Thursday, March 29, 2007

Stem cells and electric cars

I. Stem cells

One commenter wrote: One must also consider that if one suggests the use of adult stem cells they currently are not ready to grow into any type of cell. Yes there have been reports that Verfaille has shown how to do that, but have you heard her work is now under investigation, similiar to the duplicate photos of Hwang.

IPBiz responds: Yes, please see the post on IPBiz on February 24 entitled Adult stem cell study described as "significantly flawed". The IPBiz post even had the name Catherine Verfaillie spelled correctly.

The commenter also wrote: I see a small hard core group of people pointing out we don't need to study hESC because adult stem are the only cells we need to cure all disease.

IPBiz responds: Show some evidence that anyone has a program for TREATMENT of HUMANS using embryonic stem cells that has a reasonable chance of utilization on a ten year time scale. One gets the idea that the taxpayers who are funding Proposition 71 think they are getting TREATMENTS and CURES, not research tools for someone else to create treatments and cures. The Cha proposal, funded by CIRM, is for a research tool, not for a treatment.

IPBiz had pointed out in the February 24 post as to the motivation to investigate Verfaillie's work:

Aldhous said he was intrigued with Verfaillie's 2002 study published in Nature, because “it was a remarkable and exciting finding.”

He said he wondered why no one else had been able to duplicate her results.

IPBiz wonders why NO ONE ELSE has been able to do what Hwang claimed to have done EITHER in 2004 OR in 2005. It's all well and good to create research tools based on the use of embryonic stem cells. The Cha proposal would do something useful, but it's hardly step-out work. All the technology to do that is in place now, and it's just a matter of doing it. But if one can't do what Hwang claimed, one is not talking about innovative TREATMENTS of HUMANS.

Meanwhile, what Timothy Johnson reported is about TREATMENT of HUMANS. Real humans were treated for a real cardiac problem with real (adult) stem cells in a Phase I study. Immune rejection problems were addressed. This real treatment has a reasonable chance of utilization (FDA approval) on a ten year time scale.

This isn't about needing (or not needing) to study embryonic stem cells. It's about telling the truth about what treatments are realistically obtainable on a ten year time scale. This isn't about whether or not the Cha study will obtain useful information. It's about telling the taxpayers that their money is being spent on a "research tool," not a treatment. It's also about telling the taxpayers who is going to benefit from the use of research tool, including whether or not the researchers have an economic interest in the outcome of the research.

One of the more remarkable, and least discussed, aspects of the Hwang fraud is that the the article submitter did check a box indicating there were economic interests of the authors in the research results submitted (e.g., patent application) and Science did not bother to check this out further.

II. Electric cars

Electric vehicles enjoyed success into the 1920s with production peaking in 1912. [See The History of Electric Vehicles.] That's one year after Henry Ford won his suit against the folks who controlled the Selden patent, who coincidentally were the electric car people. Hmmmm. The electric car people, unlike Henry Ford, were not working to drive down production costs. They controlled the Selden patent. The price of the less efficiently produced electric vehicles continued to rise. In 1912, an electric roadster sold for $1,750, while a gasoline car sold for $650. The discovery of Texas crude oil (Spindletop) reduced the price of gasoline so that it was affordable to the average consumer.

Things now are a little different. There are no more Texas oil fields to discover, so the future of a high-energy density liquid fuel may be questioned. There are other energy sources, coal and nuclear, to make electricity.

Of the text --Perhaps if you re-look at the electric motor you will realize it really wasn't suited for the long haul until recently and still cannot replace the internal combustion engine. So why are you trying to suggest we shouldn't have gone through the natural process of using the internal combustion engine until technology has made the electric motor a serious contender,-- it is NOT the electric motor that wasn't suited for the long haul, it was the batteries. Surprisingly, not that much has changed in battery technology for vehicles between 1912 and now.

Of course, the technology that "worked" to put commercial electric vehicles on the road ca. 1912 is still around. That's just like the technology for repeating Spencer rifles was around in 1876, when Custer and his men were using single-shot rifles against Crazy Horse and friends, who were armed with repeating rifles. The concept of "innovation" can be very pliable. For electric vehicles, it is not the electric motor that is at issue, it's the battery and it's the cost of fuel. And the latter is changing. Battery-fueled vehicles may not compete with gas cars on energy density, but they may compete on energy density per dollar.

III. Message about taxpayer funding of stem cells from electric cars

In an article entitled GM tries to unplug Volt hype, Sharon Terlep of The Detroit News wrote:

DaimlerChrysler AG promised a production fuel-cell vehicle by 2004, but couldn't deliver despite spending $1 billion on the technology. And little came of a $1.5 billion taxpayer-funded effort, called the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, to build an 80-miles-per-gallon car. Last year, Ford Motor Co. took an image beating when it backed away from a pledge to put 250,000 hybrids on the road by 2010.

Of the Volt itself:

The Volt grabbed headlines, lit up online chat boards and dominated the buzz at the auto show in Detroit.

There's just one problem: The Volt may never get built.

Production depends on advances in battery technology that could be years away. The uncertainty led to intense debate within GM over whether it was wise to show the Volt in Detroit. And now that the world's waiting for GM to deliver what could be the biggest environmental breakthrough so far this century, company officials are actively trying to temper expectations.

***Separately, californiastemcellreport has some discussion about selling eggs.

Recall the previous post on IPBiz:

The article by Debora Spar is "same old, same old."


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