biomedicine


Farrah Fawcett died today following a relapse of the anal cancer that she battled for the past three years.   I’m wondering what effect the high profile death will have on cancer awareness and the use of “alternative” therapies, in particular.  I’m not optimistic.

From what I have been able to gather, she was first diagnosed in Sep 2006 and following regimen of standard therapies, was declared cancer-free in Feb 2007.  A few months later doctors discovered a small polyp during a routine exam, and apparently she sought “alternative” treatment in Germany this time around.  I have been unable to determine exactly what the treatment was, although it’s been reported that it consisted of a combination of chemotherapy and natural supplements.

We don’t know what the specific treatment was, but we do know that it was not effective.  We’ll never know whether the “alternative” approach would have saved her life if she tried it first.  (I suspect not since natural supplements have no clinical record of curing cancer.)  Also, we’ll never know if the relapse would have been successfully treated by physicians using the latest FDA-approved, science-based treatments.  We won’t ever know those answers, but I do know that there will be loads of people claiming to.

(more…)

Advertisements

Today’s lifting of the embryonic stem cell ban by the Obama administration has the conservative politicians and media engaging in a flurry of political rhetoric.  Of course this is no surprise as it’s certainly a hot-button topic.  One comment that caught my eye was from Rep Eric Cantor, the No. Republican in the house.  on CNN, he apparently said that we should focus on the economy rather than stem cell research.

“Frankly, federal funding of embryonic stem cell research can bring on embryo harvesting, perhaps even human cloning that occurs,” he said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We don’t want that. … And certainly that is something that we ought to be talking about, but let’s take care of business first. People are out of jobs.”

OK.  Pretty strong rhetoric from a high ranking member of the Rep party.  Obviously this guy is either drinking the coolaid or being completely disingenuous.  How can anyone with any knowledge of the issue make those statements?

First of all, claiming that the Obama administration shouldn’t do anything except focus on the economy is ridiculous.  That is a False Dichotomy – claiming that the president can only do one thing or the other.  Of course the administration has a large number of issues to deal with.  The science, medicine research, and health advisers should focus on their responsibilities, not the economy.  If the administration was only dealing with the economic issues, it would negligence of historic proportions.

Secondly, the embryo harvesting and human cloning claim is fear mongering in the form of a Straw Man Argument.  How does Human Cloning have ANYTHING to do with stem cell research? Embryonic harvesting?  Are you fucking kidding?  Representative Cantor is either a moron or a liar.  (Which fallacy is that?)  Actually, since he is a politician, I suspect that he is both.

source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29586269/

More good news on the stem cell front:  Human testes may provide stem cells which could be used for personalized medicine.  A new stem cell type called germline stem cells (GSCs) have been grown by researchers in the UK and Germany.  The GSCs are developed from sperm cells in the testicle and can be manipulated to form various types of cells similar to the way embryonic stem cells have been used.

What really caught my eye was that they can be essentially harvested via a “simple testicular biopsy”.  That doesn’t sound so simple to me but then of course the writer of the article is a woman…

See article here.

(more…)