Doctors keep pregnant woman on machines.

Watch this video
  • NEW: The Baby Iver fund exceeds $92,000, far surpassing its goal of $36,000
  • Robyn Benson of Canada is brain dead, but her unborn son appears to be healthy
  • With her husband’s assent, doctors keep her on machines so the baby can develop more
  • In a similar case in Texas, a woman was brain dead but her unborn child had deformities

A brain-dead pregnant woman lies on a hospital bed. Doctors want to keep her on life support until they can deliver her baby. An anguished husband waits.

At first glance, the case of Robyn Benson of Victoria, British Columbia, appears to bear similarities to that of Marlise Munoz in Texas — except for two key differences.

In Munoz’s case, her husband wanted her taken off a ventilator and the hospital acknowledged the fetus she carried was not viable.

But Benson’s situation is different.

Here, both her husband, Dylan, and the doctors are trying to keep her on a ventilator until they can deliver the baby via a C-section. And the life inside her is growing normally.

“We go see her every day and she is doing so much to grow our son,” Dylan Benson told CTV. “Her brain is not alive, but she still is.”

The Benson family ordeal began shortly after Christmas.

Robyn Benson complained of a “terrible, terrible headache” and sent her husband out to get some Tylenol. When he returned, she was unresponsive, but still breathing.

At the hospital, doctors discovered she suffered a brain hemorrhage. She was later declared brain dead.

Now, Dylan Benson is in an unimaginable position.

He’s counting down the days to the birth of his son — and the death of his wife.

A much different case

The Munoz family, on the other hand, had nothing to look forward to.

Their case, which played out internationally, sparked a wrenching two-month legal debate about who is alive, who is dead and how the presence of a fetus changes the equation.

Erick Munoz found his wife unconscious at their home on November 26. A blood clot in her lungs had killed her. She hadn’t been breathing for about an hour. At the time, she was 14 weeks pregnant with the couple’s second child.

But, unlike the Bensons, the fetus Marlise Munoz was carrying was described by family attorneys as “distinctly abnormal,” with multiple deformities including a possible heart problem.

Munoz fought a Texas law that says “you cannot withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment for a pregnant patient,” eventually winning a lawsuit and the right to remove Marlise from life support in late January.

He said he knew his wife wouldn’t want to be kept alive artificially.

A community rallies

Five weeks have passed since Dylan Benson found his wife unconscious. The odds are getting better for the boy he’s named Iver.

“The doctors have said that he now has higher than an 80% of survival and that increases with every day that passes,” Benson said.

Doctors hope Robyn Benson can carry the boy seven more weeks when she will be about 34 weeks pregnant. The baby will then be healthy enough to be delivered.

The community has rallied to support the Bensons in a online fundraising campaign that began over the weekend.

The Baby Iver Fund began with a goal of $36,000. By early Tuesday, it had already doubled that with 88 days left in the campaign.

And the number keeps climbing: It exceeded $92,000 as of noon (3 p.m. ET), about $17,000 above what it was earlier in the day.

“Please help to raise funds for my unborn son, Iver, and I,” reads the front page of the online effort. “He has already lost his mother, but I want to provide the best life I possibly can for him.”

The money will be used to pay for bills, baby supplies, daycare, housing, food, transportation and an education fund for Iver. Dylan also noted that he hasn’t worked during this ordeal, and that compensation during his leave after Iver is born will cover just more than half his normal salary.

People shared the link to the fundraising page around social media, from former co-workers to the local Anglican diocese to strangers in Canada and beyond.

“Humanity fills me with such hope when it comes together like this,” tweeted one woman. “Support Dylan and #BabyIver.”

Among those chiming in on Twitter was Dylan Benson, who thanked several people — including one who pointed to a news story from France — who’d brought attention to his campaign.

He spoke more extensively in a blog post about his unborn baby and wife.

“She was my rock,” Dylan wrote of Robyn.

“It is very difficult to know that our son will grow up never meeting his wonderful mother, and that we will have to say our goodbyes to Robyn within hours of seeing Iver for the first time.”

Medical breakthrough could lead to functional artificial skin.

Medical breakthrough could lead to functional artificial skin

Swiss researchers have achieved a major breakthrough in the development of bioengineered skin. The new grafts, which are about to undergo clinical trials, work a lot like the real thing — because they actually contain functioning blood vessels and lymph capillaries.

