Baby ‘born twice’ after miracle surgery outside womb


Ababy was “born twice” after being taken out of her mother’s womb for 20 minutes to perform surgery on her spine.

LynLee Hope Boemer, was removed  from her mother Margaret Boemer’s  womb 23 weeks and five days into a pregnancy so a tumour could be removed from her spine.

After 20 minutes of surgery during which her heart nearly stopped, she was then placed back in the womb and born again three months later.

A routine scan had revealed that LynLee had a a tumour, known as a sacrococcygeal teratoma, at the base of her spine which was almost as big as her.

Several doctors had advised Mrs Boemer to terminate the pregnancy but surgeons at Texas Children’s Fetal Center in Lewsville, Texas decided to attempt to remove the tumour outside the womb.

Mrs Boemer, from Plano, Texas, told CNN: “LynLee didn’t have much of a chance. At 23 weeks the tumour was shutting her heart down and causing her to go into cardiac failure.

“So it was a choice of allowing the tumour to take over her body or giving her a chance at life. It was an easy decision for us, we wanted to give her life.”

 Surgeons operated on Mrs Boemer for about five hours.

Dr Darrell Cass, co-director of Texas Children’s Fetal Center, said LynLee was “hanging out in the air. Essentially, the foetus is outside, like completely out, all the amniotic fluid falls out, it’s actually fairly dramatic.

“It’s kind of a miracle you’re able to open the uterus like that and seal it all back and the whole thing works.”

LynLee was born for the second time, by caesarean section, on June 6, and weighed 5lbs 5oz.

Dr Cass said she was healthy, adding: “Baby Boemer is still an infant but is doing beautiful.”

He said the tumour occurs in one out of every 35,000 births.

The surgeon added: “Some of these tumors can be very well tolerated so the foetus has it and can get born with it and we can take it out after the baby’s born.

“But about half of the time they cause problems for the foetus and it’s usually causing problems because of a blood flow problem.”

Researchers Create Matrix-Like Instant Learning Through Brain Stimulation


You know Kung Fu. Researchers at HRL Laboratories have discovered that when you use transcranial direct current stimulation to send the brain activity of commercial and military pilots into the heads of novice pilots, subjects can essentially learn to fly in a realistic flight simulator.

The researchers discovered that “subjects who received brain stimulation via electrode-embedded head caps improved their piloting abilities.

 “As we discover more about optimizing, personalizing, and adapting brain stimulation protocols, we’ll likely see these technologies become routine in training and classroom environments,” said Dr. Matthew Phillips. “It’s possible that brain stimulation could be implemented for classes like drivers’ training, SAT prep, and language learning.”

HRL, owned by The Boeing Company and General Motors, is working in sensors and materials. This technology is far from commercial-grade, but if zapping your brain can teach you how to fly a multi-ton piece of very specialized transport equipment, then I’m kind of afraid and/or enthused.

Scientists Discover Matrix-like Technique To ‘Upload Knowledge To Your Brain’


Uploading information to brain

 Scientists have discovered that feeding knowledge directly into the brain could be as easy as going to sleep. This was made possible at HRL laboratories based in California where researchers claimed a 33 percent improved learning. It seems, soon the Matrix-movie like realities could be a possibility.

Imitating the same efforts at HRL Laboratories, based in California, researchers are finding out a way to upload information to the brain. They are also successful on a much smaller scale than seen in the movies.

 Researchers working on this claim to have developed a simulator which can feed information directly into a person’s brain. Once the information is fed, that can be used to teach a person new skills in a shorter amount of time.

We have already seen in the Matrix movie that the protagonist Neo is able to learn kung fu in seconds after the martial art is ‘uploaded’ straight to his brain.

The study was first conducted on a trained pilot. Electric signals were fed into the brain of a trained pilot and then the data was fed into novice subjects as they learned to pilot an aeroplane in a realistic flight simulator.

This study was first published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. It was found out that subjects who received brain stimulation via electrode-embedded head caps improved their piloting abilities and learnt the task 33 percent better.

Dr Matthew Phillips, one of the researchers says,

“It sounds kind of sci-fi, but there’s large scientific basis for the development of our system. The specific task we were looking at was piloting an aircraft, which requires a synergy of both cognitive and motor performance. When you learn something, your brain physically changes. Connections are made and strengthened in a process called neuroplasticity. It turns out that certain functions of the brain, like speech and memory, are located in very specific regions of the brain, about the size of your pinky.”

What we have seen until now in the movies, can soon be a reality. Are you excited about it?

