April 27, 2007

More Good Stem Cell News That Old Media Has No Use For (You Know Why)

It becomes more evident as time goes by that if a stem-cell development isn’t based on embryonic research, it probably won’t get the attention of the Formerly Mainstream Media.

The announcement early last week by Cellerant Therapeutics appears to involve a company more interested in advancing human health than in generating unsupported hype. Because it represents real progress, Cellerant’s announcement (of course) involves adult stem cells (link to dictionary definition of “hematopoietic” added by me):

April 23, 2007 10:13 AM Eastern Daylight Time
Cellerant Therapeutics Reversed Autoimmune Disease in Lupus Mice with Transplant of Purified Donor Blood Stem Cells

SAN CARLOS, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Cellerant Therapeutics today announced the publication of data suggesting that established autoimmune disease can be reversed or stabilized by the transplantation of purified allogeneic (donated) hematopoietic (blood forming) stem cells (HSC) in a mouse study of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). Subjects that underwent this procedure exhibited improved overall survival and decreased lupus symptoms. The research, led by Dr. Julie Christensen with colleagues from Cellerant and Stanford University, was published on April 13, 2007 as a First Edition Paper in the online version of the American Society of Hematology’s journal, BLOOD (Smith-Berdan et. al., DOI 10.1182/BLOOD-2007-03-081497).

“The demonstration of successful reversal of the disease using purified stem cells with non-myeloablative conditioning offers a novel strategy to treat autoimmune diseases such as lupus with decreased morbidity,” said Ramkumar Mandalam, Ph.D., Vice President of Pharmaceutical Operations. “This study also provides further support for our belief that purified stem cells may make it possible to use un-matched donors, such as a parent or non-identical sibling, for a variety of HSC treatment procedures.”

“The publication of this preclinical data further validate Cellerant’s unique use of pure hematopoietic stem cells for a wide range of therapeutic applications, including lupus and other autoimmune disorders, as well as for cancer and blood disorders,” commented Bruce Cohen, Cellerant’s President and CEO. “This finding is consistent with recent reports on successful use of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and merits evaluation of pure stem cells in treating such diseases.”

Cellerant researchers worked with specialized mice that are prone to an autoimmune condition that closely resembles human SLE. The study evaluated both non-ablative conditioning, which leaves the subject’s immune system intact, and fully myeloablative conditioning, which eradicates the subject’s immune system, prior to purified HSC treatment. Traditionally, full, and potentially lethal, myeloablative treatment was considered critical for engraftment success. The researchers found that non-ablative conditioning prior to HSC treatment was not only sufficient to ensure engraftment, but the procedure resulted in improved overall survival. The recipient subjects developed durable mixed chimerism, where the resulting immune system was a mixture of donor and recipient cells. Subjects with established autoimmune disease experienced a reversal of symptoms, including decreased appearance of proteinuria, of circulating immune complexes and of auto-antibodies to nuclear antigens.

The donors and recipients in this study were haplo-mismatched, yet successful engraftment was achieved and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) was avoided. These results suggest that using a HCT treatment that has been purified of all or most host T cells and NK cells may eliminate the need for complete donor/patient stem cell matching. T-cells were not found to be necessary for engraftment in the procedures performed.

About HSC

Cellerant’s highly purified hematopoietic (blood-forming) adult stem cells are isolated from donors or patients undergoing stem cell transplants. This process is designed to provide an improved outcome when used for stem cell transplant indications where a high level of purity is desired or required. After purification, this material contains only stem and progenitor cells, with no detectable contaminating cells such as tumor cells or the T-cells which cause graft-versus-host disease in donor-to-patient transplants. Cellerant is developing hematopoietic stem cells for cancer, genetic blood disorders and autoimmune disease.

In August of last year, Advanced Cell Technology’s alleged embryonic stem-cell research breakthrough (that wasn’t one) that supposedly “did not harm embryos” received blanket Old Media coverage. Yet, despite real news to report, Old Media is paying no attention to Cellerant’s announcement. A few different placements of Cellerant’s press release from five days ago will be the only things you’ll see in a Google News search.

All of this could be viewed as just a PR war, but for one thing: Companies that get favorable press coverage will tend to be more successful in obtaining funding to continue their efforts. Advanced Cell, for example, was able to get over $13.5 million in additional private financing that was directly related to its “breakthrough” announcement. Post-hype objections usually don’t achieve the visibility of the original hype. Though the complaints about Advanced Cell’s claims got wider coverage than usual, that coverage was dwarfed by the saturation reporting on the company’s original announcement.