The breakthrough was made by Daniela Marino and her team from the Tissue Biology Research Unit at University Children’s Hospital Zurich. It’s another amazing advance in the field of tissue engineering — one that’s poised to help patients with severe burns who don’t have enough of their own healthy skin available for grafts. The same technology could also be applied to cosmetic surgery.

Like the Real Thing

What’s remarkable about these new skin grafts — which have only been tested on rats — is how much they work like human skin. They’re equipped with not just blood vessels — which transport nutrients, oxygen, and other essential factors that keep organs alive and functioning — but lymphatic capillaries as well. These are necessary to prevent the build-up of fluids that can kill the graft before it has time to become part of the patient’s own skin. Lymph vessels remove fluid from the tissue and return it to the bloodstream.

The researchers say their findings strongly suggest that if an engineered skin graft containing both blood and lymph vessels would be transplanted on humans, fluid formation would be thwarted, wound healing improved — and it would result in an enhanced ability to grow skin that looks, feels, and functions like the real thing.

To this point, bioengineered skin grafts have not contained the components of real skin, including blood and lymphatic vessels. Looking ahead, researchers will also have to figure out a way to add pigmentation, sweat glands, nerves, and hair follicles. Other unrelated research projects are striving to give artificial skin the capacity for sensitivetouch.

Growing Skin

To create the skin grafts, the researchers used human cells from blood and lymph vessels. They were placed in a solution that scattered the cells onto a skin-like gel. After spending some time in an incubator, the mixture grew into skin grafts.

These grafts were then tested successfully on rats. The transplanted skin morphed into near-normal skin. Then, after connecting the grafts to the rats’ own lymph system, it collected and drew fluid away from the tissue.

Not Ideal?

But not everyone’s enthused about the prospect. HealthDay science reporter Steven Reinberg explains:

Dr. Alfred Culliford, director of plastic, reconstructive and hand surgery at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City, called the bioengineered tissue “a technology in search of a purpose.”

“I don’t think it will be broadly applicable to many people who need skin grafts,” Culliford said. “It may be helpful in burn patients who have had a large portion of their body surface burned and don’t have enough healthy skin to transplant.”

Culliford said the best grafts for most patients still come from the patient’s own skin. In addition, he said he doesn’t believe adding lymph vessels to a graft is a great advance, since fluid drainage is now done by methods such as compressing the graft.

Unswayed, Marino says the new tissue is a true advance. Human trials are next.

World facing cancer ‘tidal wave’

Large numbers of people do not know there is a lot they can do to reduce their exposure to risk.

The globe is facing a “tidal wave” of cancer, and restrictions on alcohol and sugar need to be considered, say World Health Organization scientists.

It predicts the number of cancer cases will reach 24 million a year by 2035, but half could be prevented.

The WHO said there was now a “real need” to focus on cancer prevention by tackling smoking, obesity and drinking.

The World Cancer Research Fund said there was an “alarming” level of naivety about diet’s role in cancer.

Fourteen million people a year are diagnosed with cancer, but that is predicted to increase to 19 million by 2025, 22 million by 2030 and 24 million by 2035.

The developing world will bear the brunt of the extra cases.

Predicted global cancer cases to 2035

Chris Wild, the director of the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, told the BBC: “The global cancer burden is increasing and quite markedly, due predominately to the ageing of the populations and population growth.

“If we look at the cost of treatment of cancers, it is spiralling out of control, even for the high-income countries. Prevention is absolutely critical and it’s been somewhat neglected.”

The WHO’s World Cancer Report 2014 said the major sources of preventable cancer included:

  • Smoking
  • Infections
  • Alcohol
  • Obesity and inactivity
  • Radiation, both from the sun and medical scans
  • Air pollution and other environmental factors
  • Delayed parenthood, having fewer children and not breastfeeding

For most countries, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. However, cervical cancer dominates in large parts of Africa.

Dr Chris Wild, WHO: “We’re not going to be able to address this problem by simply improving treatment”

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a major cause. It is thought wider use of the HPV and other vaccines could prevent hundreds of thousands of cancers.

One of the report’s editors, Dr Bernard Stewart from the University of New South Wales in Australia, said prevention had a “crucial role in combating the tidal wave of cancer which we see coming across the world”.

Dr Stewart said human behaviour was behind many cancers such as the sunbathe “until you’re cooked evenly on both sides” approach in his native Australia.

He said it was not the role of the International Agency for Research on Cancer to dictate what should be done.

