New surgical robot makes it easier to perform complicated surgeries.

Those who visited our Expand events in San Francisco and New York last year already know that Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci robot allows for minimally invasive surgery while still giving doctors the kind of dexterity and control they need to do the job. However, the current iteration of the system, the da Vinci Si, is only optimal when targeting a small, focused area. If the surgeon wants to explore a different part of the body mid-operation, he or she would need to reposition the entire apparatus, which sometimes means driving the patient cart around to the other side or having to wedge the da Vinci base in between the patient’s legs. Today, however, Intuitive Surgical has announced the da Vinci Xi, a brand new surgical robot that promises to make it a lot easier for surgeons to perform exactly those kinds of complex surgeries.

Indeed, the big feature of the Xi is that it has four arms mounted onto an overhead boom architecture that can rotate and pivot into virtually any position. The arms can even be disconnected and reconnected mid-procedure if the doctors feel like swapping them around. According to Sal Brogna, the company’s Senior Vice President of product development, a surgeon could disconnect the arm, rotate the whole boom a 180 degrees and reattach it in just a minute or two. Further, the endoscope used to see what’s inside the body is far easier to set up and supposedly delivers sharper and more defined three-dimensional images. It can also now be attached to any arm, which lets the surgeon scope out the surgical area with more flexibility. The arms of the da Vinci themselves are now smaller, thinner and have a greater range of motion. Even the instrument shafts — the sleeves that are inserted inside the incision — are longer so that surgeons can probe further than before.

“Say a surgeon is removing cancer in the uterus… He or she might need to explore other areas like near the diaphragm, or the stomach… there are different sites where the cancer is likely to spread,” says Brogna in an interview with us. “With the new robot, you can now excise that cancer right in the same procedure.” He adds, “Our goal is to take away the barriers from using this technology. We’re removing steps and complications where we can.” As the FDA has just granted clearance to the da Vinci Xi, you probably won’t see it in your local hospital any time soon.

Understanding Pelvic Floor Dysfunction .

The pain began as a weird twinge, like an odd muscle pull where her groin and pubic area meet. “Within a few days, my vagina felt like it was on fire,” says Lisa, a 36-year-old New Jersey mother of two and human resources executive who paddleboards and scales the tough routes at her local climbing gym on weekends. “I’m a strong, confident woman. But the pain was beyond excruciating. At one point I ended up curled in a ball at work, sobbing.”

It was the summer of 2012, and Lisa trudged from one doctor to the next—11 in 1 month—to find out the elusive source of the pain. But the doctors—urologists, gynecologists, the emergency room doctor she saw when she thought her insides were imploding—found nothing wrong. Tests for infections came back negative. Rounds of antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungal drugs were useless. A psychiatrist hinted at hidden marital discord (“So not true,” she says); a gynecologist speculated about genital warts (“I’ve been faithfully married for 15 years, so imagine what I said to my husband after that misdiagnosis—I’m still apologizing”). At one point, the pain was so horrific, she begged one doctor to remove her vagina.

It was as though the very thing that made her a woman had declared war on her. Worse, she had no idea how to fight this intimate enemy, one that was quickly swallowing the life she knew. “I’m an extremely positive person,” Lisa says, “but I felt like my independence and feminine identity were being stripped away. I hated the moment I woke up every morning, searching for how intense the pain was going to be, wondering if I’d get through work and be able to spend time with my kids and husband or end up just lying on the couch again.”

Then, as she sat in yet another doctor’s waiting room, a book caught her eye. It was Heal Pelvic Pain, by physical therapist Amy Stein. Lisa began reading, finding a familiar set of symptoms and a phrase that in her pilgrimage from doctor to doctor she’d never heard: the pelvic floor. This melon-size web of muscles, ligaments, and exquisitely sensitive nerves is at the bottom of the pelvic region, where it supports the uterus, bladder, colon, and rectum; stabilizes the pelvis, trunk, and hip joints; and plays a role in everything from orgasm to continence. And, as Lisa learned as she read, if something goes awry, it can refer searing pain to a bewildering array of organs and tissues.

Ancient healing traditions regard the area below the navel as the seat of the life force, what’s known in Chinese medicine as qi. Today it’s one of the hottest frontiers in women’s health.

Lisa finally got her diagnosis—pelvic-floor dysfunction—though only after she talked her urologist into writing her a referral to a pelvic-floor physical therapist. This is a relatively new breed of practitioner—with a PT, not an MD, after her name—who has expertise on how to fix what goes wrong in the crowded organ, muscle, and skeletal systems in male and female pelvises.

