The Promise, the Hype, and the Reality: It's a Different Perceptual Era for Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Over at the Knight Science Tracker, Charlie Petit has a round-up on news coverage of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine's first significant research grants for stem cell research. Though much of the focus in California and nationally has obviously been on the promise of embryonic stem cell research, only four of the 14 funded projects involve these type of stem cells. The emphasis is on projects that could lead to the most immediate clinical results, a strong if not "tacit acknowledgment that the promise of human embryonic stem cells is still far in the future" writes Andrew Pollack at the NY Times.

On Monday, in a keynote presentation at the meetings of the Canadian Stem Cell Network in Montreal, I will be reviewing how far we have come over the past decade in the framing of the stem cell debate and in terms of public perceptions. I will post a synopsis here next week and I will have several studies to report on this winter and spring.

In the meantime, readers will want to check out the Network's newly launched online Stem Cell Charter. The site opens to a powerful video. It's a testimonial by scientists explaining their belief in the promise of stem cell research. Yet it doesn't engage in some of the trademark hype that brands much of the past political debate. At the Web site, you can sign the stem cell charter, offering your support for research and endorsing a specific reason. I chose "the responsible advancement of stem cell research."

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
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Afghanistan is the most depressed country on earth

No, depression is not just a type of 'affluenza' – poor people in conflict zones are more likely candidates

Image: Our World in Data / CC BY
Strange Maps
  • Often seen as typical of rich societies, depression is actually more prevalent in poor, conflict-ridden countries
  • More than one in five Afghans is clinically depressed – a sad world record
  • But are North Koreans really the world's 'fourth least depressed' people?
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Banned books: 10 of the most-challenged books in America

America isn't immune to attempts to remove books from libraries and schools, here are ten frequent targets and why you ought to go check them out.

Nazis burn books on a huge bonfire of 'anti-German' literature in the Opernplatz, Berlin. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Culture & Religion
  • Even in America, books are frequently challenged and removed from schools and public libraries.
  • Every year, the American Library Association puts on Banned Books Week to draw attention to this fact.
  • Some of the books they include on their list of most frequently challenged are some of the greatest, most beloved, and entertaining books there are.
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  • Oumuamua, a quarter-mile long asteroid tumbling through space, is Hawaiian for "scout", or "the first of many".
  • It was given this name because it came from another solar system.
  • Some claimed 'Oumuamua was an alien technology, but there's no actual evidence for that.