Archive for January 5th, 2012|Daily archive page
Your Anatomy & Physiology class for the day. If I have to take it, YOU have to take it with me….
Mitochondria are sub-cellular organelles that break down sugar to make energy for the cell. Our mitochondrial DNA accumulate mutations and mitochondria become less functional as a result. Possibly other mechanisms are at working causing mitochondrial aging as well. A new report finds mitochondrial damage accumulation in stem cells has an especially large impact on overall aging.
Aging-related tissue degeneration can be caused by mitochondrial dysfunction in tissue stem cells. The research group of Professor Anu Suomalainen Wartiovaara in Helsinki University, with their collaborators in Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging, Karolinska Institutet and University of Wisconsin reported on the 3rd January in Cell Metabolism their results on mechanisms of aging-associated degeneration.
Stem cells are called the spare parts for tissues, as they maintain and repair tissues during life. They are multipotent and can produce a variety of different cell types, from blood cells to neurons and skin cells. Mitochondria are the cellular engine: they transform the energy of nutrients to a form that cells can use, and in this process they burn most of the inhaled oxygen. If this nutrient ‘burning’ is inefficient, the engine will produce exhaust fumes, oxygen radicals, which damage cellular structures, including the genome. Antioxidants target to scavenge these radicals.
Already in 2004 and 2005 a research model was created in Sweden and USA, which accumulated a heavy load of mitochondrial genome defects. This led to symptoms of premature aging: thin skin, graying of hair, baldness, osteoporosis and anemia.
In the current publication, scientist Kati Ahlqvist in Professor Suomalainen Wartiovaara’s group showed that these symptoms were partially explained by stem cell dysfunction. The number of stem cells did not reduce, but their function was modified: the progeny cells in blood and the nervous system were dysfunctional. The researchers also found out that these defects could be partially prevented by early antioxidant treatment.
Stem cells are needed to create replacements for damaged cells that die off or cease to do their jobs. Damaged stem cells are unable to perform their function. So less repair gets done as our stem cells accumulate damage and become dysfunctional with age. Biotechnology that would enable us to replace our old stem cells with younger ones would go far to slow and partially reverse aging.
Another research team found that in mice bred to age rapidly stem cell injections slowed aging and enabled the mice to live longer.
PITTSBURGH, Jan. 3 – Mice bred to age too quickly seemed to have sipped from the fountain of youth after scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine injected them with stem cell-like progenitor cells derived from the muscle of young, healthy animals. Instead of becoming infirm and dying early as untreated mice did, animals that got the stem/progenitor cells improved their health and lived two to three times longer than expected, according to findings published in the Jan. 3 edition of Nature Communications.
Previous research has revealed stem cell dysfunction, such as poor replication and differentiation, in a variety of tissues in old age, but it’s not been clear whether that loss of function contributed to the aging process or was a result of it, explained senior investigators Johnny Huard, Ph.D., and Laura Niedernhofer, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Huard is professor in the Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Pitt School of Medicine, and director of the Stem Cell Research Center at Pitt and Children’s Hospital of PIttsburgh of UPMC. Dr. Niedernhofer is associate professor in Pitt’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI).
“Our experiments showed that mice that have progeria, a disorder of premature aging, were healthier and lived longer after an injection of stem cells from young, healthy animals,” Dr. Niedernhofer said. “That tells us that stem cell dysfunction is a cause of the changes we see with aging.”
Stem cells from young healthy mice enabled progeria mice (i.e. mice selected for to age more rapidly) to live longer.
Their team examined a stem/progenitor cell population derived from the muscle of progeria mice and found that compared to those from normal rodents, the cells were fewer in number, did not replicate as often, didn’t differentiate as readily into specialized cells and were impaired in their ability to regenerate damaged muscle. The same defects were discovered in the stem/progenitor cells isolated from very old mice.
“We wanted to see if we could rescue these rapidly aging animals, so we injected stem/progenitor cells from young, healthy mice into the abdomens of 17-day-old progeria mice,” Dr. Huard said. “Typically the progeria mice die at around 21 to 28 days of age, but the treated animals lived far longer – some even lived beyond 66 days. They also were in better general health.”