A new look at vitamin D challenges the current view of its benefits


vitamin D

A simple Google search for “what does vitamin D do?” highlights the widely used dietary supplement’s role in regulating calcium absorption and promoting bone growth. But now it appears that vitamin D has much wider effects—at least in the nematode worm, C. elegans. Research at the Buck Institute shows that vitamin D works through genes known to influence longevity and impacts processes associated with many human age-related diseases. The study, published in Cell Reports, may explain why vitamin D deficiency has been linked to breast, colon and prostate cancer, as well as obesity, heart disease and depression.

 “Vitamin D engaged with known longevity genes – it extended median lifespan by 33 percent and slowed the aging-related misfolding of hundreds of proteins in the worm,” said Gordon Lithgow, PhD, senior author and Buck Institute professor. “Our findings provide a real connection between aging and disease and give clinicians and other researchers an opportunity to look at D in a much larger context.”

Study provides links to human disease

The study shines a light on protein homeostasis, the ability of proteins to maintain their shape and function over time. It’s a balancing act that goes haywire with normal aging—often resulting in the accumulation of toxic insoluble protein aggregates implicated in a number of conditions, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, as well as type 2 diabetes and some forms of . “Vitamin D3, which is converted into the active form of vitamin D, suppressed protein insolubility in the worm and prevented the toxicity caused by human beta-amyloid which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Lithgow. “Given that aging processes are thought to be similar between the worm and mammals, including humans, it makes sense that the action of vitamin D would be conserved across species as well.”

Postdoctoral fellow Karla Mark, PhD, led the team doing the experiments. She says the pathways and the molecular network targeted in the work (IRE-1/XBP-1/SKN-1) are involved in stress response and cellular detoxification. “Vitamin D3 reduced the age-dependent formation of insoluble proteins across a wide range of predicted functions and cellular compartments, supporting our hypothesis that decreasing protein insolubility can prolong lifespan.”

Clinicians weigh in

“We’ve been looking for a disease to associate with vitamin D other than rickets for many years and we haven’t come up with any strong evidence,” said Clifford Rosen, MD, the director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research and a senior scientist at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute studying osteoporosis and obesity. “But if it’s a more global marker of health or longevity as this paper suggests, that’s a paradigm shift. Now we’re talking about something very different and exciting.”

 “This work is really appealing and challenging to the field,” said Janice M. Schwartz, MD, a professor of medicine and bioengineering and therapeutic sciences the University of California, San Francisco, and a visiting research scientist at the Jewish Home in San Francisco. She has studied vitamin D supplementation in the elderly. “We focus on vitamin D and the bones because that’s where we can measure its impact. I believe that vitamin D is as crucial for total body function and the muscles as it is for bones. Vitamin D influences hundreds of genes – most cells have vitamin D receptors, so it must be very important.”

Current recommendations and controversies

How much vitamin D do humans need and how do they best get it? The issue is confusing with disagreement rampant among experts. The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) latest recommendations (from 2011) pertain only to vitamin D’s role in bone health and fracture reduction. Experts concluded that evidence for other proposed benefits of vitamin D was inconsistent, inconclusive, or insufficient to set recommended intakes. The IOM recommends a daily intake of 600 International Units (IU) for people between 1 and 70 years old, and 800 IU daily for those older. The upper limit—the levels above which health risks are thought to increase—was set at 4,000 IU per day for adults. Excess vitamin D can raise of calcium which leads to vascular and tissue calcification, with subsequent damage to the heart, blood vessels and kidneys.

Many vitamin D researchers and some health organizations, including the Endocrine Society and the International Osteoporosis Foundation, disagreed with the IOM’s recommendations for daily intake, instead recommending supplementation of 800 to 2,000 IU per day, at least for people known or likely to have low blood levels. The disagreement highlights another difficulty: measuring blood levels of vitamin D is problematic given a lack of standardization and reliability among labs. Blood levels of the precursor to the active vitamin D are measured in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) in the U.S. Many researchers and expert groups have argued that a blood level of at least 30 ng/mL is optimal; some call for optimum levels to be set at 40 or 50 ng/mL. But the IOM report concluded that blood levels starting at 20 ng/mL would be adequate for bone health in the vast majority of people.

Universal supplementation?

Based on problems with laboratory standards and a lack of agreed-upon meaning of results, both Rosen and Schwartz agree that the costs of universal testing for vitamin D levels would outweigh the benefits. Instead, both recommend universal supplementation of between 800 – 1000 IU of vitamin D daily for adults. “It’s safe, there’s no reason for anyone not to take it,” said Schwartz, who has written about vitamin D for the popular press.