1 in 68 Children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that an estimated 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder, a 30% increase over its 2012 estimate of 1 in 88 children. The rate works out to 14.7 children per 1,000 8-year-olds, the CDC said. The data shows that autism spectrum disorders are nearly five times more common in boys than girls, and more common in white children compared to African-American or Hispanic children. The number of children identified as having an autism spectrum disorder ranged from 1 in 175 children in Alabama to 1 in 45 children in New Jersey. Researchers reviewed records from community organizations that educate, diagnose, treat or provide services to children with developmental disabilities to arrive at the new estimate. To read more, you can visit this article.

Dr. Joseph Buxbaum, of the Seaver Autism Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, addressed this research in a blog post originally posted to the Mount Sinai blog. We have added it below, but you can find the original version here: Breaking Through Autism. Dr. Buxbaum is coauthor of The Neuroscience of Autism Spectrum Disordersa review of neurobiological research that increases the understanding of, and the ability to treat autism spectrum disorders.

Breaking Through Autism

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has found that 1 in 88 people are affected by autism spectrum disorders (ASD), a disorder four times more common in boys than in girls. At the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment, we are dedicated to discovering the biological causes of ASD and developing breakthrough treatments. Through molecular genetics, model systems, and experimental therapeutics, we strive to translate scientific research into optimal community care.

Our understanding of the genetic basis of autism and related conditions has changed recently. Based on discoveries made by large genetic consortia including the Autism Sequencing Consortium (ASC) which we lead, we now know that autism can be conceived of as having multiple independent causes, where in many cases the cause can be largely attributed to a specific genetic mutation. The ASC expects to identify half of all ASD genes in the next several years, leading to better diagnosis and treatment.

Given this new view of subtypes of autism, the Seaver Autism Center runs a special program dedicated to a subtype of autism caused by a rare genetic mutation in which one copy of the SHANK3 gene is either missing or otherwise mutated. The SHANK3 gene is key to the development and function of the brain, and loss of SHANK3 impairs nervous system development and function.

Symptoms can vary, but typically the loss of SHANK3 (sometimes called 22q13 Deletion Syndrome or Phelan-McDermid Syndrome) is characterized by poor muscle tone, absent or delayed speech, intellectual disability, minor facial or body abnormalities, and ASD. SHANK3 mutations are estimated to occur in approximately 1% of patients with ASD.

As part of the Autism Clinical program, we conduct thorough phenotyping for each patient with a SHANK3 mutation in order to better understand the symptoms and implications of the disorder. In parallel we have disrupted Shank3 in mice and rats to study the impact on brain development and function. The genetically modified rat is a first rat model of Shank3 deficiency and ASD.

Recently, we tested the effects of Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1) on the mice with a Shank3 mutation. We found that IGF-1 was successful in treating brain and behavioral symptoms in the genetically modified mice, and we have since begun a clinical trial of IGF-1 in humans to evaluate the effectiveness of the drug on patients with a SHANK3 mutation.

This is the first time any neurobiologically defined medicine is being studied in humans for the treatment of the SHANK3 mutation. It will be very exciting to see the results of this pilot study come the summer of 2013.

Public Health Service approves marijuana testing for PTSD treatment.

From flashbacks and insomnia to anxiety and depression, veterans are coming home to America in need of help on many levels, and the last thing they need is “chemical” medicine. Though “psych” meds are prescribed almost across the board for “psychological” issues, the psychiatric manual DSM-5 doesn’t say a word about nutrition and herbs. It doesn’t have a section on Cannabis sativa either. If you actually read the latest psychiatric manual, a.k.a. the psychiatry “Bible,” you realize that they have classified EVERY emotion as a disorder, so if a veteran happens to be a little anxious at the doctor while talking about what happened to them and their friends overseas, well, that’s grounds for a diagnosis of the symptoms that “appeared at that time” — and here come some scary drugs and complete lack of nutritional advice from a confused (allopathic) Western Medicine “witch doctor.” (


Is psychiatry itself going insane while our veterans look for balance and sanity in the nation that sent them to this crazy “war” in the first place? There has to be a sane solution, like treating our veterans with organic food, natural remedies and organic “coaching.” (

Believe it or not, this could be the norm soon, as researchers at the University of Arizona are showing how medical marijuana helps veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) cope with the flashbacks, insomnia and anxiety, and this comes from the lead researcher! The study cleared a major hurdle when the Public Health Service (part of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) gave its approval. Now it’s up to the DEA — the Drug Enforcement Administration. (

