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Kick Assiest Blog
Monday, September 12, 2005
Human embryos created 'virgin conception'
Mood:  surprised
Topic: Odd Stuff

'Virgin conception' first for UK

Human embryos created using a so-called "virgin conception" technique have been made in the UK for the first time.

The Roslin Institute, which also cloned Dolly the sheep, reported the so-called parthenotes at a Dublin conference.

They are made by stimulating a human egg to start dividing like an embryo without the addition of any genetic material from a male sperm cell.

The Edinburgh team has so far created six parthenotes to the stage at which they would hope to mine stem cells.

"At the moment we have not managed to get stem cells from these embryos but that continues to be our ambition," Roslin's Dr Paul De Sousa told the British Association's Festival of Science in the Irish capital.

Embryonic stem (ES) cells are "master cells" that in the normal reproductive situation go on to form all of the body's tissues.

The Edinburgh-based team hopes to obtain such cells from the parthenotes and use them to investigate their potential in laboratory research and in medical treatments.

The scientists stress the embryos would never be implanted in a woman's womb - and the terms of their research licence prohibit this anyway.

'Inefficient' outcomes

Parthenogenesis (out of the Greek for "virgin birth") occurs quite naturally in a number of lower animals. Insects such as bees and ants use it to produce their drones. Some larger animals can also reproduce this way - there are a few lizards, for example - but it is rare.

And scientists have induced parthenotes artificially in creatures such as mice and monkeys, although it very often results in abnormal development.

Non-UK work on human parthenogenesis for laboratory research has had very indifferent results so far - and the Roslin team also reports highly inefficient outcomes.

For ES cells to be obtained, an embryo must be grown to the so-called blastocyst stage of about a 100 cells. Roslin's blastocysts achieved about half that, but, with time, Dr De Sousa is hopeful of success.

"It's a numbers game," he said. "It's just a matter of supply of tissue to be engaged in experimentation."

The Roslin team is using eggs in its research programme that have been taken from volunteer donors who have decided to undergo sterilisation.

In normal reproduction, eggs would kick out half their genetic material in preparation to receive the male complement delivered by a sperm cell.

To make parthenotes, therefore, the eggs must be cultured in the lab in such a way that they retain all of their chromosomes. A spark of electricity is then used to initiate the process of embryonic division.

It took Roslin about 300 eggs to get the half-dozen blastocysts.

'Parallel strands'

Some scientists have advocated parthenogenesis on the basis that it could be a more ethically acceptable way to obtain ES cells; working on normal, fertilised embryos is a deeply controversial area.

But others have doubted its use on technical grounds, arguing the degree of genetic manipulation required to achieve parthenogenesis makes this route to ES cells an unnecessarily complicated one.

Even the cloning of human embryos would appear to be a more straightforward approach, they argue.

However, Dr De Sousa believes the infancy of stem cell research means science has to keep its options open.

"I think there are many reasons to be engaged in parallel strands because we don't know that any one of them is going to lead to where we want to go," he said.

Dr De Sousa also believes the research will tell them a great deal about imprinting, the process that controls how genes inherited from the mother and father are switched on and off in the developing embryo.

It is the errors in this process that are thought to lie behind many of the failed attempts to clone embryos.

Moratorium call

Groups opposed on moral grounds to this whole area of research reacted with dismay to Friday's announcement.

Matthew O'Gorman, of the charity Life, commented: "It is another example of Frankenstein science which illustrates how out of touch with public opinion these recent scientific developments are.

"[The Roslin team] was granted a licence by an unelected, unaccountable quango," he said, referring to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which approved the Roslin research.

Mr O'Gorman said Life was concerned the experiments exploited women, as eggs could only be made available by undergoing treatment that posed a potential risk to health.

Friday's announcement came less than 24 hours after Newcastle researchers said they would be creating embryos using genetic material from three parents - a father and two mothers - as a means of tackling rare diseases.

The "pro-life" groups argued that the latest developments made it clear it was time for reproductive science to be restrained.

Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, called on the government to put a moratorium on licences for embryo research.

She said: "We know so little about the mechanics of embryology that at the very least we should wait until we know a lot more until we say we can do it better than nature.

"These are very big steps indeed, and the whole area is running completely out of control."

Mrs Quintavalle said the use of stem cells from discarded umbilical cords offered great potential to cure disease - with none of the ethical difficulties of experimenting on human embryos.

BBC News ~ Jonathan Amos ** 'Virgin conception' first for UK

Posted by uhyw at 1:08 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, September 12, 2005 9:37 PM EDT
Sony gives 12-year-old $3.6 million recording deal
Mood:  surprised
Topic: Odd Stuff


Record giants Sony have awarded a 12-year-old boy a staggering $3.6 million (GBP2 million) four-album deal - 20 times more than Charlotte Church was offered when she was his age.

Joseph McManners, of Kent, England, is tipped to be the next singing phenomenon to hit the charts with his upcoming album DREAMS.

And although he has never had a music lesson, McManners has wowed Sony with his impressive voice and songwriting prowess.

He says, "I'd be crazy not to take advantage of an opportunity like this.

"But I don't think about the money, I just sing."

Contact ** Sony gives 12-year-old $3.6 million recording deal

Posted by uhyw at 12:32 PM EDT
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Woman got pregnant after rollercoaster ride
Mood:  surprised
Topic: Odd Stuff

Woman got pregnant after rollercoaster ride

A woman thought she could not have children is now a mother - thanks to a white knuckle rollercoaster ride.

Nayade Elbing, 28, and her husband Arnold had been trying to have children for several years without success and believed she was sterile.

But, after making love in their home, the young couple visited their local entertainment park at Hassloch in Germany where Nayade went on the Expedition GeForce, one of the world's fastest rollercoasters.

One week later her gynaecologist, Dr Thomas Gent, told her she was pregnant.

He said: "We believe that she conceived due to the G force of the rollercoaster ride."

In the meantime, Cuban-born Nayade has given birth to a little boy now called Leandro Elias.

The entertainment park gave little Leandro, nicknamed G Force by his dad, a life-long free ticket for rollercoaster rides. UK ** Woman got pregnant after rollercoaster ride

Posted by uhyw at 1:49 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, September 10, 2005 1:52 AM EDT
Babies show signs of crying in the womb, an infant's first cry
Mood:  chatty
Topic: Odd Stuff

Babies show signs of crying in the womb

Ultrasound images indicate late-term fetuses respond to noise

NEW YORK - An infant's first cry may occur not in the delivery room, but in the womb, researchers have found.

With the help of video-recorded ultrasound images, the investigators found that a group of third-trimester fetuses showed evidence of "crying behavior" in response to a low-decibel noise played on the mother's abdomen.

Fetuses showed a "startle" response to the noise, along with deep inhalations and exhalations, an open mouth and a "quivering" chin -- all signs of crying.

The behavior, seen in 11 fetuses, began as early as the 28th week of pregnancy.

It was only by chance that the researchers made their observations, said study co-author Dr. Ed Mitchell of the University in Auckland in New Zealand.

The ultrasounds and noise stimulation were performed as part of research looking into the effects of maternal smoking and cocaine use during pregnancy. At first, the researchers thought the fetal responses they saw might be seizures, Mitchell told Reuters Health.

But when they took a closer look at the video recordings, they realized the fetuses' behavior was analogous to an infant's crying.

Prenatal origin
It's not surprising that fetuses this age would show such behavior, Mitchell said, since premature infants born even earlier than the 28th week of pregnancy can cry.

"But it had never been observed or recognized for what it is," he said of the fetal crying.

Mitchell and his colleagues report their findings in the Archives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal and Neonatal Edition.

The researchers first noted the crying behavior in an ultrasound of a 33-week-old fetus. When the stimulus -- noise and vibration akin to a rumbling stomach -- was placed on the mother's abdomen, the fetus "startled" and turned its head. That was followed by heavy breaths, jaw opening and chin quivering, according to the researchers.

