Google, Trying to Endear Itself to Europe, Spreads $450 Million Around



A yearlong digital training course for Irish high school teachers started in 2014. A fund to help European news outlets adapt to the web popped up in 2015. And in March, a virtual reality exhibition began at a Belgian museum to showcase a Renaissance painter.

All these projects are aimed at supporting European culture and education, helping the region embrace the fast-changing online world. And all are financed by Google.

Google has been staging a full-court press in Europe to finance everything from start-up offices to YouTube-sponsored music concerts, trying to remake its image in the region as it battles a mounting list of regulatory woes.

Those efforts represent a campaign of “soft lobbying” where instead of, or alongside, paying registered lobbyists to advocate its case in the corridors of power, a company looks to change the minds of the public at large. In Google’s case, experts say, its push to sponsor digital skills training, museum exhibitions and other programs equates to an almost unprecedented effort by a United States tech company to change the perceptions of Europeans, many of whom still see it as an American interloper that does not play by the rules.

Google’s soft lobbying efforts are by no means unique, and have filled a funding gap that governments and European rivals are unwilling, or incapable, of matching.

But the company has ramped up its campaign in recent years, earmarking about $450 million from 2015 to 2017 — based on Google’s public filings and industry estimates of its activities — to revamp its reputation with Europeans and, more important, the region’s policy makers who have the power to issue fines totaling billions of dollars.

“We can do a better job about listening to people’s questions and concerns,” said Matt Brittin, a former British Olympic rower who took over running Google’s operations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2015, partly to improve relations with European officials, local citizens and corporate rivals.
Google’s vast array of programs “are important for our partners, for us and for the countries where we work,” he added.

Google’s European regulatory problems have gone from bad to worse. They range from charges that it broke antitrust rules — including a third round announced on Thursday — to investigations into allegations of tax shortfalls amounting to more than $1 billion. Google also faces accusations that it does not fully protect European’s privacy rights online. The company rejects all the claims.

Even before its recent charm offensive, it was one of the largest spenders on direct lobbying in Brussels, home to most of its European regulatory headaches.

Its spending on political lobbying in Brussels tripled to as much as $4.2 million in 2014, according to the latest figures available in the E.U.’s voluntary transparency register, which may not include all of the company’s lobbying efforts. That places it among the top 10 for such spending in Europe, but is a far cry from the approximately $17 million that Google spent in Washington over the same period.

Critics and industry watchers say the search giant’s foray into cultural and economic spending, whose increase roughly coincided with Europe’s first set of antitrust charges in early 2015, is aimed at eventually winning over local skeptics, who worry Google has too much control over how Europeans gain access to digital services.

“There’s an offensive by Google to present itself as a friendly force,” said Ramon Tremosa, a Spanish member of the European Parliament and a vocal opponent of the search giant’s regional dominance. “There has been a major change in the last two years. There’s no doubt about that.”

How Europe Is Going After Google, Amazon and Other U.S. Tech Giants
The biggest American tech companies face intensifying scrutiny by European regulators, with — pressure that could potentially curb their sizable profits in the region and affect how they operate around the world.
Google’s efforts have largely concentrated on European arts, education and culture; it has even offered some spending to its critics. And almost no group has been as active in lobbying against Google as Europe’s powerful publishers.

Many, including Axel Springer of Germany and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, have vocally campaigned for laws to force the company to pay content producers when Google uses their material on its European aggregation sites.

Yet earlier this year, Google awarded the first grants from a newly created $167 million fund for European publishers to help them adapt to the digital world. The goal, says Madhav Chinnappa, the Google executive running the program, is to give newspapers, magazine publishers and start-ups the financial freedom to try new ways to connect with online consumers. (The International New York Times took part in a previous Google-backed fund for French publishers.)

Euronews, a pan-regional broadcaster based in France, has received more than $500,000 to test 360-degree news videos, and aims to produce broadcasts by the end of the year.

“Of course, Google has its own agenda to show to Europe’s political powers that they aren’t bad guys,” said Michael Peters, chief executive of Euronews. “But this gives organizations like ours the chance to do these types of projects. It wouldn’t have happened without Google.”