PTSD study of 50 veterans also examines severe cases

The study examines 50 veterans with moderate to severe symptoms of PTSD, using marijuana from the feds’ only “mary jane” farm at the University of Mississippi. The participants will receive varying amounts of marijuana’s active THC, and the researchers will also compare smoking to vaporizing.
When will Obama or the next dictator stop raiding marijuana distributors and make hemp and THC legal across the country? When will our veterans be treated humanely, and not given untested psychotropic pharmaceuticals that have side effects of feelings of suicide? Can the USA please treat the people who fight for our freedoms with dignity and respect? You are what you eat, and if you eat GMO food, take GMO medications and drink fluoridated water, any conditions you have will worsen, and all of the innovative ways of treating PTSD will be thrown in the trash. (

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that up to 20% of the troops who served in Iraq or Afghanistan have PTSD. Over 7 million Americans, that’s 7,000,000 (more than the number of Jews who died in the Holocaust), are estimated to have the disorder, and this is according to the National Institutes of Health. What happens now? Do emotions become disease? Does depression and disease get fed insecticides, pesticides and GMOs? That’s a vicious cycle with repercussions which could lead to millions of unnecessary fatalities.

What happens when you don’t eat right and you take toxic medications? The body becomes acidic and loses its immunity to disease and infection. And what happens when the mind is lost “at sea,” fearing for survival back home in a world gone “mad”? Stress is one of the leading causes of sickness and disorder, right up there with lack of nutrition. There are 900 diseases and disorders that begin due to lack of nutrition. Maybe the prescription “drug” based on the whole marijuana plant is the new “psych med,” and one without side effects that include the very symptoms we’re trying to treat!

This study is a first step in the RIGHT direction and State laws are the only way to protect veterans’ access to cannabis, but the DEA may NOT like people taking home a three-month supply of weed — the high-quality “kind.” After all, Obama has his henchmen who regularly raid organic farms, raw milk farmers, organic supplement suppliers and plenty of law-abiding business ownerswho run businesses that challenge the insane tactics and “methodology” of Big Pharma, Big Food the DSM-5 and Obamacare.

This was published in the L.A. Times regarding mental disorder and absurdity of classifying emotions in the DSM-5: This wholesale medical imperialization of normality could potentially create tens of millions of innocent bystanders who would be mislabeled as having a mental disorder. The pharmaceutical industry would have a field day — despite the lack of solid evidence of any effective treatments for these newly proposed diagnoses.

The manual, prepared by the American Psychiatric Assn., is psychiatry’s only official way of deciding who has a “mental disorder” and who is “normal.” (

In conclusion: The marijuana plant has been under scrutiny for years, even though it has proven results for nausea control in chemotherapy. People on chemo with no appetite are getting no nutrition, and marijuana balances their central nervous system long enough for them to eat and get the nutrition that they need so badly. If our veterans were given organic shopping lists and organic food subsidy checks, they would be much better off and healing so much faster. This research is a huge door to a whole world of real help that’s on the way! Make informed choices for yourself and any veteran you know. Share this vital information so that everyone knows about the benefits of natural foods, herbs, tinctures, superfoods and natural remedies in general! (

Sources for this article include:

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Epigenetic Cancer Therapy Clears Phase I .

A new therapy designed to treat cancer by regulating gene expression has helped a handful of patients with blood malignancies in a preliminary clinical trial, according to pharmaceutical company OncoEthix. Today (April 7) at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting in San Diego, California, the Lausanne, Switzerland-based firm presented unpublished data from a Phase I clinical trial of the drug, “OTX015,” a small-molecule inhibitor of the BET-bromodomain proteins BRD2, BRD3, and BRD4, which help to regulate gene expression. Seven of 38 patients for whom sufficient OTX015 trial data were available seemed to have benefited from the drug, OncoEthixannounced. Four of those seven patients have acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), while others enrolled in the trial have other hematological malignancies, including diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and multiple myeloma. One of the four AML patients experienced a complete response—meaning that his or her bone marrow and blood returned to normal—which is ongoing, the company said. The other three are still being treated with OTX015.

“To my knowledge, this is the first reported successful Phase I clinical trial with BET inhibitors targeting AML,” said Lin-Feng Chen, an associate professor of biochemistry at the University of Illinois, who was not involved in the work. “Although it is not completed yet, the results so far are very encouraging.”

“Everybody’s excited about bromodomain inhibition,” OncoEthix Chief Scientific Officer Esteban Cvitkovic said during an AACR press conference.

Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the Cambridge, Massacusetts-based firm Constellation Pharmaceuticals are among other drug companies with BET-bromodomain inhibitors in their pipelines. GSK’s I-BET762 is currently in a Phase I clinical trial.

Cvitkovic said that OTX015 has not yet shown cumulative toxicity. The firm is still working to determine the optimal dosing and schedule for the drug, administered as a monotherapy, he added.

