Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Format - Dog Problems

If you want to check out a pretty good band, they're offering their CD for free:

The format - Dog Problems

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Reprogrammed fibroblasts identical to embryonic stem cells

Now this is cool.

Problem solved:

Reprogrammed fibroblasts identical to embryonic stem cells

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (June 6, 2007) — Embryonic stem cells are unique because they can develop into virtually any kind of tissue type, an attribute called pluripotency. Somatic cell nuclear transfer ("therapeutic cloning") offers the hope of one day creating customized embryonic stem cells with a patient's own DNA. Here, an individual's DNA would be placed into an egg, resulting in a blastocyst that houses a supply of stem cells. But to access these cells, researchers must destroy a viable embryo.

Now, scientists at Whitehead Institute have demonstrated that embryonic stem cells can be created without eggs. By genetically manipulating mature skin cells taken from a mouse, the scientists have transformed these cells back into a pluripotent state, one that appears identical to an embryonic stem cell in every way. No eggs were used, and no embryos destroyed.

“These reprogrammed cells, by all criteria that we can apply, are indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells,” says Whitehead Member and MIT professor of biology Rudolf Jaenisch, senior author of the paper that appeared online June 6 in Nature.
“We are optimistic that this can one day work in human cells,” says Marius Wernig. “We just need to find new strategies to reach that goal.”

What's more, these reprogrammed skin cells can give rise to live mice, contributing to every kind of tissue type, and can even be transmitted via germ cells (sperm or eggs) to succeeding generations. "Germline transmission is the final and definitive proof that these cells can do anything a traditionally derived embryonic stem cell can do," adds Jaenisch.

Two additional papers report similar findings. The first, by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, will be published in the same issue of Nature. The second, from Konrad Hochedlinger, formerly of the Jaenisch lab and now at the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Stem Cell Institute, will appear in the inaugural issue of the journal Cell Stem Cells. Additionally, another paper in Nature from Kevin Eggan, also of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and a former member of the Jaenisch lab, describes using mouse zygotes, rather than eggs, for somatic cell nuclear transfer.

Jaenisch cautions that "all these results are preliminary and proof of principle. It will be awhile before we know what can and can't be done in humans. Human embryonic stem cells remain the gold standard for pluripotent cells, and it is a necessity to continue studying embryonic stem cells through traditional means."

In August 2006, a team of researchers at Kyoto University led by Yamanaka reported a landmark discovery that by activating four genes in a mouse skin cell, they could reprogram that cell into a pluripotent state resembling an embryonic stem cell. However, the resulting cells were limited when compared with real embryonic stem cells, and the Kyoto team was unable to generate live mice from these cells.

A team of researchers decided to replicate this experiment, while refining certain technical aspects. This group was led by Jaenisch lab postdoctoral researchers Marius Wernig, Alexander Meissner and Tobias Brambrink; graduate student Ruth Foreman; and Manching Ku, a research fellow from Bradley Bernstein's lab at Massachusetts General Hospital. Konrad Hochedlinger also contributed.

Using artificial viruses called vectors, the team activated the same four genes in a batch of mouse skin cells. These genes, Oct4, Sox2, c-Myc and Klf4, are called transcription factors, meaning that they regulate large networks of other genes. While Oct4 and Sox2 are normally active in the early stages of embryogenesis, they typically shut down once an embryo has developed beyond the blastocyst stage.

"We were working with tens of thousands of cells, and we needed to devise a precise method for picking out those rare cells in which the reprogramming actually worked," says Wernig. "On average, it only works in about one out of 1,000 cells."

To test for reprogramming, the team decided to zero in on Oct4 and another transcription factor called Nanog. These two hallmarks for embryonic stem cell identity are only active in fully pluripotent cells. The trick would be to figure out a way to harvest Oct4- and Nanog-active cells from the rest of the population.

The answer came in the form of a laboratory technique called "homologous recombination." Here, the scientists took genetic material known to be resistant to the toxic drug neomycin, and spliced it into the genomes of each cell right beside Oct4 and Nanog. If Oct4 and Nanog switched on, the drug-resistant DNA would also spring into action. The researchers then added neomycin to the cells. Only those fully reprogrammed cells with an active Oct4 and Nanog survived.

Next, the team ran these cells through a battery of tests, seeing if they could discover any substantial differences between these cells and normal embryonic stem cells.

"In all tests, both genetic and epigenetic, there were no molecular markers distinguishing these two groups," says Meissner.

But definitive proof would only come through demonstrating that these cells could actually develop into any kind of body tissue and cell type. The researchers approached this question in three ways.

First, they fluorescently labeled these reprogrammed cells and injected them into early-stage embryos, which eventually gave rise to live mice. While these mice consisted of both the reprogrammed cells and the natural cells from the original embryo, the fluorescent tags indicated that the reprogrammed cells contributed to all tissue types in the mouse—everything from blood to internal organs to hair color.

Next, they bred these mice and found lineages of the reprogrammed cells in the subsequent generation, proving that these new cells had contributed to the germ line.