The symptoms which old mice suffer from serve as a reminder of why we need rejuvenation therapies. Do you want to hunch over, tremble, or move slowly and awkwardly? I think not.
As the progeria mice age, they lose muscle mass in their hind limbs, hunch over, tremble, and move slowly and awkwardly. Affected mice that got a shot of stem cells just before showing the first signs of aging were more like normal mice, and they grew almost as large. Closer examination showed new blood vessel growth in the brain and muscle, even though the stem/progenitor cells weren’t detected in those tissues.
Once rejuvenating stem cell therapies become available I expect people will start using them while still at fairly young ages. Starting in one’s 20s doesn’t seem too soon.
Asus makes something cool, about the size of an iPad, but with a keyboard and touchscreen. I wish Apple would make something similar (the MBAir won’t cut it and I will not use a Windows platform…yeah, call me crazy, but I just like my computers to function when I turn them on…).
Next time you want to stop a bloodbath, don’t send a war criminal to report on human rights abuses. In a bizarre turn of events, the head of the Sudanese military intelligence has been tasked with ending the crackdown on protesters in Syria as the leader of Arab League observers.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter; the Arab League has a long tradition of irrelevance and, so far, its observer mission in Syria is keeping tradition alive. The impact of the observers has been negligible. At least 49 people have been killed by the regime in the past 5 days, according to Bloomberg. The Arab Parliament, an advisory body to a talking shop, announced on January 1 that the “fact-finding” mission of Arab League monitors has failed.
Lieutenant General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, the head of Sudan’s military intelligence since 1989, has for decades, it is widely believed, personally overseen what most now recognize as genocide in Darfur. And now he is expected to help end the bloodshed in Syria? Tellingly, he declared to Reuters after visiting Homs: “some places looked a bit of a mess but there was nothing frightening.”
Al-Dabi’s appointment was a mistake but it reflects the weaknesses that beset the Arab League as a whole. For most of its history, involvement in wholesale human rights abuses was more a badge of courage than a mark of shame in what was mostly a dictators’ club. Ignoring or even conniving at and enabling widespread, massive violations of human rights throughout the Arab world while screaming to high heaven about everything and anything Israel did has been standard operating procedure in the Arab League for decades.
The Arab League will change only after its member governments change. Even then, change won’t come quickly. It lacks the standing, the skills, the resources and the leadership to play the kind of role Syria needs. Naming a notorious genocidaire to a humanitarian mission is only one symptom of this much deeper disease. The Arab League can bless initiatives of the west (as in Libya) or perhaps of Turkey and others in Syria; it is a very long way from having the capacity to act on its own.
Like a child in the throes of a destructive tantrum, he attempts to reek as much havoc before his parents return to the room to witness the fruits of his infuriation…
You would think that after wasting the first year in office on a foolish attempt to “engage” Iran, Barack Obama would have had his fill of outreach to Islamists. After the Iranians treated his overtures with contempt, even Obama eventually got the picture and switched to an equally ineffective course of feckless diplomacy aimed at isolating Tehran. But apparently the president’s unfulfilled desire to make friends with Islamic extremists is still driving American foreign policy. As the New York Times reported yesterday, the administration has embarked on a full-scale effort to “engage” with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
This is, to say the least, a major reversal of a decades-long American policy to treat the Islamists as a threat to the stability of the region as well as to the U.S.-Egypt relationship. But like New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who embarrassed himself trying to portray the Brotherhood as moderates in a series of columns, the State Department is seemingly convinced it can establish a productive working relationship with it. This is a glaring mistake not just because it is based on a misperception of the Islamists’ goals regarding democracy and willingness to keep the peace with Israel. It is also a slap in the face of the country’s military government that remains the only obstacle between the Brotherhood and the creation of another Islamic republic.
