Scientists Successful In Growing “Mini-Stomachs” That Produce Insulin When Transplanted

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A team of researchers has succeeded in creating mini insulin-producing organs that can be implanted into a diabetic animal to maintain glucose levels, progress towards what they consider the future of regenerative medicine.

The cells the researchers found are best at producing insulin when reprogrammed are pylotic cells — cells from the lower region of the stomach, called the “pylorus region.”

They think that these cells work best because they are naturally very similar to the pancreatic beta cells that normally carry out this function. What they do better than other cells is respond to high glucose levels by producing insulin to normalize blood sugar levels.

Engineered gastic mini organ – the green represents insulin cells and the blue gastric stem/progenitor cells

What the researchers first did with their mouse test subjects and what they think could be done for people are two different things.

With mice, the researchers initially reprogrammed cells in their stomachs with conversion genes to become beta cells, and then they destroyed the mice’s pancreatic beta cells, forcing their bodies to rely solely on the artificially created ones. While control mice died within eight weeks, mice possessing the reprogrammed cells lived as long as they were tracked (up to six months).

The researchers also found that pyloric cells had the advantage of naturally renewing themselves — when the researchers destroyed the cells they had created, new ones grew and produced insulin.

Engineered stomach

This transgenic experiment would not be used as treatment for diabetes in people, however. Instead, the researchers set about to try something new: they grew tiny stomachs to produce insulin.

They took pyloric tissue out of mice, reprogrammed it to express beta-cell functions, grew the cells in the form of a tiny ball of insulin-producing “stomach,” and put the ball back into the mice. When they destroyed these mice’s pancreatic cells, the engineered organ implants compensated, maintaining normal levels of glucose in five of 22 test animals.

Senior author Dr. Qiao Zhou of the Harvard University Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology explained how they will bridge the gap from the current study to an application for people.

“We are working on two approaches to move this forward toward therapeutics,” Zhou told The Speaker. “One approach is to create engineered human stomach mini-organs from human iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells made from the fibroblasts of individual patients) that can produce insulin in culture, followed by transplantation. The other approach is to culture human stomach stem cells from patient biopsy samples, reprogram them into beta-cells in culture, and then transplant them back to the same person. We are making progress on both fronts.”

He also noted the promise offered by engineered therapeutic organs in general.

“The regenerative medicine field has been moving towards a very exciting future of making and engineering entire organs with a complex assembly of different cell types. It is still early but with enormous potential. These organs could replace or supplement the normal function of organs in our body that are failing due to disease or aging. Genetic and bioengineering could be further applied to endow the organs with new function. I believe this is very much the future of regenerative medicine.”

The researchers said they were excited about their success. Replacing insulin-producing pancreatic cells is something science has been trying to do for decades.

“The most surprising part of the study for me is that there are cells residing in your stomach that share surprising features with pancreatic beta-cells,” said Dr. Zhou. “They do not naturally make insulin, but I believe therapeutic methods can be found to “tickle” them to do so. If successfully, it will provide an new approach to treat diabetes.”

Images: The report
Report: Ariyachet et al.: “Reprogrammed stomach tissue as a renewable source of functional beta-cells for blood glucose regulation,” published in Cell.
Link to report

Crimean Tatars – The Struggle Of A Nation

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It is three o’clock at night. Your front door is being knocked on heavily. Not completely awake, you come closer to the door. When you open it, the soldier who breaks in tells you to get prepared to leave the house in 15 minutes. You are not aware that these are your last minutes in the house which you have been living in for years…

The entire Crimean Tatar population, an ethnic Turkic nation living in Crimea for centuries, were exiled from their own land on May the 18th , 1944 by Joseph Stalin on charges of collaborating with the Germans in WW2. After a very secret and planned preparation, soldiers carried out the order of Stalin to clear all Crimea from Crimean Tatars in one night.

Nearly half of the population, (approximately 125000 of 250000 consisting only women, kids and elderlies since the men had been fighting for Red Army,) starved or died of various illnesses due to the inhumanly conditions in livestock wagons which were carrying them to the deserts of Middle Asia and Ural Mountains.

All Crimean Tatar houses were given to Russian or Ukrainian settlers and village names were changed into Russian in one night. Books, cemeteries, anything related to Crimean Tatar existence were destroyed brutally by Soviets.

Crimean Tatars in exile were forced to work in Kolhozes, were prohibited from leaving their location, speaking their native Crimean Tatar language even mentioning their ethnic identity and their dreadful exile experience by strict rules, disobedience against which resulted in death or imprisonment in labour camps not less than 10 years.

After Stalin’s death, all nations who were exiled by Soviets, were allowed to return to their homeland except Crimean Tatars. Only after a long and painful struggle Crimean Tatars gained the right to rejoin their beloved homeland in 90’s.