But he added: “In relation to alcohol, for example, we’re all aware of the acute effects, whether it’s car accidents or assaults, but there’s a burden of disease that’s not talked about because it’s simply not recognised, specifically involving cancer.

“The extent to which we modify the availability of alcohol, the labelling of alcohol, the promotion of alcohol and the price of alcohol – those things should be on the agenda.”

He said there was a similar argument to be had with sugar fuelling obesity, which in turn affected cancer risk.

Map showing cancer incidence across the world


Meanwhile, a survey of 2,046 people in the UK by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) suggested 49% do not know that diet increases the risk of developing cancer.

A third of people said cancer was mainly due to family history, but the charity said no more than 10% of cancers were down to inherited genes.

Amanda McLean, general manager for the WCRF, said: “It’s very alarming to see that such a large number of people don’t know that there’s a lot they can do to significantly reduce their risk of getting cancer.

Breast cancer screening For most countries, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women

“In the UK, about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through being a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and being regularly physically active.

“These results show that many people still seem to mistakenly accept their chances of getting cancer as a throw of the dice, but by making lifestyle changes today, we can help prevent cancer tomorrow.”

It advises a diet packed with vegetables, fruit, and wholegrains; cutting down on alcohol and red meat; and junking processed meat completely.

Dr Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s director of tobacco control, said: “The most shocking thing about this report’s prediction that 14 million cancer cases a year will rise to 22 million globally in the next 20 years is that up to half of all cases could be prevented.

“People can cut their risk of cancer by making healthy lifestyle choices, but it’s important to remember that the government and society are also responsible for creating an environment that supports healthy lifestyles.

“It’s clear that if we don’t act now to curb the number of people getting cancer, we will be at the heart of a global crisis in cancer care within the next two decades.”

Study Shows Autistic Brains Create More Information at Rest .

Possible Explanation for “Withdrawal Into Self,” A Characteristic of the Disorder

New research from Case Western Reserve University and University of Toronto neuroscientists finds that the brains of autistic children generate more information at rest – a 42% increase on average. The study offers a scientific explanation for the most typical characteristic of autism – withdrawal into one’s own inner world. The excess production of information may explain a child’s detachment from their environment.

Published at the end of December in Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, this study is a follow-up to the authors’ prior finding that brain connections are different in autistic children. This paper determined that the differences account for the increased complexity within their brains.

“Our results suggest that autistic children are not interested in social interactions because their brains generate more information at rest, which we interpret as more introspection in line with early descriptions of the disorder,” said Roberto Fernández Galán, PhD, senior author and associate professor of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.

The authors quantified information as engineers normally do but instead of applying it to signals in electronic devices, they applied it to brain activity recorded with magnetoencephalography (MEG). They showed that autistic children’s brains at rest generate more information than non-autistic children. This may explain their lack of interest in external stimuli, including interactions with other people.

The researchers also quantified interactions between brain regions, i.e., the brain’s functional connectivity, and determined the inputs to the brain in the resting state allowing them to interpret the children’s introspection level.

“This is a novel interpretation because it is a different attempt to understand the children’s cognition by analyzing their brain activity,” said José L. Pérez Velázquez, PhD, first author and professor of neuroscience at University of Toronto Institute of Medical Science and Department of Pediatrics, Brain and Behavior Center.

“Measuring cognitive processes is not trivial; yet, our findings indicate that this can be done to some extent with well-established mathematical tools from physics and engineering.”

This study provides quantitative support for the relatively new “Intense World Theory” of autism proposed by neuroscientists Henry and Kamila Markram of the Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland, which describes the disorder as the result of hyper-functioning neural circuitry, leading to a state of over-arousal. More generally, the work of Galán and Pérez Velázquez is an initial step in the investigation of how information generation in the brain relates to cognitive/psychological traits and will begin to frame neurophysiological data into psychological aspects. The team now aims to apply a similar approach to patients with schizophrenia.

Laser writing makes ‘bone like’ material.

Researchers in Germany have used 3D laser lithography to engineer polymer microstructures that mimic the lightweight yet strong properties of cellular materials like wood and bone. The tiny shells and trusses they made have the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any engineered cellular structure yet.

While the technique is currently limited to small samples, the work has answered questions about how control of the dimensions and architecture of key structural elements at the scale of micrometres and nanometres can result in dramatic improvements in material performance.

