Stem cells, cosmetic genomics and med-tattoos

We don't cover politics at daily Health Memes. Outside of an occasional opinion from policy stars like Maggie Maher or Ezra Klein, most of the posts track the revolution of rising patient expectations, the big gaps between reality and popular medical wisdom, and the brilliant new science and technology innovations derived from the NBIC convergence. That's a broad beat.

THIS WEEK'S REDUCTIO

Regenerative medicine approaches a tipping point.

After a decade of gathering promise — and some touches of outright fraud — regenerative medicine is unleashing the power of human cells to grow into the tissues we need. Scientists working on animal models have been getting closer. A Medgadget post told of a Stem Cell Grown Into Prostate and PhysOrg.com reported how Scientists succeed through stem cell therapy in reversing brain birth defects.

This month, the U.S. FDA approved the first trials of human embryonic stem cell therapy in humans by Geron Corp. On Monday, we read How the Geron Stem Cell Treatment is Supposed to Work from the WSJ Health Blog. Next Monday a meme from  Science Daily will show how a Stem Cell Transplant Reverses Early-stage Multiple Sclerosis using a technique similar to those used to treat leukemia and myeloma.

It's only been about 10 years since the first human embryonic stem cell lines were derived. (It's been 16 years since the last big U.S. healthcare reform plan.)

COSMETIC GENOMICS

There's a growing body of memes about misusing genetic testing for non-therapeutic ends. This week, Eye on DNA interviewed Dr. Tzung-Fu Hsieh of RedTracer DNA Test for the Red Hair Gene, MC1R who implied that having red hair could lead to discrimination and skin cancer. Like last week's story about the baby girl tested for breast cancer predispositon before conception, testing the unborn is always supposed to be for their own good — except for the unspoken punchline that if they fail the test they stay unborn.

As a species, humans are too selfish and too stupid to think these things through. The priceless Neuroskeptic dissects the hubbub over a recent pre-natal study in yesterday's meme  Autism, Testosterone and Eugenics.

MED-TATTOOS

Wednesday a Technology Review story described  The Glucose-Monitoring Tattoo, a nanosensor injected into the skin that fluoresces in infrared light when it detects blood sugar.  If the technique gets applied to humans, diabetics won't need to stick themselves for blood samples, they'll just check the glow of their tatts. According to researchers, other nanosensors could check for chemicals like sodium or calcium. (or maybe alcohol? THC? serotonin?) Someday, we may wear our bio-status on our foreheads.

See all this week's Health Memes.