The Silicon Valley company is also tapping into a more friendly audience: Europe’s tech community.

From London to Madrid, it has built, or invested in, so-called co-working spaces — open-plan offices where eager 20-something developers can meet to swap ideas and, potentially, start new businesses. These buildings have helped to connect the American company with Europe’s fast-growing tech hubs, says Frédéric Oru, international director of Numa, a start-up incubator in Paris that has received Google funding.

To push its tech credibility, Google will spend more than $75 million by year-end to train roughly two million Europeans in digital skills like e-commerce and online marketing (often based on the company’s own advertising products), an important goal for European policy makers, who are trying to create a digital single market to jump-start economic growth.

In Dublin, home to Google’s European headquarters, that has involved a one-year course in software coding for local teachers. Participants in the class, run by Trinity College Dublin, have been invited to the company’s glass-fronted offices on the shores of the Liffey River to learn directly from Google staff members.

“I’m so confident now that I can teach my students anything and they can just run with it,” said Helen O’Kelly, 38, a former Microsoft employee who retrained to become an I.T. teacher.

Not all of Google’s good will activities have been so well accepted.

When it officially opened a “cultural institute” — a Paris-based group of engineers whose goal is to help more than 1,100 institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, embrace the digital world — France’s culture minister was a no-show.

Museums still regularly question Google’s motives because the tools like high-definition cameras to digitize artwork are all free. Institutions also have raised concerns about who controls the copyright of the masterpieces (Google says all rights remain with the institutions).

The tech giant has often picked museums with a digital connection. That includes the restoration of Bletchley Park, a museum on the outskirts of London that housed British codebreakers during World War II and that helped spur the creation of modern-day computers.

Yet Sue Hughes, a retired elementary-school teacher who recently visited the museum — made famous in the recent movie “The Imitation Game” starring Benedict Cumberbatch — remained ambivalent.
“That’s typical of Americans,” she said when asked about a large poster at the entrance to Bletchley Park highlighting Google’s financial support.

“It’s like they used to say in the war,” she added. American companies like Google “are oversexed, overpaid and over here.”

Correction: July 19, 2016
An earlier version of this article misstated the number of Europeans that Google hopes to train on digital skills. The company expects to train two million, not three million, by the end of the year.

Follow Mark Scott on Twitter @markscott82.


UCF researchers make breakthrough into “invisibility” technology

Posted: Mar 31, 2014 11:33 PM EDTUpdated: Mar 31, 2014 11:33 PM EDT

ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) –People have dreamed about the possibility of invisibility for centuries.It’s the subject of countless books and Hollywood movies, but is the real thing really possible?

Researchers at the University of Central Florida may be on the cusp of creating a type of invisibility.

FOX 35’s Tom Johnson takes you inside the lab where it’s happening.

Read more:

Former ND governor calls for new railroad rules

FILE - In this April 30, 2010 file photo, former North Dakota Gov. George Sinner speaks at an event in his honor in Bismarck, N.D. Sinner, a Casselton native, wants new regulations placed upon railroads that transport crude oil from the state. He says the derailment of tanker cars and ensuing fire outside Casselton on Dec. 30, 2013, shows what he calls a "ridiculous threat" to communities across the United States. The fire burned for more than 24 hours and set off a series of massive explosions. Casselton residents were told to evacuate. There were no injuries. (AP Photo/The Bismarck Tribune, Tom Stromme, File)

FILE – In this April 30, 2010 file photo, former North Dakota Gov. George Sinner speaks at an event in his honor in Bismarck, N.D. Sinner, a Casselton native, wants new regulations placed upon railroads that transport crude oil from the state. He says the derailment of tanker cars and ensuing fire outside Casselton on Dec. 30, 2013, shows what he calls a “ridiculous threat” to communities across the United States. The fire burned for more than 24 hours and set off a series of massive explosions. Casselton residents were told to evacuate. There were no injuries. (AP Photo/The Bismarck Tribune, Tom Stromme, File)


Published: January 8, 2014   |   Updated: January 8, 2014 at 05:46 PM

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Former North Dakota governor and Casselton native George Sinner said Wednesday that the derailment of crude oil tankers outside his hometown shows the “ridiculous threat” to communities across the state and elsewhere.