The team tested the strength of the microstructures by compressing them © NAS

Jens Bauer and colleagues at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) used a commercial system supplied by Nanoscribe – a spin-out company from KIT – to create a series of complex engineering architectures in a sample of polymer. The technique, 3D direct laser writing, involves focusing a laser onto a sample of photo-curable polymer that is mounted on a computer-controlled stage that can move in three dimensions. The polymer solidifies at the point where the laser hits the sample, so by controlling the movement of the stage complex architectures can be ‘written’ into the polymer.

At the end of the writing process, excess polymer is washed away to reveal the structure. This is then coated with the brittle ceramic alumina by atomic layer deposition. The team produced a series of complex lattice structures in this way, with micrometre-sized trusses and struts, and coatings of alumina from 50 to 200nm thick.

‘We showed that the strength of the alumina layer increases as its thickness decreases,’ says Bauer. This paradoxical phenomenon is known as the mechanical size effect, where some materials become significantly stronger as the governing dimensions in the architecture drop below a certain level.

By designing the architecture of the structures and controlling the thickness of the ceramic layer, the researchers were able to create samples that had a higher strength-to-weight ratio than any other comparable cellular materials, such as metal or ceramic ‘technical foams’. The strength is exceeded only by bulk solid materials.

‘Although size effects have been repeatedly observed in thin films, nano-pillars, nano-fibres and other low-dimensional architectures, exploiting them in a macro-scale material has been so far been extremely difficult,’ says Lorenzo Valdevit, who works on micro-architected materials at the University of California, Irvine, in the US.

He adds that although the manufacturing process is currently too slow to be a commercially viable route to the fabrication of nano-architected macro-scale materials, the work shows that ‘smart control of the topological architecture of a material can dramatically remove its inherent weaknesses – in this case brittleness – and result in the creation of new solid structures with an unprecedented combination of properties’.

Smoking: a major predictor of left ventricular function after occlusion of the left anterior descending coronary artery.

The major predictors of left ventricular function after coronary artery occlusion were assessed in 108 consecutive patients who had complete occlusion of the left anterior descending artery as the only important lesion demonstrated at angiography between June 1978 and June 1983. A scoring system was used to identify regional damage on left ventriculograms. Forty two patients were classified as having good left ventricular function and 66 as having varying degrees of impairment. Apart from a history of myocardial infarction, the only variables discriminating between those with good and those with impaired left ventricular function were the area of distribution of the artery beyond the occlusion and cigarette smoking. Hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia, family history of vascular disease, diabetes, obesity, duration of angina, age, and presence of identifiable collaterals were not discriminators. Smoking was itself significantly associated with a history of infarction; but after controlling for this, smoking exerted a significant additional effect on the amount of left ventricular damage. It is concluded that smoking is not only a risk factor for myocardial infarction in patients with single left anterior descending artery occlusion, but that it is also a major factor in determining the extent of associated left ventricular damage.

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
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Smoke-like echo in the left atrial cavity in mitral valve disease: Its features and significance.


  In some patients with mitral stenosis, a smoke-like echo is observed in the left atrial cavity. The present study in 116 consecutive patients with rheumatic mitral valve disease investigated the echocardiographic features and clinical significance of this echo. The smoke-like echo is characterized by the following echocardiographic features: 1) it is composed of numerous microechoes; 2) it curls up slowly in the enlarged left atrial cavity; and 3) it vanishes as soon as it pours into the ventricular cavity. Hemostasis in the left atrial cavity was considered to be an important underlying condition for development of the echo. Hemorheologic conditions indicated that the shear rate of blood flow in the left atrial cavity was calculated to be low enough for the development of red blood cell aggregation.These conditions suggest that the source of the smokelike echo might be aggregated cells due to hemostasis in the left atrial cavity. Left atrial thrombi were detected in many patients who had this echo in the left atrial cavity. Although it has not been conclusively determined that the presence of the smoke-like echo is a necessary condition for thrombus formation, this echo appears to be closely related to thrombus formation in the left atrial cavity. It is concluded that the presence of this echo indicates severe left atrial hemostasis and is a warning for thrombus formation.


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What an Old Man with a Pure Heart Taught Me about Life.

 had a busy day at work and I felt going outside in nature and get some fresh air. So I called my spiritual buddy, Tharyn, and went for a walk in the park together. As we were walking, enjoying the beautiful surroundings and having our usual conversations about the meaning of life and the secrets of the Universe (that’s why I call him my spiritual buddy :) ), we see this man shaking his body in a funny way and making some really loud and strange noises.