“This trial . . . provides a great example for targeting epigenetic regulators for cancer therapy,” Chen wrote in an e-mail to The Scientist, adding that “the promising results from this trial will allow more clinical trials in the near future with BET inhibitors targeting other types of leukemia or cancers.”

Chen added that the study also paves the way for other investigational epigenetic cancer therapies. Targeting epigenetic machinery “provides a promising approach for treating drug resistance and clinical relapse and offers new option for combination therapy,” he said. “The major challenge is how to predict the treatment outcome. There is no clear biomarker to determine which patient would respond and benefit most from the therapy.”

Movies synchronize brains: Brain activity patterns show remarkable similarities across different people — ScienceDaily

en we watch a movie, our brains react to it immediately in a way similar to brains of other people. Researchers at Aalto University in Finland have succeeded in developing a method fast enough to observe immediate changes in the function of the brain even when watching a movie.

By employing movies it was possible to investigate the function of the human brain in experimental conditions that are close to natural. Traditionally, in neuroscience research, simple stimuli, such as checkerboard patterns or single images, have been used.

Viewing a movie creates multilevel changes in the brain function. Despite the complexity of the stimulus, the elicited brain activity patterns show remarkable similarities across different people — even at the time scale of fractions of seconds.

“The analysis revealed important similarities between brain signals of different people during movie viewing. These similar kinds or synchronized signals were found in brain areas that are connected with the early-stage processing of visual stimuli, detection of movement and persons, motor coordination and cognitive functions. The results imply that the contents of the movie affected certain brain functions of the subjects in a similar manner,” explains Kaisu Lankinen the findings of her doctoral research.

So far, studies in this field have mainly been based on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). However, given the superior temporal resolution, within milliseconds, magnetoencephalography (MEG) is able to provide more complete picture of the fast brain processes. With the help of MEG and new analysis methods, investigation of significantly faster brain processes is possible and it enables detection of brain activity in frequencies higher than before.

In the novel analysis, brain imaging was combined with machine-learning methodology, with which signals of a similar form were mined from the brain data.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Aalto UniversityNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. K. Lankinen, J. Saari, R. Hari, M. Koskinen. Intersubject consistency of cortical MEG signals during movie viewingNeuroImage, 2014; 92: 217 DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2014.02.004

Blood test could detect solid cancers.

Bllood sample could one day be enough to diagnose many types of solid cancers, or to monitor the amount of cancer in a patient’s body and responses to treatment. Previous versions of the approach, which relies on monitoring levels of tumor DNA circulating in the blood, have required cumbersome and time-consuming steps to customize it to each patient or have not been sufficiently sensitive.

Now, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have devised a way to quickly bring the technique to the clinic. Their approach, which should be broadly applicable to many types of cancers, is highly sensitive and specific. With it they were able to accurately identify about 50 percent of people in the study with stage-1 lung cancer and all patients whose cancers were more advanced.

“We set out to develop a method that overcomes two major hurdles in the circulating tumor DNA field,” said Maximilian Diehn, MD, PhD, assistant professor of radiation oncology. “First, the technique needs to be very sensitive to detect the very small amounts of tumor DNA present in the blood. Second, to be clinically useful it’s necessary to have a test that works off the shelf for the majority of patients with a given cancer.”

The researchers describe their findings in a paper that will be published online April 6 in Nature Medicine. Diehn shares senior authorship with Ash Alizadeh, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine. Postdoctoral scholars Aaron Newman, PhD, and Scott Bratman, MD, PhD share lead authorship.

“We’re trying to develop a general method to detect and measure disease burden,” said Alizadeh, a hematologist and oncologist. “Blood cancers like leukemias can be easier to monitor than solid tumors through ease of access to the blood. By developing a general method for monitoring circulating tumor DNA, we’re in effect trying to transform solid tumors into liquid tumors that can be detected and tracked more easily.”

Even in the absence of treatment, cancer cells are continuously dividing and dying. As they die, they release DNA into the bloodstream, like tiny genetic messages in a bottle. Learning to read these messages — and to pick out the one in 1,000 or 10,000 that come from a cancer cell — can allow clinicians to quickly and noninvasively monitor the volume of tumor, a patient’s response to therapy and even how the tumor mutations evolve over time in the face of treatment or other selective pressures.

“The vast majority of circulating DNA is from normal, non-cancerous cells, even in patients with advanced cancer,” Bratman said. “We needed a comprehensive strategy for isolating the circulating DNA from blood and detecting the rare, cancer-associated mutations. To boost the sensitivity of the technique, we optimized methods for extracting, processing and analyzing the DNA.”

