From the “Preface to the English Edition” of “The Theory of Money and Credit” by Ludwig von Mises: “All proposals that aim to do away with the consequences of perverse economic and financial policy, merely by reforming the monetary and banking system, are fundamentally misconceived. Money is nothing but a medium of exchange and it completely fulfills its function when the exchange of goods and services is carried on more easily with its help than would be possible by means of barter. Attempts to carry out economic reforms from the monetary side can never amount to anything but an artificial stimulation of economic activity by an expansion of the circulation, and this, as must constantly be emphasized, must necessarily lead to crisis and depression. Recurring economic crises are nothing but the consequence of attempts, despite all the teachings of experience and all the warnings of the economists, to stimulate economic activity by means of additional credit.

Mathematicians of the day.

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Autologous adipose tissue-derived stromal vascular fraction cells application in patients with osteoarthritis

Autologous adipose tissue-derived stromal vascular fraction cells application in patients with osteoarthritis” is the title of paper that relates a clinical trial using patients’ own stem cells to treat osteoarthritis. Below is the abstract.

Stromal vascular fraction (SVF), containing large amount of stem cells and other regenerative cells, can be easily obtained from loose connective tissue that is associated with adipose tissue. Here we evaluated safety and clinical efficacy of freshly isolated autologous SVF cells in a case control study in patients with grade 2-4 degenerative osteoarthritis (OA). A total of 1128 patients underwent standard liposuction under local anesthesia and SVF cells were isolated and prepared for application into 1-4 large joints. A total of 1856 joints, mainly knee and hip joints, were treated with a single dose of SVF cells. 1114 patients were followed for 12.1-54.3 months (median 17.2 months) for safety and efficacy. Modified KOOS/HOOS Clinical Score was used to evaluate clinical effect and was based on pain, non-steroid analgesic usage, limping, extent of joint movement, and stiffness evaluation before and at 3, 6, and 12 months after the treatment. No serious side effects, systemic infection or cancer was associated with SVF cell therapy. Most patients gradually improved 3-12 months after the treatment. At least 75% Score improvement was noticed in 63% of patients and at least 50% Score improvement was documented in 91% of patients 12 months after SVF cell therapy. Obesity and higher grade of OA were associated with slower healing. In conclusion, here we report a novel and promising treatment approach for patients with degenerative OA that is safe, cost-effective, and relying only on autologous cells.

Additional information can be found at “Patient’s own fat cells transplanted to treat osteoarthritis may be effective“:

Osteoarthritis (OA), a debilitating and painful degenerative disease, strikes an estimated 14 percent of adults 25 years of age and older, a third of adults age 65 and older in the U.S. alone. Those who suffer from OA may one day have a new and effective cell therapy, thanks to a team of Czech researchers who studied the effectiveness of using an OA patient’s own adipose (fat) cells in a unique transplant therapy aimed at reducing the symptoms of this prevalent and difficult to treat condition as well as healing some of the damage caused by OA.

The Investigational Review Board of American Naturopathic Research Institute/Naturopathic Oncology Research Institute and local ethics committees-approved study, carried out with 1,114 OA volunteer patients who received autologous (self-donated) fat cell transplants after giving their informed consent, saw their symptoms improved by the therapy. The paper describing the study will be published in a future issue of Cell Transplantation and is currently freely available on-line as an unedited early e-pub at: http://ingentaconnect.com/content/cog/ct/pre-prints/content-CT-1300_Michalek_et_al

“Adipose-derived cells have potential application in a wide range of clinical disorders, including myocardial infarction, stroke, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, and breast augmentation and reconstruction” said Dr. Jaroslav Michalek, of the International Consortium for Cell Therapy and Immunotherapy, and a member of a research team from a number of research facilities and organizations in the Czech Republic. “In this study we evaluated the safety and efficacy of freshly isolated autologous stromal vascular fraction cells (SVF cells). We hypothesized that the SVF cell treatment might contribute to cartilage healing.”

Dr. Michalek and his colleagues clarified the use of the term SVF cells by noting that many scientific publications use the term adipose tissue as the source of adipose cells, but that the true source of SVF cells is not adipose but the stroma, the loose connective tissue part of the fat typically obtained by liposuction.

