Saturday, August 31, 2013

You Are Your Bacteria: How the Gut Microbiome Influences Health

The bacteria in our gut already plays an important role in digestion. But new studies indicate that our bacteria could play a major role in whether or not we become obese

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Researchers Grow 3-D Human Brain Tissues

Researchers have grown brain tissue that contains distinct regions that mimic different functional structures of the developing brain.
The Austrian researchers coaxed cultured neurons to take on a three-dimensional organization using cell-friendly scaffolding materials in the cultures. The team also let the neuron progenitors control their own fate. “Stem cells have an amazing ability to self-organize,” said study first author Madeline Lancaster at a press briefing on Tuesday. Others groups have also recently seen success in allowing progenitor cells to self-organize, leading to reports of primitive eye structures, liver buds, and more (see “Growing Eyeballs” and “A Rudimentary Liver Is Grown from Stem Cells”).
The brain tissue formed discrete regions found in the early developing human brain, including regions that resemble parts of the cortex, the retina, and structures that produce cerebrospinal fluid. At the press briefing, senior author Juergen Knoblich said that while there have been numerous attempts to model human brain tissue in a culture using human cells, the complex human organ has proved difficult to replicate. Knoblich says the proto-brain resembles the developmental stage of a nine-week-old fetus’s brain.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


A scientist sent a brain signal over the internet to control a colleague’s hand—and made his finger move on the keyboard to play a simple video game.
“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains,” says Andrea Stocco, a research assistant professor in psychology at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences

Sunday, August 25, 2013

How this camera mimics the human eye

Developed by Swiss engineers, the Dynamic Vision Sensor captures motion by operating like the neurons in our eyes..

The retina is an enormously powerful tool. It sorts through massive amounts of data while operating on only a fraction of the power that a conventional digital camera and computer would require to do the same task.
Now, engineers at a company called iniLabs in Switzerland are applying lessons from biology in an effort to build a more efficient digital camera inspired by the human retina.
Like the individual neurons in our eyes, the new camera—named the Dynamic Vision Sensor (DVS)—responds only to changes in a given scene. This approach eliminates large swaths of redundant data and could be useful for many fields, including surveillance, robotics, and microscopy.

An Eye Exam in a Pocket!

This is aweome!!
Cataracts cloud Mirriam Waithara's world and leave her almost blind.
She lives in a poor and remote part of Kenya where there are no opticians to pick up the problem and she is far from the only one.
The World Health Organization says 285 million people are blind or visually impaired.
The reason is often simple and easy to treat. A pair of glasses or cataract surgery can transform someone's eyesight.
It is thought that four out of every five cases can be prevented or cured.
Even in the poorest parts of the world there are often eye doctors in the major towns and cities.
However, says Dr Andrew Bastawrous of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, finding patients is often the problem.
He is trialling a smartphone app called Peek (Portable Eye Examination Kit) on 5,000 people in Kenya.
It uses the camera to scan the lens of the eye for cataracts.
A shrinking letter which appears on screen is used as a basic vision test.
And it can uses the camera's flash light to illuminate the back of the eye, the retina, to check for disease.

'Why This Compulsion To Run Long Distances?' A Runner's Beautiful Confession

There is a pretty imaginative cartoon  at this link that reminds me of one of my friends who is a devoted cyclist--He notes that "The Great Thing about Pain is that it Brings You into the Moment--nothing else matters...

Runners often ask themselves, "Why am I doing this? Why do I want to make myself hurt so? What's this compulsion to run?"
The Bushman is telegraphing the most obvious answer: You beat your demons. You overcome yourself; that feels good.
Here's another answer, to my mind just as beautiful, and less than obvious. It comes from artist/cartoonist/essayist Matt Inman who writes a strip called The Oatmeal. This is the final chapter of his newest essay, one that he calls "The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances."
You should scroll through the previous five sections if you like, but as this part begins, Matt (a former fatty who's convinced his fat's coming back) has been running for hours on a horribly hot day inJapan. Close to exhaustion, trailed by ferocious hornets, he happens upon a vending machine, sucks down a purple sugary drink, is magically revivified, and now is about to finish his run ...

