A healthy T-Cell | Photo: NIAID, CC BY 2.0
A Potential Cure for Some MS Patients
This week a Canadian medical team published a paper in the journal The Lancet detailing the procedure and long-term follow-up for a new treatment for the most severe form of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The treatment is described as “near-complete immunoablation followed by immune cell depleted autologous haemopoietic stem-cell transplantation,” and essentially means that they took stem cells from patients, used chemotherapy to destroy the patients’ immune systems, and then rebuilt their immune systems from scratch using the stem cells. This, as you might imagine, is not a pleasant or safe process — the new immune systems required a crash-course retraining in how to fight off infections, and resulted in several serious infections even in the patients who fared well. One of the 24 patients passed away, but at three years post-treatment, 16 of the remaining 23 (a figure given at 69.6%) were free of any MS activity, without any drugs, which itself is shocking given that these patients had the most aggressive (and often fatal) form of the disease. This new follow-up is at the 13-year mark, and finds that “no relapses occurred and no Gd enhancing lesions or new T2 lesions were seen on 314 MRI sequential scans. The rate of brain atrophy decreased to that expected for healthy controls.” Moreover, 35% (probably 8 of the 23) saw actual improvement in the things they could do in their daily lives, as measured by the Expanded Disability Status Scale. At least one saw a complete and full recovery, whose story is detailed in this Vox article (it’s worth the read if only for the sheer positivity). While this is a risky treatment and probably only for the worst 5% of MS cases, it’s a beacon of hope for those most afflicted by this terrible condition. You can read the paper over at The Lancet (if you can pass the paywall).
Google Fi Adds US Cellular
I’m a user of Google Fi, the once-upon-a-time search engine company’s cellphone service, and at the risk of sounding like a corporate shill, I absolutely love it. It has some disadvantages — there are still places you can’t get signal, and sometimes it’s not sure exactly when to transition from WiFi to cellular networks — but for me those have been overcome by all the positives. I know exactly how much of my bill is for the phone payment plan (and when it’s paid off, I don’t need to buy a new one), data is $10/GB pro-rated, so if I go over by 100MB, I only pay $1 extra, and if I only use 900MB, I get a dollar back. Unlimited talk and text is a reasonable price, and it’s a breeze to take to new countries. So this week’s news that yet another cell network has signed up to be a part of their network — US Cellular is joining Sprint and T-Mobile to provide coverage to the as-yet-undisclosed number of Google Fi subscribers — is just icing on the cake. And not giving money to anti-net neutrality companies like AT&T and Verizon? Well that’s priceless.
More Humane Eggs
While this news probably doesn’t go far enough for most vegans, vegetarians and omnivores will be glad to hear that their eggs are about to get a little more ethical. The Humane League is reporting this week that United Egg Producers, a cooperative that represents something like 95% of egg producers in the US, is eliminating the process of culling male chicks by 2020. Right now, when newborn chicks are sexed, the male ones — who won’t be economically useful for meat or egg-laying — are gathered up and killed (it’s pretty horrible). But thanks to new in-egg sexing technologies, they’ll be able to only incubate and hatch the eggs that will produce female chicks. The others will be diverted to other revenue streams, such as vaccine production and pet food (not human food because your average egg-eating human doesn’t much like fertilized eggs). This is not only a good move ethically, but also economically, and everyone who helped put this in place should, I think, be proud of their efforts. You can read more over at The Humane League.
In case you missed any of it, here’s what we got up to this week:
- On Monday, I let you all know there’s a petition to fight the legitimization of naturopathy in America (it still needs signatures, so go sign!)
- On Tuesday, I looked at out asteroid mining future
- On Wednesday, I found some pretty terrible citations in a wikipedia article
- On Thursday, I started a church, and
- On Friday, Lindsey meditated on the meaning of the word “safe” in our modern culture
If you didn’t get the chance to read any of them, go check them out now!
Best of the Rest
As always, there’s plenty of news that I haven’t had time to write about, so here it is, your weekly linkspam:
- Scientists are turning atmospheric carbon dioxide into chalk (which is exciting, but maybe not scalable)
- Netflix is crunching the numbers on your binge-watching habits
- Elon Musk gave a WaPo interview in which he sets out a more structured timeline for getting humans to Mars
- Gawker Media has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (stay strong, everyone over there!)
- An AI has found a new chink in cancer’s armour, and
- France has launched a network to track and retrieve meteors, to better understand the early solar system
That’s all for this week; thanks for reading! I only get paid in my own (and your) enthusiasm, so please like This Week In Tomorrow on Facebook, follow me on Twitter @TWITomorrow, and tell your friends about the site!
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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.