Starting a new life in their own homeland was not easy as they were exposed to intense suppression from Russians and Ukrainians who captured their land and houses half a century ago.

After 72 years, Crimean Peninsula still remains its exclusive statue which can not be shared by Ukraine and Russia as Crimean Tatars, the indigenous inhabitants of Crimea, are too few in number to claim their independence in the land of their own ancestors.

Letter by Emre Seven

Seven Trucks Shot In Past Two Nights On Highway 75

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Wal-Mart officials have said that three trucks were shot Sunday night and three more were shot on Monday night while travelling along a stretch of highway in Oklahoma.

In addition, one other commercial vehicle — reported to have been a Swift truck — and one personal vehicle were hit over the last two nights.

The shooter is suspected to have been firing from the west side of the U.S. 75 highway between 106th Street North and 156th Street North, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, which is assisting in the investigation led by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.

The trucker drivers involved reported hearing loud noises at that point along the highway between the hours of 8:30 and 11:30 p.m., which they thought was something hitting their vehicle or a noise from the truck, but did not realize it was gunshots until they found the bullet holes later on.

The trucks were travelling between Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s distribution center near Ochelata and other destinations when they were struck.

UPDATE: Two 14-year-old boys have been arrested in connection with the truck shootings, Oklahoma’s News On 6 has reported, who, according to the organization’s sources, admitted to doing “target practice.”

By Andy Stern
For ongoing coverage, refer to Tulsa World

Home Prices Up 12% In Canada, But Down When BC And Ontario Factored Out

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Home prices are up in Canada, hovering around the record 6-year high point, but this is almost entirely due to trends in two areas: Greater Vancouver primarily and Greater Toronto on a smaller but still significant level, according to market authorities.

The Canadian Real Estate Association reported that Canada-wide, the average home price was now $454,000, up 12 percent on a year-by-year basis.

But factoring out the GVA and GTA, the average is only $337,000, up 5.4 percent.

Further, according to CREA, even this rise is due largely to price trends in areas near Vancouver.

Elsewhere in Canada, home prices are flat or declining.

Canadian real estate

Factoring out the provinces of B.C. and Ontario, the average home currently costs $294,000, a decline of 2.2 percent year-over-year.

The VGA home costs $761,000 on average, up 35 percent from 5 years ago, and houses in nearby areas such as the Fraser Valley are also up to nearly $500,000, representing a rise of over 23 percent in the last 5 years. In both of these areas, all types of dwellings are up — two-story single family, one-story, townhouse and apartment.

Canadian real estate

The biggest price rise in the last 5 years, though, was Toronto, where the average house price rose 42 percent to put it at $574,000, still $200,000 cheaper than Vancouver. All types of dwellings continue a steady rise in Greater Toronto — the steadiest rising trends of any market represented in CREA’s chart data.


Are Albertans Mailing Their House Keys Back To The Bank?

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A phenomenon known as “jingle mail,” where home-owners faced with mortgages they cannot pay mail their keys back to the bank, may be taking place in Alberta’s slumping economy, concerning the Canadian federal government.

The name of the game is “strategic default” — where those who have recently bought houses but have not paid for them find walking away more attractive than trying to pay off the rest of their investment.

The number to watch for is 20 percent, according insolvency experts. When high-end house prices drop that much, people start to consider the option.

This is because the downpayment on a house is also usually around 20 percent and, unlike all other Canadian provinces, the home owners often suffer no liability when they take this course since non-recourse residential mortgages are so common in Alberta. Lenders cannot take the home owner to court to seize their other assets.

The peak for housing prices in Alberta was in 2014, so many new house buyers are now under water. Their mortgages are higher than house appraisals for the houses purchased during the industrial boom that has now passed.

Since 2014, oil prices have plummeted and many Albertans who had been taking home above-average incomes are now without job prospects in their fields.

Jingle mail also was sent in the province in the 1980s when a trend of leaving Alberta for work in other provinces began.

This time, according to bankers, it has started in towns like Grande Prairie and Fort Mac, where many people are involved in servicing the oil and gas industry in one way or another.

By Andy Stern

US Supreme Court Justice Scalia Dead

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the longest-serving justice on the court, is dead.

Scalia was found dead Saturday morning at a ranch outside of Marfa, Texas, where the justice had been hunting quail. The death was of natural causes, according to federal officials.

A priest has been called to Marfa to provide for the deceased.

Scalia served as justice on the Supreme Court since 1986 when he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. He was 79 when he died.

World’s First Running Night Festival In Two Canadian Cities

Running Night Festival
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Joggers and festival-goers will convene again this year for the world’s first night running music festival. The event will take place in 35 locations around the world, including two Canadian cities and dozens of U.S. cities.

The 2016 Night Nation Run now has over one million registered members.

