Please, don't let the inevitable tremendous anticipation of next week's post distract you from enjoying the holiday festivities. As difficult as it may be, try to stay focused on the turkey.
For those readers outside of the United States, who don't celebrate Thanksgiving this week, you'll just have to find something else to occupy your time. My European friends can busy themselves with happy thoughts about figuring out how to survive the impending collapse of the continent's economic system. Actually, we all can probably occupy our minds with such thoughts, as things aren't so hot in the US or Asia either.
WK readers in Canada, whose relatively sane economic policies have spared that country much of the turmoil roiling the rest of the world, will have to find some other distraction. Since Canadian Thanksgiving was last month, perhaps thoughts of hockey will have to suffice, or finding new and entertaining uses for maple syrup. It'll be hard to beat Sortilege (click here), though, which for the uninitiated is some pretty strong hooch made with maple syrup. BTW, kudos on the Canadian national anthem. As far as national anthems go, "Oh Canada" kicks major booty…
Okay, I said I was going to keep this short, and it's already getting long, so on with the show…
♦ A neuroimmunology researcher from the Scripps Institute sent me a note alerting me to an online petition she has started (click here), urging the US government to devote more funds to basic biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health.
I agree with her sentiments wholeheartedly, as the NIH is a precious resource that can't be left to wither on the vine, and is one of the last bastions of unbiased large-scale medical research left in the USA. The vast majority of our medical research is funded by for-profit pharmaceutical and medical device companies, who naturally devote their hard-earned bucks to research that stands a chance of turning them a huge profit. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of capitalism, but money and medicine often make for terrible bedfellows. Even in this time of looming budget deficits, squeezing the NIH of funds will do nothing to solve our economic problems. Consider the following numbers:
For 2011 budget, U.S. spending on:
Social security was $2564 per citizen (20.8% of the budget)
Defense was $2203 per citizen (18% of the budget)
Medicare was $1569 per citizen (12.8% of the budget)
Medicaid was $1172 per citizen (7.8% of the budget)
NIH was $99 per citizen (0.8% of the budget)
Certainly, the funding of medical research is one of the last places we should be looking for savings. Finding newer and more effective treatments and even cures for dread diseases would pay huge dividends in the long run, both in human capital and reduced health care costs. I would think this issue is something that rational citizens across the political spectrum should be able to agree on. So please sign the petition…
♦ I recently came across an interesting new medical information website, called Medify.com (click here). The site offers links to lots of research abstracts and papers, along with patient to patient communities. A wonderful source of medical info, some of it otherwise hard-to-find, well worth checking out.
♦ Saving the best bit of medical info for last, here's some extremely exciting news: one of the nation's first multiple sclerosis stem cell therapy trials has been given the green light (click here), and should be soon underway. The Multiple Sclerosis Resource Center of New York (MSRCNY), in conjunction with the International Cellular Medicine Society (ICMS), will be conducting a 20 subject trial on patients with a definitive diagnosis of progressive MS, using mesenchymal stem cell derived neural progenitor cells, harvested from the patients' bone marrow, in an attempt to regenerate damaged nervous system tissues.
The director of the MSRCNY, Dr. Saud Sadiq, is my personal neurologist, and I know firsthand that his research facility, staffed with world-class scientists from around the world, has been hard at work for many years doing groundbreaking research in preparation for this trial. Stem cell therapy offers tremendous hope for MS patients, as it holds the promise of actually repairing the damage done by MS and restoring function lost to the disease. Let's all hope this first trial is a resounding success, one from which we all may reap tremendous benefit in the years to come. The trial is set to run for three years.
♦ I leave you with the following piece of eye candy (it's not hard on the ears, either), which is simply breathtaking. It takes 30 seconds or so to really get going, but be patient, and you'll be amazed by a stunning natural phenomenon, created by nothing more exotic than a flock of starlings…
Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.
Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble, gobble…