The accident happened when a train carrying soybeans derailed in front of a BNSF Railway oil train, causing that train to also derail and setting off a fire and series of massive explosions. There were no injuries, but Casselton residents were told to evacuate their homes as a massive plume hung over the town of 2,800 people.

Sinner, who was the North Dakota governor from 1985-92, is pushing for a special hearing with federal regulators and community leaders who are affected by oil train traffic in the U.S. and Canada.

In the meantime, the Democrat says speed limits for trains should be lowered and the railroads must take older, less reliable tankers out of service.

“We must get some changes. This is a ridiculous threat,” Sinner told KFGO radio ( ). “Think of the people in Valley City and Jamestown and Bismarck. Every town like that is a sitting duck. If an explosion like that happened in any of those towns, God help us.”

BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth told The Associated Press that the rail industry has called for the older tank cars to be phased out and supports new tank car standards and proper shipper labeling of the classes of crude oil.

“BNSF believes that every accident and injury is preventable which is why we have worked so hard to reduce rail accidents and injuries to record low levels on BNSF and in the rail industry as a whole,” McBeth said. “We will continue to driver further safety improvements based on the results of the investigation into this accident, as we have in the past, as we regard even one such incident as one too many.”

Another derailment involving some crude oil tankers was reported Wednesday in a sparsely populated area of New Brunswick, Canada. No injuries were reported.

“The railroads have to help figure out what they can do and get it done,” Sinner said. “If society has to make this decision, it ain’t going to be pretty for the railroads.”

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Pinellas jail X-ray reveals necklaces inside suspect

When Joseph Ramos was being booked into the Pinellas County Jail, he stepped on the SecurPass X-ray machine and the dark spot was identified as stolen necklaces, authorities said. PINELLAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

When Joseph Ramos was being booked into the Pinellas County Jail, he stepped on the SecurPass X-ray machine and the dark spot was identified as stolen necklaces, authorities said. PINELLAS COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE staffPublished: December 16, 2013   |   Updated: December 16, 2013 at 01:04 PM

A Clearwater man faces burglary and tampering charges after an X-ray machine at the jail revealed a dark mass near his stomach while he was being booked.

The mass turned out to be two necklaces stolen during a Dec. 10 burglary in Safety Harbor, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

Joseph Ramos, 21, of 2225 Nursery Road, No. 40, Apt. 203, was arrested Dec. 11 when he was stopped for driving a vehicle that was stolen during the burglary.

Various items from the home were inside the vehicle.

When Ramos was being booked into jail, he stepped on the SecurPass X-ray machine and the dark spot was identified as the necklaces.

He underwent surgery to remove the necklaces. The owner later identified the items.

Jail officials have been using the X-ray machine since June to detect items concealed on inmates. The system can detect metals, pills, plastics, drugs, and other unusually shaped items that may be concealed on the inmate’s person.


NASA Is Funding A 3D Food Printer, May Be Used In Future Space Missions

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NASA Is Funding A 3D Food Printer, May Be Used In Future Space Missions

Making food with 3D printers is not a new concept, but it is still largely in the realm of science fiction. NASA wants to make science fiction into reality sooner than later, however, and it’s throwing plenty of money towards those at the cutting edge of the technology.

Quartz reports that NASA has awarded Systems & Materials Research Corporation a $125,000 grant to continue work on what company head, Anjan Contractor, calls a universal food synthesizer. As currently envisioned, the technology would use cartridges of powders and oils to create complex foods one layer at a time.

NASA is understandably interested in the technology as it would provide plenty of inexpensive food to space travelers. The current goal is to have the food cartridges last up to 30 years. It would ensure that any long distance space travel plans to Mars and beyond wouldn’t suffer from food spoilage.

Of course, space travel isn’t the only thing that this particular 3D printer would make easier. Feeding the world’s population would be a cinch if everybody owned a 3D printer and a number of inexpensive food cartridges that only doled out what a person needs so no food is wasted. It seems impossible with our current food production methods, but Contractor’s plans could very well end world hunger.