Not wanting to pass him without knowing what was he doing, I decided to ask him some questions. Yes, I know, I am very curious, but not to worry, this curiosity brought with it some really beautiful lessons :)

“Excuse me sir, if you don’t mind me asking, what is it that you are doing there? 

What is this practice? Is this QiGong, Tai Chi? What is it?” (I do QiGong and it looked a bit similar)

He turned around, looked at me and with an angelic look, a beautiful smile on his face and a very soft voice, he replied:

“It’s a breathing exercise. It helps cleanse my energy. It helps me de-stress.”

“And do you do this every day? I mean, do you come here daily to do this?” 

“Yes. I do this every single day. 

After I finish my work, I come here and I do these breathing exercises for 30 minutes.”

“Every single day?!” I asked him very surprised.

“Yes. Every day.

I need to leave behind all the stress and all the heavy things that I accumulate during the day.

I need to make my energy pure and I need to empty my mind of all the things that happened during the day so that when I go home to my wife and family, I can be fully present, cleaned and renewed.

I need to have good energy for my family and I need to leave the unwanted things behind.

My work and the things that happen to me during the day should not affect my family. 

They should’t affect us, so I leave them all here. I leave them all behind.”

He paused, took a deep breath as if he was getting ready to continue with his breathing practice and  continued to smile at us.

Both me and my friend were in awe.

Not wanting to keep him from doing his breathing exercises, we smiled back, thanked him for taking the time to talk to us and we slowly walked away, even though I didn’t felt like leaving. I wanted to stay there.

His energy was infectious and I literally got high from being in his presence and from talking to him. I felt so much love coming from that man, and looking into his eyes, I felt as if I was able to see the whole Universe. I understood the ONEness of all things by looking into his eyes. I have never in my entire life experienced anything like that before…

Even though this happened many months ago, while I was still living in Kuala Lumpur, the memory of that beautiful soul and the lessons that man taught me stayed with me till this day and I knew that I had to share this experience with you as well.

That man made me realize how important it is to work on cleaning and taking good care not only of our physical body but also of our spiritual body. Our minds, our hearts and our souls need just as much attention as our physical body does.

We take baths, we shower and we do our best to keep our physical body in good shape, but what about our internal body? What about our energy? What about our soul? Who takes care of them? Who cleanses them? Who makes sure that they get the love and the nourishment they need and deserve? They need as much love and attention as our physical body does.

That man understood this truth. He knew that by cleansing his energy and by leaving behind him all the troubles of the day, his life will be a lot better, the relationship with his family life will flourish and the quality of his life will improve.

That man, was not a happy man, but a blissful and ecstatic man. His eyes were clear as the blue sky and the love emanating from him was something out of this world. That man knew what life was all about and he wanted to make sure that he offered the best to those around him by offering the best to himself first.

Why can’t we be like that man? Why can we love ourselves as much as he loved himself? Why can’t we care about the quality of our relationships as much as he did?

Why can’t we assume responsibility for the energy we bring into our daily interactions as he did?

Why can’t we empty our minds so that we can be fully present and engaged when spending time with those we love?

Why can’t we cleanse our internal body just as we cleanse our physical body?

It should’t be that hard.

That man was around 60 years old, or even more than that. It was dark outside, he was tired after a day of work, but none of these things kept him from going to the park to cleanse his energy. He didn’t allow any excuses to get in the way of him getting ready for a beautiful, peaceful and loving evening next to those he loved and cared about.

We are all responsibility for the energy we bring into our homes, the energy we bring into our relationships and the energies we bring into our worlds. Our energy, just like our physical body needs to be cleared and cleansed.

Nobody is asking us to go to the park in the middle of the night and shake our bodies in funny ways and do what might seem to others weird breathing noises.

There are many other ways to purify our energies. Meditation is a great way to empty your mind and purify your energy. Prayer, Yoga, QiGong. Stretching your body, going for a walk in the park, taking a hot bath, etc.. There are all kind of wonderful ways to do these things and if we are serious about it, chances are that we will know where to look and we will know what to do.

If we really care about ourselves as much as we say we do and if we really care about those around us, we will find the time and we the way that works best for us.

Love yourself and be good to yourself because only by doing so you will be able to love and be good to those around you as well. Take good care of yourself. Take good care of your body, your mind, your heart and your soul. They all belong to you. They are all yours. Don’t neglect them. Love and nourish each and every one of them and they will love and nourish you back.

Do you believe that cleaning your energy is just as important as cleaning your physical body? I would love to know what are your thoughts on this. You can share your answer by joining the conversation in the comment section below