Friday, June 1, 2012

Hope for Stroke Victims

Medical technology continues to give us hope of prolonging and improving the quality of life for millions of people. A recent development reported in Technology Review may give hope to stroke victims in particular:
For the 800,000 people in the United States who suffer a stroke each year, the window for drug therapy closes in the first few hours after the attack. That leaves some seven million stroke survivors in this country alone with no medical alternative beyond physical therapy. A small pharmaceutical company in New York hopes to change that with a drug that may help patients regain some of their lost mobility six months or more after a stroke.

Strokes happen when blood stops flowing to part of the brain, often due to a blood clot. Without blood to bring new oxygen, cells in the affected region start to die. If the symptoms of stroke are recognized quickly enough and the victim is brought to a hospital within a few hours, doctors can administer a clot-dissolving drug to minimize the damage. But only a small fraction of stroke patients seek medical attention soon enough for this intervention.

In the future, stroke patients who miss this window and are affected by reduced mobility long after their stroke may be able to turn to a drug that helps damaged nerves transmit electrical signals in the brain.

Earlier this year, Acorda Therapeutics reported that the compound dalfampridine improved motor function in both the forelimbs and hind limbs of rats that had suffered a stroke. This month, the company began recruiting patients for a clinical trial to test the effects of the compound in human stroke patients. Acorda plans to enroll about 70 people who have had a stroke at least six months prior. "That's the time that deficits seem to stabilize, so we can eliminate naturally occurring improvements in patients," says Jeff MacDonald, an Acorda spokesman.
Acorda is also developing drugs to treat Multiple Sclerosis and spinal cord injuries:
Spinal-cord injuries still garner a lot of focus from the company, which hopes to begin testing a compound licensed from Medtronic that protects neurons from the wave of cell death that follows the initial injury. Medtronic had already shown the compound to be safe in healthy patients, and later this year, Acorda plans to test its efficacy in patients in the first hours after a spinal-cord injury.

Patients with injured spinal cords are not nearly as numerous as stroke patients, "but if you are talking about costs to society, spinal-cord injuries are extremely expensive," says Naomi Kleitman, a spinal-cord injury expert with NINDS. "They tend to happen in fairly young people who need a lot of medical and assistive help if they have severe injuries."

The company is also looking to treat longer-standing spinal-cord injuries with a drug that would help break down the scar tissue that forms around a spinal-cord injury. The scar tissue is thought to prevent nerves from establishing the new connections that may help patients recover some functionality. The product is still in early development, and one challenge will be devising a method to deliver the large scar-busting molecule to its target site.

Despite the pressing need, the small market for spinal-cord injury drugs may be one reason the condition doesn't get a lot of attention from pharmaceutical giants. "No one else wants to develop compounds to treat spinal-cord injury as seriously as Acorda," says Edward Hall, a neurologist and spinal-cord and brain-injury specialist at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. "These aren't going to be billion-dollar-a-year products."
We should be thankful that there are companies like Acorda out there, but we need also be mindful that Acorda stays in business only to the extent that it can make a profit. Government regulations and high taxation will make it much harder for these companies to keep doing research and may thus ensure the continued disability or deaths of a lot of people who might in the future have benefited from the work they do.

Worse Than Our Despisers

Christianity has enough enemies, it doesn't need more, and it especially doesn't need them in the pulpit. There are two kinds of preachers who give Christianity a black eye. One is the liberal who really doesn't believe the classic creeds of the church but refuses to do the honorable thing and resign his post. The other is the preacher who believes the creeds but piles on a whole lot else that turns the Gospel into something cruel, hard, and unloving.

The Westboro Baptist bunch are an example of the latter. They've been around for a while, but lately a lot more like them seem to be popping up. The most recent example is a pastor in Seneca, Kansas who's declaring that the government should kill homosexuals. He doesn't say that individuals should take it upon themselves to do this, mind you, but the government should.

The Blaze has the story:
Over the past few weeks, bizarre and distressing video and audio files purporting to show anti-gay sentiment in U.S. Christian churches have been emerging.

First, there was the story of a pastor who quipped about parents hitting boys who appear effeminate (he has since attempted to better frame his words). Then, there was Pastor Charles L. Worley, who touted putting gays and lesbians in an electric fence, where they would inevitably die off.

And who can forget the small child who is seen on video singing about how homosexuals won’t be entering heaven. Now, there’s yet another audio file emerging of a pastor claiming that the government should kill gays. While it seems almost unbelievable on the surface, the clip, which was published by, showcases some shocking words coming from Pastor Curtis Knapp of New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca, Kansas.

In the audio clip, a voice that is attributed to Knapp can be heard saying, in part:
They should be put to death. That’s what happened in Israel. That‘s why homosexuality wouldn’t have grown in Israel. It tends to limit conversions. It tends to limit people coming out of the closet. Oh, so you’re saying that we should go out and start killing them? No, I’m saying the government should. They won’t, but they should.
Knapp appeared on CNN (via the network’s KTKA affiliate this morning) to discuss the controversial March 27 sermon. Rather than backing down on his words, he defended them, claiming that they were Biblical in nature.
We punish pedophilia. We punish incest. We punish polygamy and various things. It’s only homosexuality that is lifted out as an exemption,” he said, going on to say that gays shouldn’t have fear about his words. ”I don’t believe I should lay a finger against them. My hope is for their salvation, not for their death.
My hope is that this guy finds some other line of work. A pastor is supposed to model Christ to his congregation. Does Mr. Knapp really think Jesus, the one who rescued the woman about to be stoned for adultery, would have urged Caesar to execute gays? Does he really think that saying someone who has not raped or murdered should nevertheless be executed is compassionate and just? Does he really think that this is the image of him that Jesus wants us to present to a skeptical world?

I don't know how big Pastor Knapp's congregation is, but if it's got a hundred or so people in it, I'll bet that some of those people have loved ones who are homosexual. How does it make them feel to hear their pastor, a man who is supposedly speaking for Christ, say that their loved ones should be killed as though they were vicious criminals? What has happened to the adage that Christians hate the sin but love the sinner?

Here's video of Knapp being interviewed on CNN:
Men like Mr. Knapp do a deep disservice both to the Gospel and to the God they claim to serve. They should get out of the ministry until they realize how unChristlike and cruel their words are and repent of their pharisaism. As long as they're in the pulpit they make it entirely too easy for atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris to caricature Christianity and for the rest of the world to ignore the claims of the Gospel.