Finally, the team took advantage of another lab technique that involves creating a genetically abnormal embryo whose cells all consist of four chromosomes, rather than two. Because of this aberrant formation, the embryo can only form a placenta, and cannot develop into a full-term fetus. The researchers injected the reprogrammed cells into this embryo, and then implanted it in a uterus. Eventually live late-gestation fetuses could be recovered—created exclusively from the reprogrammed cells.

"This is the most stringent criteria anyone can use to determine if a cell is pluripotent," says Jaenisch.

Still, many technical hurdles remain for possibly translating this work to human cells. For example, the homologous recombination technique used to isolate the pluripotent cells does not yet work in human embryonic stem cells. Also, using cells that contain viral vectors can pose health risks.

"We are optimistic that this can one day work in human cells," says Wernig. "We just need to find new strategies to reach that goal. For now, it would simply be premature and irresponsible to claim that we no longer need eggs for embryonic stem cell research."

This research is supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Getting a Marriage License

So yesterday Beth and I had one and only one objective--get a marraige license.

We leave early to get it over with, and carry with us a letter from our pre-marital counselor. Unfortunately, when we got there we found out that the letter was missing some requirements to grant us the special discount. While a marriage license is normally $51, if you have at least six hours of counseling it is dropped to $16. Not a bad deal.

So we decide to save our money and get the letter that we need. We call Beth's church, thinking that we can get them to verify the information and then print a letter on a letterhead with a signature (the two items needed to legitimize it). We do all that, and we're finally back to try again. This time, it doesn't work either. They can't accept it, and we just give up and pay the $51 fee.

What was going to be a relatively simple task turned into a day of craziness.

The White Stripes - Icky Thump

Get this new album.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sex and Television--What You Know Is Wrong

I love studies like this that completely reduce Christians' arguments about television to nothing. We've heard it all our lives: "Sex is all over TV--and getting worse!" and so on. But it's wrong.

Study: TV sex actually has cooled off since the '70s
Was the era of “Charlie’s Angels” and “Three’s Company” really raunchier than the era of Janet Jackson’s bared breast? Apparently yes. A new study of American primetime network programming between 1975 and 2004 says sexual content of nearly every kind has decreased sharply and consistently over those three decades, leaving today’s viewers with one-third the sexual content they’d have seen in the 1970s. That may be a surprise considering the big outcry over broadcast indecency the past few years. Analyzing 2,558 hours of programming, Amir Hetsroni, a professor of communications at Yezreel Valley College in Israel, found that kisses have become less passionate, suggestions of sexual intercourse have gone missing, and there’s been less talk about sex, including safe sex. The study also finds less content about what it calls “illegal sexual interactions.” Content related to homosexual sex is the exception, having increased markedly in the past two decades.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Children of Men

For some odd reason, futuristic dystopian movies can scare the hell out of me. I don't know why. I'm not usually fearful of the future--I figure almost every generation feared for their future lives, but everything just gets better. But these movies with a foreboding view of the future, I always seem to wander out of the movie theater wondering if everything is as it was before I entered the theater.

This movie, Children of Men, gave me a similar feeling of fear. Partially because it does have that dystopian plot, but also, I believe, because of the cinematography. I'll get to that in a minute.

The movie is based in 2027, a time where not a single child has been born in the last 18 years. One man, played by Clive Owen, must take a pregnant woman to safety. This incredibly original movie (though based on a novel) powerfully casts a shadow on earth's future. Chaos is everywhere, everything has lost its value.

The cinematography was especially impressive, as I mentioned before. Sometimes particular scenes would last for minutes on end, showing the depth and artistry of the director and cinematographer--and the difficulty of pulling so much off. As well, the cinematography would place you into the scene, sometimes moving with the actors on foot. It's not as bumpy as you would think, and it works so incredibly well to really make you a part of what is going on.

This movie works so well. The action will leave you on the edge of your seat, the human drama is incredibly moving, and so on. Check this movie out. It's pretty fantastic.

I... am... ticked.

Okay, so yesterday I decide to scan more pictures for the wedding. I get to Wal-Mart about five-ish, and camp out at the Kodak scanner for two hours scanning 140 pictures. It's pouring outside, but I don't care. I'm bound and determined to get this done. I finish things up, and pop in a CD to burng the pictures onto it. Minutes, MINUTES before the CD is finished--THE FREAKING POWER GOES OUT. Everything is lost. 140 pictures, two hours, down the drain.

You have got to be kidding me!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Question I have...... (part one of many)

--Okay, so the whole statistic that says "Spiders [or other insects] crawl in our mouths while we sleep at least twice [or more or less] a year." What? Do we know that? How do we know that? How on EARTH can that be tested? Who tested that? Who wanted to be that subject? I just find it hard to believe that we can even know something like that--ESPECIALLY, if it wasn't tested objectively. We're ASLEEP.

Just after I type this, snopes comes to mind.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Price Is Right

I just read recently that this week Bob Barker was ending his time as host of "The Price is Right," so I decided to share a very interesting story about people I met while attending a showing of "The Price Is Right" in California.