The study followed and evaluated 1,114 patients (median age 62, range 19-94 years; 52.8% male) treated with a single dose of SVF cells isolated from lipoaspirate by a patent pending kit (Cellthera). Patients were followed for between 12 and 54 months with a median of 17.2 months of follow-up. Their evaluations were based on pain, non-steroid analgesic usage, limping, extent of joint movement and stiffness before treatment and at three, six, and 12 months. Hip and knee joints were the most common joints treated and some patients had more than one joint treated.

“No serious side effects, systemic infection or cancer was associated with SVF cell therapy,” reported the researchers. “Most patients improved gradually three to 12 months after treatment.”

The evaluations demonstrated that at least a 75 percent score improvement was noticed in 63 percent of the patients and at least a 50 percent score improvement was documented in 91 percent of the patients after 12 months, said the researchers. Typically patients in the study consumed large amounts of painkillers for their symptoms. Researchers found that painkiller usage declined dramatically after treatment.

H/T Fight Aging!

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The New Militarism: Who Profits? by Ron Paul

Militarism and military spending are everywhere on the rise, as the new Cold War propaganda seems to be paying off. The new “threats” that are being hyped bring big profits to military contractors and the network of think tanks they pay to produce pro-war propaganda.

Here are just a few examples:

The German government announced last week that it would purchase 100 more “Leopard” tanks – a 45 percent increase in the country’s inventory. Germany had greatly reduced its inventory of tanks as the end of the Cold War meant the end of any threat of a Soviet ground invasion of Europe. The German government now claims these 100 new tanks, which may cost nearly half a billion dollars, are necessary to respond to the new Russian assertiveness in the region. Never mind that Russia has neither invaded nor threatened any country in the region, much less a NATO member country.

The US Cold War-era nuclear bunker under Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, which was all but shut down in the 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, is being brought back to life. The Pentagon has committed nearly a billion dollars to upgrading the facility to its previous Cold War-level of operations. US defense contractor Raytheon will be the prime beneficiary of this contract. Raytheon is a major financial sponsor of think tanks like the Institute for the Study of War, which continuously churn out pro-war propaganda. I am sure these big contracts are a good return on that investment.

NATO, which I believe should have been shut down after the Cold War ended, is also getting its own massively expensive upgrade. The Alliance commissioned a new headquarters building in Brussels, Belgium, in 2010, which is supposed to be completed in 2016. The building looks like a hideous claw, and the final cost – if it is ever finished – will be well over one billion dollars. That is more than twice what was originally budgeted. What a boondoggle! Is it any surprise that NATO bureaucrats and generals continuously try to terrify us with tales of the new Russian threat? They need to justify their expansion plans!

The rest of the article can be read here.

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Michel Chevalier’s Case Against the Patent System by Louis Rouanet

Michel Chevalier (1806–1879) was a very influential French economist during the second half of the nineteenth century. He is still widely known in France for being the architect of the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty of 1860 which was the free-trade agreement between France and Great Britain. Michel Chevalier is, however, less known for his major contribution to the intellectual property debate.1 Contrary to Jean Baptiste Say, Gustave de Molinari, and many other French economists, Chevalier fiercely opposed the patent system. As Fritz Machlup remarked: “Among French economists, Michel Chevalier was probably the most emphatic in the joint antagonism to tariffs and patents, declaring that both ‘stem from the same doctrine and result in the same abuses.’”

Taking a fresh look at Michel Chevalier’s major work, Les Brevets d’invention (1878), we find it to be not only a well-written and powerful book, but also has remained impressively relevant. The arguments advanced by Chevalier anticipate the current arguments of the present opponents of intellectual property.

Patents as Contrary to Freedom and Economic Progress

Michel Chevalier argues that patents cannot be justified if they are contrary to freedom, even if beneficial to technological change. For him “From the moment we can make effective the patent only through inquisitorial expedients, violence, and subversion of liberty of labor, it is proof that we must renounce patents.” Chevalier rejects utilitarianism as a sufficient method to justify or refute the patent system. Chevalier’s opposition to patents, however, is not just based on moral arguments but shows the disastrous effects of this system for both foreign trade and the economy in general.

