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Friday, January 3, 2014

Pollyanna opens the new bloggoyear

 Pollyanna is glad to open the 2014 bloggo year. Let us all hope for a better year coming up.  She would like to call your attention to a list of some of the good things that happened in 2013. We are sure you can think of many more. She invites your comments on what good things happened last year and what you can add to the list.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. Over a year has gone  by without Miriam, and we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

This week it is Pollyanna's turn to promote a charity. Her choice is a local charity in Israel to which we donate every month. It is called Ezer Mi'Zion or help from Zion. It devotes its efforts to helping the sick and needy, in particular, those who fall through the cracks in the government or establishment aid system. The organization also maintains a bone marrow matching bank.  It serves the general population regardless of religion and race, free of charge.

Pollyanna would like to call your attention to the issue of
drug availability in Third World countries. We are all aware of
the contribution of President Bill Clinton who persuaded Big
Pharma to make AIDS drugs available to African countries at
cost. Now the NYTimes describes the problem of breast cancer
chemotherapy drugs in India and the voiding of patents by the
Indian government.
Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Fighting Breast Cancer in India: The skirmishing over Herceptin and other cancer medicines is part of a long-running struggle to make drugs affordable to the world’s poorest people.

The big corporations holding the patents, in  this case Roche, have decided not to fight the case in the courts. The issue seems clear cut, but the question of what drives Big Pharma to invest in drug development must be considered. It is true that for diseases that affect only a small portion of the population you will not find industry working hard for small profits. That is where government laboratories have to pick up the slack. It would be nice if we could depend on Big Pharma but CEO's and boards answer to stockholders and not to Pollyanna. Still there is hope.

Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Dec/30/2013

Pollyanna protests the abuse of Kyrgyz women in Russia by men of the Kyrgyz migrant community. Videos showing assaults on women as "punishment" for associating with non-Kyrgyz men have appeared on line At least five online videos documenting vicious assaults against what appear to be Kyrgyz women in Russia have emerged since March, sowing fear among Kyrgyz migrants and sparking an outcry in the small Central Asian nation. A few brave women have come forward to protest this "patriotic" activity and investigations have begun in Russia and Kyrgyzia. This abuse is totally unacceptable and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

This world famous artist has been denied permission to travel outside China for the last three years.  This is what happens to dissidents in an oppressive regime. He has chosen an interesting mode of protest. Every morning he puts fresh flowers into a bicycle basket outside his home in Beijing.
 View image on Twitter

He continues to communicate abroad and to exhibit. As usual, the authorities are making fools of themselves. This is  true not only in China.


Before we get into the fun tidbits from science, Pollyanna wants to share with you a tale of a great scientific
breakthrough, great philanthropy and the dark side behind it. It should give us all food for thought about the morality of Big Pharma.

We start with the breakthrough. As we all know medical tests carried out on animals often have little or no relevance to human applications. Scientists at the Wyss Institute of Harvard have found a means of testing human cells on a chip They often involve cruelty to the animals. . Instead of writing a complex story about it, Pollyanna gives you a TED lecture by Geraldine Hamilton that does it much better than we could.


As she says    " So we need better tools. We need human cells,
but we need to find a way to keep them happy outside the body.

Our bodies are dynamic environments. We're in constant motion. Our cells experience that. They're in dynamic environments in our body. They're under constant mechanical forces. So if we want to make cells happy outside our bodies, we need to become cell architects. We need to design, build and engineer a home away from home for the cells. And at the Wyss Institute, we've done just that. We call it an organ-on-a-chip". 

So far beautiful and we encourage you to get out your Google and read more about this wonderful new technique and its applications. Human Organs-on-Chips are composed of a clear,
Harvard's Wyss Institute and AstraZeneca announce collaboration on Organs-on-Chips for drug safety
The Wyss Institute and Astrazeneca will apply the Institute's advances in the development and validation of human organs-on-chips (such as the one shown here) to develop new animal versions. Credit: Alison Reggio/Wyss Institute

flexible polymer about the size of a computer memory stick, and contain hollow microfluidic channels lined by living human cells—allowing researchers to recreate the physiological and mechanical functions of the organ, and to observe what happens in real time. The goal is to provide more predictive and useful measures of the efficacy and safety of potential new drugs in humans—which could represent an important step in reducing the need for traditional animal testing.The Wyss Institute is the beneficiary of a grant of $125 million, the largest grant ever given to Harvard. It came from a multibillionaire, Hansjo"rgWyss. Last year he doubled the grant to $250 million. He also donates heavily to land conservation and other wonderful causes.

