Tag Archives: UCI

Thanks to Prop 71, UC Irvine Continues Stem Cell Research

This morning, I was looking through The Register. And suddenly, I had to stop in my tracks once I saw this:

UC Irvine has collected an additional $3.9 million for the study of human embryonic stem cells, raising its backing from the state to about $17.5 million and making the campus among the most heavily funded in the world in this nascent area of biomedical research.

Wow, so it looks like our decision to invest in stem cell research is starting to pay off! Thanks to Prop 71, UC Irvine can continue its groundbreaking research that may one day lead to real cures for nasty diseases. Follow me after the flip for more on what UCI will be doing with that additional $3.9 million…

So what exactly will this money be going to?

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine gave UCI the money to better equip a fast-growing research center and to train scientists to cultivate stem cells, which have the ability to become any cell in the body, making them potentially useful in treating disease and injury.

The money was part of the $50 million that the agency gave 17 institutions Tuesday for laboratories and training. To date, the state agency has given out more than $200 million, and will eventually distribute an unprecedented $3 billion, as called for in the voter-approved initiative Proposition 71.

And why is this important?

The university has been competing hard for the state funds, and raising millions from private donors, so that it doesn’t have to rely on federal money to run its core research center. The federal government limits funding to a small number of stem cell lines that were in existence as of Aug. 9, 2001.

The restrictions were imposed by President Bush, who says he doesn’t want to sanction the destruction of additional embryos so that the number of lines can be expanded. Congress is scheduled to vote this week on a bill that would ease the restrictions on federal funding, but Bush has said he would veto such a measure.

The $3.9 million Irvine got Tuesday promotes “a ‘fed-free’ zone where people are not only doing research but are trying to bring their results to clinical trials,” said Hans Keirstead, co-director of UCI’s Bill and Susan Gross Stem Cell Research Center.

Remember what George W. Bush told us back in August 2001? The federal government won’t fund embryonic stem cell research. And so long as the federal government won’t fund any research, such academic institutions as UCI (which receive plenty of federal funds) have difficulty engaging in such important and promising scientific research.

But now, UCI can continue its research, now that private donors and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine are chipping in. And what will UCI be doing with all this money? They will likely be building upon the progress that they have already been making. Take a look at what has been accomplished at UCI’s Stem Cell Research Center:

* James Fallon (Parkinson’s Disease): In 1997 and again in 2000, Fallon was the first to demonstrate how significant numbers of rodent adult stem cells and progenitors can be mobilized to help repair an injured brain. These results point the way toward potential new treatments that harness stem cells within the brain to reverse damage done by stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions.

* Ken Cho and Ping Wang (Diabetes): Ken Cho, Professor of Developmental and Cell Biology, identified over 50 genes affecting the transformation of mouse embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells, perhaps pointing the way toward a means of expanding the supply of transplantable insulin-producing cells. Ping Wang, Associate Professor in the School of Medicine, has identified internal cellular processes that promote the growth and survival of cells affected by diabetes.

* Hans Keirstead and Aileen Anderson (Spinal Cord Injury): Hans Keirstead has injected hESCs into paralyzed rats and significantly increased their mobility, work expected to result in the first clinical trial using human embryonic stem cells in 2006. Keirstead was also the first to develop a high-purity line of functional nerve tissue cell progenitors from hESCs. Anderson investigates the role of inflammation following spinal cord injury.

And in addition to all of this, there is so much more. There’s progress being made on treating Alzheimer’s. There’s greater understanding as to what happens with genetic diseases. There’s progress being made on fighting neurological disease. Basically, UCI is leading the way in finding treatments, discovering cures, and renewing a sense of hope with its scientific research!

Heck, their scientists are even becoming celebrities! ; )

No, but really, good things are happening at UCI. And thanks to California voters deciding that this type of scientific research is valuable and should be encouraged, UCI can continue this research. And hopefully one day, all this research will lead to valuable cures. : )

A Bubbling Cauldron at UC Irvine?

Last night, UCI Chancellor Michael Drake met with Jewish students to discuss the recent unrest on campus. Here’s what The OC Register has to say about it:

UC Irvine Chancellor Michael V. Drake told several hundred concerned Jewish community members Wednesday night to join in on discussions and work together against what he calls isolated incidents of anti-Jewish speech by outsiders on campus.

Drake answered questions during a 90-minute town hall meeting at Shir Ha-Ma’alot in Irvine addressing concerns about what the Jewish community calls ongoing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity on UCI’s campus.

“We promote dialogue, understanding, growth and tolerance at UCI,” Drake said. “I’d like to enlist all of you in working with me to make Jewish life on campus as strong as possible.”