Subsequent ultrasounds found similar behavior in 10 fetuses, all 28 weeks old and up, that lasted for 15 to 20 seconds after the noise exposure.

"This phenomenon," the researchers write, "suggests a prenatal origin of crying."

The findings have developmental implications, according to Mitchell and his colleagues. To "cry," they note, the fetus would need not only the movement capability, but also the necessary sensory and brain development to process the offending sound and recognize it as something negative.

In a recent, controversial study, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco concluded that fetuses are unlikely to feel pain before the 29th week of pregnancy. It's believed, Mitchell noted, that the "pain pathways" in the brain begin to develop between weeks 23 and 30.

MSNBC ~ Rueters ** Babies show signs of crying in the womb

Posted by uhyw at 12:55 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, September 10, 2005 1:00 AM EDT
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Conservatives Sleep Better than Liberals, Says Researcher
Mood:  cheeky
Topic: Odd Stuff

Conservatives sleep better than liberals, remember fewer dreams and have fewer homosexual dreams, according to a study.

Conservatives Sleep Better than Liberals, Says Researcher

Even in dreams there’s a "red state-blue state" divide – and conservatives sleep more soundly than liberals, a dream researcher has found.

Kelly Bulkeley, who teaches at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., has been studying how self-described liberals and conservatives dream for about 13 years, and found significant differences, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.

Liberals have more dreams than conservatives, and their dreams are more "bizarre," said Bulkeley. The explanation depends upon whom you ask.

The blue state explanation is that liberals "have a more open-minded and imaginative approach to the world," said Bulkeley. "Conservatives are less imaginative and open-minded, and their dreams are less varied and less intense."

But according to red-staters, "Conservatives are more anchored, more realistic in their approach to the world. Liberals could be seen as fanciful, their heads in the clouds, unrealistic, out of touch."

Liberal women remember more of their dreams, have the poorest quality sleep – and report the most dreams about homosexuality.

Conservative men have the hardest time remembering their dreams, enjoy the soundest sleep – and report no dreams about homosexuality.

Bulkeley also found that when Bill Clinton was in the White House, conservatives had significantly more nightmares than liberals, according to the Daily News.

But since George Bush has become president, conservatives have had fewer nightmares – and liberals are having more.

News ~ Carl Limbacher ** Conservatives Sleep Better than Liberals, Says Researcher

Posted by uhyw at 4:13 PM EDT
Monday, August 1, 2005
Iraq Citizens Deem U.S. Soldier As Sheik
Mood:  special
Topic: Odd Stuff

In this image made available by Dale L. Horn, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dale L. Horn of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, a member of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, leaves a meeting after discussing road projects with local leaders, Tuesday, July 26, 2005, in the village of Jedellah Anuk, Iraq. Officially, he's Army Staff Sgt. Dale L. Horn, but to residents of the 37 villages and towns that he patrols he's known as the American sheik. Sheiks, or village elders, are known as the real power in rural Iraq. And the 5-foot-6-inch Floridian's ascension to the esteemed position came through dry humor and the military's need to clamp down on rocket attacks.

Iraq Citizens Deem U.S. Soldier As Sheik

QAYYARAH, Iraq - Sheik Horn floats around the room in white robe and headdress, exchanging pleasantries with dozens of village leaders. But he's the only sheik with blonde streaks in his mustache — and the only one who attended country music star Toby Keith's recent concert in Baghdad with fellow U.S. soldiers.

Officially, he's Army Staff Sgt. Dale L. Horn, but to residents of the 37 villages and towns that he patrols he's known as the American sheik.

Sheiks, or village elders, are known as the real power in rural Iraq. And the 5-foot-6-inch Floridian's ascension to the esteemed position came through dry humor and the military's need to clamp down on rocket attacks.

Late last year a full-blown battle between insurgents and U.S. and Iraqi forces had erupted, and U.S. commanders assigned a unit to stop rocket and mortar attacks that regularly hit their base. Horn, who had been trained to operate radars for a field artillery unit, was now thrust into a job that largely hinged on coaxing locals into divulging information about insurgents.