On the night of the event, runners will dress up in bright colors and don glow-in-the-dark and illuminated items. Check-ins start at 5:30 p.m. The pre-party will begin at 7:30 p.m.

The run — along an illuminated 5 kilometer course — will be accompanied by live music, lights and lasers, and will start at 8:30 p.m.

At the end of the run, a party will be held for the runners, featuring fog, lights, cyro, confetti guns, and giveaways, besides the music — including a surprise headliner DJ.

The run will happen in Toronto on July 23 and Vancouver on August 6.

Tickets for the event cost $70, but early bird prices of $35 are available until February 12. Tickets include a T-shirt, race bib, and glow necklace, besides admission to all of the night’s events. Kids under 8 years old are free when they accompany a paying adult.

Proceeds from event tickets will go partly to fund the charity organization Stand Up To Cancer.

Night Nation Run is reminding all participants to bring a copy of their confirmation email to the event for faster processing.

By Andy Stern

Islamic Violence Kills 1,508 In First Month Of 2016

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In the first month of 2016, Islamic attacks in 23 countries took the lives of at least 1,508 people and injured 1,714 others, according to Islamic violence watch group The Religion of Peace.

Among the 138 attacks that took place in January, 38 were suicide blasts.

Since the World Trade Center attack in 2001, when TROP began its count, there have been 27,712 attacks that have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths around the world.

Read more: Islamic Extremists Killed 27,000 People In 52 Countries In 2015


Inflatable Space Module Set For ISS Mission

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Bigelow Aerospace’s inflatable BEAM module — a new lightweight activity module, part of Bigelow’s continued endeavors toward putting into use a wide range of portable expandable habitation spaces, including the living-and-working-space BA-330 (pictured above) — has been scheduled for a March NASA mission to the space station.

The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module will be sent to the space station in the SpaceX Dragon capsule, and will be berthed to the space station’s Tranquility node. It will then be pressurized and expand to its full size with air stored in the compressed module.

BEAM will then be monitored through a test period of two years. Astronauts will periodically enter the module to inspect it and gather performance data.

After the test period, BEAM will be jettisoned and will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, burning up.

BEAM and SpaceX Dragon Capsule show scaled to human figure (Image: Bigelow Aerospace)

Bigelow Aerospace is working with NASA to produce expandable systems, including habitational systems, and has already completed two succeful missions with its Genesis pathfinder I and II spacecraft — missions noted for their relatively low-cost.

The low cost comes from the low weight of the Bigelow constructions — one-tenth the weight of some similar modules. Improvements in craft weights have come in large part from advances in lightweight, strong materials such as Kevlar.

The BEAM module walls are made of many layers of Vectran, a material similar to Kevlar but made of spun liquid crystal fibers, and fire-resistant Nomex.

Space modules
Space modules linked in Bigelow development lab (Photo: Bill-Ingalls/NASA)

The Nevada-based company is working towards a standalone space habitat in addition to its current module projects. A large expandable module is already being developed by Bigelow — three times the size of any individual module on the ISS, the BA330 is designed for a maximum crew size of six in its 330-meter square environment. The BA330 is designed to be used in conjunction with other modules to build larger module complexes in space.

By Andy Stern

Some images of future BEAM modules

Octopuses Turn Black, Posture Aggressively To Intimidate Each Other

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A recent study of octopuses off the coast of Australia has discovered that — despite usually being considered a solitary animal — octopuses have a social life, and part of that social life involves physical displays of toughness.

When octopuses meet each other in agonistic interactions, they exhibit certain types of behavior, researchers at the Alaska Pacific University found.

“We found that octopuses are using body patterns and postures to signal to each other during disputes,” said David Scheel of Alaska Pacific University.

“The postures and patterns can be quite flashy, such as standing very tall, raising the body mantle high above the eyes, and turning very dark.”

The impetus for the research came from a member of an online cephalopod community noting something he’d seen octopuses doing that he thought was interesting. The researchers took it from there, watching 186 interactions between Octopus tetricus — a species that lives in Jervis Bay, Australia — which furnished them with 500 interactions.

The agonistic behavior was what they noticed primarily.

When both octopuses turned black, it was more likely they would engage in physical violence to settle the question of dominance, but when one turned black and the other was a pale color, the pale colored octopus more often retreated while the black octopus held the field.

“Dark color appears to be associated with aggression, while paler colors accompany retreat,” said Scheel.

Next for the researchers is further investigation of octopus interactions — specifically, they want to investigate suspicions that social interactions among the species occur when food is abundant and hiding places scarce. They also want to understand the consequences of these types of social interactions in the context of octopus populations.

The report, “Signal Use by Octopuses in Agonistic Interactions,” was completed by Drs. David Scheel, Peter Godfrey-Smith and Matthew Lawrence, and was published in the journal Current Biology.

By Andy Stern