You might wonder what we mean by mentioning a dark side. A new investigative report in Fortune magazine tells the chilling and tragic tale that unfolded when a medical device company, Syntes, owned by Wyss, decided to make an end run around federal regulators and market its product directly to orthopedic surgeons for an unapproved (off-label) use.
A colored CT scan of a single vertebra (as seen from above) during a vertebroplasty. The term refers to a procedure, used to treat compression fractures, in which a surgeon injects bone cement (the white material coming out of the needle) into the spine to reinforce the bone and prevent future damage.
A colored CT scan of a single vertebra (as seen from above) during a vertebroplasty. The term refers to a procedure, used to treat compression fractures, in which a surgeon injects bone cement (the white material coming out of the needle) into the spine to reinforce the bone and prevent future damage.

 Five patients died because of this unapproved use of an untested product and there are indications that Wyss was the driving force behind the evasion and violation of FDA rules. Four of his executives served short prison terms, but he was left untouched. We recommend you read the full Fortune report or at least the summary in MinnPost. As someone commented there

Five dead = $23 million fine for the company and the "unusual" sentence of "up to" nine months in prison for four executives.

Of course, the chief executive got off scot-free... the four were scapegoats, probably about to deposit a bonus from the chief executive for taking the heat.

Just as a captain goes down with his ship, chief executives should earn their multi-million salaries by being personally liable for the actions of their companies; all of their assets should be at risk when they risk other people's lives for the sake of company profit.

Pollyanna agrees-a quarter of a billion for medical advances does not add up to five human lives squandered for greed.


Pollyanna invites you to share what Stephanie Pappas, writing in LiveScience, considers the top science events of last year. What do you think?

Cassini Image of Titan's Northern Seas and Lakes
This colorized mosaic from NASA's Cassini mission shows the most complete view yet of Titan's northern land of lakes and seas. Saturn's moon Titan is the only world in our solar system other than Earth that has stable liquid on its surface. The liquid in Titan's lakes and seas is mostly methane and ethane.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/USGS
As you all know our brother Titan has methane and ethane
lakes and seas on his surface. It has now been calculated that
the trapped hydrocarbons, mostly in the north polar zone,
amount to about 9,000 cubic km contained in area of 1.6 square
km, i.e. about the size of Alaska. Only Earth and Titan in the
entire Solar System have stable liquids on their surfaces, in
our case mostly water, for Titan hydrocarbons.

Last year was a good year for planet hunting. Pollyanna presents you with a list of the most exciting finds. Of course, when the exofolks show up to take over, things might get a bit difficult, as predicted by SMBC.


Maria asks What If? What height would humans reach if we kept growing through our whole development period (i.e. till late teens/early twenties) at the same pace as we do during our first month?

The answer is that it is not a good idea.

Recently we received an email, forwarded by God-fearing Jews that had the following tales to tell:

1.  Joseph Kennedy who was US ambassador to Great Britain in the 1940's is said to have refused visas to the US to the passengers on the ill-fated ship St. Louis. He was cursed by a rabbi and two of his sons webre assassinated and one was killed in the war. Of course, he would not have had the authority to issue hundreds of visas against immigration policy.

2. A Japanese consul in Poland issued many visas to persecuted Jews and thus saved them from the Nazis. God rewarded him after the war; he started a small business that grew into a huge corporation. His name was Mitsubishi. The fact that the Mitsubishi Zero was the main fighter aircraft for the Japanese navy during the war, that the corporation was founded in 1832 and that the name describes the logo 'three stars' is irrelevant to true believers.

3. In 1648 hundreds of Jews were massacred in the Ukraine by Chmelnitzki and other leaders of the rebellion against Polish rule. God exacted a punishment for this by the explosion of a nuclear reactor in Chernobyl in 1986. Assess this piece of idiocy for yourselves.

SMBC comes to our aid with his definition of a dumbpiphany

We have often wondered what Yosefa hears and sees at these medical symposia she attends in Tel Aviv. Now we know what the drug companies show them there. Imagine spending a day discussing this disease or that, but that is what they like to do.
 Barney & Clyde Cartoon for Jan/01/2014

and now the news, although this item should really belong to Titan:

Dilbert Cartoon for Jan/01/2014

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