The first step in space travel and ending world hunger may just lie in the humble pizza. America’s favorite food seems to be perfectly suited to the 3D printing process as one layer of food is added at a time. In the case of pizza, the dough would be extruded onto a heated plate that bakes the dough as its being printed. Afterwards, a tomato powder would be added while being mixed with water and oil to create the sauce. Finally, a “protein layer” made up of plants or animals would be added to the top.

A 3D pizza printer may sound like some kind of revolutionary new concept, but NASA has been playing around with 3D printers for quite some time. The agency is even looking into whether or not it could deploy 3D printers to the surface of the moon to build 3D printed structures out of lunar soil.

As for 3D food printers, NASA may also want to look into Burritob0t or Google’s 3D pasta printer. There’s probably nothing quite like space travel accompanied by a steady diet of starches.


Former Academic Advisor for the USF College of Engineering

2002 to 2006

Worked with the undergraduate engineering students, primarlily their first 2 years prior to declaring an engineering discipline.

Kate Johnson, Director of Academic Avising

Former student recommendation

Gionvanni Acosta

Tiffany Henry

Nate Valentin

Alejandro Rodriguez

Satianna Jean-Baptiste

Majid Matbolly

Beno Alosaimi


Created the Annual Engineering Open House

Assisted in development of the College of Engineering blackboard

Assisted in the development of student chapters of AIAA, Theta Tau, and Robotics Club. Participated in student engineerig groups,ASRAE, NSBE, SPHE, Engineering Expo, and FGLAMP.


Goal: Raise scholarship money for more African-American girls to study engineering at USF.




Interesting Stem Cell Research story




America’s not so secret space plane




UCLA Researchers Build World’s Fastest Camera to Screen for Cancer

By KEITH WAGSTAFF | @kwagstaff | July 9, 2012 | 0
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The best slow-motion shots money can buy usually are shot at a rate of between 5,000 and 10,000 frames per second — we’re talking seriously slow, like bullets shattering glass in beautiful, explosive detail.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed something much faster: a camera capable of recording 36.7 million frames per second. Of course, the  high-throughput imaging flow analyzer, as it’s called, won’t be used to take awesome slow-motion shots.

Instead, it’s meant to pick out rare cancer cells in blood samples. According to UCLA, it can screen 100,000 cells per second, which is 100 times faster than other blood analyzers. Why is this important? Because a handful of cancer cells hiding in a billion healthy cells can eventually metastasize into full-blown, fatal cancer.

Today, labs use microscopes equipped with digital cameras to screen blood samples for signs of cancer. The problem with traditional CCD and CMOS cameras are that they just aren’t fast or sensitive enough to do it efficiently; the higher the speed, the less sensitive to light they become, making for poor-quality pictures.

What makes the high-throughput imaging flow analyzer different? Basically, it forces particles through a narrow channel, where laser pulses bounce off them and are recorded by something called an optoelectronic time-stretch image processor. The result is real-time analysis of fluid flowing through the device at a speedy four meters per second with no motion blur.

Not only is it fast, it’s also accurate, with a false-positive rate of one cell in a million. The researchers say it could also be useful in other areas of science, such as scanning vast amounts of seawater for phytoplankton.

Still, its main purpose, according to the report’s lead author Keisuke Goda, is to “reduce errors and costs in medical diagnosis.” Not as fun as watching bullets fire in slow-motion, but a lot a more useful  to humanity.

Read more:————————————————————

Supercameras Could Capture Never-Before-Seen Detail

LiveScience.comBy Charles Q. Choi, InnovationNewsDaily Contributor | – 2 hrs 21 mins ago


  • This is a gigapixel camera.This is a gigapixel camera.
  • A sample image from the new gigapixel camera.A sample image from the new gigapixel …

A supercamera that can take gigapixel pictures — that’s 1,000 megapixels — has now been unveiled.

Researchers say these supercameras could have military, commercial and civilian applications, and that handheld gigapixel cameras may one day be possible.

The gigapixel camera uses 98 identical microcameras in unison, each armed with its own set of optics and a 14-megapixel sensor. These microcameras, in turn, all peer through a single large spherical lens to collectively see the scene the system aims to capture. Since the optics of the microcameras are small, they are relatively easy and cheap to fabricate.

