Archive for Saturday, January 24, 2004

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January 24, 2004

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CHICAGO

Stem-cell gel advances spinal injury research

In a study that could lead to new treatments for spinal cord injury, Northwestern University researchers have coaxed neural stem cells to grow in a specially engineered gel that could be injected directly to a site of spinal damage.

Experts said the unique gel had many potential applications in a new field of research that combines stem-cell research and tissue engineering. The possibilities include treatment of brain disease or delivering insulin to diabetes patients.

For now the technique is still being tested in mice, said the scientists, who published their results in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

Illinois

Court affirms governor's power to clear death row

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled Friday that former Gov. George Ryan had the power to commute the sentences of everyone on the state's death row before he left office last year.

The justices found that a governor's pardon power was essentially unreviewable.

The Republican governor commuted the sentences of 167 inmates and pardoned four others three years after he had halted all state executions over concerns of unjust convictions.

The state attorney general challenged Ryan's constitutional authority in 32 of the cases, arguing some inmates hadn't sought clemency as required by state law.

North Carolina

Smithsonian chief gets probation for headdress

The head of the Smithsonian Institution pleaded guilty Friday to a federal misdemeanor for buying South American headdresses with feathers from endangered birds. He was sentenced to probation.

Lawrence M. Small's attorney said Small didn't realize it was illegal to own the headdresses because they had previously been displayed legally at two museums that had special permits.

"He did not make the connection that museums can do this, but individuals can't," defense attorney Judah Best told the court.

Possessing feathers from endangered birds violates the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Kentucky

Hand transplant patient doing well after 5 years

Even after five years, Matthew Scott remembers the exact moment he woke to find he had fingers on his left hand again.

Doctors had attached a hand from a cadaver to Scott, whose own hand had been blown to bits in a fireworks accident 13 years earlier.

Scott, the first person in the world to enjoy long-term success after a hand transplant, is doing better than either he or the doctors who performed the surgery expected.

Scott's only significant complication has been arthritis in the thumb, a possibility doctors were aware of before the transplant. It become an issue only because Scott gained so much flexibility in the hand, said Dr. Warren Breidenbach, of Kleinert Kutz Hand Center in Louisville.

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