Scientists Reach Stem-Cell Milestone

After nearly a decade of setbacks and false starts, stem-cell science finally seems to be hitting its stride. Just a year after Japanese scientists first reported that they had generated stem cells by reprogramming adult skin cells — without using embryos — American researchers have managed to use that groundbreaking technique to achieve another scientific milestone. They created the first nerve cells from reprogrammed stem cells — an important demonstration of the potential power of stem-cell-based treatments to cure disease.

Led by Kevin Eggan at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Christopher Henderson at Columbia University, the 13-person team reported online today in Science Express that they had generated motor neurons from the skin cells of two elderly patients with a rare form of ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative condition. The new study marks an important first step on the road toward real stem-cell-based therapies, and also answers several plaguing questions about the pioneering stem-cell technique known as induced pluripotent stem cell, or iPS, generation.

IPS was first described by Japanese biologist Shinya Yamanaka, who, in 2007, showed that the introduction of four genes into an adult human skin cell could reprogram it back to an embryonic state (Yamanaka had reported the same achievement in mice the previous year). Like embryonic stem cells, these reprogrammed adult cells could be coaxed into becoming any other type of cell — from skin to nerve to muscle. But researchers questioned whether the new stem cells would behave as predictably or as safely as embryonic stem cells, or whether iPS would consistently yield usable cells. "Our work shows that the original method developed by Yamanaka works great," says Eggan.

Researchers also questioned whether iPS would work with delicate cells from older people or with cells taken from patients with disease (Yamanaka used skin cells from healthy middle-aged people in his study). Eggan and Henderson tackled both issues at once, by working with cells from two siblings, ages 82 and 89, who both had ALS. It turned out that generating iPS cells from older patients proved no more difficult than growing them from younger ones, says Eggan. "This study puts those issues definitively to rest," he says. "It opens the door to being able to make patient-specific stem-cell lines [to treat] diseases that affect people very late in life, like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease."

In the lab, Eggan's group has successfully turned stem cells into motor neurons, the cells that connect the spinal cord to the body's muscles and which degenerate in ALS. But researchers have not been able to prove that these cells will be clinically useful — that is, whether the new nerve cells will work as well as healthy ones in the spinal cord of a patient. Testing the viability of cells made from iPS stem cells is still a long way off, mostly because iPS requires the use of viruses to deliver the time-reversing genes into adult cells — that works in the lab, but it is not yet safe for patients. To use iPS cells in patients, researchers would have to find a way to reprogram adult cells using chemicals, rather than genes.

There are other, more immediate payoffs of the new study. For one thing, it gives researchers a better understanding of how ALS progresses. Because the new nerve cells have the same genetic makeup as the patients' own diseased cells, Henderson says, they may very well develop signs of the disease in culture, allowing researchers to watch ALS unfold before they eyes. "Our lack of understanding of the disease process is preventing us from developing more efficient cures," says Henderson. "Because the disease is happening in the spinal cord, we don't have access to living samples of neurons undergoing the disease process. But now we have in the culture dish the very cells affected by the disease."

One theory about the cause of ALS is that motor nerves die after exposure to a toxic compound released by other nerve cells in the spinal cord. The Harvard and Columbia groups are hoping to test that idea in the lab: if the cells in culture release the same agent, then finding drug compounds that block the damaging effects of the toxin could preserve neurons and hold off the paralyzing effects of the disease.

The answers to those questions, says Eggan, may come in a matter of "months, not years." It's still unclear whether the new iPS nerve cells can live up to the gold standard of cells created from human embryonic stem cells, but Eggan, Henderson and their colleagues are confident that their current achievement brings stem-cell science one step closer to the original and ultimate goal: cures for diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer's and diabetes.


Dell Vostro 2510 Notebook Details Surface

Vostro 2510 is aimed at the business user

Every year when back-to-school time rolls around, hoards of laptops are released and prices drop to try to lure shoppers to purchase. A new business-focused notebook from Dell called the Vostro 2510 has surfaced in an ad inside a Dell Business Flyer for August 2008 reports Engadget.