The researchers’ technique, which they have dubbed CAPP-Seq, for Cancer Personalized Profiling by deep Sequencing, is sensitive enough to detect just one molecule of tumor DNA in a sea of 10,000 healthy DNA molecules in the blood. Although the researchers focused on patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (which includes most lung cancers, including adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma), the approach should be widely applicable to many different solid tumors throughout the body. It’s also possible that it could one day be used not just to track the progress of a previously diagnosed patient, but also to screen healthy or at-risk populations for signs of trouble.

Tumor DNA differs from normal DNA by virtue of mutations in the nucleotide sequence. Some of the mutations are thought to be cancer drivers, responsible for initiating the uncontrolled cell growth that is the hallmark of the disease. Others accumulate randomly during repeated cell division. These secondary mutations can sometimes confer resistance to therapy; even a few tumor cells with these types of mutations can expand rapidly in the face of seemingly successful treatment.

“Cancer is a genetic disease,” Alizadeh said. “But unlike Down syndrome, for example, which has a single dominant cause, for most cancers it’s very difficult to identify any one particular genetic aberration or mutation that is found in every patient. Instead, each cancer tends to be genetically different from patient to patient, although sets of mutations can be shared among patients with a given cancer.”

So the researchers took a population-based approach. National databases such as The Cancer Genome Atlas contain DNA sequences of tumors collected from thousands of patients — and pinpoint places in which the cancer DNA differs from normal DNA. Although the significance of each individual change is not always clear, it’s becoming possible to generate a mutational fingerprint for each cancer type that includes nucleotide changes, insertions or deletions of short pieces of genetic material and translocation events that shuffle or even flip DNA regions. Although no patient will have all the mutations, nearly all will have at least some.

The group began by using a bioinformatics approach to collect information from the atlas on 407 patients with non-small-cell lung cancer, looking for regions in the genome enriched for cancer-associated mutations.

“We looked for which genes are most commonly altered, and used computational approaches to identify what we call the genetic architecture of the cancer,” Alizadeh said. “That allowed us to identify the part of the genome that would be best to identify and track the disease.”

They identified 139 genes that are recurrently mutated in non-small-cell lung cancer and that represent about 0.004 percent of the human genome. Next, the team designed oligonucleotides, panels of short pieces of DNA, bracketing these regions. The oligonucleotides were then used to perform very deep sequencing (meaning each region was sequenced about 10,000 times) of the surrounding DNA.

“By sequencing only those regions of the genome that are highly enriched for cancer mutations, we’re able to keep costs down and identify multiple mutations per patient,” Diehn said.

In contrast, other methods of tracking circulating tumor DNA have relied on single, well-known mutations that nevertheless are unlikely to occur in every patient with a particular cancer. Tracking more than one mutation increases the sensitivity of the approach and allows researchers more flexibility in seeing how the cancer changes over time.

“There are currently no reliable biomarkers available for lung cancer patients, which is the most common cancer and No. 1 cause of cancer deaths,” Diehn said. “We are very excited about our findings because a personalized, clinically useful biomarker could revolutionize how we detect and manage this devastating disease.”

Next, the researchers used these oligonucleotides to selectively sequence tumor samples from patients with the disease and identify specific mutations in each patient’s tumor. Starting with a predefined panel of oligonucleotides allowed the researchers to quickly home in on patient-specific mutations that could be used to monitor disease.

“A key advantage of our approach is that we can also track many different classes of mutations, and integrate information from all of them to get a much stronger signal,” Newman said. “We’ve also developed statistical methods to suppress the background noise in a sample. This allows us to identify even very minute quantities of cancer DNA in a blood sample.”

When the researchers applied the technique to patients with non-small-cell lung cancer, they found they could detect disease in all patients with stage-2 or higher disease, and in half of those with stage-1, the earliest stage of disease. Furthermore, the absolute levels of circulating tumor DNA were highly correlated with tumor volume estimated by conventional imaging techniques such as CT and PET scans. This suggests CAPP-Seq could be used to monitor tumors at a fraction of the cost of commonly used imaging studies.

CAPP-Seq may also be useful as a prognostic tool, the researchers found. The technique detected small levels of circulating tumor DNA in one patient thought to have been successfully treated for the disease; that patient experienced disease recurrence and ultimately died. Conversely, scans of a patient with early stage disease showed a mass thought to represent residual disease after treatment. However, CAPP-Seq detected no circulating tumor DNA, and the patient remained disease-free for the duration of the study.