Schwartz says older adults may be particularly prone to vitamin D deficiency because the skin’s ability to manufacture vitamin D from sun or UV light exposure declines with age, adding that the elderly are less likely to spend time in the sun, are more likely to have diets lacking in sources of vitamin D, and may suffer from gastrointestinal disorders that make it harder to absorb vitamin D. Others prone to vitamin D deficiency include those with darker skin and those who live in higher latitudes where the sun’s angle is low in the sky.

Bringing it back to aging

Given adequate funding, senior author Lithgow plans to test vitamin D in mice to measure and determine how it affects aging, disease and function—and he hopes that clinical trials in humans will go after the same measurements. “Maybe if you’re deficient in vitamin D, you’re aging faster. Maybe that’s why you’re more susceptible to cancer or Alzheimer’s,” he said. “Given that we had responses to vitamin D in an organism that has no bone suggests that there are other key roles, not related to bone, that it plays in living organisms.”

Lithgow gave a shout out to the tiny, short-lived nematode worms which populated this study. “Working in these simple animals allows us to identify novel molecular pathways that influence how animals age,” he said. “This gives us a solid starting point to ask questions and seek definitive answers for how vitamin D could impact human health. We hope that this work will spur researchers and clinicians to look at vitamin D in a larger, whole-person context that includes the aging process.”

Michael Kors Designs Surgical Gown Line for Spring.


From couture gowns to handbags, and now to surgical gowns, there’s no telling what Michael Kors will do next. The plain paper or fabric surgical gown has been an untouched staple since it’s beginning. No one has dared to change what is meant to be a protective sterile function, and turn it into artful fashion. In an interview with Kors, he explains his desire to reach out to the everyday person with his designs. His peer designers have historically done this by developing a ready to wear line for Target, but Kors desired to explore an untouched market. He describes this line as “fresh, playful, chic, and of course, FABULOUS.” Since the line was designed for spring, the colors are upbeat and refreshing shades of blue. Cleverly named ‘Dr. Kors,’ this spring line brings the latest trends to the OR. Many surgeons and surgical techs can’t wait to get into these gowns and enjoy an opportunity to express themselves. “Clothing changes the way we feel and therefore the way we interact with each other,” explains Kors. He believes the OR can be a more artistic and positive place.

[IMG]

Orders for the new gowns have skyrocketed, as surgeons, ICU staff, PAs, nurses and surgical techs everywhere press the hospital to make these gowns available to them. Dr. Katie Jackson, an ENT surgeon in New York, has added the gowns to her preference card as something she requires for every case. “I’m so excited!” squealed Dr. Jackson. “I really hope he has one with a peplum!.” Surgical tech, Anita Willers, is already fantasizing of the day she can scrub in with a Kors’ gown. “Ah, it will make those 12 hour liver cases so much more bearable knowing that I at least look good. Although now I will be even more upset when Dr. Winston splashes blood all over me. He better step up his game.” Dr. Kors line of gowns is set to hit hospitals in March of 2015. In the meantime, Kors has already started work on his first fall line for Dr. Kors, and he assures us both lines will knock your Danskos off.

Extreme Mars: Future Missions May Be Assisted by Humanoid Robots


IN BRIEF
  • NASA donated a humanoid robot to MIT’s CSAIL to give students the opportunity to develop algorithms that could be used as part of NASA’s Space Robotics Challenge.
  • The challenge, which aims to create robots that could assist, or even potentially replace, human astronauts on extreme space missions, offers a $1,000,000 prize.

ONE SMALL STEP FOR A (SORT OF) MAN

By the time a human is finally ready to set foot on Mars, he or she could have a team of autonomous humanoid robots walking beside them.

Last November, NASA donated a humanoid robot, Robonaut 5 (R5), to MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). They wanted to give students the opportunity to test the robot and develop algorithms for it that they could then use as part of NASA’s upcoming Space Robotics Challenge. The challenge aims to create “dexterous autonomous robots” that could assist, or even potentially replace, human astronauts on “extreme space” missions.

“Precise and dexterous robotics, able to work with a communications delay, could be used in spaceflight and ground missions to Mars and elsewhere for hazardous and complicated tasks, which will be crucial to support our astronauts,” said Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges, in a press release. “NASA and our partners are confident the public will rise to this challenge and are excited to see what innovative technologies will be produced.”

ROBOTS. IN. SPACE.

