappler.com/nation/36651-ona-stem-cell-therapy-regulation


CLARIFICATION. Health Secretary Enrique Ona writes to a newspaper that his published speech is not the final word on stem cell therapy regulation. File photo by Rappler/Naoki MenguaCLARIFICATION. Health Secretary Enrique Ona writes to a newspaper that his published speech is not the final word on stem cell therapy regulation. File photo by Rappler/Naoki Mengua MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Enrique Ona has clarified that his speech published in ThePhilippine Star as a full-page advertisement should not be misconstrued as the end-all, be-all pronouncement on the issue of stem cell therapy regulation. The controversial speech categorized stem cell therapy as part of “innovative therapy,” whereas clinical trials or thorough drug testing locally may be evaded in the meantime for the sake of innovation. It was delivered by Ona on August 12, during the 1st mid-year convention of the Philippine Society for Stem Cell Medicine (PSSCM). The full-page ad appeared on August 14. READ: Stem cell debate: innovation or safety? The published copy of Ona’s speech was labeled with the words “Stem Cell: The Final Word.” Ona, however, wanted to dispel “any confusion” caused by the advertisement’s label. “In the keynote message, there was no mention or any insinuation that the said pronouncement was the ‘Final Word on Stem Cell’,” the health chief wrote the newspaper. Not final NOT THE FINAL WORD. Health Secretary Enrique Ona clarifies that his published speech is not the final word on the issue of stem cell therapy regulation.NOT THE FINAL WORD. Health Secretary Enrique Ona clarifies that his published speech is not the final word on the issue of stem cell therapy regulation. Ona added that the agency is willing to consider various stances on the controversial therapy. “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Department of Health is willing to listen to stakeholders to assess their positions on the issue of stem cell therapy,” he explained. Criticized Earlier, the secretary was criticized for the content of his speech and for his pronouncement that has allowed in the meantime the conduct of the treatment even without the FDA’s approval of stem cell products. On Thursday, August 15, Rep Paulino Salvador “Doy” Leachon of Oriental Mindoro’s 1st district called for Ona’s resignation unless the Cabinet official changes his stand. READ: Leachon asks Ona to resign over stem cell issue When Rappler sought Ona for a comment on the congressman’s call, the health secretary’s office referred us to the PSSCM speech that Ona now says is not final. Leachon also called for a congressional probe into the issue. The lawmaker’s brother, a Department of Health (DOH) consultant, resigned from his post in the agency at the height of the controversy as a sign of dissent to Ona’s stand of allowing stem cell treatment for unproven therapeutic purposes. 'NOT FIT AS DOH CHIEF.' Rep Paulino 'Doy' Leachon previously called for Enrique Ona's resignation over the DOH chief's pronouncement in his PSSCM speech allowing stem cell therapy without clinical trials for the sake of innovation. Photo by Rappler/Jom Tolentino‘NOT FIT AS DOH CHIEF.’ Rep Paulino ‘Doy’ Leachon previously called for Enrique Ona’s resignation over the DOH chief’s pronouncement in his PSSCM speech allowing stem cell therapy without clinical trials for the sake of innovation. Photo by Rappler/Jom Tolentino Who paid for the ad? The full-page advertisement would have cost the DOH some P300,000. Dr Leo Olarte, Philippine Medical Association president and a prominent member of the PSSCM, said in a phone interview that he did not know who sponsored the publication of the speech. Dr Oscar Tinio, current spokesperson of the PSSCM, denied allegations that their group paid for the advertisement. PSSCM is a network of stem cell transplant practitioners based in the Philippines. Rappler tried to get in touch with the advertising department of The Philippine Star to clarify who paid for the advertisement but has received no reply as of posting time. The debate The Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) maintains its stand, calling for a moratorium on all stem cell treatments until the FDA reviews all stem cell and stem cell-based products. The PCP is among the 21 medical and surgical societies which called for stricter regulations on the conduct of stem cell therapy in the country. It also called for the suspension of stem cell transplant doctors who offer the treatment for unproven indications. READ: ‘Suspend deceptive stem cell transplant doctors’ In the closing of the health secretary’s speech, he said he looked forward to more discussion and “a happy resolution” of issues surrounding stem cell therapy. “The challenge, I believe among us, seemingly competing forces, is to sit down and craft a path of consensus, taking in consideration the most fundamental tenet of why our profession exists: to save life, to alleviate pain, to do no harm,” the DOH chief said. – Rappler.com

CNN article about meat made from a cow’s stem cell

7 Aug

This article relates to our unit on genetic engineering and the greenhouse effect. The use of meat produced from their stem cells will be better for the environment since growing cows at our current rate has negative consequences to the environment. 


