Journals: Throughout the semester you will find a total of 4 recently dated (within 2 weeks of submission) articles that discuss a new biological issue. Your article may come from a newspaper, magazine, scientific journal, or a credible news/journal website on the Internet (i.e. Sciencedaily.com, nationalgeographic.com, etc.). Refer to the Lecture Schedule on the last page of this syllabus for each of the due dates.
1. You must cite the source article for your journal. This citation must include the date, article title and complete website URL or magazine, newspaper, journal, etc information. No citation; no grade.
2. Write a one-page maximum paper discussing your answers to the following questions:
* Summarize the article and discuss how the new information was discovered (type of research, observation, human subjects, etc.)?
* How did the article enhance your understanding of the biological issue OR in what ways did it disagree with your past knowledge on the subject?
* Why is the article important knowledge for the general public?
Embryonic Stem Cells May Help Regenerate Sight! Source: http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/01/embryonic-stem-cells-appear-safe.html
In this article they discuss the effects of human embryonic stem cells (hESC)that wereinjected into 2 clinically blind women. The growth of hESCs have occurred for over a decade now, but safety issues (whether they were harmful to inject into a person) and ethical debates have held off the use of hESCs. A biotechnology company called Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts, developed cells which are part of the eye’s retina; the area where photoreceptors are found that allow you to see light. The scientists injected 50,000 of these engineered cells into 2 women who were suffering from vision loss. Surprisingly neither woman had any adverse signs to the injected hESC derived cells in the past 4 months as has been shown in mice. The women were given immune-suppressingmedication to keep the body from attacking the “foreign” cells. Both women reported improvement to their vision; however, the scientists could only find evidence of the engineered retina cells in one woman. The scientists also cautioned that the women’s vision improvements are small and it could be explained by the placebo effect (“I received a drug so I will get better”–mind over matter stuff). Other scientists are also working on this particular type of cell (retina) because the eye is less likely to reject cells than other parts of the body; they are also working on other techniques for getting the engineered cells into the eye other than injecting it. The trial involving the 2 women is not over yet and scientists are holding their breath to hear the final results of this promising treatment using human embryonic stem cells for the first time in humans.
It is amazing to me that I have discussed embryonic stem cells for so long and that this is the first clinical trial to use the stem cells. It is even more amazing to me that the process is going so well for the first time (the scientists were really checking to see whether tumors would develop or not; the improved vision was a bonus!) Since this trial is not over and more trials are needed, it is hard to conclude whether this will be a successful treatment for people with vision problems, but it is exciting.
This is important for the public not only because it demonstrates the potential usefulness of hESC for the first time, but also for people who have tried other treatments for their vision loss. There may be hope for them in the near future.
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