The argument in favor of engagement is based on the notion that the Brotherhood is a fact of life and, as the parliamentary elections have shown, clearly the most popular political force in Egypt. However, that doesn’t mean its intentions are compatible with the creation of a freer and more democratic Egypt, let alone U.S. interests. The ideology of the Brotherhood, like that of the more radical Salafis who also came out ahead in the elections, is still geared toward the creation of an Islamic state and, notwithstanding the credulous reporting of writers like Kristof, the end of minority religious rights and any vestige of freedom in Egypt.
The administration’s anger with the Egyptian military is understandable as its ham-handed attempt to repress dissent and to retain its hold on power have undermined any pretense the Arab Spring will lead to genuine freedom there. But if the only choices available in Egypt are the Islamists and the military, you have to wonder about the judgment of a president who would choose the former. While administration sources say they want to keep communication open with both sides, any attempt to undermine the military at this point constitutes a clear intervention on behalf of the Brotherhood.
Comparisons of American policy toward Egypt with the Carter administration’s foolish support of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s push to oust the Shah from Iran have been largely unfair. The Mubarak government’s fall was inevitable, and nothing Obama did or didn’t do affected the outcome there. But engagement with the Brotherhood at this moment is a ghastly error on the scale of Carter’s Iran mistakes. Americans may well be looking back on this decision with regret for many years to come.
Let’s cut the military – Check, Go play 2089 rounds of gold – Check, Give over secrets to the Russians – Check, Bow in obeisance to Al Qaida – Check….
Bill Gertz of the Washington Times reports that President Barack Obama has indicated he is prepared to convey information about secret American missile defense technology to Russia:
In the president’s signing statement issued Saturday in passing into law the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill, Mr. Obama said restrictions aimed at protecting top-secret technical data on U.S. Standard Missile-3 velocity burnout parameters might impinge on his constitutional foreign policy authority.
As first disclosed in this space several weeks ago, U.S. officials are planning to provide Moscow with the SM-3 data, despite reservations from security officials who say that doing so could compromise the effectiveness of the system by allowing Russian weapons technicians to counter the missile. The weapons are considered some of the most effective high-speed interceptors in the U.S. missile defense arsenal.
There are also concerns that Russia could share the secret data with China and rogue states such as Iran and North Korea to help their missile programs defeat U.S. missile defenses.
Even before this latest revelation, the entire enterprise of President Obama’s disarmament policy–from “reset” with Russia to selling out our European allies–had been a colossal failure, an exercise in cowardice and appeasement that placed the security of the United States at risk.
In the pursuit of a thirty-year-old leftist grudge against President Ronald Reagan’s policy of “peace through strength,” Obama has now apparently suggested his willingness to give away a technological edge eagerly coveted by Russia and especially by China.
There can be no stronger case for replacing Barack Obama in November.
President Obama, just back from another vacation. Needs something for the cameras. To show new year action. Something important. Decisive. A closed lunch with Biden doesn’t really work.
Why not fly Air Force One to Ohio to do something he could easily do in the White House, pick another fight with Congress by announcing a possibly illegal recess appointment?
Obama goes to Ohio a lot. One time he flew four hours roundtrip for a 12-minute event that shut down the jobs he was there to hail.
Crucial swing state. Republicans haven’t won the White House without Ohio in more than a century. McCain went to Ohio in 2008 to introduce Sarah. Didn’t work. Obama took Ohio. This year maybe not.
Dem gov tossed in 2010. Couple of Dem reps too. Dem senator in trouble this year. So, more POTUS attention could be good. Wednesday’s the day. And to guarantee a friendly reception, Obama aides send him to Ohio’s most Dem district up by Cleveland. Obama gets off his big plane.
Hello there. GOP Gov. John Kasich tweets: “Welcome back to OH, Mr. President. You’ll find our budget balanced, our taxes cut, and jobs coming back. Time to do it in DC.”
Obama goes to Shaker Heights High School. With Obama, these choreographed crowd events have a rigidity, a predictable faux friendliness. He’s been doing them so long, even before Oprah helped four years ago.
First time you see this presidential show: He’s fun. Pretty cool to see POTUS. He’s good with these people at a distance. Can work a crowd from the stage. Second time: Things feel a little familiar. But he looks comfortable. Says the right things. Pauses at the right times.