Horn, 25, a native of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., acknowledges he had little interest in the region before coming here. But a local sheik friendly to U.S. forces, Dr. Mohammed Ismail Ahmed, explained the inner workings of rural Iraqi society on one of Horn's first Humvee patrols.

Horn says he was intrigued, and started making a point of stopping by all the villages, all but one dominated by Sunni Arabs, to talk to people about their life and security problems.

Moreover, he pressed for development projects in the area: he now boasts that he helped funnel $136,000 worth of aid into the area. Part of that paid for delivery of clean water to 30 villages during the broiling summer months.

"They saw that we were interested in them, instead of just taking care of the bases," Horn said.

Mohammed, Horn's mentor and known for his dry sense of humor, eventually suggested during a meeting of village leaders that Horn be named a sheik. The sheiks approved by voice vote, Horn said.

Some sheiks later gave him five sheep and a postage stamp of land, fulfilling some of the requirements for sheikdom. Others encouraged him to start looking for a second wife, which Horn's spouse back in Florida immediately vetoed.

But what may have originally started as a joke among crusty village elders has sprouted into something serious enough for 100 to 200 village leaders to meet with Horn each month to discuss security issues.

And Horn doesn't take his responsibilities lightly. He lately has been prodding the Iraqi Education Ministry to pay local teachers, and he closely follows a water pipeline project that he hopes will ensure the steady flow of clean water to his villages.

"Ninety percent of the people in my area are shepherds or simple townspeople," said Horn. "They simply want to find a decent job to make enough money to provide food and a stable place for their people to live."

To Horn's commanders, his success justifies his unorthodox approach: no rockets have hit their base in the last half year.

"He has developed a great relationship with local leaders," said Lt. Col. Bradley Becker, who commands the 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment. "They love him. They're not going to let anyone shoot at Sheik Horn."

He has even won occasional exemption from the military dress code — villagers provide a changing room where he can change from desert camouflage to robes upon arrival.

There are downsides. In his small trailer on base, Horn keeps antibiotics to take after unhygienic village meals.

"I still refuse to kiss him," joked Becker, referring to the cheek-kissing greetings exchanged among sheiks. "He doesn't have any sheep — he can't be a sheik," said Becker, apparently unaware of the recent donation of the small flock.

Some may say he's doing a tongue-in-cheek Lawrence of Arabia, but Horn says he doesn't know much about the legendary British officer who led the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire in World War I.

He acknowledges some villagers are offended at seeing a foreign soldier in clothing usually reserved for elders, but he says this has diminished over time.

The sheiks told Horn they will give him an official document deeming him a sheik before he goes home in about two months. He plans to frame it.

And the robe? "Maybe I'll put it in the closet and wear it on occasion," Horn said.

Yahoo News ~ Associated Press - Antonio Castaneda ** Iraq Citizens Deem U.S. Soldier As Sheik

Posted by uhyw at 2:44 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, August 1, 2005 3:06 PM EDT
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Scientists 'raise the dead' in dog experiment
Mood:  surprised
Topic: Odd Stuff

Eerie ... boffins have brought dead dogs back to life, in the name of science.

Boffins create zombie dogs

Scientists have created eerie zombie dogs, reanimating the canines after several hours of clinical death in attempts to develop suspended animation for humans.

US scientists have succeeded in reviving the dogs after three hours of clinical death, paving the way for trials on humans within years.

Pittsburgh's Safar Center for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which subject's veins are drained of blood and filled with an ice-cold salt solution.

The animals are considered scientifically dead, as they stop breathing and have no heartbeat or brain activity.

But three hours later, their blood is replaced and the zombie dogs are brought back to life with an electric shock.

Plans to test the technique on humans should be realised within a year, according to the Safar Center.

However rather than sending people to sleep for years, then bringing them back to life to benefit from medical advances, the boffins would be happy to keep people in this state for just a few hours,

But even this should be enough to save lives such as battlefield casualties and victims of stabbings or gunshot wounds, who have suffered huge blood loss.