Since Cellerant is a private, venture-backed company, it’s not possible to quickly determine what kind of financial shape the company is in. But in general, to the extent that companies like Cellerant don’t get the funding that they need to continue their progress at the rate they would like because overhyped, no-results-to-date embryonic research companies and organizations are getting the attention and the capital, progress in fighting disease and advancing human health may be held back.

An exaggeration? Jennifer Clark of the Center for Arizona Policy summed up the current status of stem cell research very succinctly for Life News two weeks ago:

We know this much about embryonic stem cell research — besides the ethical concerns, not one human has received a successful treatment with them. People are being cured and treated every day with adult stem cells. It seems pretty obvious where the funding should go.

But it largely ISN’T where the funding, especially the public funding, is going.

Five or ten years from now, will we be asking ourselves how many lives that could have been saved or improved by adult and other non-embryonic stem cell research efforts were instead sacrificed because of money diverted to the black hole of embryonic stem cell research?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE, Apr. 28: The VentureBeat blog is reporting that Cellerant got $4.4 mil in second-round financing. That is good news, but note that it’s only 1/3 of what the hypesters at Advanced Cell received for accomplishing nothing of note.

1st Quarter Advance 2007 GDP Growth (to be Carried Through the Announcement)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:55 am

Here are the four quarters of 2006 for context:
- 1Q06 — 5.6%
- 2Q06 — 2.6%
- 3Q06 — 2.0%
- 4Q06 — 2.5%

Predictions:

- From Australia

Economists expect the data could show the US economy grew at an annual pace of 2.2 per cent.

”(But) there some speculation that the Q1 GDP due could surprise on the up side,” (RBC Capital markets economist Sue) Trinh said.

- From Reuters

Economists polled by Reuters expected the data to show economic growth, measured by gross domestic product, slowed to a rate of 1.8 percent in the first quarter from 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter last year.

I think that the predictors are overlooking the rubber-band effect of the inventory reductions that dragged fourth quarter GDP down from its original estimate of 3.5%. A similar bounceback in inventory levels could easily send GDP back over 3% again, though as was the case in the fourth quarter, its effect may not be recognized by the government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis until next month’s GDP revision.

The news: Up 1.3%.

Initial reax: That seems artificially low. Economies that are near full employment (with a 4.4% unemployment rate, we’re pretty darn close) usually don’t have growth rates in the 1% range. Given what I noted in the last full paragraph — By the time the revisions are done, I would not be surprised if it ends up at between 2.0% and 2.5%, which, though still not acceptable, is at least not anemic.

One reason why the economy isn’t doing better is discussed here. The other thing that should be obvious, but isn’t to those in Washington, is that it’s time for another supply-side tax cut (see: Hong Kong, Ireland, Iceland, and Estonia), which would not only juice the economy but would bring more money into the federal treasury to reduce the deficit, as the 2003 tax cuts have for nearly the past four years. Instead, the talk is of massive and extremely harmful tax increases.

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UPDATE, 4 PM: It’s clear that the markets aren’t seeing today’s GDP release as a recessionary sign. The Dow closed at yet another above-13000 record, while S&P 500 and NASDAQ were essentially flat. I would suggest that many investors believe that today’s GDP number is going to be adjusted upward, as I do, by the time the final first quarter is released in June.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (042707)

BoingBoing’s Mark Frauenfelder found a maddening example of how the Nanny State in the UK is morphing into the Nagging State.

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Speaking of that site, and of nanny-like ninnies — BoingBoing’s been briefly banned in Boston. Really (HT Slashdot).

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Michelle Malkin’s latest Townhall column nails Hillary Clinton’s vocal affectations. One such incident can be chalked up to a clumsy attempt to be cute. The second indicates extraordinary tone-deafness. The third makes it condescending pandering that anyone should be able to see through — you would hope.

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Since it is an apparently successful strategy for getting out of prison, I think I’m going to try the same tactic on state lottery officials, so they’ll release that multimillion-dollar jackpot I’m “entitled” to.

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What Jeff Foxworthy said.

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More draw-the-line stands like this one would be welcome.

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“Report: 80 percent of blogs contain ‘offensive’ content.” Retort: 90% of reports on the “offensiveness” of blog content are LAME. There’s no shortage of truly offensive content, but when using one word one time among tens of thousands, regardless of context, pushes you into the “offensive” category, all I can say is “Give me a &^%4*@ break.”

How to Learn about Events in Iraq If You’re a Regular LA Times Reader

Putting aside the obvious question (“Why are you an LA Times reader?”) for the moment — Apparently you’ll get closer to the truth of what’s happening in Iraq by reading a Times columnist than you will by reading reports from Times reporters actually assigned to deliver that information.