According to the ad that surfaced, the Dell Vostro 2510 will be available starting at $899. Details from the ad show for your money you get an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, Vista Business, 2GB DDR2 RAM, 160GB HDD, 256MB NVIDIA 8400M GS graphics and a webcam built-in.

In the ad pictured on Engadget, a URL is given, and at the time of writing the URL gives a page not found error. Engadget reports that the page was available before. The Canadian Dell site does have specs available for the notebook with prices starting at $1,159 CAD.

The Vostro 2510 base notebook uses an Intel Core 2 Duo T5670 CPU running at 1.8GHz. Optional CPUs for the notebook include the Core 2 Duo T5870 and Core 2 Duo T9500. The operating system can be upgraded from Vista Business to Vista Ultimate. Two options are available for the display including the standard 15.4-inch wide screen WXGA+ and the optional 15.4-inch UltraSharp WUXGA.

The Vostro 2510 can be optioned with up to 4GB of RAM and a 250GB HDD or a 32GB SSD. The SSD option adds $230 CND to the price. A Blu-ray drive is optional as is Dell 802.11n wireless networking. Battery choices include a 6-cell Li-Ion or a 9-cell Li-Ion. The 2510 weighs 5.72 pounds with the 6-cell battery and measures 14.6-inches wide x 1 to 1.5-inch high x 10.16-inches deep.

Earlier this week, Dell announced a lower cost notebook called the Inspiron 13 that retails for under $700.

Sleep Headphones

How do you feel about looking like a sweat band-wearer straight out of the 80s? You’re okay with that? How about if we add in an awkward wire extending out of the forehead area? Don’t worry about looking cool. You’ll be asleep for most of the time. These are the Sleep Headphones, straight from the pages of Etsy.

The Sleep Headphones are made to fit comfortably around your head and ears while you sleep. Wearing a big set of muff headphones just doesn’t do the trick when your trying to pass out. But then again, listening to your significant other’s persistent snoring isn’t doing much for your sleeping habits either. The Sleep Headphones look like they could be worn all night without a hitch.

Totally custom honed for your sleeping pleasure, the Sleeping Headphones come shipped with a soothing audio CD and a pleasantly girly lavender-colored sachet. Used in correlation with some aroma therapy and maybe a nice glass of wine, nothing will be able to wake you up from your deep slumber.

It’s not exactly a budget product at $60 a pop, but if you compare the price to other premium headphones on the market, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. We’re not quite sure how good the sound quality is, but it should serve you well for your needs.

This is called travelling “in Royal style”.

The first Air Bus A380 aircraft was delivered to Singapore Airlines months ago and their maiden flight was from Singapore to Sydney, Australia and the ticket was $10,000. All 455 tickets were sold in no time and all proceeds from it went to charity.

30 Creative Ads

These are some amazing ads that make you almost instantly believe that the product is worth a shot. I’ve gathered some of the most creative ads that recently hit the internets.

World's Cheapest Laptop Released

The Impulse NPX-9000 laptop is available for US$130 and features a 7-inch screen and Linux OS. It comes with a 400MHz processor, 128MB of RAM, 1GB of flash storage and an optional wireless networking dongle. It also includes office productivity software, a web browser and multimedia software.
The Impulse NPX-9000 laptop is cheap but there's a catch - it has to be bought in bulk, in units of 100. The laptop is available on through the online store of Taiwanese company Carapelli Ltd.

World's Largest Arch Bridge in Dubai by 2012

I have seen and described a lot in my journeys, but now I am left with no newer words to describe the upcoming structures in Dubai. It’s always the ‘largest’ or the ‘tallest’ or the ‘most expensive’ kinds of terms only that can epitomize the construction coming up in this crazy place. The latest on the list is the World's largest Arch Bridge. The mile-long bridge will be 670 feet tall at its highest point! And it’s gonna encompass 12 lanes of traffic with a metro line running down the center. Estimated to be able to carry over 2,000 vehicles per hour in each direction, this bridge will be built at a whopping cost of 817 million dollars!