Wednesday, September 17, 2008

One Step closer to The Island (linked)

Australia issues first license to clone human embryos

By Michael Perry

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Australian government has issued its first license allowing scientists to create cloned human embryos to try and obtain embryonic stem cells.

The in vitro-fertilization firm Sydney IVF was granted the license and reportedly has access to 7,200 human eggs for its research.

If the firm is successful it would be a world first, the Australian government's National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), which granted the license, said on Wednesday.

Scientists in other countries have made stem cells they believe are similar to embryonic cells using a variety of techniques, but none have been able to extract embryonic stem cells from cloned human embryos.

An Australian ban on the research, known as therapeutic cloning or somatic cell nuclear transfer, was lifted in December 2006 after a rare conscience vote in the national parliament.

But the use of excess IVF embryos and the creation and use of other embryos in research is restricted by law through national legislation. Human cloning for reproductive purposes is banned.

Chair of the NHMRC's licensing committee, Dr John Findlay, said Sydney IVF's research would be closely monitored.

"They have been given a license to do therapeutic cloning," Findlay told Reuters, adding the scientists are not licensed to reach the fetal stage.

"They can go to the stage called blastocyst. They must stop at that point," he said. The blastocyst is a very early-stage embryo not yet implanted into the womb.

Findlay said scientists will try and create stem cells from patients who have abnormalities or create stem cell lines which will be compatible with patients which have given the cells.

Initially, any stem cells extracted would be used to test new drugs to fight diseases such as muscular dystrophy and Huntington's disease, and later therapeutic cloning would be used to produce body tissue matched to patients.

The director of Australians for Ethical Stem Cell Research, David van Gend, criticized the issuing of the license, saying new technology meant cloning was no longer necessary.

"We have regulations in Australia such that the abuses of cloning wouldn't happen here, we will not get live birth cloning," he told local radio.

"We won't get cloning right through to the fetal stage in order to use them for organ transplants, but if we teach the world how to clone you can be quite sure it will be used in less rigorous jurisdictions."

Somatic cell nuclear transfer is a technique in which DNA from the nucleus of an unfertilized egg is removed and replaced with the nucleus of an adult cell such as a skin cell.

The technique can be used to create cloned embryos in order to derive embryonic stem cells for therapeutic purposes, but can also be used for reproductive cloning.

There are several types of stem cells. Embryonic stem cells, made from days-old embryos, are considered the most powerful because they can give rise to all the cell types in the body.

Sydney IVF said only eggs that were unusable for IVF because they were immature or had not been fertilized properly, and which donors had given consent for, would be used in the research.

The firm said it will use three different types of cells, embryonic stem cells, cumulus cells attached to the collected eggs, and skin cells, to produce the cloned embryos.

Sydney IVF was the first, in 2004, to extract stem cells from Australian IVF embryos, and has since extracted and grown 10 more colonies of embryonic stem cells this way.

(Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Will Rogers of Weapons" or Cross One off the Freedom List

No set of photos of the gun range would be complete without this one...
Originally uploaded by Expiring Mind

Monday, September 15, 2008

Well, as Queen would say: Another one Bites the Dust! I crossed off another item on the "Freedom List" (so coined by a couple of friends to replace the ill-fitting "bucket list" of things I want to do now that I am not mentally dragged down by unattainable goals...) I passed up an opportunity to go to Dallas so I could make sure to go to the range and test out lots of different firearms. I got to shoot a GLOCK (that's how it's trademarked... all caps --for the guys, I'm sure...), a 45, revolvers, a Smith and Wesson 9 mm semi automatic, a couple of different shotguns, and more I can't even remember... I had a blast (so to speak ;) It was 7 hours and the most beautiful day in recent memory. And I have the sunburn to prove it! The group that sponsored the event were really nice people I met through a deputy at my job. They focused on safety and education and I really learned a lot. One of the guys asked what I liked shooting the best. I said I really wasn't sure, since I didn't shoot any of them that I didn't like (and I kind of expected that I would...) He hollered to one of the other guys, "Hey, we got Will Rogers over here! She hasn't met a gun she didn't like."

It got me to thinking... and you know I like to think. I had been at a stand still for years waiting for the means to an end to get to the end, already!! I went back to school, and started getting on with my life. The shooting range was just one of many things--some small (like getting a pedicure), some major (like going back to school) -- that I decided I would do if I weren't "waiting" for my life to begin again. There is something inherent about having your life a little bit "on hold" when you have kids. You have to limit or rearrange some things until you are in a situation that is more conducive to those things. Learning more about guns was something I had always wanted to do "someday" when ex got out of school and made good money at a "real job." Well, you know, I realized "someday" wasn't coming... so I had to adjust my life and start making up for lost time-- about a decade's worth. Now my friends and I are all just debating whether it is a mid-life crisis I'm having or... what it is. Originally I figured it was all the same anyway. i.e. If it looks like a dusk and sounds like a duck... But I like these philosophical debates, so allow me to inspect...

The Medical Dictionary defines it as:

A period of personal emotional turmoil and coping challenges that some people encounter when they reach middle age, accompanied by a desire for change in their lives, brought on by fears and anxieties about growing older.