Artificially intelligent robots capable of assisting human astronauts could become invaluable as we continue to push the boundaries of space exploration. Unlike current robots that must be controlled by human operators, autonomous humanoid robots would be able to work independently. They could be sent on missions prior to human astronauts deploying, remain behind to look after equipment, and generally free up crew members to do more complex and less dangerous work.

While expanding humankind’s knowledge of space is a reward in and of itself, the million dollar prize for the team that wins NASA’s Space Robotics Challenge is great additional motivation for MIT’s team to make sure its bot comes out on top.

CRISPR Identifies Potential Gene Targets to Hobble HIV Infection.


The massive editing project only took months to complete .

HIV-infected H9 T cell. 

Whether or not CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing can create superheroes as depicted on a new Netflix show, what it’s indisputably good at is this: editing a lot of genes really, really fast.

In research published Tuesday in Cell Reports, scientists announced that they had used CRISPR/Cas9 to test gene after gene after gene in human immune system cells—45 genes in all, sometimes simultaneously and sometimes individually—to identify those that have anything to do with infection by theHIV virus, which causes AIDS when it infiltrates those T cells.

For years, scientists have known that mutations in some genes can keep HIV from getting inside T cells (editing genes to create that protective mutation is being tested in a clinical trial). But it never hurts to find more ways to block HIV infection, scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, and its Gladstone Institutes figured.

Enter CRISPR/Cas9, which is so easy to use that even small labs are jumping into the CRISPR pool in a way they couldn’t with the previous generation of genome-editing tools.

When scientists want to edit scores of genes to see which changes protect T cells against HIV, they need to build a separate CRISPR/Cas9 assemblage of multiple molecules each time. Because that’s so easy, the UCSF scientists marched through the genome in human T cells like ants marching across a picnic spread: a project that would take years with the previous generation of genome editing tools instead took months.

Using a clever way that some of the same researchers invented last year to get CRISPR/Cas9 into cells—a jolt of electricity makes cells open their entry gates—they sent one CRISPR complex after another—149 in all—into hundreds of thousands of T cells isolated from the blood of healthy volunteers.

After each edit, the scientists, co-led by UCSF/Gladstone medical geneticist Nevan Krogan and immunologist Dr. Alexander Marson, tested the now-mutated T cells to see if they kept HIV out entirely, kept it from insinuating itself into the T cell’s genes (which is how the virus replicates), or otherwise hobbled infection. They wound up with half a dozen genes (with names like CXCR4, CCR5, LEDGF, and NUP153) whose excision thwarted HIV wholly or partly.

The hope is that using genome editing to change one or more such genes in T cells will prevent or vanquish AIDS. Current therapies keep infections at bay but do not eliminate the virus from a patient’s immune system. Patients must therefore take antiretroviral drugs for the rest of their lives. In its clinical trials of editing the CCR5 gene, Sangamo Biosciences has found that patients’ viral load fell and, in some cases, stayed low even without HIV/AIDS drugs; updated results are expected in 2017, said company spokesperson Elizabeth Wolffe.

Whether editing genes other than CCR5 might help patients is unknown, said Michael Holmes, Sangamo’s vice president of research. The UCSF study did “a good job” of using CRISPR to identify additional potential HIV targets, he said, but “CCR5 and CXCR [another gene] still seem to be the best targets, which is not to say that additional ones might not be useful.”

Editing the genomes of T cells to prevent, let alone cure, HIV/AIDS faces stiff headwinds. Half a dozen papers since 2013 have reported varying degrees of success using CRISPR to block HIV infection in animals or in cells growing in lab dishes, but in some cases HIV overcomes CRISPR’s edits. Multiple genome edits, simultaneously or sequentially, might be necessary.

Whether anyone without first-world medical insurance will be able to afford that remains very much in question. But the UCSF scientists are hopeful that drugs could mimic the genome editing they did, and become at least as affordable as today’s HIV/AIDS drugs.

Scientists Say Neuron Repair is Possible


IN BRIEF

New research suggests that nerve cells may be able to repair themselves by mobilizing mitochondria by removing a certain protein in cells. This may help combat neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s in the near future.

TWO CONCEPTS, ONE SOLUTION

The Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. We all know that. It causes reactions that generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a source of chemical energy in a cell. A typical animal cell contains 1000 to 2000 mitochondria. Yet, that’s not all we learned in high school biology. Remember that neurons or nerve cells do not have the ability to repair themselves once damaged?  Well, these two facts have stirred quite a bit of interest.