Facebook Makes us Sadder

Facebook's mission "to make the world more open and connected" is a familiar refrain among company leaders. But the latest research shows connecting 1.1 billion users around the world may come at a psychological cost.
A new University of Michigan study on college-aged adults finds that the more they used Facebook, the worse they felt. The study, published in the journalPLOS One, found Facebook use led to declines in moment-to-moment happiness and overall life satisfaction.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Lurker: How A Virus Hid In Our Genome For Six Million Years

In the mid-2000s, David Markovitz, a scientist at the University of Michigan, and his colleagues took a look at the blood of people infected with HIV. Human immunodeficiency viruses kill their hosts by exhausting the immune system, allowing all sorts of pathogens to sweep into their host’s body. So it wasn’t a huge surprise for Markovitz and his colleagues to find other viruses in the blood of the HIV patients. What was surprising was where those other viruses had come from: from within the patients’ own DNA.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Save-the-World Field Trip for Millionaire Tech Moguls

When Harrison founded charity: water in New York City in 2006, he initially intended to counter the cynicism of his club buddies. “I wanted to create a model that would put all the excuses aside,” Harrison says — a charity, in other words, for people who didn’t trust charities. To pre-empt objections to high overhead and waste, Harrison set up two bank accounts: one, raised chiefly from a handful of wealthy individuals, to pay for administration and fund-raising; and the other to finance the digging of wells and other water-related projects in the developing world. Today the organization’s heavily promoted “100% Model” allows it to claim that every dollar donated to water is actually used that way. (Some consider this more a matter of marketing than anything else, but even so, charity: water is a relatively efficient organization, earning a nearly perfect rating from Charity Navigator, a sort of Consumer Reports for the nonprofit world.) Many donations are earmarked to specific projects, so if a church group gives, say, $5,000 for a well in Ethiopia, its members are not only told where their $5,000 is spent, but they also receive pictures of the well they financed and its G.P.S. coordinates. All of this information is publicly available on a section of charity: water’s Web site dedicated to “proving it.” Most donors who happen to visit their well will find their names on a plaque there.

In just seven years, Harrison’s organization claims to have raised roughly $100 million — $33 million in 2012 alone, up from $27 million the year before and $16 million the year before that. Today it is the largest nonprofit in the United States focused on water, with revenues that are four times as great as those of, the group co-founded by Matt Damon. Charity: water doesn’t drill wells or buy water filters but acts as a fund-raising clearinghouse for locally based charities, which it subcontracts to do the actual work. It markets its partners, mostly using its Web site and social media. “You could almost imagine us a or an Expedia,” Harrison says. But charity: water promises to do more than a mere online travel agent does; it claims to verify that the wells its donors buy are actually completed in a timely fashion. “We create an experience,” he says, “a pure way to give.”

Friday, August 16, 2013

Glasses That Solve Colorblindness, for a Big Price Tag

A few weeks back, I wrote about special lenses that were developed to give doctors “a clearer view of veins and vasculature, bruising, cyanosis, pallor, rashes, erythema, and other variations in blood O2 level, and concentration,” especially in bright light.
But these lenses turned out to have an unintended side effect: they “may cure red-green colorblindness.”

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Africa’s Drinking Problem: Alcoholism on the Rise as Beverage Multinationals Circle Read more:

One of the things Sinkele finds most astonishing is that multinational companies are getting tax-breaks for selling beer to people on the breadline. While governments in the West are considering minimum pricing standards for alcohol, in nearly a dozen countries across Africa, amidst soaring food prices, governments are applying tax-breaks to booze, which, according to the World Health Organization, kills more people than AIDS or tuberculosis. ”It’s better assisted suicide,” Sinkele says.
In Kenya, multi-national beverage company Diageo’s second-best selling beer, Senator Keg, is served in 300 ml servings for 25 shillings (around 30 cents). The company, which reportedly controls a staggering 97% of the beer market, until June enjoyed a 100% tax exemption on Senator to keep it cheap. “This gave consumers a safer alternative to unregulated and bad quality brews which often lead to fatalities,” Diageo’s Group Corporate Relations Director Brenda Mbathi says. Sinkele says the new Government realized the tax break was nonsensical, which is why they rescinded it.