Psychology Today has interesting takes:

The first bit looks tempting as an explanation, but I really don't have too many fears about getting older per se. Just getting older and never having gotten on with the business of life. The second one has some fairly clear parameters, that I don't think are met. For instance, it is not my life I used to enjoy that I no longer do. More, it never was a great situation, but I felt there was a point to it, so I supported the "agenda" for lack of a better word. No doubt I had fun, loved meeting new people, and participated fully in life. Had a pretty good time navigating the world and loved being at home to raise my kids as well as fit in time for a life of my own. I always had a good spirit, and enjoyed life for the most part, infusing it with my own inimitable, if not crass, sense of humor. ("Who I gotta blow around here to get... (fill in the blank). Remind me to tell you sometime how true that really was in Mississippi... I wouldn't be the person I am today without the the life I have experienced. And I like the person I am today...

So, I guess it was a cool place to be since it was "on the way" to where I wanted to be... But since I'm clearly not going where I originally wanted to be, I need to make a more abrupt change... Thus, I would say this is not a MLC. But, wait, does that mean one may still be coming?! YIKES! I hope not...

Losing it over eggs...

Originally uploaded by Expiring Mind

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Losing it over Eggs...

*Warning* This is really a short *story* lol. If you are looking for a short and peppy blog, move along... this is not the blog you are looking for...

It's Wednesday night; I'm on lunch from working at the school. To the bank to deposit and then on the Wal Mart, since I'd promised Henry cereal he wanted. I get to the checkout behind a couple and their 3 kids. The mom seems stressed and trying to keep her kids "in line." Really, they are fine--just being kids. Their purchase is separated into 3 groups: their regular food, and 2 separate WIC purchases. All the while the father is loading bags into the cart and talking to the mom. The mom is (in my opinion) hypersensitive about their behavior and just wanting to make the transaction smooth--which, for those of us who have ever had to use WIC know, it is not. You have to get just exactly what the voucher lists, in exactly the right ounce measurements, for exactly the right brands (and believe me--it changes from store to store, because you are required to purchase the store brands...) At the store, if another brand is on sale that week, you have to get it. For the longest time, you had to chose which one of you (if you actually have one of those strange two-parent households...) had to get the items for months on end, and that is the person who signed the left side of the vouchers--like a traveler's check--and then signed the right side at the store. You couldn't just choose which person to get it each time based on convenience. And if the manufacturer decides to throw in an additional 10% free, all bets are off... move to another type of cereal because that one is not going to fly under the WIC Radar; wrong number of ounces. Picture the Jedi mind trick: "This is not the cereal you are looking for..." Furthermore, if you want to use more than one voucher, you have to split them into separate orders, and the cashier rings them separately. Anyway, it seems like a lot of detail on this point, but that is the point--details. Imagine going to the store with kids in tow and trying to sort out this type of minutia. You still experience the normal frustrations of parenting, plus the stress of being financially strapped. Add to that the sighs, jeers, and nasty comments from the people waiting in line with their own problems, a sense of instant gratification the culture has encouraged and supported, and a sense of superiority, and you can see how this type of venture could be tense-- especially for people who want to better themselves, and not cause others undue delays.

So, back to our couple... The cashier, nicely, to his credit, says something about there not being eggs listed on the voucher (though they are in the sorted WIC pile.) The dad says to the mom lightheartedly, "Guess you're seeing things, huh?" "I guess so, " she says. They glace quickly at each other, and she indicates for the cashier to leave the eggs. I know that look. I have been a participant in that very exchange. (Makes you feel really good, too...not.) I am immediately transported back in time to the many health department windows--with inexperienced staff who are neither compassionate nor particularly efficient... "Next?" they call out with a voice stripped of feeling for the past several years. Some simply bored with their work, but some petty and spiteful, noting that you are 11 minutes late and the sign says if you are 10, you need to reschedule... Have they never had a blowout diaper just as they were about to leave the house? I remember the long waits--reminding myself that beggars can't be choosers--for the well child check ups required to get the vouchers at all...the time the worker--in her apparently infinite wisdom decided to prick Janey's finger for the hemoglobin count and then expect a crying child to willingly participate in an eye exam. The wait was hours, with "no food allowed." Days filled with some not very proud moments as a parent--one ending in a parking lot of a Kroger with me standing outside the car with a kicking, screaming child her car seat. It was the safest choice at the time...

The cashier finishes their transaction. I turn to the lady and ask, "Can I just buy you those eggs?" She says, "Oh, that's ok." I say, "No, really. You will never know how many times I have been in your spot. I'd like to." She looked at me, and in her eyes I saw her try to *merge* the concepts of the world she navigates with the unconditionally kind act of a stranger. She expressed a simple but sincere "thank you." I asked the cashier to ring up the eggs before my items, and he agreeably handed them to the lady. I felt fine as I was walking out the door, but as I approached the car, I started to tear up. I wiped them away because I couldn't understand why... It really wasn't a big thing at all. I was not sad. And I've never been prone to tears of happiness. Then I just allowed it to come over me. I started sobbing as I closed the car door and turned the key. Thoughts of all the years of poverty and all the ramifications and consequences of each of the decisions we made to "invest" in his school (ostensibly for a greater good...) came rushing into my head. It sounds like I was out of control. But actually, I think the opposite is true. I made the conscious effort to experience the pain. And in terms of grief, with the Kubler-Ross model, I'm at the end: acceptance.

