Brain Cells hope for sufferers …

British scientists are claiming to have made a major breakthrough after creating brain tissue from human skin.

(The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for most of the major high-level thought processes such as memory, language and consciousness.) 

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent

7:20AMGMT12 Feb 2012

The researchers have for the first time generated crucial types of human brain cells in the laboratory by reprogramming skin cells, which they say could speed up the hunt for new treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and stroke.

Until now it has only been possible to generate tissue from the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain where most major neurological diseases occur, by using controversial embryonic stem cells, obtained by the destruction of an embryo.

This has meant the supply of brain tissue available for research has been limited due to the ethical concerns around embryonic stem cells and shortages in their availability.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge, however, now insist they have overcome this problem after showing for the first time that it is possible to re-programme adult human skin cells so that they develop into neurons found in the cerebral cortex.

Initially brain cells grown in this way could be used to help researchers gain a better understanding of how the brain develops, what goes wrong when it is affected by disease and it could also be used for screening new drug treatments.

Eventually they hope the cells could also be used to provide healthy tissue that can be implanted into patients to treat neurodegenerative diseases and brain damage.

DrRickLivesey, who led the research at theUniversityofCambridge’s Gurdon [corr] Institute, said: “The cerebral cortex makes up 75% of the human brain, is where all the important processes that make us human take place. It is, however, also the major place where disease can occur.

“We have been able to take reprogrammed skin cells so they develop into brain stem cells and then essentially replay brain development in the laboratory.

“We can study brain development and what goes wrong when it is affected by disease in a way we haven’t been able to before. We see it as a major breakthrough in what will now be possible.”

The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for most of the major high-level thought processes such as memory, language and consciousness.

While human brain cells have been created from stem cells before, this has relied upon embryonic stem cells. Attempts to make them from skin cells have produced neurons that are not found in the cerebral cortex.

DrLiveseyand his colleagues were able to create the two major types of neuron that form the cerebral cortex from reprogrammed skin cells and show that they were identical to those created from the more controversial embryonic stem cells.

DrLivesey, whose findings are published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, said this may eventually lead to new treatments for patients where damaged tissue could be replaced by brain cells grown in the laboratory from a sample of their skin.

He said: “You don’t need to rebuild damage to recover function as the brain is quite good at recovering itself – it does this after stroke for example. However, it may be possible to give it some extra real estate that it can use to do this.

“We can make large numbers of cerebral cortex neurons by taking a sample of skin from anybody, so in principal it should be possible to put these back into the patients.”

DrSimonRidley, head of research at Alzheimer’s ResearchUK, which funded the study alongside theWellcomeTrust, added: “Turning stem cells into networks of fully functional nerve cells in the lab holds great promise for unravelling complex brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”



29 Jul 2011

11 May 2011

25 Sep 2008

16 Nov 2007


PICS: Trip to Cape Town – Feb 2012

One Moment in Time

My Song of the Week by the late Whitney Houston … enjoy!





Each day I live, I want to be a day to give the best of me

I’m only one, But not alone.My finest day Is yet unknown.
I broke my heart, Fought every gain To taste the sweet.
I face the pain, I rise and fall, Yet through it all This much remains…
I want one moment in time When I’m more than I thought I could be,
 When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away, And the answers are all up to me.
Give me one moment in time When I’m racing with destiny. Then in that one moment of time I will feel I will feel eternity.

(Whitney Houston)

The Walk to Freedom

©2012 Edward C. Lunnon

Monday 13 February 2012: 5 years 5 months on … Advantage CBD

Last Saturday morning, Sean and I left Stellenbosch, crossing Sir Lowry’s Pass in the rain. Behind us, False Bay and the Hottentots-Holland basin lay basking in the sun.

The weather mirrored my mood.

It had been another trip of sunshine and rain.

It took a while to convince myself that I was able to do another long trip by car. Travelling is just becoming that much more difficult for me. It’s far easier and less frustrating just to stay at home. But I have to guard against becoming a couch potato, and I really have been nowhere since the last trip to Nieu-Bethesda in December.

A last-minute decision on the previous Thursday saw us deciding to make a trip to the Western Cape and the Cape of Good Hope. Sean had not yet started his second year at university and I am retired – so we had the time! Sean was keen to see his mates in Stellenbosch. Did I have the will?

I was keen to attend the Il Divo concert in Cape Town – I have enjoyed their music for a few years now. Once I had ascertained that there were still tickets available, I booked and the decision was made. Cape Town – here we were coming!