Finally, CAPP-Seq was also able to identify the presence in one patient of a minor population of tumor cells with a mutation that confers resistance to a drug commonly used to treat non-small-cell lung cancer.

“If we can monitor the evolution of the tumor, and see the appearance of treatment-resistant subclones, we could potentially add or switch therapies to target these cells,” Diehn said. “It’s also possible we could use CAPP-Seq to identify subsets of early stage patients who could benefit most from additional treatment after surgery or radiation, such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy.”

The researchers are now working to design clinical trials to see whether CAPP-Seq can improve patient outcomes and decrease costs. They’re also aiming to extend the technique to other types of tumors.

Screening healthy but at-risk populations is another goal of the researchers. “It may be possible to develop assays that could simultaneously screen for multiple cancers,” Diehn said. “This would include diseases such as breast, prostate, colorectal and lung cancer, for example.”

“This approach could, theoretically, work for any tumor,” Alizadeh said. “We expect it to be broadly applicable across cancers.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University Medical Center. The original article was written by Krista Conger. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Aaron M Newman, Scott V Bratman, Jacqueline To, Jacob F Wynne, Neville C W Eclov, Leslie A Modlin, Chih Long Liu, Joel W Neal, Heather A Wakelee, Robert E Merritt, Joseph B Shrager, Billy W Loo, Ash A Alizadeh, Maximilian Diehn. An ultrasensitive method for quantitating circulating tumor DNA with broad patient coverageNature Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nm.3519

Top 15 Android Apps Vs iPhone.

When it comes to smartphone platforms, there’s plenty to enjoy on iOS and Androidalike. The “iPhone vs. Android” debate is obviously a heated one among enthusiasts, but most people will acknowledge that both platforms have advantages and disadvantages compared to the other. Many pros and cons leave room for debate, of course, but one thing is certain when it comes to third-party development: Google’s Android platform gives app makers far more freedom to explore new functionality than Apple’s iOS software.

We have written about great Android apps that do amazing things the iPhone cannot twice now in the past.

In the first edition of this series, we wrote about Cover, Swype, Profile Scheduler, Android Stocks Tape Widget and Smart Launcher. Then, in the second edition we covered five more outstanding apps: Event Flow Calendar Widget, DashClock Widget, Aviate, Tasker and AirDroid.

AirDroid, by the way, remains one of our favorite Android apps of all time. If you haven’t yet checked it out, you really should.

Now we’re back with part 3 of this ongoing series, and we’ve got five more fantastic apps for Android users to check out if they’re looking to extend the capabilities of their handsets in ways that iPhone owners simply cannot.

Dodol Launcher


The curiously named Dodol Launcher is described by its creator Camp Mobile as an app for customizing the decor of your Android interface.

In simple terms, Dodol lays the groundwork for users to apply any one of a huge number of custom themes to their Android phones. And we’re not just talking about simple wallpapers here, we’re talking about completely changing the look of your device with a new layout, new icon packs, new widgets and extended functionality.

The app’s description states that “thousands” of high-quality themes are available to Dodol users, and they all include custom icon packs and unique graphics. Also included are various skins for Dodol’s special widgets, which include a memory cleaner, quick settings, a battery widget and a customizable wide settings widget for adjusting things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ringer profile and more.

“Your phone will become a piece of artwork itself with the totally new wallpapers and icons,” Camp Mobile says on the app’s settings page.

Oh and before you ask, the Dodol theme pictured in the photo at the top of this post — which happens to be my personal favorite — is called “Dark Chic,” and it’s free.

Dodol Launcher is free in the Google Play app store.

Hello SMS


It seems like there are a million mobile messaging services out there right now, and new ones pop up each day. There is one thing that most popular options do not do, however: Take standard SMS into account.

Hello SMS serves two main purposes. First, it completely replaces your Android phone’s messaging application, funneling all of your standard SMS, MMS and group messages into an app with a gorgeous tab-based UI that might just be one of the most enjoyable mobile messaging interfaces we have seen so far.

Beyond that, the app lumps in a typical data-based mobile messaging service that provides free unlimited international messaging to all users.

There are plenty of great messaging apps out there for the iPhone, of course, but obviously none of them have the ability to also take over iOS’s in-built messaging app and replace it with a gorgeous new design.

Hello SMS is available now as a free download in the Google Play store.

Weather Underground


Weather Underground? But… Weather Underground also makes an iPhone app!

Indeed it does, but Weather Underground’s Android app is a perfect example of software that features terrific functionality on Android that its iOS counterpart simply cannot achieve.

Beyond providing users with exhaustive current weather and forecast information, the Weather Underground app for Android does two awesome things that no iOS weather app in the App Store can do.