Were the tears in the "acceptance of things I cannot change" category? Was it the acknowledgement of the senseless, pointless, needless suffering we had been through? Suffering is fine. It is necessary. It is unavoidable. It is strengthening. But needless suffering was a different story. I intuitively know I have to forgive. I don't want to. But I need to. Maybe not this minute, or even today. But I will. The mind is willing; the heart will have to follow when it is ready.

Woman cannot live on bread alone...

Woman cannot live on bread alone...
Originally uploaded by Expiring Mind

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Finally, a good use for a particle accelerator... (Wuh!?)

High-tech tools to fight fine wine fraud
by Marlowe Hood
Tue Sep 2, 7:12 PM ET
PARIS (AFP) - One of Britain's top rare wine merchants and nuclear scientists in France on

Tuesday jointly unveiled a 21st-century tool for unmasking counterfeit vintage wines.

The technique consists of zapping bottles with ion beams generated by a particle accelerator.

The beams are directed at the glass, not the wine, and can distinguish how old the bottles are and, roughly, where they originate.

"We compare the suspect bottles with those that we know come from the chateaux," explained Herve Guegan, a researcher at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Bordeaux.

"The chemical composition of glass used to make bottles changed over time and was different from place to place," he told AFP.

The Antique Wine Company in London, which asked Guegan's Centre for Nuclear Studies to develop the fraud-busting technology, handles more than 10,000 bottles of rare wines every year for thousands of customers around the world.

"We sell bottles every day for between 2,000 and 10,000 dollars," said the company's managing director, Stephen Williams, noting that the exceptional grand cru can fetch up to 100,000 dollars (70,000 euros).

At these prices, "counterfeiting is something we have to be very diligent about," he said by phone.

France's most prestigious Burgundy and Bordeaux chateaux are notoriously reluctant to discuss fraud or its prevalence, but wine experts say it is a growing problem.

In a recent and spectacular case, American collector William Koch sued a German wine dealer, claiming four bottles -- allegedly belonging to US president Thomas Jefferson -- he had purchased for 500,000 dollars were fake. The case has yet to be settled.

To prevent counterfeiters from filling authentic old bottles with ordinary plonk, Williams intends to combine the ion beam test with another established method that checks for levels of a radioactive isotope, cesium 137, in the wine itself.

This technique, however, is only effective in identifying wines made in the era of heavy atomic weapons testing in the later half of the 20th century.

The ion beam technology unveiled Tuesday depends on comparison with genuine bottles.

"We are working with the various chateaux to develop a database of benchmark references," said Williams, adding that more than 120 of Bordeaux's most prestigious house have signed on.

He has also set his sights on the prized Burgundy region in northwestern France, and said a service geared toward wine collectors, wine merchants and auction houses will be available by late November.

While the new test can verify the age of the bottle, it cannot guarantee the quality of the wine.

The ion beam analysis correctly dated bottles of German wine recovered from a German ship, the Deutschland, that sank in a storm off the coast of England in 1875, Williams said.

"The wine, however, wasn't very good. We still had a headache six months later," he said.

Other technologies developed in the last few years to combat fine wine fraud include water marks and holograms on labels -- much like those used on bank notes -- along with bar codes and UV-sensitive markings.

Hardys, part of Constellation Wines Australia, now inserts DNA material from 100-year-old vines in tamper-proof neck labels on its top bottles.

My next conquest...

My next conquest...
Originally uploaded by Expiring Mind

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Do you believe in love at first sight...

I am starting to feel like a Thelma and Louise cliche'. (I am Louise, let's get that part straight... ;) You ever hear of the crack heads who say that they knew instantly-- after the first inhale-- they were hooked? Well, the minute the guy at the gun range put this Smith and Wesson 9 mm in my hands, I was electrified! What does that say about me? It must be a divorce thing? Nah, I really don't think so. Is this just another sign I'm going off the deep end? If so, I'll kick the ass of the first one who tries to save me... lol! But I have always wanted to not just shoot a gun, but really learn how to deal with one, from beginning to end. The is the only way you should touch them and I am buying in totally. I was afraid they were going to give me a silly pink handled girly gun... But I think he could tell I was serious. The only real reason I didn't stay and shoot, is that I knew-- like with crack-- 50 minutes was going to go by too fast... I have tabled it till tomorrow. Let me see if I can think of something else for a while... A movie. I got Counterfeiters. Or Weeds is on tap.

One cool note on a separate topic. I did learn a new word: postiche. Check it out. Not often I learn new words from peeps online... And, I made it out for an hour and a half trek around campus w/ my ipod. It rocked! I'm baaa-ack... he he.

Have a good one.

BTW, I just realized that this FYC cd below (which I insist holds up today...) is over 20 years old. Now, how many of you say that about anything you experienced in your adult life?! It's really not right... but hey, it is the truth, and ya'll know I love d' truth...