Scientific Supporters of ES Stem Cell Research Fear Future Abuses

first_img“How would you know if a human brain was trapped in a mouse’s body?”  This frightful and intriguing question opened an article in Nature this week.1  More on that in a minute.    Last week, in the Oct. 14 issue,2 a Nature editorial on California’s Stem Cell Proposition 71 stated that “the proposal is less of an unalloyed blessing than it seems.”  Though most professional scientists are eager for funds to test embryonic stem cells, Nature feared that the proposition goes overboard.  It amends the state constitution, threatens a state economy that is near insolvency, and promises it will pay for itself, “But it is not clear that these analyses hold water.”  Worst of all, it prevents oversight by the state legislature, expecting the researchers to police themselves.  Surprisingly, Nature supports government oversight of scientific funding.  The NIH and NSF at the federal level, which operate under the scrutiny of Congress, perform a healthy role: “At these agencies, scientific merit is judged almost entirely by the community itself, but Congress ultimately ensures that the public good is paramount.”  No such policing comes with Prop. 71, however, and the money trail looks too tempting:Proposition 71, in contrast, would introduce a new model for the support of scientific research at the state level that would rely on mere transparency as a guarantee against abuse.  Although public meetings are promised, the oversight committee would consist mainly of people with close ties to the universities, institutes and companies that stand to benefit from the money spent.  Most of the rest are representatives of disease groups.  The committee makes the ultimate funding decisions and will be allowed to modify NIH rules of informed consent and human-subject protection as it sees fit.    The advocacy of such people as the actor Christopher Reeve – whose untimely death this week deprives biomedical research of one of its most forceful and effective lobbyists – has helped to elevate the promise of embryonic-stem-cell research, sometimes to unrealistic levels.  It is up to the people of California whether they want to approve Proposition 71.  But if they do, researchers must strive to ensure that no funds will be abused, and they must give full consideration to a wide array of ethical concerns.  Anything less risks damaging public trust in science.Yet how effective can self-policing by researchers be, when the temptations for grant money, prizes and lucrative pharmaceutical contracts threaten to make ethics take a back seat?  This was the subject of the editorials this week in Nature1 and Science3 about feeble first attempts in Washington to decide what is right or wrong.  The lack of clear guidelines on stem cell research occasioned the question about human brain cells in mice: how would anyone know?  If the researcher feels he has to experiment with chimeras (see BreakPoint commentary) to find a cure, on what basis will the scientific community claim it is unethical, and how could they stop it?    Erika Check wrote about prominent biologists debating such questions just in the last few days at the US National Academies, now that California’s Prop. 71 is already on the ballot and appears poised for an easy win, especially since the state’s popular governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has endorsed it along with Michael J. Fox and other celebrities.  Since no clear guidelines exist, and no federal policies have the force of law, the scientists have a free rein to create their own consensus about what is ethical.  The vacuum has allowed some already to charge ahead into areas that are blurring the line between human and animal:Researchers at the meeting agreed on a lot: that the use of human embryonic stem cells to produce a baby should be banned, for example, and that stem-cell researchers should adopt guidelines to reassure the public that their work is ethically sound.  But they differed on how to handle chimaeras, which mix cells and DNA from different species….    Scientists could even construct a mouse whose entire brain was made of human-derived cells….The article quotes Irving Weissman of Stanford who is already creating human-mouse chimeras with private funds.  Weissman claims the “yuck factor” is no reason to ban such research.  The fact that the government so far has not taken the lead in establishing guidelines puts the burden on the scientists themselves, but is this the fox guarding the henhouse?  “That leaves a hole for scientists, who are not sure what the law permits them to do, and lack guidance on their work’s impact on public opinion.”  How, then, can they “reassure the public that their work is ethically sound?”    Speaking for Science,3 Constance Holden provided more details on the meeting of scientists last week in Washington, DC.  The scientists seemed to agree on little more than the need for guidelines.  They admitted that there is no clear distinction between “stem cell research” and “cloning” even among biotech investors, though the public is usually reassured that cloning is bad.  And they could not answer such basic questions as, “what does it mean to accord an early embryo ‘respect’?”  It didn’t help to hear a legal expert confide, “much assisted reproduction is human experimentation in the name of treatment.”  The potential for deceiving a gullible public appears more powerful than ethical concerns, especially from the so-called religious right (see 09/27/2004 headline). EurekAlert reported that the UN is also considering talks about the ethics of therapeutic cloning, as ES stem cell research is called.  Dr. Gerald Schatten (U. of Pittsburgh) argues research first, ethics later as he admits that ES stem cells have no track record: “Will therapeutic cloning create immune matching?  It’s unclear.  At this point, we don’t even know if human embryonic stem cells are safe, let alone effective.  What’s important is that research be allowed to continue so we can find out.”    The bottom line: the race toward this potentially lucrative technology by states and other countries seems to be outpacing concerns about ethics, even though there is no evidence ES stem cells will cure anything (while adult stem cells already have plenty).  Now that they are on the verge of getting their way, the scientists are having one last twinge of conscience before charging full steam ahead.1Erica Check, “Biologists seek consensus on guidelines for stem-cell research,” Nature 431, 885 (21 October 2004); doi:10.1038/431885a.2Editorials: “California dreaming,” Nature 431, 723 (14 October 2004); doi:10.1038/431723a3Constance Holden, “Bioethics: Stem Cell Researchers Mull Ideas for Self-Regulation,” Science, Vol 306, Issue 5696, 586, 22 October 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5696.586].If anyone should have a voice in the ethics of stem cell research, it should be Joni Eareckson Tada, the advocate for the disabled who has spent the last 37 years in a wheelchair herself.  She has done far more than the TV celebrities to help the afflicted.  Her organization “Joni and Friends” has supplied over 25,000 wheelchairs to the disabled poor in Africa and other third world countries.  Moreover, she could certainly be expected to look with hope over any therapies that might allow her to walk again.  Yet she remains a staunch opponent of embryonic stem cell research, for good reasons, as explained on the bioethics page of her website JoniAndFrends.org.    Joni has appeared on radio talk shows and TV interviews, such as in a debate last week on Faith Under Fire.  The clarity of her logic is unimpeachable.  Yet it is unlikely that she can overcome the tear-jerking, emotional commercials by celebrity actors that tug at the heartstrings with empty promises that embryonic stem cells might cure your grandmother of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, despite no track record and many problems (while adult stem cells are flourishing: for another example, see EurekAlert report this week about skin cells fighting brain tumors).  Meanwhile, beneficiaries of Prop. 71 stand to make a killing on taxpayer funds.  Follow the money trail: why don’t private investors support ES stem cell research?  Yet the taxpayers are going to have to foot the bill for a possible boondoggle that may take decades to show any results– maybe never, while a class of human beings will be created to be destroyed for scientific research (a good time to re-read John Durkin’s letter; see 09/03/2004 headline).  Since California voters never seem to find a bond issue they didn’t like, even when living in a state climbing out of near bankruptcy, the world is staged to see the next chapter in our brave new world opening on November 2.  Maybe the scientists will figure out how to be “ethical” while they’re laughing on the way to the bank.(Visited 10 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Capitec gets nod from Swiss

