Saturday, January 31, 2015

Suffocating Bone Cancer Cells

BioMedical Engineering Technology

Science Imitating Nature: “The inspiration for spinning a molecular cage around cells came from nature, says Rein V. Ulijn of the City University of New York’s Hunter College,” SciAmer says.
Credit: National Cancer Institute
Source: SciAmer

An article, by Erika Gebel Berg  in Scientific American says that chemists have designed a molecule that can trap bone cancer cells in a web made of nanofibres, essentially depriving them of nutrients and suffocating them.

Gebel Berg writes:
Chemists have designed a carbohydrate-based molecule that can surround and strangle bone cancer cells by self-assembling into a tangled web of nanofibers (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, DOI: 10.1021/ ja5111893). The molecule spares healthy cells because its assembly is triggered by an enzyme that’s overexpressed on cancer cells.

The inspiration for spinning a molecular cage around cells came from nature, says Rein V. Ulijn of the City University of New York’s Hunter College. Many of the body’s cells are enmeshed in an extracellular matrix—a complex web of biomolecules that provides structure for tissues, facilitates intercellular communication, and traps nutrients. Scientists are developing molecules that spontaneously assemble into simpler versions of this matrix to provide a growth medium for cells, in particular for tissue engineering.

The field has focused mainly on self-assembling peptides. In a recent study, Bing Xu of Brandeis University and colleagues designed a nonnurturing peptide that aggregates and engulfs cancer cells only when its phosphate group is removed (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201402216). The phosphate-free peptides have a hydrophilic end and a hydrophobic one, which allow them to assemble like lipids in a cell membrane. The negative charge on the phosphate groups creates electrostatic repulsion between the molecules and prevents this. This phosphate on-off switch is great for targeting cancer because some types of cancer cells overexpress alkaline phosphatase, an enzyme that cleaves phosphates.
Science imitating nature is what science often does, unraveling the mysteries of nature and then applying them to solving human problems, thus bettering the lives of many. While this result is promising, it requires further research and tinkering, since the dosage applied in this study is higher than what is typically used for chemo drugs. Some serious side effects might result. Thus, this is not yet ready for the marketplace, but the innovative idea nevertheless shows promise.

You can read more at [SciAmer].

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Left's Feeble Response to Islamist Extremists


An article, by Michael Walzer, in Dissent gives his view on the Left’s response to Islamist extremists and zealots; in a nutshell, the Left’s response has been, and continues to be feeble, intellectually dishonest and disturbing. Walzer, in saying the obvious, is sure to lose some of his friends on the left for writing this, they having their feelings hurt, I am sure.

Walzer writes:
For myself, I live with a generalized fear of every form of religious militancy. I am afraid of Hindutva zealots in India, of messianic Zionists in Israel, and of rampaging Buddhist monks in Myanmar. But I admit that I am most afraid of Islamist zealots because the Islamic world at this moment in time (not always, not forever) is especially feverish and fervent. Indeed, the politically engaged Islamist zealots can best be understood as today’s crusaders.

Is this an anti-Muslim position, not a fear but a phobia—and a phobia that grows out of prejudice and hostility? Consider a rough analogy (all analogies are rough): if I say that Christianity in the eleventh century was a crusading religion and that it was dangerous to Jews and Muslims, who were rightly fearful (and some of them phobic)—would that make me anti-Christian? I know that crusading fervor isn’t essential to the Christian religion; it is historically contingent, and the crusading moment in Christian history came and, after two hundred years or so, went. Saladin helped bring it to an end, but it would have ended on its own. I know that many Christians opposed the Crusades; today we would call them Christian “moderates.” And, of course, most eleventh-century Christians weren’t interested in crusading warfare; they listened to sermons urging them to march to Jerusalem and they went home. Still, it is true without a doubt that in the eleventh century, much of the physical, material, and intellectual resources of Christendom were focused on the Crusades.

The Christian Crusades have sometimes been described as the first example of Islamophobia in the history of the West. The crusaders were driven by an irrational fear of Islam. I suppose that’s right; they were also driven by an even more irrational fear of Judaism. They were fierce and frightening religious “extremists,” and that assertion is not anti-Christian.

