A UFO! Someone call Mulder!

When random bright things fall from the sky, years of being brainwashed by Chris Carter and the entire gang makes me immediately think of little gray men.

Then again, maybe not. It could just be the tool belt the NASA astronaut lost a couple of days ago. Who knows?

Whatever it turns out to be, it has turned a lot of heads and makes some pretty amazing pictures.

And, in case you are wondering, you can always call your local chapter of MUFON. Just in case.

The ends do not justify the means, but justify finding better means

Seriously, all this talk about how evil stem cell research is makes us forget that, when done in the right way, it’s quite a feat, and the miracles the medical community will be able to achieve with it are worth looking into ethical ways of doing stem cell research.

Woman given windpipe created in laboratory

LONDON, England (CNN) — Doctors have given a woman a new windpipe with tissue engineered from her own stem cells in what experts have hailed as a “milestone in medicine.”

The breakthrough allowed Claudia Castillo, 30, to receive a new section of trachea — an airway essential for breathing — without the risk that her body would reject the transplant.

Castillo was given the stem cell surgery, the controversial branch of medicine that some say could lead to human cloning, after suffering a severe lung collapse.

The condition, caused by long-term tuberculosis left Castillo, a Colombian now living in Barcelona, unable to carry out simple domestic duties or care for her two children.

The only conventional option was a major operation to remove her left lung, a risky procedure with a high mortality rate.

A team from the universities of Barcelona, Spain; Bristol, England; and Padua and Milan, Italy, decided instead to replace Castillo’s lower trachea and bronchial tube to her left lung with a lab-grown airway.

The operation, reported Wednesday in the British medical journal The Lancet, has been hailed as a major leap for medicine that could offer new hope for patients suffering from serious illness.

“Surgeons can now start to see and understand the very real potential for adult stem cells and tissue engineering to radically improve their ability to treat patients with serious diseases,” said Martin Birchall, professor of surgery at the University of Bristol, who was part of the team that did the operation.

“We believe this success has proved that we are on the verge of a new age in surgical care.”

To create the new windpipe, the team took a seven-centimeter (2.75-inch) segment of trachea from a 51-year-old who had died. Over a six-week period, the team then removed all the cells from the donor trachea, because those cells could lead to rejection of the organ after transplant.

All that remained of the donor’s stripped-down trachea was a matrix of collagen, a sort of scaffolding onto which the team then put Castillo’s own stem cells — along with cells taken from a healthy part of her trachea. Birchall had already taken Castillo’s stem cells from her bone marrow and grown them into a large population in his Bristol lab.

Read the rest of the article here.

Israeli archeologists find 12,000-year-old skeleton of ‘witch doctor’

From Maclean’s: Israeli archeologists find 12,000-year-old skeleton of ‘witch doctor’

November 18, 2008


JERUSALEM – Archeologists digging in northern Israel have discovered the 12,000-year-old skeleton of what they say was a witch doctor.

They said the skeleton was that of a deformed woman of around 45 years of age from the Natufian culture, which ranged from Syria to the Sinai peninsula at the time.

Leore Grosman, in charge of the excavation in the Galilee, said the bones were found in a carefully-carved oval grave with the skull resting on a tortoise shell.

The skeleton was covered by several large stones, which may have been placed there to keep the witch doctor’s spirit entombed.

An additional 49 tortoise shells were found in the grave, along with a leopard pelvis, a cow tail and part of an eagle wing. A pestle and mortar used to grind ingredients for potions were also discovered, Grosman said, adding that the find cast an unprecedented light on the Natufian people and their transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers.

“It points out that there are special people with special positions in the society,” she said. “We imagined it was so but we didn’t have real proof for that until now.”

Grosman said there are several clues that the woman was a witch doctor: the elaborate burial, the presence of so many animal remains, and physical conditions that probably caused a limp. Shamans were historically believed to communicate with animal spirits and often had physical deformities, she said.

Women persecuted as witches in 17th-century north America and Europe were attributed with the same characteristics.

Mina Weinstein-Evron, an Israeli archeologist specializing in Natufian culture who did not take part in the dig, said the find was a breakthrough.

“If it’s a witch, if it’s a shaman, this would be the first proof ever of such a kind of behaviour within this hunter-gatherer group,” she said. But even if the woman wasn’t a witch doctor, the burial itself is still unique.

She said that most people from the period were buried in communal earthen graves, not interred alone in stone and that she had never uncovered anything as elaborate.

The findings were recently published in the United States in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.