During the procedure blood is replaced with saline solution at a few degrees above zero. The dogs' body temperature drops to only 7C, compared with the usual 37C, inducing a state of hypothermia before death.

Although the animals are clinically dead, their tissues and organs are perfectly preserved.

Damaged blood vessels and tissues can then be repaired via surgery. The dogs are brought back to life by returning the blood to their bodies, giving them 100 percent oxygen and applying electric shocks to restart their hearts.

Tests show they are perfectly normal, with no brain damage.

"The results are stunning. I think in 10 years we will be able to prevent death in a certain segment of those using this technology," said one US battlefield doctor. ~ Nick Buchan ** Boffins create zombie dogs

Posted by uhyw at 5:04 PM EDT
Friday, June 3, 2005
New politically correct ''Bible'' claims Jesus was a woman
Mood:  spacey
Topic: Odd Stuff

Judith Christ: New "Bible" claims Jesus was a woman

A new politically correct "Bible" changes Jesus? name to Judith and all references to Him were made female. The book aims to "acknowledge the rise of women in society," in the words of publisher Billie Shakespeare (I swear this is not a joke). The article includes a link to the book details on Amazon. Is it heresy, a marketing gimmick or PC gone nuts?

Was Jesus Christ really a woman?

New version of Gospels changes gender of 'Son of God' to female

A publisher is touting a new edition of the Gospels that identifies Christ as a woman named Judith Christ of Nazareth.

LBI Institute says its version, Judith Christ of Nazareth, The Gospels of the Bible, Corrected to Reflect that Christ Was a Woman, Extracted from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, takes Thomas Jefferson's edited Gospel one step futher by "correcting" the gender of Christ and God.

"This long-awaited revised text of the Gospels makes the moral message of Christ more accessible to many, and more illuminating to all," says Billie Shakespeare, vice president for the publisher, in a statement. "It is empowering. We published this new Bible to acknowledge the rise of women in society."

WND sought comment from the LBI Institute's Stephen Glazier, but he did not return messages.

The new version, according to the publisher, revises familiar stories, tranforming the "Prodigal Son" into the "Prodigal Daughter" and the "Lord's Prayer" into the "Lady's Prayer."

A passage compiled from Luke 2, with corresponding verses at the beginning of each sentence, says: "4 And Joseph went to Bethlehem. 5 To be enrolled with Mary, his wife, who was then pregnant. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn child. 21 And her name was chosen to be Judith."

A passage on the crucifixion, from John 19, says: "17 And She bearing her cross went forth. 18 There they crucified Judith."

A resurrection passage from Matthew 28 states: "1 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 5 But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Judith who was crucified." 6 "She is not here; for She is risen."

The book's foreword says, "The Jefferson Bible is faithfully followed by the present book, with the corrections in the name and gender of Christ, the gender of God, and some of the parables."

The publisher explains Jefferson used extracts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John rather than the complete books, in order to tell a "linear, complete, organized story" that emphasizes the moral teachings of Christ.

The foreword says, "Events in the Gospel that do not relate to the moral teachings of Christ are often omitted. However, the basic narrative of Christ's life, death and resurrection is maintained."

Reader reviews on the book's page included these:

♠ "One star because there is nothing lower. May the Lord have mercy on the writers!"

♠ "A friend with a Hebrew doctorate noted to me: 'There is no feminine form of the name Jesus (or Joshua). Judith is the feminine form of the name Juda - or Judas.' How perfectly fitting!"

♠ Reading the other reviews here, I can't believe that this is being touted as being an advance for women's rights. That is just not true. God sent his only SON, not his daughter. It is also true that God loves all of us, male and female the same. He created each of us as we are. We should not strive to become something we are not. This book truly offends me. I agree with the other reviewer, those that produced this book will be held responsible for those they deceive. I pray for each of them.

♠ May the Lord God punish the author of this translation and its publishers if they do not withdraw this herectic bible from print Amen.

