Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Blind Spot?

Stem cell stories are like buses- you wait for them for ages and then several come along at the same time. There now is a report (based on a very small sample of 2 patients) reporting significant improvements in the vision of people with age-related macular degeneration following the creation of a 'patch' on the retina with stem cells (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/mar/19/doctors-hope-for-blindness-cure-after-restoring-patients-sight). People have been suggesting that stem cells can be used to counter such blindness (where the yellow spot or fovea centralis essentially dies) for a number of years but one has to be careful, as there is money to be made from such treatment (elderly patients with disposable income) and not everyone is in a position to use the technology effectively.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Stem Cells to the Rescue?

There are reports of a potential 'game changer' in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis or MS (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43435868). MS is a condition where numbers of lesions occur in the fatty, myelin sheaths around the nerves, resulting in damaged neural transmission with consequences including impaired abilities to move effectively or to think clearly.  It now appears that the condition may have an auto-immune component with the body attacking its own tissues. Certain groups of patients have, reportedly, shown very good responses to a procedure where:- a) stem cells (undifferentiated cells that have a wide capacity to convert into different specialist tissues) are harvested from their bone marrow and preserved; b) the patient's 'faulty' immune system is destroyed by chemotherapy and c) a 'new' immune system is created by re-seeding the patient with their own stem cells (so there are no rejection issues). The result, in some cases, appears to be a functioning immune system that no longer attacks the myelin sheath of nerves. Some MS patients are reported to be symptomless several years after the procedure. The procedure may not work in every patient and individuals would be open to disease from external and internal (so-called 'latent') factors whilst undergoing chemotherapy but it does offer hope of a cure (the duration of the benefit may still have to be confirmed). It is, of course, possible to induce cells from other sources (e.g. skin cells) to become customised stem cells and they could, perhaps, be used in this procedure.  

Saturday, 17 March 2018

In Clover?

It seems likely that gene editing techniques will soon yield strains of domestic animals that will be largely resistant to many of the more common viral and bacterial diseases that influence their species (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/mar/17/scientists-on-brink-of-overcoming-livestock-diseases-through-gene-editing). The technology is obviously more for the benefit of the farmers (to curtail disease-associated losses) rather than for the benefit of the animals themselves. It could, however, reduce the numbers of animals that are bred for meat-eating as breeders would not have to attempt to compensate for traditional losses.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Seeing the Changes 1259

Common field speedwell (Veronica persica) and Common dog violet (Viola riviniana) were respectively in flower in Bynea and Loughor.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Seeing the Changes 1258

A hot day in Loughor! A Tree bumble bee (Bombus hypnorum) basked by my front door.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Birder's Bonus 180

Around 200 gulls in the middle of Loughor estuary at low tide.

Seeing the Changes 1257

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) just coming into flower in Bynea!

Blind Spot?

Stem cell stories are like buses- you wait for them for ages and then several come along at the same time. There now is a report (base...