Topic: Science Policy
HeLa (; also Hela or hela) is an immortal cell line used in scientific research. It is the oldest and most commonly used human cell line. The line was derived from cervical cancer cells taken on February 8, 1951 from Henrietta Lacks, a patient who died of cancer on October 4, 1951. The cell line was found to be remarkably durable and prolific, which gives rise to its extensive use in scientific research.
The cells from Lacks's cancerous cervical tumor were taken without her knowledge or consent, which was common practice at the time. Cell biologist George Otto Gey found that they could be kept alive, and developed a cell line. Previously, cells cultured from other human cells would only survive for a few days. Scientists would spend more time trying to keep the cells alive than performing actual research on them. Cells from Lacks' tumor behaved differently. As was custom for Gey's lab assistant, she labeled the culture 'HeLa', the first two letters of the patient's first and last name; this became the name of the cell line.
These were the first human cells grown in a lab that were naturally "immortal", meaning that they do not die after a set number of cell divisions (i.e. cellular senescence). These cells could be used for conducting a multitude of medical experiments—if the cells died, they could simply be discarded and the experiment attempted again on fresh cells from the culture. This represented an enormous boon to medical and biological research, as previously stocks of living cells were limited and took significant effort to culture.
The stable growth of HeLa enabled a researcher at the University of Minnesota hospital to successfully grow polio virus, enabling the development of a vaccine, and by 1952, Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio using these cells. To test Salk's new vaccine, the cells were put into mass production in the first-ever cell production factory.
In 1953, HeLa cells were the first human cells successfully cloned and demand for the HeLa cells quickly grew in the nascent biomedical industry. Since the cells' first mass replications, they have been used by scientists in various types of investigations including disease research, gene mapping, effects of toxic substances on organisms, and radiation on humans. Additionally, HeLa cells have been used to test human sensitivity to tape, glue, cosmetics, and many other products.
Scientists have grown an estimated 50 million metric tons of HeLa cells, and there are almost 11,000 patents involving these cells.
The HeLa cell lines are also notorious for invading other cell cultures in laboratory settings. Some have estimated that HeLa cells have contaminated 10–20% of all cell lines currently in use.
- "HeLa, the oldest and most commonly used human cell line" | 2015-10-30 | 54 Upvotes 12 Comments
- "Immortal cells of Henrietta Lacks" | 2010-02-01 | 36 Upvotes 7 Comments
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.
The largest driver of warming is the emission of gases that create a greenhouse effect, of which more than 90% are carbon dioxide (CO
2) and methane. Fossil fuel burning (coal, oil, and natural gas) for energy consumption is the main source of these emissions, with additional contributions from agriculture, deforestation, and manufacturing. The human cause of climate change is not disputed by any scientific body of national or international standing. Temperature rise is accelerated or tempered by climate feedbacks, such as loss of sunlight-reflecting snow and ice cover, increased water vapour (a greenhouse gas itself), and changes to land and ocean carbon sinks.
Temperature rise on land is about twice the global average increase, leading to desert expansion and more common heat waves and wildfires. Temperature rise is also amplified in the Arctic, where it has contributed to melting permafrost, glacial retreat and sea ice loss. Warmer temperatures are increasing rates of evaporation, causing more intense storms and weather extremes. Impacts on ecosystems include the relocation or extinction of many species as their environment changes, most immediately in coral reefs, mountains, and the Arctic. Climate change threatens people with food insecurity, water scarcity, flooding, infectious diseases, extreme heat, economic losses, and displacement. These impacts have led the World Health Organization to call climate change the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century. Even if efforts to minimise future warming are successful, some effects will continue for centuries, including rising sea levels, rising ocean temperatures, and ocean acidification.