According to Chevalier, patents are of the same nature as privileges and monopolies which were prevalent during the Ancien Régime. They are also comparable in their effects to protectionist policies:

In absolute terms, patents diminish the productive power of nations that recognize them: evident proposition for those who believe that freedom, free competition, is the great lever of industrial progress.

Already during the nineteenth century, legal instability and uncertainty challenged the actual efficiency of the patent system and the economists were very much aware of this problem. Chevalier warned that the patent system would lead to legal uncertainty for the companies and would lead the industry back to a guild system where no entrepreneur would dare to enter a market for fear of being sued by patent holders. Chevalier was ahead of his time by denouncing what can be considered the ancestors of today’s patent trolls.

Chevalier concluded his 1862 article by stating: “I think I have said enough to show that the patent legislation has been an eccentricity of the legislator.” He went further in 1863 and added that “[a]ll friends of industrial and social progress must work together to rescue the industry of obstacles, obsolete remains of the past. Patents must disappear first.”

The entire article can be read here.

For the definitive case against government granted patents and copyright, see the work of Stephan Kinsella.

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Surviving a Police Encounter

speH/T William Grigg.

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Synergistic Innate and Adaptive Immune Response to Combination Immunotherapy with Anti-Tumor Antigen Antibodies and Extended Serum Half-Life IL-2

The full text of “Synergistic Innate and Adaptive Immune Response to Combination Immunotherapy with Anti-Tumor Antigen Antibodies and Extended Serum Half-Life IL-2” is behind a pay wall. Below is a summary and the abstract.

Highlights

  • Serum-persistent IL-2 and anti-tumor IgG induces strong control of tumor growth
  • Immune response includes a cytokine storm with high levels of MIP-2, IFNγ, and IL-6
  • Neutrophils drive efficacy, and infiltration is mediated by NK cells and macrophages
  • Adoptive transfer of CD8+ T cells, Fc/IL-2, and antibody confers long-term efficacy

Summary

Cancer immunotherapies under development have generally focused on either stimulating T cell immunity or driving antibody-directed effector functions of the innate immune system such as antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). We find that a combination of an anti-tumor antigen antibody and an untargeted IL-2 fusion protein with delayed systemic clearance induces significant tumor control in aggressive isogenic tumor models via a concerted innate and adaptive response involving neutrophils, NK cells, macrophages, and CD8+ T cells. This combination therapy induces an intratumoral “cytokine storm” and extensive lymphocyte infiltration. Adoptive transfer of anti-tumor T cells together with this combination therapy leads to robust cures of established tumors and development of immunological memory.

Additional information can be found at “New Approach Halts the Growth of a Very Aggressive Form of Melanoma“.

Enlisting the immune system

Antibody drugs for cancer, which include rituximab and Herceptin, are believed to work by binding to cancer proteins and blocking the signals that tell cancer cells to divide uncontrollably. They may also draw the attention of cells belonging to the innate immune system, such as natural killer cells, which can destroy tumor cells.

Adoptive T cell therapy, on the other hand, enlists the body’s T cells to attack tumors. Billions of T cells flow through the average person’s bloodstream at any given time, each specialized to recognize different molecules. However, many tumor proteins do not provoke T cells to attack, so T cells must be removed from the patient and programmed to attack a specific tumor molecule.

Wittrup and his colleagues made the discovery that they could generate both types of immune responses while they were experimenting with improving antibody drug performance with a signaling molecule called IL-2, which helps boost immune responses.

Scientists have tried this strategy before, and about a dozen such therapies have gone through phase I clinical trials. However, most of these efforts failed, even though the antibody-IL-2 combination usually works very well against cancer cells grown in a lab dish.

The MIT team realized that this failure might be caused by the timing of IL-2 delivery. When delivered to cells in a dish, IL-2 sticks around for a long time, amplifying the response of natural killer cells against cancer cells. However, when IL-2 is injected into a patient’s bloodstream, the kidneys filter it out within an hour.

Wittrup and his colleagues overcame this by fusing IL-2 to part of an antibody molecule, which allows it to circulate in the bloodstream for much longer. In tests in mice with a very aggressive form of melanoma, the researchers found they could stop tumor growth by delivering this engineered form of IL-2, along with antibody drugs, once a week.