Shutterstock

Scientists have found out that nerve cell regeneration is possible. Researchers from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the US restored mitochondrial mobility in a group of mice and observed regeneration of nerve cells.

Mitochondria are mobile in young cells and as a cell matures, the movement is restricted by a protein called syntaphilin. This protein behaves as a brake or anchor for mitochondria.

SYNTAPHILIN: AN ANSWER TO NEURODEGENERATIVE DISEASES?

Headed by researcher Zu-Hang Sheng, the team genetically removed syntaphilin from damaged sciatic nerves that contained non-functioning mitochondria. This allowed mitochondria to regain mobility and resulted in the regrowth of other mitochondria that eventually restored the neurons’ ability to repair themselves.

The scientists behind the study said that the findings are crucial to figuring out how to regenerate nerve cells in human bodies provided that the same results will be achieved in clinical tests. This will help combat devastating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, an irreversible brain disease characterized by the development of amyloid plaques and tau tangles that lead to the death of nerve cells.

Scientists are already looking for ways to restore damaged nerve cells to health including injection of healthy neurons into the brain.

Scientists say boron nitride-graphene hybrid may be right for next-gen green cars


Hybrid nanostructures hold hydrogen well
Simulations by Rice University scientists show that pillared graphene boron nitride may be a suitable storage medium for hydrogen-powered vehicles. Above, the pink (boron) and blue (nitrogen) pillars serve as spacers for carbon graphene sheets (gray). The researchers showed the material worked best when doped with oxygen atoms (red), which enhanced its ability to adsorb and desorb hydrogen (white). 

Layers of graphene separated by nanotube pillars of boron nitride may be a suitable material to store hydrogen fuel in cars, according to Rice University scientists.

The Department of Energy has set benchmarks for storage materials that would make a practical fuel for light-duty vehicles. The Rice lab of materials scientist Rouzbeh Shahsavari determined in a new computational study that pillared boron nitride and graphene could be a candidate.

The study by Shahsavari and Farzaneh Shayeganfar appears in the American Chemical Society journal Langmuir.

Shahsavari’s lab had already determined through computer models how tough and resilient pillared graphene structures would be, and later worked boron nitride nanotubes into the mix to model a unique three-dimensional architecture. (Samples of seamlessly bonded to graphene have been made.)

Just as pillars in a building make space between floors for people, pillars in boron nitride graphene make space for hydrogen atoms. The challenge is to make them enter and stay in sufficient numbers and exit upon demand.

In their latest molecular dynamics simulations, the researchers found that either pillared graphene or pillared boron nitride graphene would offer abundant surface area (about 2,547 square meters per gram) with good recyclable properties under ambient conditions. Their models showed adding oxygen or lithium to the materials would make them even better at binding hydrogen.

They focused the simulations on four variants: pillared structures of boron nitride or pillared boron nitride graphene doped with either oxygen or lithium. At room temperature and in ambient pressure, oxygen-doped boron nitride graphene proved the best, holding 11.6 percent of its weight in hydrogen (its gravimetric capacity) and about 60 grams per liter (its volumetric capacity); it easily beat competing technologies like porous boron nitride, metal oxide frameworks and carbon nanotubes.

At a chilly -321 degrees Fahrenheit, the material held 14.77 percent of its weight in hydrogen.

The Department of Energy’s current target for economic storage media is the ability to store more than 5.5 percent of its weight and 40 grams per liter in hydrogen under moderate conditions. The ultimate targets are 7.5 weight percent and 70 grams per liter.

Shahsavari said adsorbed to the undoped pillared boron nitride graphene, thanks to weak van der Waals forces. When the material was doped with oxygen, the atoms bonded strongly with the hybrid and created a better surface for incoming hydrogen, which Shahsavari said would likely be delivered under pressure and would exit when pressure is released.

“Adding oxygen to the substrate gives us good bonding because of the nature of the charges and their interactions,” he said. “Oxygen and hydrogen are known to have good chemical affinity.”

He said the polarized nature of the where it bonds with the graphene and the electron mobility of the graphene itself make the material highly tunable for applications.

“What we’re looking for is the sweet spot,” Shahsavari said, describing the ideal conditions as a balance between the material’s surface area and weight, as well as the operating temperatures and pressures. “This is only practical through computational modeling, because we can test a lot of variations very quickly. It would take experimentalists months to do what takes us only days.”

He said the structures should be robust enough to easily surpass the Department of Energy requirement that a hydrogen fuel tank be able to withstand 1,500 charge-discharge cycles.

%d bloggers like this: