Ethical Solutions to Health Problems
Here are examples of good research projects that
help people without crossing ethical boundaries
Brain implant helps completely ‘locked-in’ man communicate (Medical Xpress, 22 March 2022).
Imagine the tragedy of having a functioning mind but being completely unable to move any body part to communicate. It would be the ultimate frustration for a patient, but also for family and friends who long to find out how the patient is feeling. Imagine next a false diagnosis that the person is in a persistent vegetative state, so that everyone consents to “pull the plug” on someone who is alert and aware but unable to scream. Anything that can be done to open a channel of communication, no matter how slow, would help prevent such tragedies and would give great hope to family members and caregivers of those completely “locked in” by accident or disease. European researchers have taken first steps to allowing a man to communicate through mental impulses alone by means of a new kind of brain implant.
Two microchip implants inserted into the brain of the German patient allow him to form words and even full sentences, using nothing but mental impulses.
“It shows that you can write sentences with the brain even if you are completely paralyzed without any eye movement or other muscles to communicate,” said lead researcher Niels Birbaumer. He is director of the Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology at the University of Tubingen, in Germany.
Cooking up a way to remove microplastics from wastewater — with okra, aloe (American Chemical Society, 22 March 2022).
Finally, someone found a use for okra that doesn’t involve having to eat this slimy vegetable that few people like. Researchers are Tarleton State University found that okra’s sliminess helps it “flocculate” into globs that can absorb microplastic waste and remove it from wastewater. This is a better solution than the use of toxic chemicals like polyacrilimide for flocculation, because the polysaccharides found in okra and aloe are biodegradable.
In their experiments, the researchers found that polysaccharides from okra paired with those from fenugreek could best remove microplastics from ocean water, whereas polysaccharides from okra paired with those from tamarind worked best for freshwater samples. Overall, the plant-based polysaccharides worked better than, or as well as, the traditional flocculant polyacrylamide, depending on the combination of extracts and water source.
There’s no need to wait for this solution, because it already fits existing water treatment processes. “The whole treatment method with the nontoxic materials uses the same infrastructure,” says Rajani Srinivasan, principal investigator. “We don’t have to build something new to incorporate these materials for water treatment purposes.”
Alpaca nanobodies potently neutralize SARS-CoV-2 variants (Karolinska Institute, 25 March 2022).
We’ve reported on this before (11 Aug 2020, 22 Jan 2022): tiny antibodies (called nanobodies) found in certain camelid species like llamas and alpacas are being used to treat Covid-19. Long-lasting and nontoxic, with no GMO required, these particles latch onto the spike proteins of coronaviruses, preventing them from entering cells. No GMO is required; the most effective ones just have to be found in the animals and then multiplied in the lab. Libraries of the best ones can be shared with other institutjions.
Moreover, nanobodies appear to work against the variants of SARS-CoV-2 that keep arising over time, undermining the effectiveness of RNA vaccines that were genetically engineered. The long-term effects of such vaccines remain to be fully determined. Nanobodies, by contrast, require no injection and could be self-administered via an inhaler. They also have a long shelf-life, not requiring freezing during transport.
Despite the roll-out of vaccines and antivirals, the need for effective therapeutics against severe COVID-19 infection remains high. Nanobodies—which are fragments of antibodies that occur naturally in camelids and can be adapted for humans—are promising therapeutic candidates as they offer several advantages over conventional antibodies. For example, they have favourable biochemical properties and are easy to produce cost-effectively at scale.
What’s not to like about this approach? Bring it on. Presumably those with qualms about the engineered vaccines would have no hesitation using an inhaler with natural material that stops the virus before it can make one sick.
What the heads of Big Pharma would think about potential drop in profits, though, is another matter, to say nothing of the loss of power by some government leaders who seem to enjoy issuing vaccine and mask mandates for without sufficient scientific justification.
IU School of Medicine-led study shows human induced pluripotent stem cells improve visual acuity, vascular health (Indiana University School of Medicine, 10 March 2022).
It’s been awhile since there has been a report of a new application for human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC), which are ethically superior to the use of embryonic stem cells because they come from adult cells (such as cells from skin or blood) that can be “programmed” back to their stem cell state. This research looks promising for those with retinal damage from Type 2 diabetes.
In the multi-site, early phase study recently published in Science Advances, investigators genetically reprogrammed diabetic and non-diabetic peripheral blood cells into hiPSCs and matured the cells into special blood vessel reparative cells. Upon injection into animal models with type 2 diabetic murine (T2D) retinal dysfunction, results showed significant improvement in visual acuity and electroretinograms with restoration of vascular perfusion. They hypothesized hiPSC-derived vascular reparative cells may serve as a source of endothelial precursors that will display in vivo vessel reparative properties in these diabetic subjects.
This quote indicates that stem cell researchers have been well aware of the pushback by ethicists for using human embryos to gather stem cells, which requires the death of a unique human individual.
“Unlike the use of embryonic stem cells (ESCs), genetically engineered hiPSCs do not carry the ethical challenges ESCs possess that limit their possible usage, and hiPSCs are being increasingly recognized as a viable alternative in study design and application as a cell therapy for human disorders,” Gil said.
A colleague called this a “monumental step forward” in the use of hiPSCs for treatment of complications of diabetes.
We love good, ethical science. Our frequent complaints about the Darwinists should not be construed as criticism of many thousands of researchers around the world who apply their skills and knowledge ethically and conscientiously to help their fellow man. We are glad to give good examples when they appear in the media. As one could expect, none of these articles had any use for evolutionary theory.