Immune synergy

To their surprise, the researchers found that T cells were the most important component of the anti-tumor response induced by the antibody-IL-2 combination. They believe that the synergy of IL-2-induced cells and cytokines, and the antibody treatment, creates an environment that lets T cells attack more effectively.

“The antibody-driven innate response creates an environment such that when the T cells come in, they can kill the tumor. In its absence, the tumor cells establish an environment where the T cells don’t work very well,” Wittrup says.

Cells called neutrophils, which are considered the immune system’s “first line of defense” because they react strongly to foreign invaders that enter the skin through a cut or other injury, were also surprisingly important.

“They’re a really powerful force in your immune system, but people in immunotherapy don’t usually focus on neutrophils. They don’t really consider them as a viable tool,” Zhu says. “It pointed us to the idea that although T cells and natural killer cells are important, maybe we’re forgetting about a part of the immune system that is also really important and could help us achieve our goals of ultimately curing the tumors.”

The researchers also found that when they delivered an antibody, IL-2, and T cells targeted to the tumor, the adoptively transferred T cells killed cancer cells much more successfully than when only T cells were delivered. In 80 to 90 percent of the mice, tumors disappeared completely; even when tumor cells were reinjected into the mice months after the original treatment, their immune systems destroyed the cells, preventing new tumors from forming.

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NeuroElectro: organizing information on cellular neurophysiology

The goal of the NeuroElectro Project is to extract information about the electrophysiological properties (e.g. resting membrane potentials and membrane time constants) of diverse neuron types from the existing literature and place it into a centralized database.

Our goal is to facilitate the discovery of neuron-to-neuron relationships and better understand the role of functional diversity across neuron types.

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How Aggressive Foreign Policy Subsidizes American Nut Farmers by Ryan McMaken

In “How Aggressive Foreign Policy Subsidizes American Nut Farmers” McMaken cites an article written a couple of years ago about how some crony nut farmers used sanctions against Iran to become rich. What is important about this article is that it answers the question: Who benefits from the US empire? While it is obvious that companies that sell goods and services to the US military require endless military adventures, it is not always obvious who else benefits.

Much has been made of tree-nut growing in California during the current debate over the drought. Almonds have been especially targeted, but pistachios are an important crop as well, and while domestic almonds and other tree nuts certainly benefit from tariff policy — here’s a tariff schedule for those who are interested — pistachio growers in the US have the added benefit of bellicose American foreign policy.

In a 2013 article at Mondoweiss, Yash Levine examined the effect of the US embargo against Iran on the pistachio industry, through the experience of one particularly wealthy farming couple, Lynda and Stewart Resnick:

For as long as anyone can remember, Iran had been the world’s main supplier of pistachios. But Carter’s 1979 embargo on the country effectively cut off Iranian pistachio growers from the American market and created a need for alternative pistachio production, which was virtually nonexistent in the United States.

Seeing a massive opportunity, the Resnicks began to snap up thousands of acres from Mobil Oil and Texaco in order to create pistachio and almond orchards. They steadily bought up more and more acreage all through the 1980s for rock-bottom prices because of a long period of drought. By the end of the decade, the Resnicks had amassed enough farmland to rival Oligarch Valley’s biggest and oldest billionaire farmer clans: 100,000 acres—nearly 160 square miles—growing cotton, pistachios, almonds, oranges, lemons and grapefruit.

They didn’t just grow the crops, but packaged, processed and distributed them as well. Economic sanctions against Iran were renewed and intensified under every single president after Carter, and all the while America’s domestic pistachio farming exploded. In the past thirty years it has grown from a couple of hobby farmers to an industry generating close to $1 billion…

Economic sanctions are what have allowed the Resnicks to create their pistachio empire, which would suffer a severe blow if relations with Iran were ever normalized. Iran’s pistachios are considered to be superior to America’s, so much so that Israelis still buy Iranian pistachios shipped in through Turkey. Surely the Resnicks would never be able to compete with Iran on the pistachio free market. And so the Resnicks did what any smart and ruthless American would do: they made common cause with oil companies, Islamophobes, neocons and Likudniks, and began funneling money to think tanks and political advocacy groups that take a hardline approach with Iran. Economic sanctions, sabotage, vilification—all these things worked in the Resnicks’ interest. Bombing some of Iran’s pistachio fields wouldn’t be so bad, either…

The entire article can be read here.

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