We left on Monday morning, heading westwards along the N2, stopping at the Storms River Bridge and in George and arriving in Stellenbosch (my birthplace and centre of learning) at 18h00. The temperature peaked at 43 degrees Celsius somewhere near Riversdale – we were grateful for auto air-conditioning and the car seemed the best place to be!

Straight on to the Danie Craven Stadium to watch Maties play in the Varsity Cup against TUT (Tshwane University of Technology) and then on to The Akker and the pizzeria next door for pizza supper with Sean’s friends David and Graham Clarke, David Bryant,  Neil Wessels and others.

Then we went on to Durbanville to the Wüsts where we would be staying for the week.  It was from their home five years ago to the week that I proceeded to theTygerberg Hospital to be informed of the diagnosis of CBD. This was the birthday week that I was supposed not to have seen!

Tuesday saw us heading for the Cape Town docks and Robben Island (Rob = seal in Afrikaans). We had tried so many times before to view the Museum there and each time the trip had been cancelled because of poor weather or a malfunctioning boat! So it was with a bit of apprehension that we headed for the docks.

But this time it happened, and we were joined for the trip by my nephew-in-law Sebastian Ridgway.

(As a student, I had previously visited the Island, when it was still a prison, for a dinner-dance one Saturday evening. We had gone across on the ferry in the dark, danced the night away, drunk copious volumes of alcohol, eaten the best of sea-foods garnered from the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean that surround the Island, and returned on the ferry at 3in the morning, with many passengers returning their sea-food to the self-same place from whence it had come!)

This day-time ferry trip crossing the some 14 km took some thirty minutes. Although it was quite hazy, the trip reveals a magnificent view of Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head. In fact, you see Table Bay as you have never seen it before. Indeed, the “fairest Cape in all the world”!

Once on the Island we were bussed to the Robben Island village (where the prison warders and now the museum staff live – and where we had previously partied) and to  the various prisons (that one for criminals, the one for low-level political prisoners and then that maximum prison that was reserved for “The Leaders”  – Nelson Mandela and the rest!)

If the view from the boat is spectacular, then the backdrop of Table Mountain from the Island is something to see to believe. The history of the Island, as told to us by the guide, from penal dump to leper colony, through prisons, to the museum of today makes for interesting listening. It is almost a summary of the history of our country – something not to be missed if you are visiting Cape Town!


Too soon we were walking from Madiba’s cell back down the road to the boat in the Island harbour and back to the Mother City.

The time spent on the Island is not nearly enough to take in all the history and the scenery. I felt quite guilty when I realised that I had partied the night away way back in the seventies in a hall just a few hundred yards away from prisoner 46664, Nelson Mandela, then “terrorist” and now our beloved Madiba and retired first president of the democratic New South Africa.

How the world has changed in less than thirty years. Last Saturday when we drove back to PE, 11 February, was the 22nd anniversary of Nelson’s release from prison, and we still remember those pictures when we saw him for the first time leaving prison in Paarl with Winnie, his then wife, clenched fists in the air and part of his long walk to freedom!

Anyway back to Cape Town. Sean spent the evening with friends, I collected him the next morning, we visited the Waterfront, found a sushi spectacular and then headed off to the Grand West Arena for the Il Divo concert. It was the opening evening of their current world tour. What a privilege to see them in person and to hear such big voices.

Thursday was visiting day in the Hottentots-Holland basin – first my high school in Somerset West* which takes its name from the basin and where I matriculated in 1974 with, as the Honours Board now tells you, one of the two A aggregates of that year; then my sister, Lyn in Strand and then my Aunty Doreen and Uncle Peter at Bikini Beach in Gordon’s Bay.

Then we head back to Durbanville to have dinner with my neurologist, Franclo Henning and his wife Helen. Five years and one day to the date after my diagnosis – we joke about the prognosis I was given and jokingly discuss the law suit regarding the timeline that I should not have made five years!    

This is my long walk to freedom …  how long will I be imprisoned in this decaying body and who knows when I will experience my day with that clenched fist in the air and cross the divide into the unknown that lies ahead?

Thursday was my day – I think Sean must have found it quite boring – so Friday was his day! We went to Stellenbosch, had lunch in the Neelsie (the Student Union), then left him with his friends for the day and night, and visited some of my student friends at Helshoogte (my ex-residence of six years).

Then, for me, back to Durbanville for a farewell braai with Gretel and Willem.

It was the end of another very busy week … early Saturday morning, we left Stellenbosch headed eastwards to Plettenberg Bay for a quick visit to the Bryants, and then back to Port Elizabeth (to the news that Whitney Houston had died at the age of 48! Her walk to freedom, like Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse before her, was also at an end.)

I was exhausted but excited and elated that I had once again gone home to The Cape of Good Hope.