First, it allows users to add one of several weather widgets to a home screen, providing detailed weather information that is updated on a configurable schedule.

Want to always see the current weather conditions without taking up precious home screen real estate? Weather Underground’s app also allows Android users to display the current temperature in the notification bar along with an icon representing the current conditions. This way no matter what screen you’re on, you can always see the weather.

Weather Underground is completely free and it can be downloaded from Google’s Play store.



There are plenty of iPhone apps that can hide certain data such as photos and videos behind password protection, but what if you don’t want to deal with a brand new third-party app just to view hidden content?

AppLock is a terrific Android utility that can protect a wide range of standard Android apps by requiring users to enter a password before accessing them. This password is in addition to the standard PIN or passcode people might use to secure their Android devices.

By using AppLock, users gain a second layer of security to help ensure no one can access their private data.

From the app’s description:

☞ AppLock can lock SMS, Contacts, Gmail, Facebook, Gallery, Market, Settings, Calls and any app you choose, with abundant options, protecting your privacy.
☞ AppLock can hide pictures and videos, AppLock empowers you to control photo and video access. Selected pictures vanish from your photo gallery, and stay locked behind an easy-to-use PIN pad. With AppLock, only you can see your hidden pictures. Privacy made easy!

★ With the help of App Lock, you may:
Never worry about a friend borrow your phone to play games again!
Never worry about a workmates get your phone to have a look again!
Never worry about private data in some apps may be read by someone again!
Never worry about your kids may changing phone’s Settings, paying games, messing up it again!

AppLock is a free download from the Play app store.

The Pirate Bay Browser


Regardless of your opinion of The Pirate Bay and torrents in general, it’s hard to argue that blocking access to apps that deal with The Pirate Bay isn’t a characteristic of a closed ecosystem.

While iPhone users may never be able to access apps like The Pirate Bay Browser in Apple’s App Store, Android users looking to access the popular site have plenty of options and this might be one of the best.

The Pirate Bay Browser does exactly what you think it does: it provides people with access to The Pirate Bay, one of the most popular torrent directories on the planet. Users can see popular torrents along with associated details, and links can be opened in the bittorrent client of your choosing right from within the app.

The Pirate Bay Browser is completely free in the Google Play store.

‘Mini heart’ could pump blood through faulty veins

 In a breakthrough, scientists have developed a ‘mini heart’ from stem cells to help return blood flow from veins in patients lacking functional valves. A rhythmically contracting cuff made of cardiac muscle cells surrounds the vein acting as a ‘mini heart’ to aid blood
flow through venous segments.
The cuff can be made of a patient’s own adult stem cells, eliminating the chance of implant rejection. “We are suggesting, for the first time, to use stem cells to create, rather than just repair damaged organs,” said Narine Sarvazyan from the George Washington University (GW), who invented the ‘mini heart’.
“We can make a new heart outside of one’s own heart, and by placing it in the lower extremities, significantly improve venous blood flow,” said Sarvazyan.
This picture is used for representation purpose only. Photo:
The novel approach of creating ‘mini hearts’ may help to solve a chronic widespread disease, researchers said. Chronic venous insufficiency is one of the most pervasive diseases, particularly in developed countries. Its incidence can reach 20 to 30 per cent in people over 50 years of age, researchers said.
Additionally, sluggish venous blood flow is an issue for those with diseases such as diabetes, and for those with paralysis or recovering from surgery. This potential new treatment option represents a leap for the tissue engineering field, advancing from organ repair to organ creation.
Sarvazyan, together with members of her team, has demonstrated the feasibility of this novel approach in vitro and is currently working toward testing these devices in vivo. The research was published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

Call climate change what it is: violence.

Social unrest and famine, superstorms and droughts. Places, species and human beings – none will be spared. Welcome to Occupy Earth

Will our age of climate change also be an era of civil and international conflict? Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters

If you’re poor, the only way you’re likely to injure someone is the old traditional way: artisanal violence, we could call it – by hands, by knife, by club, or maybe modern hands-on violence, by gun or by car.

But if you’re tremendously wealthy, you can practice industrial-scale violence without any manual labor on your own part. You can, say, build a sweatshop factory that will collapse in Bangladesh and kill more people than any hands-on mass murderer ever did, or you can calculate risk and benefit about putting poisons or unsafe machines into the world, as manufacturers do every day. If you’re the leader of a country, you can declare war and kill by the hundreds of thousands or millions. And the nuclear superpowers – the US and Russia – still hold the option of destroying quite a lot of life on Earth.

So do the carbon barons. But when we talk about violence, we almost always talk about violence from below, not above.

