Friday, August 29, 2008

398)The brilliant maneuverings of the rational intellect of man: changing one cell type into another; Quotes of Aga Khan IV.

This is the story: All the cells in the human body have a full complement of genetic information in their nuclei but only specific genetic information is activated that will turn that particular cell into a specialised cell type, eg, a skin cell or a brain cell. Most of the rest of the full genetic complement of the cell is 'switched off'. Through decades of research scientists have found the genes that make the various 'on' switches that make one cell a skin cell and another a brain cell. By creating viruses that have these switching genes incorporated into their DNA, they now have been able to infect one type of pancreas cell(the alpha cell, the one that makes enzymes to break down the food we eat as it reaches the small intestine) with the virus, which then incorporates these unique 'on' switches into the pancreas cell's DNA, and turn it into another type of pancreas cell whose sole function it is to produce the life-sustaining hormone insulin(the beta cell). The implication of this for the millions of people worldwide who are diabetic is enormous! This is also a testament to the ingenuity and rational intellect of man. In the Islamic tradition, and in keeping with the ethos of this blogsite, that intellect is always subservient to a higher intellect:

"In Islamic belief, knowledge is two-fold. There is that revealed through the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) and that which man discovers by virtue of his own intellect. Nor do these two involve any contradiction, provided man remembers that his own mind is itself the creation of God. Without this humility, no balance is possible. With it, there are no barriers. Indeed, one strength of Islam has always lain in its belief that creation is not static but continuous, that through scientific and other endeavours, God has opened and continues to open new windows for us to see the marvels of His creation"(Aga Khan IV, AKU, 16 March 1983, Karachi, Pakistan)

"The Divine Intellect, Aql-i Kull, both transcends and informs the human intellect. It is this Intellect which enables man to strive towards two aims dictated by the faith: that he should reflect upon the environment Allah has given him and that he should know himself. It is the Light of the Intellect which distinguishes the complete human being from the human animal, and developing that intellect requires free inquiry. The man of faith, who fails to pursue intellectual search is likely to have only a limited comprehension of Allah's creation. Indeed, it is man's intellect that enables him to expand his vision of that creation"(Aga Khan IV, AKU Convocation Speech, Karachi, Pakistan, November 11, 1985)

"In this context, would it not also be relevant to consider how, above all, it has been the Qur'anic notion of the universe as an expression of Allah's will and creation that has inspired, in diverse Muslim communities, generations of artists, scientists and philosophers? Scientific pursuits, philosophic inquiry and artistic endeavour are all seen as the response of the faithful to the recurring call of the Qur'an to ponder the creation as a way to understand Allah's benevolent majesty. As Sura al-Baqara proclaims: 'Wherever you turn, there is the face of Allah'.The famous verse of 'light' in the Qur'an, the Ayat al-Nur, whose first line is rendered here in the mural behind me, inspires among Muslims a reflection on the sacred, the transcendent. It hints at a cosmos full of signs and symbols that evoke the perfection of Allah's creation and mercy"(Aga Khan IV,Speech, 2003, London, U.K.)

" Islam, but particularly Shia Islam, the role of the intellect is part of faith. That intellect is what seperates man from the rest of the physical world in which he lives.....This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives. Of that I am certain"(Aga Khan IV, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, August 17th 2007)

"The second great historical lesson to be learnt is that the Muslim world has always been wide open to every aspect of human existence. The sciences, society, art, the oceans, the environment and the cosmos have all contributed to the great moments in the history of Muslim civilisations. The Qur’an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God’s creation"(Closing Address by His Highness Aga Khan IV at the "Musée-Musées" Round Table Louvre Museum, Paris, France, October 17th 2007)

"Our religious leadership must be acutely aware of secular trends, including those generated by this age of science and technology. Equally, our academic or secular elite must be deeply aware of Muslim history, of the scale and depth of leadership exercised by the Islamic empire of the past in all fields"(Aga Khan IV, 6th February 1970, Hyderabad, Pakistan)

"A thousand years ago, my forefathers, the Fatimid imam-caliphs of Egypt, founded al-Azhar University and the Academy of Knowledge in Cairo. In the Islamic tradition, they viewed the discovery of knowledge as a way to understand, so as to serve better God's creation, to apply knowledge and reason to build society and shape human aspirations"(Aga Khan IV, Speech, 25th June 2004, Matola, Mozambique)

The above are 7 quotes and excerpts from:

A cell of a different kind

The Associated Press
August 27, 2008

NEW YORK — Talk about an extreme makeover: Scientists have transformed one type of cell into another in living mice, a big step toward the goal of growing replacement tissues to treat a variety of diseases.

