Monday, June 11, 2007

News that caught my attention lately

Biologists Make Skin Cells Work Like Stem Cells
NY Times Online (June 7, 2007)

In a surprising advance that could sidestep the ethical debates surrounding stem cell biology, researchers have come much closer to a major goal of regenerative medicine, the conversion of a patient’s cells into specialized tissues that might replace those lost to disease.
The advance is an easy-to-use technique for reprogramming a skin cell of a mouse back to the embryonic state. Embryonic cells can be induced in the laboratory to develop into many of the body’s major tissues.
If the technique can be adapted to human cells, researchers could use a patient’s skin cells to generate new heart, liver or kidney cells that might be transplantable and would not be rejected by the patient’s immune system. But scientists say they cannot predict when they can overcome the considerable problems in adapting the method to human cells.
Previously, the only way to convert adult cells to embryonic form has been by nuclear transfer, the insertion of an adult cell’s nucleus into an egg whose own nucleus has been removed. The egg somehow reprograms the nucleus back to an embryonic state. That procedure is known as therapeutic cloning when applied to people, but no one has yet succeeded in doing it.
The new technique, developed by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University, depends on inserting just four genes into a skin cell. These accomplish the same reprogramming task as the egg does, or at least one that seems very similar.

The technique, if adaptable to human cells, is much easier to apply than nuclear transfer, would not involve the expensive and controversial use of human eggs, and should avoid all or almost all of the ethical criticism directed at the use of embryonic stem cells.

Bush insists Kosovo must be independent and receives hero's welcome in Albania
The Guardian (June 11, 2007)

George Bush declared yesterday that he had made up his mind that Kosovo should be an independent country, throwing down the gauntlet to Russia and challenging President Vladimir Putin to abandon attempts to block the path to statehood at the UN security council.
On the first visit by a US president to Albania, Mr Bush focused on the fate of the majority ethnic Albanians across the border in Kosovo and voiced impatience at Russian and Serbian blocking tactics, which are holding up a vote on the issue at the security council.
The US was working hard to reach an international agreement on Kosovo, he said. "Independence is the goal. That's what the people of Kosovo need to know. If it is apparent that is not going to happen in a relatively quick period of time, in my judgment, we need to put forward the resolution. Hence, deadline."
If the deadlock continues, western analysts say, Washington could encourage Kosovo to declare independence, afford it diplomatic recognition, and encourage others to follow. That would divide Europe and be very messy, possibly violent.

Dutch banks invest in landmines
Expatica News + ANP (11 June 2007)

Four large Dutch banks invest in companies that are boycotted by the UN because of human rights violations. This emerged on Sunday from a study by television programme Zembla.
ABN AMRO, ING/Postbank, Fortis and Rabobank all reportedly finance businesses that cause serious harm to the environment and produce cluster bombs and landmines.
ABN AMRO for instance invests in defence companies whose weapons end up in countries including the Sudan. The UN boycotts Sudan because of widespread human rights violations.
Friends of the Earth Netherlands and the Socialist Party (SP) said on Sunday that they planned to stop working with the ING/Postbank.
Development aid organisation Oxfam Novib also carried out its own investigation into the involvement of the four large banks in the weapons industry.
The organisation said on Zembla that it would not be leaving its bank (ABN Amro) because of the dubious investments. Director Papma did condemn the bank's investments as "horrendous."

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