World Net ** Was Jesus Christ really a woman?

Posted by uhyw at 5:02 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, June 3, 2005 5:04 PM EDT
Tuesday, May 3, 2005
Buffalo Firefighter Awakens From Brain-Damaged State
Mood:  surprised
Topic: Odd Stuff

Buffalo, NY - In what family members are calling a miracle, a Buffalo firefighter is talking again after nearly a decade in a brain-damaged state.

Donald Herbert suffered severe injuries when a roof collapsed on him while he was fighting a fire in December 1995. The injury left him brain damaged and unable to speak.

Herbert has been at the Father Baker Covalence Home for the past several years, but relatives say over the weekend he started talking again and his memory has returned.

Friends and former colleagues say he talked with his family and with former co-workers. Stay tuned to WBEN for more information.

WBEN News / Talk 930 AM - Buffalo, NY ~ Paul Szeglowski, Associated Press ** Buffalo Firefighter Awakens From Brain-Damaged State

Posted by uhyw at 1:41 AM EDT
Saturday, April 9, 2005
Earth's Oldest Known Object on Display
Mood:  cool
Topic: Odd Stuff

MADISON, Wis. - A tiny speck of zircon crystal that is barely visible to the eye is believed to be the oldest known piece of Earth at about 4.4 billion years old. For the first time ever, the public will have a chance to see the particle Saturday at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where researchers in 2001 made the breakthrough discovery that the early Earth was much cooler than previously believed based on analysis of the crystal.

To create buzz about an otherwise arcane subject, the university is planning a daylong celebration of the ancient stone - capped with "The Rock Concert" by jazz musicians who composed music to try to answer the question: What does 4.4 billion years old sound like?

"This is it - the oldest thing ever. One day only," said Joe Skulan, director of the UW-Madison Geology Museum, where the object will be displayed - under police guard - from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. "The idea of having a big celebration of something that's so tiny - we're playing with the obvious absurdity of it."

With the aid of a microscope, anyone will be able to check out the tiny grain, which measures less than two human hairs in diameter.

A concert by Jazz Passengers, a six-piece group from New York hired to compose music for the event, will follow on Saturday evening. In posters hanging on campus, the concert is advertised as "a loving musical tribute to the oldest known object on Earth."

Composer Roy Nathanson said the concert will mix humor, jazz music, computer-generated beats, and the occasional rocks being banged together to "follow the geological history of how this zircon came about."

"It's an amazing story. The whole thing is something that captures your imagination," said Nathanson, 53, a saxophonist who spent one year composing the performance.

Analysis of the object in 2001 by John Valley, a UW-Madison professor of geology and geophysics, startled researchers around the world by concluding that the early Earth, instead of being a roiling ocean of magma, was cool enough to have oceans and continents - key conditions for life.

"It's not very much to look at because it's so very small. But to me, the miraculous thing about the crystal is that we've been able to make such wide-ranging inferences about the early Earth," Valley said. "This is our first glimpse into the earliest history of the Earth."

Valley found that the planet had cooled to about 100-degrees Centigrade less than 200 million years after it was formed. Before the research, the oldest evidence for liquid water on the planet was from a rock estimated to be much younger - 3.8 billion years old.

As part of Saturday's event, Valley will display a brand new, $3 million ion microprobe that he and other researchers will use to analyze tiny samples such as the zircon crystal. The hand-built instrument weighs 11 tons and takes up an entire laboratory.

Valley, who has tried to obtain the equipment for 22 years, had to travel to Scotland and Australia while he analyzed the zircon to use equipment there. A federal grant is paying for most of the new instrument.

After the festivities the object will return to its native Australia with Simon Wilde, professor at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia, who made its discovery in 1984. The sample will eventually be put on display at a natural history museum in that country.

On the Net:

UW-Madison Geology Museum

The Rock Concert

My Way News ~ Associated Press ** Earth's Oldest Known Object on Display

Posted by uhyw at 12:01 AM EDT

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