The cellular identity switch turned ordinary pancreas cells into the rarer type that churn out insulin, essential for preventing diabetes. Its implications, however, go beyond diabetes to a host of possibilities, scientists said.

It is the second advance in about a year to suggest that some day doctors may be able to use a patient's own cells to treat disease or injury without turning to stem cells from embryos.

The work is "a major leap" in reprogramming cells from one kind to another, said one expert not involved in the research, John Gearhart of the University of Pennsylvania.

That is because the feat was performed in living mice rather than a lab dish, the process was efficient and it was achieved directly without going through a middleman such as embryonic stem cells, he said.

The newly created cells made insulin in diabetic mice, although they were not cured. If the experiment's approach proves feasible, it may lead to treatments such as growing new heart cells after a heart attack or nerve cells to treat disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

Douglas Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and a researcher with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, cautioned that the approach is not ready for people.

He and his colleagues report the research in a paper published online Wednesday by the journal Nature.

Basically, the identity switch comes about by a reprogramming process that changes the pattern of which genes are active and which are shut off.

Scientists have long hoped to find a way to reprogram a patient's cells to produce new ones. Research with stem cells, and with similar entities called iPS cells that were announced last year, has aimed to achieve this in a two-step process.

The first step results in a primitive and highly versatile cell. This intermediary is then guided to mature into whatever cell type scientists want. That guiding process has proved difficult to do efficiently, especially for creating insulin-producing cells, Dr. Gearhart noted.

In contrast, the new method holds the promise of going directly from one mature cell type to another. It's like a scientist becoming a lawyer without having to go back to kindergarten and grow up again, Dr. Melton said.

So, he said, scientists may some day be able to replace dead nerve or heart cells in people by converting some neighbouring cells. At the same time, he stressed that it is still important to study embryonic stem cells and iPS cells.

The Melton team started its work with pancreas cells that pump out gut enzymes used in digestion and turned them into pancreatic "beta" cells, which make insulin.

The researchers destroyed beta cells in mice with a poison, giving the mice diabetes. Then they injected the pancreas with viruses that slipped into the enzyme-making cells. These viruses delivered three genes that control the activity of other genes.

Just three days later, new insulin-secreting cells started to show up. By a week after that, more than a fifth of the virally infected cells started making insulin. That shows "an amazingly efficient effect," commented Richard Insel, executive vice-president of research at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Scientists found evidence that the newcomers were converts from mature enzyme-making cells. They identified the new cells as beta cells by their detailed appearance and behaviour, and Dr. Melton said they have continued functioning for months.

The new cells did not fully replenish the insulin supply, but maybe there were too few of them, or they were hampered by not forming clusters as ordinary beta cells do, researchers said.

The work brings "more excitement to the idea of using reprogramming as a way to treat diabetes," said researcher Mark Kay of Stanford University, who is studying the approach with liver cells.

Christopher Newgard, who studies beta cells at Duke University Medical Center, called the work convincing but cautioned that significant scientific questions remained about using the approach in treating disease.

Dr. Melton, who began his diabetes research in 1993 when his infant son was diagnosed with the illness, said he is obsessed with trying to find a new treatment or cure for Type 1 diabetes, in which beta cells are destroyed.

"I wake up every day thinking about how to make beta cells," he said.

Dr. Melton said he hopes drugs can replace the virus approach because of concern about injecting viruses into people.

As for converting other kinds of cells, scientists noted that the two cell types in the mouse experiment are closely related, and it remains to be shown whether the trick can be achieved with more distant combinations. In any case, scientists would have to deliver different reprogramming signals to other kinds of cells, he said.

Easy Nash

The Qur'an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
The Quran tells us that signs of Allah's Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives: Aga Khan IV(2007)
Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2006)
The first and only thing created by God was the Intellect(Aql): Prophet Muhammad(circa 632CE)