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Genetic Linkage

Making Sense of Crowdfunding for Unapproved Stem Cell Treatments

Sonny Mayo has turned to a GoFundMe drive to raise money for a stem cell treatment. (Image credit: Sonny Mayo)
When FDA approval for a technology or treatment lags behind demand, crowdfunding steps in. Desperate patients or their families launch such campaigns when insurance won't help. And that goes for potential uses of stem cells.

The diversity of medical conditions in crowdfunding campaigns for stem cell treatments reflects the perception that stem cells can cure anything. Indications range from the common – stroke, autism, multiple sclerosis, to Parkinson’s disease – to genetic diseases, injuries, degenerative conditions, and even infections. Yet some people seek stem cell support for “a fresh lease on life” or “rejuvenation.” More common, though, are tragic narratives of a “last option” or “a few months left.” They’re hard to read. Read More 
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Human Muscles From Stem Cells: Advance Could Aid Research Into Muscular Dystrophy, Other Diseases

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For the first time, biomedical engineers have grown functioning skeletal muscle from human pluripotent stem cells.

Using stem cells enabled researchers from Duke University to improve upon similar efforts in 2015 that had started with more specialized cells called myoblasts, taken from muscle biopsies. Using true stem cells instead, fashioned from a person’s skin fibroblasts, avoids the painful biopsy and would theoretically up the output of mature muscle cells. The paper appears in the January 9 Nature CommunicationsRead More 
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Blinded By Stem Cells

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. Read More 
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Retinal Stem Cells and Eye of Newt

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

http://blogs.plos.org/dnascience/
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! Read More 
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Respiratory Replacement Parts -- Thanks to Stem Cells

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  Read More 
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Stem Cell Ups and Downs

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  Read More 
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