first_imgCapitec Bank is one of 27 brands fromaround the world which, according toCredit Suisse, are the brands of the future.(Image: Capitec) MEDIA CONTACTS • Sumarie BrandCapitec head of communications and PR+27 21 809 5955• Walter JacobsCredit Suisse+27 11 384 2217Janine ErasmusSouth Africa’s Capitec Bank is the only African brand to crack the list of “Great Brands of Tomorrow”, issued by the renowned Swiss-based financial services group Credit Suisse.The Stellenbisch-based bank, which celebrates its ninth anniversary in March 2010, eclipsed its more  established – and far bigger – rivals to score a mention as one of the Zurich-based Swiss bank’s up-and-coming brands of the future.Capitec was in illustrious company – there were 26 other brands nominated, among them Facebook, Apple, Polo, Swatch, Hyundai, Mahindra, and Amazon.com.“Using our framework and global network of analysts,” said the report, “we identified 27 Great Brands of Tomorrow at various stages of development that we believe will significantly outperform the market over the next three to five years as they build and leverage brand equity to grow in size, scale, and profitability.”Credit Suisse also said that it believes the future for brands, especially from an investment point of view, is very bright, because top brands reach millions of people around the world.Over the coming years, said the institution, there will be thousands of new consumers in developing countries who will use their new-found spending power to support their favourite brands.A group of 3 000 analysts in 50 countries participated in the survey, which aimed to distinguish those brands that were likely to outperform the competition in the future and rise to the top in their respective markets.Credit Suisse rated its top brands on three main factors: innovation, aspiration, and scale. The first factor is self-explanatory. The second focuses on the tactics the brand uses to grow its influence with customers, and the third factor refers to use of the brand’s own power to develop advantageous relationships, cutting costs and maintaining its competitive edge.“In our view, Capitec Bank is one of the exciting ‘new’ brands in South Africa,” said securities analyst Walter Jacobs of Credit Suisse. “Through the bank’s recent branding exercises like the new logo and TV advertising campaign, we also expect that its brand awareness will yield positive results for the bank and ultimately its shareholders.”Innovative business modelThe Swiss company commended Capitec on its low-cost banking model, which attracts customers for whom value for money is an important issue and who are looking for a better alternative to the established options.Capitec marketing and corporate affairs executive Carl Fischer said the bank was pleased to be the only South African company on such a prestigious list, and that it was honoured.“At Capitec Bank we have based our business model on innovation and doing things differently,” said Fischer. “We have applied a pioneering approach to traditional banking by using technology, which have enabled us to simplify banking, so this international recognition is a powerful endorsement of the success of our strategy so far.”He added that the success and wide acceptance of Capitec’s money management solutions, which involve a minimum of red tape, was seen in the bank’s rapidly growing client base.Capitec’s plans for the 2010 fiscal year include the opening of 40 new branches across South Africa, bringing the total number to just over 400. Part of the strategy is to secure space in high-visibility shopping centres for at least 10 of these new branches, which is possible now because of the current economic climate and the resultant availability of space.Capitec plans to challenge the four big established local banks, setting its sights on middle income earners who have traditionally supported either First National Bank, Standard Bank, Absa Bank or Nedbank.The bank currently services around 2.1-million customers, but the next benchmark is 2.5-million by the end of the 2010 fiscal year, and looking further ahead, 5-million by 2016/2017.Credit Suisse maintains that most of Capitec’s growth remains in the unbanked or underbanked market and that there is still huge potential among the 37% of all South Africans who do not have banking facilities.Steady growthCapitec began operations in March 2001 and listed on the JSE less than a year later, in February 2002. It has 371 branches countrywide, with approximately 3 400 employees.The bank provides loans, savings accounts, and other transactions through branches, debit cards, the internet, ATMs, or through retail partnerships with chain stores Pick n Pay, Boxer and Score, Shoprite, Checkers and PEP stores. It also offers an internet-based payroll facility.Capitec has introduced innovations, such as a 30-day loan that can be arranged entirely via a mobile phone, that simplify the often complicated banking business. The customer sends a text message with the loan amount needed, the loan is processed, and once it is approved the funds are available immediately in the customer’s account – with no filling out of interminable forms required.Strategies used to grow the brand include a stint on popular soapie Generations, which increased visibility and awareness.last_img read more