Third time: Geez, is this a tape? Or Wayne Newton’s Vegas show? Obama’s saying/doing the same old same old.
Bounce onto the stage. Usually remove coat. Sleeves up. Walking mic.
Hey, Hello, (Insert state here). It’s great to be back at (insert school name here), home of the (insert sports team name here).
Cue adoring shout. “Mr. President, We love you!”
Pause for surprise. “I love you back. and I’m glad to be back.” (Applause)
Then comes the first act, an endless series of thank you’s and acknowledgments and shout-outs to every conceivable elected or appointed official “in the house.” Mention the principal, maybe joke about dodging detention. Bring up the basketball team (if they’re good). Nominate yourself to play with them but claim your eligibility is up.
Before you get into the guts of the speech, the part about how much you care about the economy and creating jobs and protecting the middle class and how screwed up Washington is because of other people and their sadly chronic partisan ways, you set up the audience with some genuine sappiness.
It’s worked every time. Something seasonal that allows you to show, seemingly offhand, how regular you are and how dedicated to the job you are. And really caring.
“I want to wish everybody a happy New Year,” Obama told the Ohio crowd Wednesday afternoon. “2012 is going to be a good year. (Applause.) It’s going to be a good year.”
“And one of my New Year’s resolutions is to make sure that I get out of Washington and spend time with folks like you. (Applause.) Because folks here in Ohio and all across the country — I want you to know you’re the reason why I ran for this office in the first place. You remind me what we are still fighting for.”
Then, out of the blue Wednesday, came a tiny incident. A minute moment. There had been no signs of trouble, nothing to reveal that the Real Good Talker’s real good talking had lost his touch or control of his sitting subjects. The rest of the speech continued normally. Many there probably didn’t even notice.
The president of the United States has said the next line so many times over these 1,080 days of his reign. He says it as a kind of democratic gesture, a compliment to a crowd of American citizens, a public obeisance that the most powerful man in the world is profoundly connected to them.
Obama said, “You inspire me.”
And you know how the members of that crowd in the most Democratic district of Ohio responded to that campaigning Democratic president’s professed sincerity this time?
They laughed at him.
“Okay,” Obama insisted, “you do.”
And the president, like a pro pol, continued with his speech, as if nothing had happened.
Former presidential candidate Ron Paul urged his supporters today to vote for a minor-party candidate, saying that he had rejected a last-minute appeal from Republican John McCain for his endorsement.
The Texas congressman cultivated a loyal following and raised sizable amounts of campaign cash online during the Republican primaries.
At a news conference in Washington he appeared with independent Ralph Nader, the consumer activist, and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, the former Georgia congresswoman.
Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, the former Republican congressman from Georgia, held his own news conference to announce he has asked Paul, the party’s nominee in 1988, to be his running mate.
In a letter sent to Paul, Barr called Paul one of the “few American patriots” who exist in today’s society, and asked him to “seriously consider this final offer as an opportunity to show true, lasting leadership beyond party politics.”
While many people assume he endorsed Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate, he also endorsed Miss McKinney and the Constitution Party candidate in a vote-for-one-of-them proclamation.
How does one reconcile this: He ran for president as a Republican and when he lost, instead of congratulating the man who won and offering his support, Ron Paul not only did not campaign for John McCain, he campaigned against him.
If third parties are so great, why did he run for Congress as a Republican? This, along with his weird writings in the 1990s, reflects a man who only uses Republicans to advance an agenda that does not quite add up.
I pity his followers, who seem on the whole to be worthy of someone so much better.
Drive through New Hampshire in the next week, and you will see a staggering number of Republican yard signs. They’re everywhere: It seems like every third house has a sign up. They’re on front yards and in the windows of businesses. They’re in every neighborhood representing every demographic. They’re in front of homes along rural roadways, in front of suburban homes in the big southern towns, and in the conservative blue-collar neighborhoods of Manchester.
And there are even Republican yard signs all over the capital city of Concord — a largely Democratic-leaning town in this swing state.
