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News Briefs

Scientists Report Strides Against Muscular Dystrophy


Important evidence that human stem cells can be implanted and become part of muscles suggests the disaster called muscular dystrophy may yet become treatable, scientists announced Monday.

The discovery -- made because of an odd biomedical coincidence -- showed new cells can infiltrate a person’s damaged muscles, take root and survive for years. This is what is needed, on a larger scale, to attack the inherited disease.

“This says that we can get those cells recruited” into weakening muscles, said Dr. Louis Kunkel, of Children’s Hospital in Boston. “Now we have to get better at that. We have to learn why they do it, and make it work better.”

Kunkel said experiments in animals had shown that stem cells, in a bone marrow transplant, might be induced to enter muscles, grow and keep the muscles from being destroyed by the disease.

Then there came a surprise. Los Angeles pediatrician Kenneth Weinberg saw reports on the experiments, and then called Kunkel to say such an experiment had already been done, inadvertently, on a teenage boy.

As an infant, the boy had received a bone marrow transplant to rescue him from complete immune deficiency. A dozen years later, he was discovered to have a second genetic disease, a relatively mild case of muscular dystrophy.

FAA Sets Procedure for Landings After 10 Years of Work


After a decade of debate, wrangling and setbacks, the Federal Aviation Administration has established the first comprehensive procedures for safer and more precise landings in all kinds of weather worldwide.

With no fanfare, the FAA last month issued a 300-page document called an advisory circular, with the even more bureaucratic designation “AC 120-29A Criteria for Approval of Category I and Category II Weather Minima for Approach.” The advisory circular sets the technical standards for required navigation performance (RNP) approaches and landings.

Few airline passengers have ever heard of it, but the term 120-29A has been a cross between a four-letter word and a headache in the aviation community for much of the past decade. Its 10-year odyssey to FAA approval is an example of the work that the FAA and other government agencies do in conjunction with private interests that can be critical to public safety but too technical for routine public notice.

For the aviation community, the advisory circular is a tremendous step forward in safe airport approaches and landings.