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Glenn Nichols, surrounded by his hospice team. The author is in yellow.

Genetic Linkage

Blinded By Stem Cells

March 19, 2017

Tags: stem cells, age-related macular degeneration, stem cell tourism

Age-related macular degeneration slowly destroys central vision.
The small wavy shimmers and fuzzy areas in the 78-year-old’s eyes had grown slowly, leading to a diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which affects more than 10 million Americans. She had the more common “dry” form. Despite 2 years of injections of one of the latest drugs (a vascular endothelial growth factor [VEGF] blocker), her sight was worsening. How much longer would she be able to drive, with a growing blob obscuring the center of her visual world?

Her family went online to research alternative approaches. (more…)

Retinal Stem Cells and Eye of Newt

January 16, 2013

Tags: stem cells, RPE, age-related macular degeneration, iPS cells, Neural Stem Cell Institute, Foundation Fighting Blindness

Human RPE cells in culture look like cobblestones; 3% of them behave like stem cells, in dishes. Can they treat eye diseases from within? (Tim Blenkinsop)
More than a decade before Sally Temple, PhD, and her husband Jeffrey Stern, MD, PhD, discovered stem cells in human eyes, they suspected the cells would be there. They knew it from the salamanders.

A SPECIAL FONDNESS FOR AMPHIBIANS
When William Shakespeare included “eye of newt” ingredients of the Three Witches’ brew in Macbeth, he probably knew what he was doing. Dr. Temple, who grew up in northern England, said it’s long been common knowledge there that newts can regrow their parts. In the late 1800s, biologists began to study regeneration in salamanders.

By the 1950s, embryologists had discovered that certain amphibian eyes regenerate thanks to a single layer of cells, called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which hugs the photoreceptors (the rods and cones). (more…)

DNA Science -- My New Blog at Public Library of Science (PLoS)

September 27, 2012

Tags: Public Library of Science, PLoS, gene therapy, genetic testing, stem cells

I have a new blog at Public Library of Science (PLoS), DNA Science. Each Thursday I'll explore stories from real people experiencing opportunities and challenges posed by biotechnology, including genetic testing, gene therapy, exome sequencing, stem cells, and more.

I like to find the stories that no one else tackles, connect topics in unusual ways, dip into bioethics, and wherever possible, bring in the historical perspective that shows that "overnight breakthroughs" are almost always anything but. And the PLoS tag is opening doors -- I spoke with Dr. Francis Collins yesterday!

The first blog is "Human Embryonic Stem Cells Finally Reach Clinical Trials: Maurie's Story."

Join me on this new adventure!

Respiratory Replacement Parts -- Thanks to Stem Cells

November 29, 2011

Tags: stem cells, bioethics, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Cell, regeneration, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, tailored bioartificial nanocomposite, bone marrow stem cells, The Lancet, Ricki Lewis, gene therapy

We humans might not be able to regrow a leg, as can a cockroach or salamander, or regenerate a missing half, like a flatworm, but our organs can replenish themselves – thanks to stem cells. Two new reports about opposite ends of the respiratory system may pave the way for replacement breathing parts.

A 36-year-old (more…)

Stem Cell Ups and Downs

February 12, 2011

Tags: stem cells, human embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, iPS cells, reprogrammed cells, embryo, fetus, intestine, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome

We expect too much of stem cells. The February 3 issue of Nature reveals both a setback and a stupendous achievement in the field.

An article in the news section takes induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) down (more…)

instruction
Project to engage students in helping families with rare genetic diseases
Book Club Reader's Guide
Many challenging questions to stimulate thought and discussion.
Instructor's Guide
38 discussion questions to get students thinking and talking about gene therapy, including the science, ethical issues, and the drug approval process.
Narrative science
The Forever Fix is the uplifting true story of 8-year-old Corey Haas, who was cured of hereditary blindness just 4 days after gene therapy.
College Textbooks
A spectacularly-illustrated, clearly written human anatomy and physiology textbook, used in pre-health profession programs throughout the U.S.
A highly engaging, clearly written, beautifully illustrated introduction to the science of human genetics for the non-scientist. Now in its 11th edition, 12th to be published in September 2018.
Nonfiction
An ideal starting point for anyone who wants to know more about genes, DNA, genomes, and the genetic ties that bind us all.

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