Ohio’s Crop Progress — Timely Rains Improve Conditions

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Sporadic rainfall was conducive for corn growth and pasture rejuvenation, according to Cheryl Turner, Ohio State Statistician with the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. There were 5 days suitable for fieldwork for the week ending June 18th.Most rains were not excessive and soil moisture levels remained steady. Some parts of the state received over 3 inches of rain where others received none. Warm wet conditions arrived to give recently emerged crops and oats a boost. The temperatures also helped ripen wheat as harvest got underway. Despite rains, growers had opportunities between storms to continue side dressing corn and spraying weeds. Soybean planting and replanting was in its final stages and some hay was cut.Click here to read the full report.last_img read more

An update on nitrogen recommendations for wheat

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Do we have any wheat left in Ohio? I would like to see more acres. It makes our other two crops better and reduces weed, insect and disease problems for them, too. The new Ohio Agronomy Guide has just a bit of an update on spring nitrogen (N) recommendations for wheat in Ohio.We still suggest following the Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations for N rates in wheat, with an update on the discussion of why. We do rely on yield potential of a field to make the recommendation. Once you have set a realistic yield goal, the recommendation may be based on the following table. These recommendations are for mineral soils with adequate drainage and 1% to 5% organic matter.Nitrogen rate for wheat by yield potential.Yield potentialTotal N ratebu/Alb/A60607075809090110100130 We do not give any credit for the previous soybean or cover crop, since we do not know if that organic N source will be mineralized for the wheat crop. The recommendation does suggest that you subtract from the total (spring N) any fall applied N up to 20 pounds of N per A.last_img read more

Will do whatever I can to help Unmukt, says St Stephen’s College Principal

first_imgSoftening his stand, St Stephen’s College Principal Valsan Thampu on Thursday said India’s Under-19 World Cup winning skipper Unmukt Chand will be taken care of.Unmukt was denied promotion to the second year of his Bachelor of Arts course by St Stephen’s as the young cricketer failed to accumulate the minimum attendance required by college. Speaking exclusively to Headlines Today, Thampu said Unmukt will be given a rousing reception at the college. “I will do whatever I can to help Unmukt,” he said. Vice-president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Union Minister, Rajiv Shukla, had earlier said it was an internal matter of the college. He had appealed to St Stephen’s authorities to consider Unmukt as a special case. “I appeal to St Stephen’s to take a considerate view on Unmukt. But I understand that it is an internal matter. The college is autonomous. But I am making this appeal,” Shukla said.last_img read more