A specially designed electronic processing unit stitches together all the partial images each microcamera takes into a giant, one-gigapixel image. In comparison, film can have a resolution of about 25 to 800 megapixels, depending on the kind of film used.

“In the near-term, gigapixel cameras will be used for wide-area security, large-scale event capture — for example, sport events and concerts — and wide-area multiple-user scene surveillance — for example, wildlife refuges, natural wonders, tourist attractions,” said researcher David Brady, an imaging researcher at Duke University in Durham, N.C., told InnovationNewsDaily. “As an example, a gigapixel camera mounted over the Grand Canyon or Times Square will enable arbitrarily large numbers of users to simultaneously log on and explore the scene via telepresence with much greater resolution than they could if they were physically present.”

[‘Dream’ Space Telescope for Military Could Spy Anywhere on Earth]

Gigapixel cameras may have scientific value. For instance, a gigapixel snapshot of the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge allowed details such as the number of tundra swans on the lake or in the distant sky at that precise moment to be seen, allowing researchers to track individual birds and analyze behavior across the flock. Very wide-field surveillance of the sky is possible as well, enabling analysis of events such as meteor showers.

“I believe that the need to store, manage and mine these data streams will be the definitive application of supercomputers,” Brady said.

The gigapixel device currently delivers one-gigapixel images at a speed of about three frames per minute. It actually captures images in less than a tenth of a second — it just takes 18 seconds to transfer the full image from the microcamera array to the camera’s memory.

The camera also currently only takes black-and-white images, since color pictures are more difficult to analyze. “Next-generation systems will be color cameras,” Brady said.

In addition, the camera is quite large, measuring 29.5 by 29.5 by 19.6 inches (75 by 75 by 50 centimeters), a size required by the space currently needed to cool its electronics and keep them from overheating. The researchers hope that as more efficient and compact electronics get developed, handheld gigapixel cameras might one day emerge, similar in size to current handheld single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras.

[Shapeshifting Mobile Camera Lens Inspired by Human Eye]

“Of course, it is not possible for a person to hold a camera steady enough to capture the full resolution of a gigapixel camera, so it may be desirable to mount the camera on a tripod,” Brady said. “On the other hand, motion compensation strategies may overcome this challenge.”

The researchers are also working on more powerful cameras. They have currently built a two-gigapixel prototype camera that possesses 226 microcameras, and are in the manufacturing phase for a 10-gigapixel system. Ten- to 100-gigapixel cameras “will remain more backpack-size rather than handheld,” Brady said.

The scientists detailed their findings in the June 21 issue of the journal Nature.

This story was provided by InnovationNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow InnovationNewsDaily on Twitter @News_Innovation, or on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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‘Minority Report’ software becomes a reality

BGR NewsBy Zach Epstein | BGR News – 4 hrs ago

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  • ‘Minority Report’ software becomes a reality ‘Minority Report’ software becomes …

Large-scale motion and gesture-controlled computing is no longer confined to science fiction movies, as Los Angeles-based Oblong Industries again demonstrates its exciting software that gives users a fresh new way to interact with computers. Dubbed “g-speak,” Oblong calls its software a spatial operating environment — and just as Tom Cruise and Collin Farrell did with the computer in Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” users can control g-speak by wearing a special glove and performing gestures in the air. “We think the future of computing is multiuser, multiscreen, multidevice,” Oblong CEO Kwin Kramer told AFP. ”This system helps with big workflow problems.” Kramer says law enforcement and intelligence are among the key industries it targets with the software, but there are numerous other potential applications as well. A video of Oblong demonstrating an early version of its g-speak software follows below.


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Heart Health Center

Stem Cells Healing Hearts

Two men in landmark heart stem cell study tell their stories.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jim Dearing of Louisville, Ky., one of the first men in the world to receive heart stem cells, might have helped start a medical revolution that could lead to a cure for heart failure.

Three years after getting the experimental stem cell procedure, following two heart attacks and heart failure, Dearing’s heart is working normally.

Understanding Stem Cells

Find out what stem cells do, what’s happening in stem cell research, and what it may mean for you.

