Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Blink of an Eye

Latest studies show that the retina can transmit signals to the brain as fast as an ethernet connection! It seems that the human retina can transmit visual data at approximately 10 million bits per second. In comparison, an ethernet connection can transmit information between computers at speeds of 10 to 100 million bits per second. Study co-authors are McLean and Freed from Penn and Segev and Berry from Princeton. This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

On A LIGHTer Note....

"Photons have mass ?!? I didn't even know they were Catholic..."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

From the Union of Concerned Scientists

I received this e-mail from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) about the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
UCS distributed this survey to 5,918 FDA scientists to assess the state of science at the agency, and nearly 1,000 responded. The results paint a picture of a troubled agency: hundreds of scientists reported significant interference with the FDA's scientific work, compromising the agency's ability to fulfill its mission of protecting public health and safety. Among the more troubling findings:

Almost one in five (18 percent) responded, "I have been asked, for non-scientific reasons, to inappropriately exclude or alter technical information or my conclusions in an FDA scientific document."

More than three in five (61 percent) respondents know of cases where "Department of Health and Human Services or FDA political appointees have inappropriately injected themselves into FDA determinations or actions."

Less than half (47 percent) think that the "FDA routinely provides complete and accurate information to the public."

Two in five (40 percent) said they could not publicly express "concerns about public health without fear of retaliation." More than a third (36 percent) did not feel they could do so even in the confines of the agency.
Independent science is important for the workings of the FDA and other federal agencies. Without impartial science, the FDA is stymied in its job. The health and safety of everyone will suffer as a result of the Bush administration's heavy-handed control of regulatory decisions based on politics rather than hard science.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


So, Bush has finally vetoed his first bill, the stem cell research enhancement bill HR 810, passed by both the Republican House and Senate. In doing so, Bush turns his back on potentially life-saving research for diabetes, Parkinson's Disease, spinal cord injuries, and many other afflictions. It's maddening to live in a country with so many resources and opportunities, only to have legitimate science repressed and vilified with lies and deception. This has to be the most anti-science government in the history of our country. Let's use this setback as a springboard for our efforts in November to reclaim the House and Senate!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Call Your Senators to Support the Stem Cell Bill!

Dear Eyedoc,

Senate Debates H.R. 810 TODAY Take Action!

Last chance to call your Senators

As you know, H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, is being considered on the Senate floor starting today, July 17 and will continue until the vote is held on Tuesday, July 18. Between now and the time of the vote, we need your help!
Regardless of where you live and even if you have contacted your Senators previously, please call your senators and ask them to vote in favor of H.R. 810. Keep the Senate phones ringing with pro-patient messages and ask that your Senators vote YES on H.R. 810. We need the strongest Senate vote possible to send a clear message to the White House that the majority of Americans support medical research and this important legislation.

Already during the debate, several senators have stated that adult stem cells have cured Parkinson's disease. This is absolutely false. If there were a therapy to halt the progression of this unrelenting disease, the millions of Parkinson's patients, caregivers and their physicians would be pursuing that treatment right now. Sadly, the facts show that we have NOT found a cure, or adequate treatments for Parkinson's, using adult stem cells or otherwise.

H.R. 810 Debate Schedule:
Monday, July 17: The Senate debate will continue until 9 p.m. (Eastern Time)

Tuesday, July 18: Debate from 10 a.m. until 3:45 (with an hour break for lunch around noon.)

Immediately following debate, the Senate will vote on the 3 bills in the package individually, with the last vote being H.R. 810. H.R. 810 vote is expected at approximately 5:15 p.m.
Call your senators and tell them that H.R. 810 is the ONLY pro-patient bill that offers hope to millions of Americans, including people fighting Parkinson's disease and their families.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Telekinesis: A Moving Story

How would you like to move objects with just your own brainpower? Scientists at Cyberkinetics have developed a "neuromotor prosthesis", a computer chip that is implanted into the human brain that can translate thoughts into action. So far, one paralyzed patient has learned to draw simple shapes, play a video game, and adjust the channel/volume on a television, using only his thoughts. One can imagine great promise for this new technology that could bring greater independence and safety for paralyzed individuals, with possibility of controlling all kinds of electronic devices with just a thought.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Here's Lookin' at You, Kid

Are you the sort of person who can "forget a face"? Prosopagnosia, or face blindess, is the inability to distinguish between different faces (except the most familiar ones). Those afflicted try to compensate for their confusion by focusing on details of voice, gait, clothing or hair color to identify people. A German research group, headed by Dr. Ingo Kennerknecht of the Institute for Human Genetics at the University of Muenster, has discovered that face blindness can run in families and appears to have a hereditary component.

Now, who did you say you were again?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Hawking Science

"I didn't fancy the thought of being handed over to the Inquisition, like Galileo"
~Stephen Hawking joking about a comment by Pope John Paul II who stated that scientists should not study the origins of the universe, as it was "G-d's work".

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Stem Cells Behaving Badly

What do cancer cells and the developing embryo have in common? The answer is "a whole lotta genes"! My own work and those of my colleagues in the stem cell field show that there are a number of similarities between cancer and embryos. It seems that some cancers--leukemias, brain tumors, and eye tumors show subsets of stem cells that resemble cells from embryos. This is important because these "cancer stem cells" are the ones believed to be responsible for spreading tumors to distant sites and resisting chemotherapy drugs. It only takes one cancer stem cell behaving badly to propagate tumors that will not respond to chemo. By studying the behavior of these cancer stem cells, we can develop new treatments to kill tumors more effectively.

Food for thought: If there are stem cells in tumors that have the potential to develop into a human being, are the fundamentalists going to argue against surgical removal of malignant tumors in order to save the "potential human life" therein?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Cross to Bear

Published: July 1, 2006

ROME, June 30 — Scientists who engage in stem cell research using human embryos should be subject to excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church, according to a senior Vatican official.

Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, who heads the group that proposes family-related policy for the church, said in an interview with the Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana published Thursday that stem cell researchers should be punished in the same way as women who have abortions and doctors who perform them.

"Destroying an embryo is equivalent to abortion," said the cardinal. "Excommunication is valid for the women, the doctors and researchers who destroy embryos."

It was unclear if the pope supported the position, and the Vatican did not return calls for comment. But such blunt remarks from a powerful cardinal just a week before the church convenes a meeting to discuss the topic could foreshadow a hardening of Vatican policy on the issue, experts said.