Dare I hope for another visit?  In the meantime, I’ll just keep on walking …

 * My grateful thanks are extended to Sunette Fourie for inviting me back to the school and for being such an excellent hostess and tour guide. She is the only teacher still at HHH who was there when I was there as a pupil. The only other person from my era still there is Kevin Dockrall who was in class with me and is now a teacher at the school. It was great catching up with him too in the staffroom at break time.







8 February 2007: Happy 5th birthday!

Next Wednesday, 8 February 2012, will be 5 years since I was diagnosed with the motor neurone disease corticalbasal degeneration (CBD).

Thank you for sharing these 5 years with me, for reading my blogs and for supporting me along this way.




AlgoaFM Podcast: wED 1 February 2012

Broadcast No 94:   
QuantcastIf you missed this broadcast, you can listen to it now.              

Note from Wayne

Hi Ed

 I was spending some deserved time on holiday with my family down in the Eastern Cape at a place just outside East London call Glen Navar.

I turned on the radio one morning and tuned into Radio Algoa. I listened to a voice reciting a story. Even though tuning in midway, I found myself drawn to the message as well as the voice delivering such. I remember leaning across to my father in law and expressing that I knew this voice as a teacher and friend of mine at the time.

Once Lance du Plessis had extended his thanks to “Ed”, I knew it was you. I was taken aback to hear that you are ill, but at the same time motivated by your sincere, positive message and outlook to life.You are filling a necessary space with encouragement, spirit and hope that we all need to hear and experience. This I hope, in turn is helping others deal with the adversities that only life can dish out.

Thank you for making my day and for giving me and others the inspiration and courage to journey on. My family and I will follow your journey with optimism.

Regards Wayne, Cathy, Matthew and Warren

Medical Tariffs in SA affected by this court ruling

I hope you understand this:


08 November 2011

Regulation 8 ruling should prompt new era of tariff negotiation – SAMA

 While welcoming the North Gauteng High Court ruling that Regulation 8 of the Medical Schemes Act (131 of 1998) – that medical schemes must pay in full for all PMB conditions – SA Medical Association (SAMA) chairman, Dr Norman Mabasa, has again stressed that the Competition Commission ruling banning medical schemes and provider groups from negotiating tariffs should be revisited.

“We have spent a lot of time and effort supporting the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) in its defence of Regulation 8,” said Mabasa when commenting on the ruling which came as a result of the Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF) asking the court to pronounce on it almost a year ago. The BHF was later joined by the SA Municipal Workers Union National Medical Scheme in seeking to have Regulation 8 interpreted to mean that schemes must pay for PMB conditions only up to the scheme tariff, effectively changing the meaning and purpose of the PMB provisions in the Act.

“Yes, it is a victory for the CMS, for those of us who backed the CMS cause, and particularly for medical scheme members, but this is another one of those issues that should never have ended up in court,” Mabasa added.

“This was not a misunderstanding of the PMB rules,” he explained, “but a development that can be directly attributed to absolutely no mechanism being available for providers and schemes to negotiate on tariffs and possible issues surrounding them.

“We hope that the medical schemes will now join SAMA in pushing for a new era when provider groups and funders can engage positively on pricing requirements,” said Mabasa.



29 Ways to Energise Yourself: Sun 5 Feb

Here are 29 simple ways to energize yourself this February:

  1. Plan to do more with your friends, not less. Social support can help fend off those summer heat blues.
  2. Go outside, despite the weather, and take in some fresh air.
  3. Turn around your negative mood by focusing on the things you are grateful for in life.
  4.  Connect your mind and body through exercise or yoga. This will reduce stress, and improve your energy and clarity.
  5. Reconnect with your life’s passion. Don’t allow any harshness to hold down your dreams. 
  6. Treat yourself and do something you enjoy – a weekend trip with your partner, a day at the spa or enjoying a concert.

  7. Rather than feeling discouraged if you have fallen off your New Year resolutions, follow your intuition instead. Let your intuition guide you to where you need to go next, and to the newfound energy waiting there.

  8. Allow the light to shine. Open the curtains and let the sun cover you with its energizing warmth.
  9. Change your thoughts. Negative thinking, “Winter is never going to end,” can be replaced with a more positive outlook, “Spring will be here soon, and I can’t wait.”
  10. Fill your home with fresh, bright flowers.
  11. Reflect on the blessings in your life and remember to bless others, too.
  12. Keep a watchful eye on your addictions and ask for help if they seem to be gaining strength during this time of year.
  13. Daydream more.
  14. Perform a good deed; an act of random kindness, and then take in the warmth that is made.