Many of these impacts are already felt at the current level of warming, which is about 1.2 °C (2.2 °F). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a series of reports that project significant increases in these impacts as warming continues to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) and beyond. Additional warming also increases the risk of triggering critical thresholds called tipping points. Responding to climate change involves mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation – limiting climate change – consists of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing them from the atmosphere; methods include the development and deployment of low-carbon energy sources such as wind and solar, a phase-out of coal, enhanced energy efficiency, reforestation, and forest preservation. Adaptation consists of adjusting to actual or expected climate, such as through improved coastline protection, better disaster management, assisted colonisation, and the development of more resistant crops. Adaptation alone cannot avert the risk of "severe, widespread and irreversible" impacts.
Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, nations collectively agreed to keep warming "well under 2.0 °C (3.6 °F)" through mitigation efforts. However, with pledges made under the Agreement, global warming would still reach about 2.8 °C (5.0 °F) by the end of the century. Limiting warming to 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) would require halving emissions by 2030 and achieving near-zero emissions by 2050.
- "Climate Change" | 2021-07-10 | 14 Upvotes 4 Comments
Government by algorithm (also known as algorithmic regulation, regulation by algorithms, algorithmic governance, algocratic governance, algorithmic legal order or algocracy) is an alternative form of government or social ordering, where the usage of computer algorithms, especially of artificial intelligence and blockchain, is applied to regulations, law enforcement, and generally any aspect of everyday life such as transportation or land registration. The term 'government by algorithm' appeared in academic literature as an alternative for 'algorithmic governance' in 2013. A related term, algorithmic regulation is defined as setting the standard, monitoring and modification of behaviour by means of computational algorithms — automation of judiciary is in its scope.
Government by algorithm raises new challenges that are not captured in the e-government literature and the practice of public administration. Some sources equate cyberocracy, which is a hypothetical form of government that rules by the effective use of information, with algorithmic governance, although algorithms are not the only means of processing information. Nello Cristianini and Teresa Scantamburlo argued that the combination of a human society and an algorithmic regulation forms a social machine.
- "Algocracy" | 2021-08-26 | 16 Upvotes 3 Comments
Project MKUltra (or MK-Ultra), also called the CIA mind control program, is the code name given to a program of experiments on human subjects that were designed and undertaken by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, some of which were illegal. Experiments on humans were intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations in order to weaken the individual and force confessions through mind control. The project was organized through the Office of Scientific Intelligence of the CIA and coordinated with the United States Army Biological Warfare Laboratories. Code names for drug-related experiments were Project Bluebird and Project Artichoke.
The operation was officially sanctioned in 1953, reduced in scope in 1964 and further curtailed in 1967. It was officially halted in 1973. The program engaged in many illegal activities, including the use of U.S. and Canadian citizens as its unwitting test subjects, which led to controversy regarding its legitimacy. MKUltra used numerous methods to manipulate its subjects' mental states and brain functions. Techniques included the covert administration of high doses of psychoactive drugs (especially LSD) and other chemicals, electroshocks, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, as well as other forms of torture.
The scope of Project MKUltra was broad, with research undertaken at more than 80 institutions, including colleges and universities, hospitals, prisons, and pharmaceutical companies. The CIA operated using front organizations, although sometimes top officials at these institutions were aware of the CIA's involvement.
Project MKUltra was first brought to public attention in 1975 by the Church Committee of the United States Congress and Gerald Ford's United States President's Commission on CIA activities within the United States (also known as the Rockefeller Commission).
Investigative efforts were hampered by CIA Director Richard Helms' order that all MKUltra files be destroyed in 1973; the Church Committee and Rockefeller Commission investigations relied on the sworn testimony of direct participants and on the relatively small number of documents that survived Helms's destruction order. In 1977, a Freedom of Information Act request uncovered a cache of 20,000 documents relating to project MKUltra which led to Senate hearings later that year. Some surviving information regarding MKUltra was declassified in July 2001. In December 2018, declassified documents included a letter to an unidentified doctor discussing work on six dogs made to run, turn and stop via remote control and brain implants.