BEN BOVA: July 24, 2011 ... Ancient humans; stem-cell therapy; ozone update

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about anthropologist Carleton Coon, who was drummed out of academia because of a politically incorrect idea he espoused.

Thinking about the origin of races among the human population, in the 1960s Coon suggested that perhaps our species originated in several places around the Old World, and is now coming together to form a single unified race. Orthodox anthropologists believe that our species originated in one place, eastern Africa, and split into different races as our ancestors traveled to different environments.

Coon’s view was called racism, and he was forced to retire.

Well, last month a team of anthropologists from the University of North Texas unearthed remains of Homo erectus, a predecessor of our species (Homo sapiens) in western Asia. The site is between 1.85 and 1.77 million years old — slightly older than similar H. erectus sites in Africa.

Did human predecessors arise separately in Asia and Africa? The truth is out there. Name calling does not change that.

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A while back I wrote about stem-cell therapy helping patients here in Florida.

One of those patients is pitching for the New York Yankees. Bartolo Colon won the American League Cy Young award as best pitcher in 2005. But he tore the rotator cuff on his pitching arm and by 2009 his career seemed over.

In April 2010 Colon underwent stem-cell treatment by Dr. Joseph Purita, founder of the Institute of Regenerative and Molecular Orthopedics, in Boca Raton. Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet given its approval to stem-cell therapy, the procedure was done in the Dominican Republic.

Purita extracted bone marrow and fatty tissue from Colon, then reinserted them into the pitcher’s shoulder and elbow. Bone marrow contains viable stem cells, and — according to Purita — the stem cells repaired Colon’s rotator cuff injury.

Skeptics claim that the pitcher’s recovery is largely psychosomatic, but Colon is whipping 95 mph fastballs past major-league hitters. On May 30, six days after his 39th birthday, he pitched his first shutout since 2006.

It seems that Colon’s stem-cell treatment has given him a new lease on pitching success. Major League Baseball, however, is investigating his case because of fears that it’s akin to using steroids or human growth hormone — both of which are banned by MLB.

Purita insists that no performance-enhancing substances have been used. His stem-cell therapy has repaired an injury, nothing more.

And nothing less.

A couple of years back I wrote about a coming era for professional sports where new possibilities such as stem-cell therapy, bone replacement and other biomedical advancements will create ethical dilemmas. How do you decide which kinds of medical treatments are allowable?

In the meantime, Colon pitched six shutout innings against the Mets the day before I wrote this column. Maybe I should look for stem-cell therapy for my aging knees.

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Good news and bad news on the climate-change front.

The good news is that the ozone hole in the ionosphere above Antarctica is mending faster than scientists anticipated. The hole in our protective ozone layer was caused by chemical pollutants such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and has been repaired thanks to international agreements to ban those chemicals in commercial use. We can solve environmental problems, when we want to.

The bad news is that the Earth’s continuing warming trend has reduced yields of wheat, corn and other food crops worldwide. Global warming is driving up the price for food staples, especially in Asia and Africa.

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Finally, if anyone you know is troubled by dyslexia, get a copy of “Dyslexia with Gifts and Talents,” by Karen H. Nathan. This book is full of vital information about this difficult and often misunderstood affliction.

Dyslexia makes it difficult for a child to read, write, spell or do math — even if the child is quite bright. Children so afflicted often become convinced they are stupid, when actually many of them are bright and gifted.

The International Dyslexia Association estimates that about 15 percent to 20 percent of the population has a language-based learning disability.

Written in clear, easily understood style, Nathan’s book could help students, teachers, and parents. If a child you know is struggling with dyslexia, get Nathan’s book.

Bova’s latest futuristic novel is “Leviathans of Jupiter.” His website address is www.benbova.com.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 1

theozonehole writes:

The ozone hole forms in the stratosphere not the ionosphere. The Ozone Hole is not mending faster than anticipated-originally the projection was 2045, it actually has been pushed to 2065 when the Ozone Depletion over the South Pole is projected to stop occurring.Ben Bova also wrote "The hole in our protective ozone layer was caused by chemical pollutants such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and has been repaired thanks to international agreements to ban those chemicals in commercial use." his statement is completely false and scientifically inacurate. The ozone Hole formed last year and is forming again this year and will do so for the next 5 decades or so. I contacted Ben Bova and he could care less about being correct.for real info on the ozone hole visit-http://www.theozonehole.com

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