Here are the first few paragraphs of what columnist Max Boot had to say a few days ago:

An Iraq success story
Once-violent Ramadi, which now enjoys relative calm, shows that Iraqis can achieve peace — with our help.
April 24, 2007

‘A FEW WEEKS ago you couldn’t drive down this street without being attacked. When I went down this street in February, I was hit three times with small-arms fire and IEDs.” Col. John Charlton was describing Ramadi as we drove down its heavily damaged main street, dubbed Route Michigan by U.S. forces. Even though this was an unlucky day — Friday the 13th (of April) — we did not experience a single attack on our convoy of Humvees.

The previous week, a suicide bomber drove a truck filled with explosives and chlorine gas into a police checkpoint, killing 12 people (not the 27 or more cited in most news accounts). But such violence, once the norm, has become the exception. Ramadi, which used to see 20 to 25 attacks a day, now sees an average of two to four a day. By the time I visited, no U.S. soldier had been killed in the town for weeks.

Hmm. Ramadi, Ramadi ….. wasn’t a Times reporter “reporting from Ramadi” (i.e., using an unreliable Iraqi stringer with possible ties to terrorist “insurgents”) not too long ago?

Why yes; it was Solomon Moore. He was telling us that our military carried out a deadly air strike that killed 30 Iraqi civilians — reporting that had to be retracted later (without the paper having the integrity to call it a retraction) after a serviceman called the report false, and Patterico dug into what really happened.

So the news from Ramadi appears to have improved somewhat (also supported by a soldier’s e-mail referred to here), and Max Boot managed to actually set foot in the area to see it for himself.

Meanwhile, it would appear that the Times writers who are supposed to be Times readers’ main eyes and ears in Iraq are still laying low. Here is the text at the end of a recent report (bold is mine):

Jenny Jarvie in Atlanta, Tina Susman and Mohammed Rasheed in Baghdad and special correspondents in Ramadi, Baqubah and Baghdad contributed to this report.

From that description, it look like the Times is still using reports from people as unreliable as the person who fed them the “Ramadi air strike” fiction. Thus, it’s still reasonable to question their accuracy (that would include the report in that same article from Ramadi of “nearly 30″ killed; it wouldn’t be unreasonable to predict that the actual count will drop by more than half, just as the one Boot describes in his column did.).

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

What We ‘Indirectly’ Pay for the Income Tax System: One More Argument for the Fair Tax

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:05 am

The Institute for Policy Innovation talks about a number that comes from The Tax Foundation (link to USA Today article added by me):

$300 billion. (Note: The Tax Foundation link actually says “$275 billion and rising” — Ed.)

That’s how much the Tax Foundation estimates Americans—individuals and businesses—will spend this year on tax preparation.

That’s about 20 percent of the $1.5 trillion we’ll pay in income taxes.

So why are so many Americans willing to shell out what amounts to a 20 percent additional tax just to pay tax preparers? Complexity. Our 67,000-page tax code is impossible to understand—even for the experts.

When USA Today recently gave the same data to four tax experts, they came up with four different tax liabilities.

If the tax code were fairer, simpler and flatter, most of us wouldn’t need those preparers. It would be like a 20 percent tax cut that no one would claim hurts the poor.

IPI’s use of the word “willing” in the fourth paragraph is questionable. I’d say that in most cases the correct word is “forced.”

A private company that spent 20% of its revenue just to collect what it is owed could be described in three words: out, of, business. A firm that tried to push almost all of this cost onto its “customers,” as the IRS does, would never get past the start-up stage.

IPI didn’t really go far enough in its prescription. The incredible costly income tax system should be scrapped and replaced with the Fair Tax.

Positivity: UM student to finish up after just 1 year’s study

Filed under: Education,Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

Nicole Matisse of Bloomfield Hill, Michigan is an awesome achiever:

….. As a student at Lahser High School in Bloomfield Hills. Ms. Matisse had exhausted the curriculum by her junior year. Between the exams she passed eight advanced placement courses and eight classes at Oakland Community College, she had amassed enough credits to enter the university last fall as a junior.

“When I got to UM, I only took 19 credits, and I was bored and craved more credits,” she told the Detroit News. “So even when I took 27 credits this semester, I felt I could have added even more.”

It’s unclear whether any other students have done what Ms. Matisse will accomplish this year, but Donna Wessel Walker, assistant director of the honors program, said she’s never seen it happen.

“She’s taking in one semester the course load that most people take in two,” Ms. Wessel Walker said. “She is one determined young lady.”

Ms. Matisse’s next step is to start as a first-year student at the Wayne State University law school in Detroit.