Heart Stem Cells: Researcher’s Perspective  
Stem Cells Special Report 
What are Stem Cells?
Stem Cells FAQ

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

The difference is clear and dramatic — and it’s lasting, according to findings now being made public for the first time.

Dearing first showed “completely normal heart function” on an echocardiogram done in 2011, says Roberto Bolli, MD, who is leading the stem cell trial at the University of Louisville. Those results have not been published before.

That was still true in July 2012, when Dearing again showed normal heart function on another echocardiogram.

Based on those tests, Bolli says, “Anyone who looks at his heart now would not imagine that this patient was in heart failure, that he had a heart attack, that he was in the hospital, that he had surgery, and everything else.”

It’s not just Dearing who has benefited. His friend, Mike Jones, who had even more severe heart damage, also got the stem cell procedure in 2009. Since then, scarred regions of his heart have shrunk. His heart now appears leaner and stronger than it was before.

“What’s striking and exciting is that we’re seeing what appears to be a long-lasting improvement in function,” Bolli says. If larger studies confirm the findings, “potentially, we have a cure for heart failure because we have something that for the first time can actually regenerate dead tissue.”

Rare Opportunity

Jones, 69, first learned about the heart stem cell trial in a convenience store.

He was buying diet soda when he saw a newspaper headline about the proposed research. Other scientists had tried using bone marrow stem cells to rejuvenate damaged hearts, but the University of Louisville researchers would be the first to use a patient’s own heart stem cells, harvested during bypass surgery.

For the first time in a long while, Jones felt hopeful and excited. Already, he was pondering his mortality. He was drastically weakened from a heart attack in 2004 that had led to congestive heart failure, a problem in which the heart pumps blood inadequately. Heavy exposure to Agent Orange during his military years contributed to his heart disease, he says. The Department of Veterans Affairs recognizesheart disease as “associated” with exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service.

Walking had become difficult. His ashen color and frequent sweating alarmed his wife, Shirley, a 67-year-old retired nurse. “I was very concerned,” she says. “I knew that I wasn’t going to have him long if something didn’t happen.”

Often, Jones relied on nitroglycerin to ease his chest pain, which struck after even a little exertion. Before the stem cell trial, he says, “I wasn’t capable of doing much of anything. I could be playing a game of Internet checkers and get chest pain. There’s not much to moving the mouse and clicking.”

After seeing the article, he called the University of Louisville right away to volunteer. At first, his wife had mixed feelings, since this specific type of stem cell experiment had never been done in humans. But she came to trust her husband’s judgment, she says.

Both grasped the seriousness of his heart disease. “I knew things were winding down, so it just came at the right time,” Jones says.

A Former Athlete Struggles

Meanwhile, Dearing, 72, a standout football player in his youth, struggled to understand his weakness and shortness of breath. “My first inkling of having heart problems was when I couldn’t breathe very well. I thought I was out of shape,” Dearing says.

Often, he felt wiped out, “as if I had run wind sprints,” he says. “That’s how you feel. Your legs are gone, you’re bending over, leaning on your knees, you’re out of breath and you’re tired.”

Understanding Stem Cells

Find out what stem cells do, what’s happening in stem cell research, and what it may mean for you.

Heart Stem Cells: Researcher’s Perspective  
Stem Cells Special Report 
What are Stem Cells?
Stem Cells FAQ

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

After he fared poorly on a treadmill stress test, doctors performed a cardiac catheterization and found four blocked arteries. “That’s when I first knew I had a big heart problem,” he says. Heart disease runs in his family, having affected both of his parents. Three of his siblings have already had bypass surgery or stents.

Doctors told Dearing that they also saw evidence of a couple of previous heart attacks, although he wasn’t aware of them. He also had heart failure.

When he told his wife, Sharon, 69, the news explained a lot. During 46 years of marriage, Sharon had always known Jim to be a vigorous man. But lately, he had seemed much more tired. “He always did a lot of work around the house — yard work, painting, and that kind of thing — and it got so that he would put it off,” she says. “I thought it was just age.”

When a cardiologist asked Jim if he wanted to enter the university stem cell program, he replied, “Yes, I’ll do it if it’s not [using] embryonic [stem cells],” he says. “I’m a right-to-life person. I’m very active in it.”