Or so I thought when I received a press release last week from a climate group announcing that “scientists say there is a direct link between changing climate and an increase in violence“. What the scientists actually said, in a not-so-newsworthy article in Nature two and a half years ago, is that there is higher conflict in the tropics in El Nino years, and that perhaps this will scale up to make our age of climate change also an era of civil and international conflict.

The message is that ordinary people will behave badly in an era of intensified climate change.

All this makes sense, unless you go back to the premise and note that climate change is itself violence. Extreme, horrific, longterm, widespread violence.

Climate change is anthropogenic – caused by human beings, some much more than others. We know the consequences of that change: the acidification of oceans and decline of many species in them, the slowdisappearance of island nations such as the Maldives, increased flooding, drought, crop failure leading to food-price increases and famine, increasingly turbulent weather. (Think Hurricane Sandy and therecent typhoon in the Philippines, and heat waves that kill elderly peopleby the tens of thousands.)

Climate change is violence.

So if we want to talk about violence and climate change – and we are talking about it, after last week’s horrifying report from the world’s top climate scientists – then let’s talk about climate change as violence. Rather than worrying about whether ordinary human beings will react turbulently to the destruction of the very means of their survival, let’s worry about that destruction – and their survival. Of course water failure, crop failure, flooding and more will lead to mass migration and climate refugees – they already have – and this will lead to conflict. Those conflicts are being set in motion now.

You can regard the Arab Spring, in part, as a climate conflict: the increase in wheat prices was one of the triggers for that series of revolts that changed the face of northernmost Africa and the Middle East. On the one hand, you can say, how nice if those people had not been hungry in the first place. On the other, how can you not say, how great is it that those people stood up against being deprived of sustenance and hope? And then you have to look at the systems that created that hunger – the enormous economic inequalities in places such as Egypt and the brutality used to keep down the people at the lower levels of the social system, as well as the weather.

People revolt when their lives are unbearable. Sometimes material reality creates that unbearableness: droughts, plagues, storms, floods. But food and medical care, health and well-being, access to housing and education – these things are also governed by economic means and government policy. That’s what the revolt called Occupy Wall Street was against.

Climate change will increase hunger as food prices rise and food production falters, but we already have widespread hunger on Earth, and much of it is due not to the failures of nature and farmers, but to systems of distribution. Almost 16m children in the United States now live with hunger, according to the US Department of Agriculture, and that is not because the vast, agriculturally rich United States cannot produce enough to feed all of us. We are a country whose distribution system is itself a kind of violence.

Climate change is not suddenly bringing about an era of equitable distribution. I suspect people will be revolting in the coming future against what they revolted against in the past: the injustices of the system. They should revolt, and we should be glad they do, if not so glad that they need to. (Though one can hope they’ll recognize that violence is not necessarily where their power lies.) One of the events prompting the French Revolution was the failure of the 1788 wheat crop, which made bread prices skyrocket and the poor go hungry. The insurance against such events is often thought to be more authoritarianism and more threats against the poor, but that’s only an attempt to keep a lid on what’s boiling over; the other way to go is to turn down the heat.

The same week during which I received that ill-thought-out press release about climate and violence, Exxon Mobil Corporation issued a policy report. It makes for boring reading, unless you can make the dry language of business into pictures of the consequences of those acts undertaken for profit. Exxon says:

We are confident that none of our hydrocarbon reserves are now or will become ‘stranded’. We believe producing these assets is essential to meeting growing energy demand worldwide.

Stranded assets that mean carbon assets – coal, oil, gas still underground – would become worthless if we decided they could not be extracted and burned in the near future. Because scientists say that we need to leave most of the world’s known carbon reserves in the ground if we are to go for the milder rather than the more extreme versions of climate change. Under the milder version, countless more people – species, places – will survive. In the best-case scenario, we damage the Earth less. We are currently wrangling about how much to devastate the Earth.

In every arena, we need to look at industrial-scale and systemic violence, not just the hands-on violence of the less powerful. When it comes to climate change, this is particularly true. Exxon has decided to bet that we can’t make the corporation keep its reserves in the ground, and the company is reassuring its investors that it will continue to profit off the rapid, violent and intentional destruction of the Earth.

That’s a tired phrase, the destruction of the Earth, but translate it into the face of a starving child and a barren field – and then multiply that a few million times. Or just picture the tiny bivalves: scallops, oysters, Arctic sea snails that can’t form shells in acidifying oceans right now. Or another superstorm tearing apart another city. Climate change is global-scale violence, against places and species as well as against human beings. Once we call it by name, we can start having a real conversation about our priorities and values. Because the revolt against brutality begins with a revolt against the language that hides that brutality.