How stem cells protect neurons

Primate Parkinson’s Treatment Reveals New Side of Stem Cells

While most scientists are struggling to change stem cells into the types of cells they need — neurons, insulin-producing cells, heart cells, etc. — the new work shows that stem cells can perform the remarkable task of saving damaged cells.

[Researchers] injected stem cells taken from the brains of 13-week-old aborted human fetuses into African green monkeys with damaged dopamine-producing brain cells.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that affects motion and balance. The death of so-called dopaminergic neurons has been linked to Parkinson’s disease, an incurable neurodegenerative disorder that affects about one million Americans.

At the time of the injections, the monkeys couldn’t feed themselves or walk without assistance, and alternated between periods of absolute stillness and uncontrollable tremors. Two months after the treatment, they were able to walk and eat. The tremors had disappeared.

“The behavioral improvement was very impressive,” Langston said.

But far from turning into a mass of brand-new dopamine-producing neurons, most of the [stem cells] clustered around existing neurons, protecting them from further damage and rejuvenating those that had deteriorated.

Four months after the injection, the effects started to wear off. The transplants’ declining effectiveness over time may also indicate that the monkeys’ immune systems rejected them. That would require transplant recipients to take immunosuppressant drugs — but in a medical catch-22, the drugs could prevent the stem cells from working.

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Computer security expert Bruce Schneier takes a cynical view of the latest “terrorist” plot on JFK: Portrait of the Modern Terrorist as an Idiot

The recently publicized terrorist plot to blow up John F. Kennedy International Airport, like so many of the terrorist plots over the past few years, is a study in alarmism and incompetence: on the part of the terrorists, our government and the press.Terrorism is a real threat, and one that needs to be addressed by appropriate means. But allowing ourselves to be terrorized by wannabe terrorists and unrealistic plots — and worse, allowing our essential freedoms to be lost by using them as an excuse — is wrong. […]

This isn’t the first time a bunch of incompetent terrorists with an infeasible plot have been painted by the media as poised to do all sorts of damage to America. In May we learned about a six-man plan to stage an attack on Fort Dix by getting in disguised as pizza deliverymen and shooting as many soldiers and Humvees as they could, then retreating without losses to fight again another day. […]

The “Miami 7,” caught last year for plotting — among other things — to blow up the Sears Tower, were another incompetent group: no weapons, no bombs, no expertise, no money and no operational skill. And don’t forget Iyman Faris, the Ohio trucker who was convicted in 2003 for the laughable plot to take out the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch. At least he eventually decided that the plan was unlikely to succeed.

I don’t think these nut jobs, with their movie-plot threats, even deserve the moniker “terrorist.” But in this country, while you have to be competent to pull off a terrorist attack, you don’t have to be competent to cause terror. All you need to do is start plotting an attack and — regardless of whether or not you have a viable plan, weapons or even the faintest clue — the media will aid you in terrorizing the entire population.