Article Link: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/29/tech/worlds-first-test-tube-burger


Article from CNN:

It cost more than $380,000 to develop — and doesn’t come with French fries on the side.

But the world’s first test-tube burger — grown in a laboratory from a cow’s stem cells — will be served in London next week.

Read more: Tiny hooks revolutionize concrete

The burger, made from 20,000 strips of cultured meat mixed together with lab-grown animal fat, took nine weeks to grow and cost £250,000 ($384,000) to develop. The scientist behind the project hopes that laboratory-grown meat could provide a solution to the problem of increasing global demand for meat and protein.

Mark Post, from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, spent two years researching the initiative. “There’s no doubt it would be revolutionary in the way we produce staple food,” he said.

Read more: British inventors claim world’s first flying bicycle

It takes eight to nine weeks to produce just one stem cell burger. “It depends how much resources are put into the production of cultured meat. It will always take this long for cells to multiply, but we could produce a million burgers in this time if enough resources were being spent on the production,” he said.

According to the World Health Organization, demand for meat is going to double during the next 40 years but current production methods are not sustainable. Post said the production of synthetic meat would also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help address animal welfare problems.

Read more: A teen builds one-man submarine for $2,000

Scientists believe artificial meat could be sold in supermarkets within five to 10 years. “The emphasis is on could,” Post cautioned. “Five years might be too early and 10 years sounds more realistic, if we spend a lot of resources on pushing the production of cultured meat forward.”

His research into synthetic meat has been funded by the Dutch government, as well as an anonymous donation of €300,000 ($396,000). The burger will be cooked and eaten in London next week at a yet undisclosed location in front of an audience.

“The whole presentation next week will be a proof of concept,” Post said. Of course we’re not there yet to make it an efficient and cheap product. But I want to show that it can be done so that people see: “Yes you can eat it, yes, it tastes good.'”

CNBC news article: New records broken for loss of sea ice and greenhouse gases in 2012

7 Aug

CNBC article link: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100944287

The world lost record amounts of Arctic sea ice in 2012 and spewed out all-time high levels of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel burning, international climate scientists said Tuesday.

Overall, 2012 was among the top 10 on record for global land and surface temperature, said the State of the Climate report issued annually by researchers in Britain and the United States.

“Globally-averaged, 2012 ranked as the eighth or ninth warmest year since records began in the mid-to-late 1800s, according to four independent analyses,” said the report.

(Read More: China Pushes for Arctic Foothold, from a Thousand Miles Away)

“The year was 0.14 degrees Celsius – 0.17 degrees Celsius above the 1981-2010 average, depending on the dataset considered.”

When it came to Arctic sea ice, a new record low was observed in September for sea ice and another all-time low for snow cover was observed in the Northern Hemisphere, it said.

More from the Global Post:

Methane gas from thawing Arctic permafrost a ‘threat’ to global economy
Arctic melting forces researchers on floating station to evacuate
Arctic Ocean ‘acidifying rapidly,’ scientists warn

Meanwhile, permafrost temperatures reached record high values in northern Alaska and 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet showed some form of melt, four times greater than the average melt for this time of year.

The amount of carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels also hit new highs, after a slight decline in recent years that followed the global financial crisis.

(Read More: What global warming means for air conditioning)

“In spring 2012, for the first time, the atmospheric CO2 concentration exceeded 400 parts per million at seven of the 13 Arctic observation sites,” it said.

Droughts and unusual rains struck different parts of the globe last year, with “the worst drought in at least the past three decades for northeastern Brazil,” the report said.

(Read More: Tamminen: Global Warming Solutions That Work and Save Money)

“The Caribbean observed a very wet dry season and it was the Sahel’s wettest rainy season in 50 years.”

On a positive note, the climate in Antarctica remained “relatively stable overall” and warm air led to the second smallest ozone hole in the past two decades, it said.