Public controversy has surrounded research using embryonic stem cells. Dearing had educated himself by reading magazine articles on stem cells. Once he heard that the trial would use his own adult stem cells, he signed on.

His wife wasn’t so sure at first, but became confident as she learned more. “I was a bit hesitant, I have to say, because I had not read anything about it, like he had. I was anxious because it was a new thing,” she says. “But he was ready to go.”

Renewed Lives, New Friendship

In 2009, Jones and Dearing met by chance after striking up a conversation at a local Veterans Affairs hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation program. Both had recently undergone bypass surgeries — but with a bold scientific twist that could expand medicine’s frontiers.

During the bypass operations, surgeons cut off a small section of the right atrium, an upper chamber of the heart. Researchers isolated cardiac stem cells from this tissue and then expanded them in the laboratory until they numbered about 1 million.

Four months after bypass, these multiplied cells were infused back into the men’s scarred heart tissue through a catheter inserted into the femoral artery in the leg.

Renewed Lives, New Friendship continued…

Jones and Dearing received only their own stem cells back, no donor cells. “That’s one thing that’s so unique about this: There’s no rejection.” Jones says. “They’re my stem cells.”

For the Joneses, high school sweethearts, the stem cell procedure took place on July 17, 2009. “That was a very special day, the anniversary of our first date,” Shirley Jones says. “We went to see a movie and we went to the Dairy Queen. I was 15, he was 17. We had a double date — Mother’s rules.”

Understanding Stem Cells

Find out what stem cells do, what’s happening in stem cell research, and what it may mean for you.

Heart Stem Cells: Researcher’s Perspective  
Stem Cells Special Report 
What are Stem Cells?
Stem Cells FAQ

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

While Jones received the stem cell infusion, his wife and adult daughter waited in a nearby room. Both women caught sight of medical staff carrying a plastic cooler that contained the stem cells.

“I saw this container, and I got so excited,” Shirley Jones says. “I said, ‘Those are your dad’s stem cells!’ They were carrying it like Fort Knox, just carrying gold.”

She felt a wave of “fear, concern, and excitement,” she adds. “I was thinking of what this was going to do for him.”

Encouraging Results

Unlike bypass surgery, the stem cell procedure did not require a long recovery period.

After the stem cell infusions, doctors followed Jones, Dearing, and 18 other patients in the trial for two years. They published the one-year results in The Lancet in November 2011. Since then, Bolli’s team, along with their research partners at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, are still elated with the highly promising results in follow-up tests.

All of the patients who received stem cells have shown improved heart function and less heart scarring, compared to a control group that showed no improvement. Researchers believe that the stem cells might be regenerating heart muscle — a step toward disproving a long-held belief that scarred heart tissue remains dead forever.

Jones and Dearing are convinced, too, that they’ve benefited. Follow-up tests have shown dramatic improvement in the pumping ability of both men’s hearts.

Through echocardiograms, doctors tracked their ejection fraction, a measure of the percentage of blood that leaves the heart with every contraction. A normal ejection fraction from the left ventricle ranges from 55%-70%. A measurement under 40% may point to heart failure.

Jones’ ejection fraction rose from 26% before the stem cells procedure to 40% two years later; Dearing’s went from 38% to 58%.

“Jim didn’t have as much heart damage as I did, so he’s coming through marvelously,” Jones says.

During follow-up, imaging tests showed that scarred regions of Jones’ heart had gotten smaller. “The areas where the muscle had died, some of that has been regenerated,” Jones says.

Overall, his heart, which had become enlarged from heart failure, appeared leaner and stronger. “It was oversized and it had gotten smaller,” he says.

Encouraging Results continued…

Typically, patients who develop scarring and heart failure after heart attack don’t get better, Bolli says. “They don’t get better because a scar is a scar; it doesn’t change, it doesn’t go away. The best you can hope for is that [patients] don’t get worse.”

He’s hoping that stem cells will change that, for good. “Obviously, that’s what we’re looking for: a permanent improvement, rather than a transient one.”

Understanding Stem Cells

Find out what stem cells do, what’s happening in stem cell research, and what it may mean for you.