One can and should say similar things about Islamists today—even though jihadi violence is not required by Islamic theology, even though there are many Muslim “moderates” who oppose religious violence, and even though most Muslims are quite happy to leave infidels and heretics to their otherworldly fate. I know that there is a “jihad of the soul” in addition to the “jihad of the sword,” and that Mohammed famously declared the first of these to be the greater jihad. And I recognize that the Islamic world is not monolithic. Reading the daily newspaper, anyone can see that even Islamist zealotry is not all of a piece. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Hezbollah, Hamas, and Boko Haram, to take just a few leading examples, are not the same; there may well be significant theological disagreements among them. I should note, also, that the many millions of Muslims in Indonesia and India seem relatively untouched by zealotry, though Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian Islamist network, has followers in Indonesia and has been accused of significant terrorist attacks there.

Despite all these qualifications, it is true without a doubt that the “jihad of the sword” is very strong today, and it is frightening to non-believers, heretics, secular liberals, social democrats, and liberated women in much of the Muslim world. And the fear is entirely rational.
Why it is hard for those on the Left to admit that “jihad of the sword” is very much alive today? That it is normal, sane and rational to fear being killed by those who hold an extreme (they would say normal) view of Islam? That it is rational to fear a determined enemy that wants to attack and destroy the West, western ideas and culture and the fruits of the European Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution? It requires all kinds of sophistry and intellectual gymnastics to avoid agreeing with this essay. I would recommend that you read it in its entirety.
For more, go to [Dissent]

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Elton John:Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me

Elton John and his back-up band perform “Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me” at New York City's Madison Square Garden in 2000. The song was released in 1974 on the album, Caribou. I always prefer bright sunny days to cloudiness and darkness; there is a sadness when the sun slips away for the evening.


Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
by Elton John & Bernie Taupin

I can't light no more of your darkness
All my pictures seem to fade to black and white
I'm growing tired and time stands still before me
Frozen here on the ladder of my life

Too late to save myself from falling
I took a chance and changed your way of life
But you misread my meaning when I met you
Closed the door and left me blinded by the light

Don't let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it's always someone else I see
I'd just allow a fragment of your life to wander free
But losing everything is like the sun going down on me

I can't find, oh the right romantic line
But see me once and see the way I feel
Don't discard me just because you think I mean you harm
But these cuts I have they need love to help them heal

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Knowledge Is Never Enough; Action Is Required

The Holocaust

Auschwitz Death Wall: During 70th anniversary remembrances yesterday marking the death
camp’s liberation, a Holocaust survivor touches the wall, the spot,
in the former concentration
where the Nazis killed many.
Photo Credit: Odd Andersen; AFP
Source: The Telegraph

An article, by David Blair, in The Telegraph, commemorating the 70th anniversary on the liberation of Auschwitz, says what many today already know; that the Allied Forces fighting Nazism knew about the gas chambers and death camps, as early as August 1941, but decided to do nothing overtly about it. Would it have been too costly or immoral to bomb the railway lines leading to Auschwitz and the other death and concentration camps?

In “Holocaust Memorial Day: Telegraph revealed Nazi gas chambers three years before liberation of Auschwitz; January 27, 2015), Blair writes:
It was under the headline “Germans murder 700,000 Jews in Poland”, that this newspaper reported the “greatest massacre in the world’s history” on June 25, 1942.

In the pages of The Daily Telegraph, Zygielbojm succeeded in revealing the mass murder of Jews. But he was dismayed by the lack of public reaction.

As early as August 1941, Winston Churchill had denounced the atrocities against the Jews as a “crime without a name”. Yet Zygielbojm detected no wave of revulsion sufficient for the Allies to take special steps to obstruct the Holocaust.

The Telegraph chose to report the “greatest massacre in the world’s history” on page five of a six-page newspaper.

Zygielbojm’s informants were taking immense risks and their reports were meticulously accurate, yet he often encountered indifference, disbelief or even suspicion.When The Telegraph’s story appeared, Zygielbojm’s wife, Manya, and their son, Tuvia, were still living in occupied Poland as prisoners in the Warsaw Ghetto. Both died during the razing of the Ghetto in 1943.

Crushed by this tragedy - and by the weight of indifference towards the fate of the Jews - Zygielbojm took his own life on May 11, 1943.

“The responsibility for the crime of the murder of the whole Jewish nationality in Poland rests first of all on those who are carrying it out,” he wrote. “But indirectly it falls also upon the whole of humanity, on the peoples of the Allied nations and on their governments, who up to this day have not taken any real steps to halt this crime. By looking on passively upon this murder of defenceless millions tortured children, women and men they have become partners to the responsibility.”
The story was buried in the back pages, on “page five of a six-page newspaper” This speaks volumes, does it not?