400 PPM: Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere Reaches Prehistoric Levels

10 May

Article from Scientific American by David Biello 

400 PPM: Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere Reaches Prehistoric Levels

On May 2, after nightfall shut down photosynthesis for the day in Hawaii,carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere touched 400 parts-per-million there for the first time in at least 800,000 years. Near the summit of volcanic Mauna Loa—where a member of the Keeling family has kept watch since 1958—sensors measured this record through sunrise the following day. Levels have continued to dance near that benchmark in recent days, registering above 400 ppm for the first time in eons after midnight on May 7. When the measurements started the daily average could be as low as 315 ppm, already up from a pre-industrial average of around 280 ppm.

This measurement is just the hourly average of CO2 levels high in the Hawaiian sky, but this family’s figures carry more weight than those made at other stations in the world as they have faithfully kept the longest record of atmospheric CO2. Arctic weather stations also hit the hourly 400 ppm mark last spring and this one. Regardless, the hourly levels at Mauna Loa will soon drop as spring kicks in across the northern hemisphere, trees budding forth an army of leaves hungrily sucking CO2 out of the sky.


Courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography

It may be next year before the monthly average level reaches 400 ppm—and yet longer still until the annual average reaches that number.

But there is no question that the world continues to inexorably climb toward higher levels of greenhouse gas concentrations. Barring economic recessions, the world may be lucky to stop at 450, 500 or even beyond. Last year, humanity spewed some 36 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, up from 35 billion the year before.

In the coming year, Scientific American will run an occasional series, “400 ppm,” to examine what this invisible line in the sky means for the global climate, the planet and all the living things on it, including human civilization. Some scientists argue we passed the safe level for greenhouse gas concentrations long ago, pointing to the accelerating impacts, from extreme weather to the meltdown of Arctic sea ice. Others argue that we have yet more room to burn fossil fuels, clear forests and the like—but not much—before catastrophic climate change becomes inescapable. And the international community of nations has agreed that 450 ppm—linked to a rise of 2 degrees Celsius in global average temperatures—should not be exceeded. We are not on track to avoid that limit, whether you prefer the economic analysis of experts like the International Energy Agency or the steady monitoring of mechanical sensors.

The last time CO2 levels at Mauna Loa were this high, Homo sapiens did not live there. In fact, the last time CO2 levels are thought to have been this high was more than 2.5 million years ago, an era known as the Pliocene, when the Canadian Arctic boasted forests instead of icy wastes. The land bridge connecting North America and South America had recently formed. The globe’s temperature averaged about 3 degrees C warmer, and sea level lapped coasts 5 meters or more higher.


Courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography

The world will change again due to human activity and associated emissions of CO2, perhaps causing another set of coral reef extinctions like those found during the Pliocene, among other impacts. When Charles D. Keeling first started his measurements, CO2 made up some 317 ppm of the air we breathe and climate change was already a concern thanks to the work of John Tyndall, Svante Arrhenius and Guy Callendar. Every year since 1958 the sawtoothed line depicting Keeling’s measurements—readings kept up by his son Ralph—has climbed up, capturing the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations as well as the world’s breath.


Courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography

What can be done? In the short term, more potent but shorter-lasting greenhouse gas emissions could be curbed or a concerted effort to develop CO2 capture and storage technology could be undertaken. Whether we do that or not, given CO2′s long lifetime in the atmosphere, the world will continue to warm to some extent; at least as much as the 0.8 degree C of warming to date is likely thanks to the CO2 already in the atmosphere.

At present pace, the world could reach 450 ppm in a few short decades. The record notches up another 2 ppm per year at present pace. Human civilization developed and flourished in a geologic era that never saw CO2 concentrations above 300 ppm.We are in novel territory again and we show no signs of slowing to get our bearings, let alone stopping.


De-Extinction: Can Cloning Bring Extinct Species Back to Life?

7 Mar

De-Extinction: Can Cloning Bring Extinct Species Back to Life?

Article from Scientific American

At some point in the next decade, if advances in biotechnology continue on their current path, clones of extinct species such as the passenger pigeon, Tasmanian tiger and wooly mammoth could once again live among us. But cloning lost species—or “de-extinction” as some scientists call it—presents us with myriad ethical, legal and regulatory questions that must be answered, such as which (if any) species should be brought back and whether or not such creatures could be allowed to return to the wild. Such questions are set to be addressed March 15 at TEDx DeExtinction, a day-long event in Washington, D.C., organized by Stewart Brand’s Revive & Restore project. Brand previewed the topics for discussion last week at the TED2013 conference in Long Beach, Calif.

