Stem cell ruling may stifle research
British medical researchers have condemned a Europe-wide ban on the patenting of stem cell inventions derived from human embryos - setting back possible new treatments for a range of disorders, from heart disease and diabetes to blindness and Parkinson's.

Prof Yash Pal

Prof Yash Pal





Stem cell ruling may stifle research
Steve Connor

British medical researchers have condemned a Europe-wide ban on the patenting of stem cell inventions derived from human embryos - setting back possible new treatments for a range of disorders, from heart disease and diabetes to blindness and Parkinson's.

Scientists expressed their dismay at the decision, saying the ban will act as a huge disincentive for investment in a critical area of research that promises to revolutionise medicine in the coming decades. They said the ban means that their discoveries, often made within universities with public funding, are unlikely to be developed into practical treatments for NHS hospitals because companies will not be prepared to take the investment risk without a guarantee of intellectual property protection.

The judgment makes no mention of the morality of using human embryos for stem cell research but it comes to the same conclusion as the Catholic Church in its opinion that it is not right to destroy human "test-tube" embryos for commercial gain.

The ruling by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which is binding across all EU countries, means that existing patents involving the use of embryonic stem cells are no longer valid and that future patent applications will not be considered. The court upheld an earlier opinion by the Court's advocate general, Yves Bot, that no one should be able to patent an invention that comes out of research involving the use of human embryonic stem cells. Mr Bot had argued that it is unethical to use human embryos for the production of stem cells for commercial applications unless those stem cells are used for the benefit of the embryo itself.

Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, head of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh University, said the decision will lead to a shift of vital stem cell research from Europe to the US and Asia. "It will unfortunately make it less likely that companies in Europe will invest in the research to develop treatments to use embryonic stem cells for treatment of human diseases," Sir Ian said.

Professor Austin Smith, of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research at the University of Cambridge, who has patents in this field, said: "We are funded to do research for the public good, yet prevented from taking our discoveries to the marketplace where they could be developed into new medicines. The benefits of our research will be reaped in America and Asia."

Another leading researcher, Professor Pete Coffey of University College London, who has just won an award for his work into age-related blindness, said: "The potential to treat disabling and life-threatening disease using stem cells will not be realised in Europe. I have just won a prize from the New York Stem Cell Foundation for translating stem cell research into clinical practice, yet I now find that Europe, the continent in which I am doing this research, is basically calling me immoral.

"I cannot produce a medicine. I can give a therapy; I can show how it works in a small group of patients, but we need companies to commercialise this work. This decision will be a major barrier to patients receiving these treatments."

The European Court was asked to make a ruling on the patentability of human embryonic stem cells as part of a court case in Germany between Greenpeace and Oliver Brüstle, director of the Institute for Reconstructive Neurobiology at Bonn University, who holds patents on a technique involving stem cells.

—The Independent


Russians see room for moon base in lunar lava caves
Helmets displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Paris, as part of the exhibition about the Gauls, entitled "Gaulois : une expo renversante" (Gauls, an Astounding Exhibit").
Helmets displayed at the Museum of Science and Industry in Paris, as part of the exhibition about the Gauls, entitled "Gaulois : une expo renversante" (Gauls, an Astounding Exhibit"). — Reuters photo

STAR CITY, Russia: The United States may have put the first man on the moon, but Russian scientists and space explorers are now gazing at a new goal-setting up a colony on the moon. The discovery of volcanic tunnels on the moon could provide a natural shelter for the first lunar colony, cosmonauts and scientists said on Tuesday.



More Facebook friends linked to bigger brain areas

LONDON: Scientists have found a direct link between the number of "friends" a person has on Facebook and the size of certain brain regions, raising the possibility that using online social networks might change our brains. The four brain areas involved are known to play a role in memory, emotional responses and social interactions.

Malaria scientist celebrates success after 24 years

SEATTLE: For Joe Cohen, a GlaxoSmithKline research scientist who has spent 24 years trying to create the world's first malaria vaccine, Tuesday, October 18, 2011 goes down as a fabulous day. "There were many ups and downs, and moments over the years when we thought 'Can we do it? Should we continue? Or is it really just too tough?" he said, as data showing the success of his vaccine were unveiled at an international conference.

Oldest Sumatran orangutan in US dies at age

SACRAMENTO, Calif: Ginger, the oldest known Sumatran orangutan in the United States, was euthanised on Tuesday at the Sacramento Zoo to prevent further suffering from various age-related ailments. She was 56. Born on the western Indonesian island of Sumatra in 1955, Ginger arrived in California's capital in 1984 after previous stints at zoos in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Chicago, the Sacramento Zoo said.

Turning wood into oil, in two simple steps

ORONO, Maine: Efficiency and simplicity have long eluded renewable-fuel researchers, but a Maine scientist has developed a two-step process he says can make oil from the cellulose in wood fibre. This process, far less complex than competing methods, creates an oil that can be refined into gasoline, jet fuel or diesel and removes nearly all oxygen- the enemy of fuel efficiency.

Soyuz set for first French Guiana launch

PARIS: A Russian Soyuz rocket will blast off from French Guiana on Thursday in a new East-West partnership designed to redraw commercial competition in space. The scheduled lift-off is the first time that Soyuz, which first flew in 1966 and traces its roots back even further to the earliest Cold War intercontinental ballistic missiles, has been launched from outside its former Soviet bases.

— Reuters



If we are standing at a bus stop and a vehicle goes past us swiftly, we feel some wind after the vehicle goes past us. Why don't we feel it when the vehicle is approaching us?

A fast-moving bus pushes out the air in its path, thus creating a lower pressure zone behind it. This is filled by air rushing in from behind and also from the sides. Similarly when you are standing on a railway platform and a train rushes past at high speed, you are advised to stay far from the edge of the platform because there is a air current that would push you towards the rail line — this current is a result of the lower pressure caused by pushing away the air in the path of the train. One effect of this phenomenon is that a speeding bus or train is followed by a cloud of dust raised by the air that rushes in to fill the travelling low pressure created vehicle.

Water in the sea in not levelled property as it is in the bucket. Why is it so?

I think you are mistaken. The roughness of the sea is due to the action of the wind on the sea surface. In quiet weather in the middle of the ocean the sea can be very quiet and level. While saying this I must remind you, and myself that the sea surface is not absolutely flat because it must necessarily respond to the gravitational pressure. Indeed through accurate measurements of the sea surface using spacecraft and radars on can detect the bottom configuration of the sea floor.

Water surface in a bucket of water is flat away from the walls of the bucket. If the bucket rotating uniformly, we still get a smooth looking surface, but it would have a curvature. The water surface would now represent the gravitational field plus the artificial gravity produced through rotation of the bucket.

Why does cutting onions bring tears in our eyes?

Onion's tissues and cells have some compounds that are released in a sort of a mist when the knife cuts through them. This compound is some kind of a sulfoxcide. It is said that the mist containing this compound forms sulphuric acid when it encounters the wet surfaces in our noses and eyes. This causes irritation. Eyes water, presumably to wash out the irritating effect of this incursion, and noses run. It has been suggested that cutting onions under a layer of water could reduce the problem. It seems to me that a table fan blowing away the air over the cutting board used for onion chopping might reduce the amount of vapour wafted into our face. Some people suggest that if you cut onions close to a lighted kitchen burner the nuisance is reduced. If true this might be due to the fact that near a burner upward convection of hot air takes the vapour out of reach of our eyes!

PS: I pulled this reply from the answer I gave some years ago. I still like this answer.