Barack Obama is in big trouble next November.
In elections, yard signs provide the essential “social proof” to back up the television ads, debate performances, and stump speeches — especially when it comes time to close the deal with relatively apolitical or undecided voters.
But this is a Republican primary. What do January yard signs have to do with Barack Obama?
Here is a secret: If you want to predict a general election, count the number of Republican yard signs in “purple” neighborhoods.
Take a drive through an upper-middle class community in a swing state. Find the subdivision where there’s a coffee shop on the corner and an organic grocery store not too far away, ideally where the Priuses outnumber the SUV’s… but not by much. Find the block where the adults are academics, professionals, or government employees and where every household has a couple of kids in the public schools. The voter breakdown in the ideal “purple” neighborhood is about a third Republican, a third Democrat, and a third independent.
Welcome to Concord, New Hampshire. Or Fort Collins, Colorado. Or northern Virginia. Or Raleigh, North Carolina. Or the suburbs and exurbs and small cities in swing states around the country.
Now count the Republican yard signs. Signs are not polling data, and they are certainly not election returns, but a yard sign is a definitive measure of three things: Support (obviously); intensity; and – most importantly — a voter’s willingness to make his political opinions known to his neighbors. A yard sign — especially in a “hostile” environment — is a symbol of political courage, a sign of an impending shift in public opinion.
The early returns from the yard sign tallies are in: Voters in New Hampshire want their neighbors to know that they are voting Republican this year.
That is a big deal. If you live in a conservative community in a Republican state, it is hard to understand the open hostility towards Republicans in “purple” neighborhoods. Put up a sign in your yard and prepare to have your neighbors approach (or accost) you at the grocery store. Prepare to have them bring your kids into the discussion. Prepare to have your business boycotted. There is no separation between the personal and the political on the left, so in a swing state a sign in your yard marks you as a target.
We saw this effect in 2006. My postmortem on the 2006 election debacle was titled “Cocktail Parties and Yard Signs.” It focused on the small city of Fort Collins, Colorado, a college town of about 130,000 people. The city leans Democrat, the county leans Republican. The state is a battleground. The thesis was simple: Republicans in Fort Collins were embarrassed — almost afraid — to put Republican signs up in their front yards.
The “cocktail parties” part of the title refers to how fast Republicans will disavow their own nominee in non-political settings. Go to a cocktail party and listen for the telltale phrase “I’m a registered Republican, but…” Even worse, listen to someone who you know to be a staunch conservative Republican describe themselves as an “independent who votes for the person more than the party.”
The “Cocktail Parties and Yard Signs” effect means that the pressure from the left has won. It means that a certain level it is no longer “socially acceptable” to be a Republican. Republican candidates do not have a chance in that climate.
Actually, we all experienced a similar form of pressure in 2008 on Facebook. When I describe Facebook to political clients, I describe it simply as a front porch in a tightly-knit neighborhood. Social media provides limitless opportunity for word-of-mouth campaigning, but like in the real world, when you put a sign out, you are going to hear from your neighbors. On Facebook, the only candidate on the ballot in 2008 was Barack Obama, and we all heard from our friends, relatives, and long-lost high-school buddies about Hope and Change. That’s the dynamic every cycle in “purple” neighborhoods.
Which brings us back to New Hampshire.
New Hampshire is a purple state. Twenty years ago it was one of the most Republican states in the country, but Bill Clinton (twice), John Kerry, and Obama all carried the state in general elections. The Republicans lost the governorship in 1996, and the Democrats made relatively consistent gains over the following decade. After the 2006 election, Democrats held both Congressional seats, the governorship, and both houses in the legislature (for the first time since 1911). The 2010 election saw the pendulum swing decisively back to the Republicans, but no one was sure if that would translate beyond 2010 and into the presidential race.
Today there are Republican signs up all over New Hampshire. Most tellingly, there are Republican signs up throughout the city of Concord — more than I have ever seen. It is “safe” to tell your neighbors that you are voting Republican.
Barack Obama is in big trouble.