Scientists are actively working on methods and procedures for bringing extinct species back to life, says Ryan Phelan, executive director of Revive & Restore and co-organizer of the TEDx event. “The technology is moving fast. What Stewart and I are trying to do with this meeting is for the first time to allow the public to start thinking about this. We’re going to hear from people who take it quite seriously. De-extinction is going to happen, and the questions are how does it get applied, when does it get used, what are the criteria which are going to be set?”

Cloning extinct species has been tried before—with moderate success. An extinct Pyrenean ibex, or bucardo, (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica) was born to a surrogate mother goat in 2009, nine years after the last member of its species was killed by a falling tree. The cloned animal lived for just seven minutes. Revive & Restore itself has launched a project to try to resurrect the passenger pigeon, which went extinct in 1914.

Revive & Restore has already held two private workshops for geneticists and others involved in cloning and conservation to share information on current de-extinction projects, techniques and ethics. The upcoming TEDx gathering will be the first public event to widely discuss the same topics. Like all projects organized by Brand’s Long Now Foundation, transparency is a central issue for Revive & Restore (after all, Brand is the man who famously said, “information wants to be free”). “For our organization, the idea of being able to provide this information or the exposure of these ideas, it’s just a way of starting the dialogue,” Phelan says.

Although next week’s meeting will mostly focus on resurrecting lost species, Phelan says the same cloning technologies also have a lot of potential to help species that are currently endangered. “I think we’re going to be able to apply these technologies to species on the brink,” she says. “To me, that’s why I’m most excited about this. How are these technologies going to be used to help improve genetic bottlenecks and things like that?”

Of course, conservation budgets around the world are already strained, and most endangered species do not have any direct conservation funding devoted to them. Wouldn’t focusing on cloning technology take away from those scarce conservation funds? “My knee-jerk reaction to that is simply that it should not be either-or, but that it should be an ‘and’ question,” Phelan says. “I don’t think there’s a certain amount of dollars that can only be spent for helping animals on the brink. I think that these things are additive, and that the challenge is ensuring that conservationists and others that are involved in wildlife are aware of these technologies and can move in directions where they can apply them.”

Speakers at TEDx DeExtinction will include George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School; Hank Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford Law School; and Oliver Ryder, director of genetics at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation and Research. Tickets are available for the live event, which will also be Webcast for free.

What do you think? Should scientists try to clone and resurrect extinct species? Is it worth the cost or the effort? Do you want to see wooly mammoths walk on Earth again or watch flocks of passenger pigeons black out the sky? Are you encouraged by these technologies’ potential to keep critically endangered species such as thenorthern white rhino from going extinct? Please let us know in the comments.


“Which Came First – The Chicken or the Egg?”

25 Jan

Proving whether the chicken or the egg came first! This relates to the Genetics topic. It talks about DNA, replication, and mostly about mutations.

Random bio related things I learned from the video:

1.) The protein needed for chicken eggs (for the shell) is OV-17.

2.) Some idea of evolutionary pressure. More specifically selective pressure in the evolution of dogs from wolves.

3.) No one mutation can make an entirely new species.

Things we learned in class that were mentioned in the video:

1.) Genetic information is passed in the form of DNA in reproduction.

2.) Mutations occur when there is an error in the replication of the DNA.

3.) Mutations occur in the zygote.

I thought this was a super cool and interesting video 😀

Explain how the properties of water are significant to living organisms.

24 Aug
  • Water has a high specific heat capacity. This thermal property of water allows it to store energy as heat. This is significant to living organisms because they use water to cool down.
  • Water has a high surface tension. Because of this, living organisms can use water as their habitat.  Additionally, it allows organisms such as insects to travel on its surface without sinking.
  • Water’s solvent property allows organisms to use water to transport substances and allows dissolved substances to react easily with one another.
  • Lastly, the transparency of water is significant to plants because it allows sunlight to penetrate through the water for photosynthesis. It is also significant to animals because they are able to see in water.