We got up at 4 am to get to the show early enough to get a good spot. We arrived at 4:45 in the morning and there was already a line of over 150. While we were waiting, and old man got in line behind us. He was a short man, wearing a baseball cap and jacket. He didn't really look at us, especially when he spoke to us. We began to talk to him, and he was very quiet and reserved. We finally found out his name, Luis, and he opened up more and more. He was a retired postal worker. He didn't have a lot of family in the area. We found out that since 1984 Luis had been going to the Price is Right EVERY DAY. Seriously. Every day of taping, he was there.

He finally won in 1990. He won two cars, and an assortment of other things. Even though he won and therefore can't win again, he still goes to every single taping. He has never missed a day of the Price is Right, save for a day during spring break when a bunch of college students attended a taping and got there before he did. It was so interesting talking to this guy who knew more than the people telling us what to do! The Price is Right had even offered Luis a VIP pass to just go in and avoid the lines but he did not accept it. We tried to find him after the taping to talk more, but he was gone.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Current Songs I'm Loving

These are seriously all over the place:

"Jungle Love" - Steve Miller Band
"Icky Thump" - White Stripes
"Umbrella" - Rihanna. Shut up.
"Unravel" - Bjork
"Bleed American" - Jimmy Eat World
"Fake Empire" - The National
"Montage" from Team America
"Noah's Ark" - CocoRosie.... this song is so weird. But it's cool.
"If You Find Yourself Caught In Love" - Belle and Sebastian

Friday, June 8, 2007

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title:

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
His Eminence the Very Lord Timothy the Haunted of Walk upon Water
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Transformers Theme

Guess who's doing the Transformers theme for the movie? Seriously.


Monday, June 4, 2007


I couldn't have been more happy reading this news item:

US court rejects FCC broadcast decency limit

By Martha Graybow

NEW YORK, June 4 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Monday overruled federal regulators who decided that expletives uttered on broadcast television violated decency standards, a major victory for TV networks.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, in a divided decision, said that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission was "arbitrary and capricious" in setting a new standard for defining indecency.

The court sent the matter back to the commission for further proceedings to clarify its indecency policy. The FCC, which said it was still studying the opinion, could decide to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court.

The FCC ruled in March 2006 ruling that News Corp.'s Fox television network had violated decency rules when singer Cher blurted "fuck" during the 2002 Billboard Music Awards broadcast and actress Nicole Richie used a variation of that word and "shit" during the 2003 awards.

No fines were imposed but Fox had challenged the decision to the appeals court, arguing that the government's decency standard was unclear, violated free speech protections and that the rulings had contradicted findings in past cases.

Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin angrily retorted that he found it "hard to believe that the New York court would tell American families that 'shit' and 'fuck' are fine to say on broadcast television during the hours when children are most likely to be in the audience."

"If we can't prohibit the use (the two obscenities) during prime time, Hollywood will be able to say anything they want, whenever they want," Martin said in a statement.

He was silent on a Supreme Court appeal, though Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat, and the Parents Television Council urged the FCC to appeal.

The stakes are high for broadcasters who could face fines of up to $325,000 per violation.

The three-member appeals panel focused on whether expletives were used repeatedly or were only uttered fleetingly. The FCC had argued that, under certain conditions, one utterance can violate the decency standard.

"We find that the FCC's new policy regarding 'fleeting expletives' represents a significant departure from positions previously taken by the agency and relied on by the broadcast industry," Judge Rosemary Pooler wrote for herself and Judge Peter Hall in the majority decision.

"We further find that the FCC has failed to articulate a reasoned basis for this change in policy," the ruling said. "Accordingly, we hold that the FCC's new policy regarding 'fleeting expletives' is arbitrary and capricious."

The court did not rule on constitutional challenges to the FCC's policy. But the majority of the judges suggested it could be tough for the commission to prevail on constitutional grounds.

"We are skeptical that the commission can provide a reasoned explanation for its 'fleeting expletive' regime that would pass constitutional muster," the majority wrote.

Judge Pierre Leval dissented, writing that he believed the FCC "gave a reasoned explanation for its change of standard."

Fox said it was "very pleased with the court's decision" and that it believes "that government regulation of content serves no purpose other than to chill artistic expression in violation of the First Amendment."

"Viewers should be allowed to determine for themselves and their families, through the many parental control technologies available, what is appropriate viewing for their home," Fox said.

The FCC under the Bush administration embarked on a crackdown of indecent content on broadcast TV and radio in 2004 after pop star Janet Jackson briefly exposed her bare breast during the broadcast of that year's Super Bowl halftime show.

A few weeks after that incident, the FCC reversed an earlier staff decision and ruled that the fleeting use of an expletive by U2 rock star Bono during a 2003 NBC broadcast was indecent.

FCC Chairman Martin has pressed subscription television services to give customers the option of blocking channels they find offensive and on Monday opened the door for the idea of blocking broadcast channels as well.

"Permitting parents to have more choice in the channels they receive may prove to be the best solution to content concerns," he said. (Additional reporting by Peter Kaplan in Washington and Paul Thomasch in New York)