Friday, April 25, 2008


Genetic Bias Law Does Not Prevent Discrimination

Just as discrimination against race and gender still occur despite enactment of laws to protect us, the new genetic bias law will not protect you from discrimination. If your employer or insurance company discriminates against you due to genetic profiling, it will be YOUR responsibility to provide evidence to prove this. Not only will this be legally difficult to almost impossible to do, but also extremely costly. Furthermore, the legal system does not provide a quick and easy remedy from discrimination. It will take several years if not a decade to get legal remedy from such discrimination. Unfortunately, if you are ill, you will need immediate help, not help 10 years later. This genetic bias law is not a reasonable protective measure to someone who is ill and has been discriminated against from genetic testing.

Therefore, be extremely cautious about providing genetic information to anyone, even to your doctor unless you are absolutely certain it will help you. Do not be fooled. The medical industry’s priorities are about making money and pushing research agendas forward rather than prioritizing the importance of your health and wellbeing. This new genetic bias law will not protect you.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Bird Flu Report---Human to Human Transmission

First human-to-human transmissionSource: The Sangai Express / (Agencies)
London, April 05: A report by BBC News has confirmed the first case of human-to-human transmission of bird flu in Pakistan.Pakistan's north-west and southern regions were hit by bird flu last year.Thousands of birds were culled to control the spread of the disease.Tests carried out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) have now shown that bird flu killed some members of a family in northwest Pakistan late last year.This is the first confirmation of people dying from bird flu in the country, with the samples collected from the family in Peshawar testing positive.According to Dr Mukhtiar Zaman Afridi, head of the isolation ward for avian flu patients at Khyber Teaching Hospital in Peshawar, a poultry worker in Peshawar apparently passed the disease on to members of his family."The worker, whose name is being withheld on the request of the WHO, was brought to the hospital with avian flu symptoms on 29 October 2007," he said.Though this worker has fully recovered since then, on 12 November, his elder brother was brought in with similar symptoms.He died a week later.On 21 November, two more brothers of the same worker came down with bird flu."One of them died on 28 November, while the other has recovered," said Dr Afridi.Apart from the poultry worker, none of the others was found to have had any direct contact with sick or dead poultry.Genetic sequencing tests performed by WHO laboratories in Egypt and the US on samples collected from three of the four brothers established human-to-human transmission.Serum taken from all three was found to have been infected by the H5N1 avian influenza virus.Though a WHO report said that the tests suggest "limited human-to-human transmission," it adds, however, that this "outbreak did not extend into the community, and appropriate steps were taken to reduce future risks of human infections".IN Islamabad, Pakistan's health ministry said it was still investigating whether there was human transmission in the country's first death from bird flu.It said initials tests by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which sent a team here last week, had ruled it out but that Pakistan had sent samples to Geneva � the WHO's headquarters � for further confirmation.Scientists fear that if the virus were passed from one person to another, rather than from infected birds, it might indicate a mutation that could lead to a global pandemic with the potential to kill millions."In their preliminary tests the WHO team excluded suspected human-to-human transmission, but we have sent the samples to Geneva for further confirmation," health ministry spokesman Oriya Maqbool Jan told AFP.The WHO team was sent after the ministry announced the death of a man who was one of six people infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of the avian influenza virus in North West Frontier Province along the Afghanistan border.A brother of the victim also died before being tested for the virus.Both had worked on a cull of infected poultry."We have been very closely monitoring the situation," said Rafiqal Hasan Usmani, the animal husbandry commissioner."There has been no new outbreak".The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed more than 200 people worldwide, mostly in Southeast Asia, since late 2003 .

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Embryonic Stem Cells - HOPE?

Human stem cell or bone marrow transplants are limited in their ability as treatment options especially regarding rejection issues. But the ability of developing embryonic stem cell therapeutic technologies to fill this void is just not reasonably feasible.

Stem cell research is all about money and not about finding a cure for anyone. Consider these three points:

1. Most, if not all large pharmaceutical company today are working in embryonic stem cell research. If you do not believe me, write a letter to every big drug company and ask them directly. You will see that this is a fact. Pharmaceutical companies use embryonic stem cells to create “disease state models” to find more drugs. More drugs mean more money. But you won’t find many major drug companies or investors providing major financial backing toward therapeutic embryonic stem cells technologies. The technology is just not feasible and will not make money.

2. The development of advanced genetic engineering technologies is the true power house behind embryonic stem cells. With our advanced genetic potential, embryonic stem cells can be used for basic research, drug discovery and, unfortunately, for “not-so-good” purposes as germ warfare. Associated with even the “good” research, however, is a public health threat from the unregulated BL2 viruses used in Pharma and academia to genetically modify human embryonic stem cells. Another realistic and disturbing possibility of using advanced genetic technologies with embryonic stem cells is the ability to clone humans. Theoretically, it is technically easier to clone a human being than to find a therapeutic cure to a disease (i.e., Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc.) from embryonic stem cell technologies. Cloning human life has horrifying ethical repercussions.

3. Despite the great advances in genetic advances, embryonic stem cell technologies are still very unlikely to be developed a successful therapeutic agent. The scientific limitation of the embryonic stem cell technology is due to a severe lack of understanding of what scientists call “differentiation”. In order to use an embryonic stem cell for a specific therapy, the researcher has to differentiate the cell into an exact and specific cell type. But this is far from simple. The mystery of differentiation is a complex phenomenon requiring positional cellular signals as the embryo divides. So trying to differentiate an embryonic stem cell in a test tube to an appropriate and safe cell type is a far reaching proposal. Not only do we not have any clear understanding of how differentiation occurs in the embryo in order to truly replicate it, but we also have no qualitative scientific method of characterizing a properly differentiated cell type. What looks like a neuron with presentation and detection of a few neuronal markers may actually NOT be a neuron. And if you do not have the correct and exact differentiated cell type, all types of ill effects, from metabolic disorders to cancer, can be produced. And even if it were possible to understand differentiation fully, then the problem of how to place the differentiated cell into the correct part of a human tissue to make it work becomes a whole other set of complexities. It is a sad fact that anyone undergoing future clinical trials with any type of embryonic stem cell therapy, better have a good last will and testament written.

I understand and feel for those who have a horrid disease and want to support embryonic stem cells in desperate hope of finding a possible cure. But unfortunately, embryonic stem cell technologies have little to no potential to be developed into any therapeutic agent, and therefore, should not be promoted as such. Doing so is unethical. It is a way to fool the public in order to get billions of dollars in public funding. It provides false justification for experimenting on human embryonic stem cells. Those billions of dollars could be better placed to help desperately ill people find real hope through alternative technologies.