So what’s happening on campus? Is there an anti-Jewish problem on campus? Is there an anti-Muslim problem on campus? Why is UCI becoming such a hotbed of controversy? Follow me after the flip for more…

So what exactly is happening at UCI? Jewish groups on campus have been complaining about anti-Semitic incidents for quite some times now. Pajamas Media likes to call what’s happening an “intifada” against Jews on campus. The Jewish Journal asks if UCI is a hotbed of anti-Semitic harassment. So is there an anti-Semitic problem at UCI?

But wait, is this all that’s happening? After all, the very same Muslim Student Union that is being accused of being behind all this harassment is itself claiming harassment. In fact, police are still investigating the charge that an FBI agent threatened a Muslim student who was just taking down a protest wall on campus. And most recently, the folks at Red County/OC Blog accused the Muslim Student Union of “preaching terror on campus”, even though The Daily Pilot found no anti-Semitism and no incitement to “terrorism” at the previous speech in the week-long series on the Israeli-Palestinean crisis. If anything, it seemed like it was the commenters on the OC Blog story preaching hate.

So what’s the problem? Why do both sides feel so victimized? Perhaps there are incidents of radical extremists targeting Jews on campus. Perhaps there are right-wing extremists who seek to stir trouble with the Muslims on campus. Perhaps the controversy at UCI is getting way out of control. What can be done to quell the controversy? What can be done to reconcile the differences between the Jewish groups and the Muslim groups on campus? Why is the conflict at UCI almost reaching Israeli-Palestinean levels of intensity?

Hopefully, UCI Chancellor Drake and the administration can come up with a solution here. Something has to be done to address this bubbling cauldron. Something has to be done to stop this from bubbling past the boiling point.

Is the FBI Harrassing Muslims at UC Irvine?

“There was a confrontation, if you will,” said UCI Police Chief Paul Henisey, who is investigating the incident to determine if any crime was committed. The students “demanded to know why this person was following them, then the person left,” he said.

The incident that the UCI Police Chief is referring to is quite a nasty one. Today’s OC Register is reporting that police are now investigating this incident in which a Muslim student is claiming that an FBI agent threatened him. If this is true, then it wouldn’t be the first time when federal agents clashed with Muslim students on campus. However, this has already developed into another major headache for Orange County’s Muslim community.

Follow me after the flip to see what happened Monday night that caused this new furor…

So what happened Monday night? A UCI economics student claims that he was just taking down a protest wall when a surprise visitor appeared. At the Irvine campus, protesters with the Muslim Student Union erect a wall every day that symbolizes the “apartheid wall” that the Israeli government is trying to erect. However due to university policy on large displays, the Muslim Student Union agrees to take it down ever night. And when the economics student was taking down the wall, something strange happened.

From The Register:

UCI economics student Yasser Ahmed said he was driving a borrowed truck up onto the Ring Road near the library loading dock Monday night, on intending to haul away the wall, when he noticed a silver Ford Taurus with blackened windows following him.

Ahmed said he stopped the truck in view of other campus observers and stood in front of the Taurus, trying to look through the blackened windshield and asking the driver to identify himself. When he would not speak, Ahmed said he tried to take a photo of the car’s license plate with his camera phone.

“He could have just rolled down his window and said, ‘I’m an FBI agent,’ and that would have been the end of it,” Ahmed said. “There was nothing improper going on.”

Instead, according to Ahmed, the driver revved his engine threateningly and began pushing him backward with the car’s front bumper. Ahmed said he then began calling for help, and dozens of other students ran over to assist.

“I was frightened,” Ahmed said. “I felt I could have been killed or seriously injured if I hadn’t jumped out of the way.”

If this is true, then we need to be afraid. VERY AFRAID. Afraid of our own government.

So is this what really happened? Campus police confirmed that the mysterious man was an FBI agent. But why would an FBI agent be at UCI in the middle of the night?

The next morning, Ahmed said, he went to the campus police station and was told by the police chief that the man in the car was an FBI agent.

Ahmed, who lives with his family in Orange County, laughed at the idea the FBI could be investigating him.

Sociology student [Marya] Bangee said UCI’s Muslim Student Union opposes violence and its members are not terrorists.

“All we do is speak out against injustice,” Bangee said, though she said she believes the FBI has been spying on students.

“We have nothing to hide,” Bangee said. “If something illegal ever happened, it might make sense. But nothing ever has. It’s complete xenophobia.”

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first incident when Muslim Americans were harassed for simply being who they were. And this wouldn’t be the first time that the FBI was involved in suspicious activities monitoring the American Muslim community. However, it should ALWAYS trouble us when we hear that our government is unfairly targeting and harassing a community simply because of who they are. If these individuals are not involved in any crimes, then the FBI shouldn’t be snooping into their lives… And they definitely shouldn’t be harassing any one.

So why were FBI agents on the UCI campus Monday night? And why were they driving around the Muslim Student Union’s protest wall? And if the FBI agent in question truly did attempt to ram down the economics student with his car, why did he feel that he had license to do so? I thought that these agents were supposed to enforce the law. When our government suddenly begin breaking its own laws?

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.