January 26, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009
The US Food and Drug Administration gave the green light to Geron to commence the world’s first clinical trial involving human embryonic stem cells. “By early summer, a handful of patients with severe spinal cord injuries will be eligible for injections of specialized nerve cells designed to enable electrical signals to travel between the brain and the rest of the body.”

During the initial phase of this trial, safety of the treatment will be assessed, before moving on to the potential discovery of a variety of therapeutic benefits. Prior benefits have already been revealed among rats who regained their ability to control their hind legs as a result of stem cell injections.

To begin with, what are embryonic stem cells?
These stem cells come from embryos that are four to five days old. At this stage, an embryo is called a blastocyst and has about 150 cells. These are pluripotent (ploo-RIP-uh-tunt) stem cells, meaning they can divide into more stem cells or they can specialize and become any type of body cell. Because of this versatility, embryonic stem cells have the highest potential for use to regenerate or repair diseased tissue and organs in people.

Clearly, “anti-abortion groups have opposed the trial, and the Society for the Unborn Child even called the proposal ‘sick’. A spokesperson for the organization claimed that, “It involves cannibalising an unborn child”.

Many might claim that destroying human life in hopes of saving human life is unethical; however the benefits well outweigh the costs. For instance, stem cell research could potentially assist in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, stroke, diabetes (Type 1), birth defects, replacement or repair of damaged organs, and reduce risk of transplantation. Moreover, even if diseases are not cured, this research could lead to a more improved quality of life for many people. "I would absolutely love to see a quadriplegic regain use of their thumb," said UC Irvine neuroscientist Hans Keirstead.

Although controversial, would it not be reasonable to admit that we should work toward sustaining healthy lives with stem cell research as long as abortion remains legal?

Stem cell therapy to be tested on spinal cord injuries

New Stroke Research Trial Stirs More Controversy Over Stem Cells

Stem cells: What they are and what they do

© www.mentalhealthblog.com

January 19, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009
Professor and paediatrician, Dimitri Christakis of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington, has published a summary of research findings in Acta Paediatrica that support the claim that television viewing for infants under the age of two actually does more harm than good.

Professor Christakis maintains that infant TV viewing is associated with delayed language, with shortened attention spans and with delayed cognitive development. This may be, in part, due to the overstimulation of the brain from TV programs flashing lights, quick screen changes, auditory cuts etc. Christakis reviewed 78 studies from the past 25 years and could not find one that actually provides supporting data that television can help the developing brain.

Some Key Findings:

  • 29% of parents in a 2007 American study allowed their infants to watch TV because they believed it would promote brain development, despite a lack of real scientific evidence.

  • Educational programs developed for infants can actually delay language development according to many studies.

  • Infants imitate what they see on TV, but learn better from live presentations.

  • A 2004 study of 1,300 children found a modest association between infant TV viewing and attention problems by age 7 while ruling out many factors.

  • School age children who watched a lot of TV as infants performed more poorly on reading and memory tests.

  • More than 1 in 5 parents in one study allowed their infants to watch TV because they needed time for themselves.

Evidently, companies in the educational TV programming business dispute these findings. With the average age where children begin watching TV dropping from 4 in 1971 to 5 months of age today, the exploitation of this demographic group likely runs parallel to this trend as companies like Baby Einstein and Baby Genius develop their TV shows that aim to support the developing brain. It’s not difficult to see how parents can be so easily deceived. After all, who wouldn’t want their child to excel? These companies work hard and spend a lot of money on marketing tactics in order to persuade parents that their products are beneficial. But, when the evidence doesn’t support the claims, parents need to be made aware of the damage TV can have on their children. Undoubtedly, more money is available to market the benefits of these products than there is available to fund research grants that prove these products have the exact opposite affect that they endorse.

The American Academy of Paediatrics discourages TV viewing in the first two years of life, but only six per cent of parents are aware of this advice despite ongoing publicity.

Letting Infants Watch TV Can Do More Harm Than Good
Baby TV time slows development: Research

© www.mentalhealthblog.com

January 5, 2009

Monday, January 05, 2009
The government of British Columbia is hoping to pass a law that forces homeless people with mental illness to take shelter during extremely cold weather. Rich Coleman, B.C.'s minister of housing and social development said "there's no law that technically says you can make them go to a shelter, and I think we need a law to compel them to go". However, Coleman hopes to make changes to the section of B.C.'s Mental Health Act that outlines situations in which those with mental illness can have treatment forced upon them if they risk harming themselves or others.

Police officers in B.C. have embraced the idea suggesting that "it could give police officers a solution to the "revolving door" of mentally ill people they take to shelters but who end up back on the street within hours". Some authorities have even suggested that the ability to force people off the street will free up valuable emergency resources.

On the other hand, Kelly Reid, a manager of VIHA's Mental Health and Addictions department stated: "while the act is useful for people with clearly-defined mental illnesses, it is often difficult to apply to members of the street community who can have multiple illnesses and addictions and therefore be harder to diagnose".

This idea seems quite difficult to implement. How will police officers determine who is at risk of harm or who is mental ill for that matter? What about the most basic question of all: how cold is too cold? Where will police force these people to stay? Acting executive director, David Eby, of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association argued that due to lack of funding people cannot be forced into beds that do not exist!

It never ceases to amaze me that funding is continually pumped into policing rather than prevention. This very notion turns shelters into prisons, punishing instead of supporting. It would never occur to the government that extra funding could be more useful in helping the homeless with or without mental illness to secure and maintain their very own housing.

B.C. wants law to force mentally ill into shelters

© www.mentalhealthblog.com

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