Heart Stem Cells: Researcher’s Perspective  
Stem Cells Special Report 
What are Stem Cells?
Stem Cells FAQ

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

The findings from Dearing’s latest echocardiogram, Bolli says in an email, “support[s] the notion that the benefits received from our stem cell therapy are sustained over time.”

But Bolli does not consider Dearing to be “cured” of heart disease. He explains that Dearing probably still has scarring on his heart from the heart attack, though his heart is functioning normally.

Still, the stem cell procedure isn’t ready for prime time. Jones and Dearing took part in a phase I clinical trial, which means that researchers were mainly assessing safety and initial effectiveness. Only 20 patients were enrolled — too few to gauge full effectiveness.

Before cardiac stem cells can become an approved treatment to regenerate damaged hearts, scientists must do larger clinical trials. That could take three or four years, Bolli says.

Bolli’s team is applying for permission to continue studying Jones and Dearing. The researchers also want to start phase II studies — the next step forward — but funding is not yet in place.

Meanwhile, Jones and Dearing, now close friends who chat by phone about twice a week and occasionally double-date with their wives, hope the procedure will prove helpful to other patients. But they are reluctant to entertain the notion that they might be making history.

His own part in the stem cell trial may have played a small role, Dearing finally allows. “It’s one cog in the wheel, going forward,” he says. “It’s like the race to the moon.”

Life “Falling Back Into Place”

Jones, who couldn’t even play online checkers without chest pain, can now work outdoors at his home, set on nine acres of countryside. Not only can he “brisk-walk” on a treadmill for 30 minutes, he says, but “I can pretty much mow nine acres on a tractor. I’ll take lopping shears and cut down those little aggravating things along the creek that you don’t want growing up. I don’t work as fast as I used to… but I can generally do anything I want to do.”

“It’s been amazing,” his wife says. “He had no hope, and after he started feeling better, things just started falling into place. The look in his face — his color is better. He isn’t ashen. He could do things with the grandkids, and our quality of life together is just so much better.”

Life “Falling Back Into Place” continued…

Dearing, who couldn’t manage to walk up a short hill before the stem cell procedure, still has trouble walking around a nearby park — but not for health reasons anymore.

What’s the distraction? Stopping to tell people his story. He loves to talk about being a “guinea pig,” he says. “That’s why I can’t hardly make it around the park, usually. I tell everybody I meet about the stem cell program.”

Understanding Stem Cells

Find out what stem cells do, what’s happening in stem cell research, and what it may mean for you.

Heart Stem Cells: Researcher’s Perspective  
Stem Cells Special Report 
What are Stem Cells?
Stem Cells FAQ

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

The same thing happens when he chats with people at the grocery store. “If they have any heart condition, he’s telling them all about what he has been through,” his wife adds.

To date, neither man has noted any ill effects from the procedure, and the researchers have deemed the technique safe. Jones and Dearing continue to see their own primary care doctor or cardiologist for heart treatment, which includes standard medications for heart failure, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Any downsides or regrets about the stem cell procedure?

“Not at all,” Jones says. “It just was the right thing to do, when you listen to that little voice in your head. I was very comfortable, very at ease. I never second-guessed myself. I just knew that was what I was supposed to do.”

WebMD Senior Health Editor Miranda Hitti contributed to this report.


Mike Jones, stem cell clinical trial patient, Louisville, Ky.

Roberto Bolli, MD, director, Institute of Molecular Cardiology; chief, cardiology division; vice chairman for research, department of medicine; professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics; distinguished university scholar; distinguished chair in cardiology — all at the University of Louisville.

Shirley Jones, Louisville, Ky.

Jim Dearing, stem cell clinical trial patient, Louisville, Ky.

Sharon Dearing, Louisville, Ky.

University of Louisville: “Patients in another clinical trial reach two-year mark following infusion.”

American Heart Association: “Ejection Fraction Heart Failure Measurement.”

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: “Ischemic Heart Disease and Agent Orange.”

WebMD Health News: “Stem Cells Repair Heart in First-Ever Study.”

Reviewed on July 31, 2012
© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
©2005-2007 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.
WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
My Notes:

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