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Gene regulator is key to healthy retinal development and good vision in adulthood

Animal study reveals “unexpected” role of horizontal cells in photoreceptor rod and cone cell development of retina

“Because degradation of photoreceptors is believed to be a major factor in retinal diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa and Leber’s congenital amaurosis, this finding, that horizontal cells are necessary for the normal survival of photoreceptor cells, is novel and significant,” says Mu. “Many retinal diseases are manifested by the degeneration of photoreceptor cells.”
This finding was unexpected, Mu explains, because most investigations into the degeneration of photoreceptor cells have involved genes that directly affect photoreceptor cell development.
“People haven’t been looking at horizontal cells,” he says. “We didn’t think that they’d be involved in photoreceptor cell degradation.
“With this finding, we have discovered that retinal horizontal cells are required for maintaining the integrity of the retina and that their deficiency can lead to retinal degradation,” explains Mu.
He notes that in most cases where photoreceptor cells die, it’s because they are somehow defective.
“But in this case, the photoreceptor cells are fine in the beginning, so the death of the photoreceptor cells is a secondary affair that is somehow driven by the deficiency in horizontal cells,” he says.

Travels in the Fourth Dimension

‘Time Warped’ Looks at How We Perceive, and Misperceive, Time

In “Time Warped,” Claudia Hammond, a British radio journalist and psychology lecturer, delves into scores of experiments on how we track the seconds, hours, months and decades. At each duration she finds distortions and paradoxes, revealing the persistent “capriciousness, strangeness and mutability” of time as we sense it.
Or consider the opposite effect. A vacation filled with activities may pass quickly, but once you get home, all those new memories can give the illusion that you’ve been away longer. Ms. Hammond believes this “holiday paradox,” caused by our tendency to gauge passing time by the number of new memories formed, may be at the heart of a more perplexing problem: that time appears to speed up as we get older.
Playing down other explanations for this lifelong sense of acceleration — that our internal clocks naturally slow as we age, or that every minute represents a smaller fraction of our life span — she argues that the real reason for the quickening of time is that a high concentration of strong memories occur in the teens and 20s, making that period a “benchmark for our judgments of retrospective time.” As new memories become sparser, later life seems brief compared with our eventful youth, giving the illusion that time has sped up

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

How Sleep Loss Adds to Weight Gain

Losing sleep tends to make people eat more and gain weight, and now a new study suggests that one reason may be the impact that sleep deprivation has on the brain.
The research showed that depriving people of sleep for one night created pronounced changes in the way their brains responded to high-calorie junk foods

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

As Cost of Importing Food Soars, Jamaica Turns to the Earth

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The scent of coconut oil and fiery jerk spice blows through kitchens across this green island, but as the country’s food imports have become a billion-dollar threat to finances and health, Jamaica has taken on a bold new strategy: make farming patriotic and ubiquitous, behind homes, hospitals, schools, even prisons.
Across the Caribbean, food imports have become a budget-busting problem, prompting one of the world’s most fertile regions to reclaim its agricultural past. But instead of turning to big agribusinesses, officials are recruiting everyone they can to combat the cost of imports, which have roughly doubled in price over the past decade. In Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas and elsewhere, local farm-to-table production is not a restaurant sales pitch; it is a government motto.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

The $4 Million Teacher

South Korea's students rank among the best in the world, and its top teachers can make a fortune. Can the U.S. learn from this academic superpower?

Kim Ki-hoon earns $4 million a year in South Korea, where he is known as a rock-star teacher—a combination of words not typically heard in the rest of the world. Mr. Kim has been teaching for over 20 years, all of them in the country's private, after-school tutoring academies, known as hagwons. Unlike most teachers across the globe, he is paid according to the demand for his skills—and he is in high demand.

The shape of things: Fellows Friday with Anthony Vipin Das, on FITTLE, a toy that helps blind children read

Ophthalmologist Anthony Vipin Das is currently working on a new toy for the blind, FITTLE, with Tania Jain, a designer from National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar. The toy will help blind children learn to read Braille while getting a sense of the shape of the world around them. We asked him to tell us all about it. Below, his essay on what this toy is … and how it came about.


Mugabe Declared Winner in Zimbabwe; Opposition Leader Calls Result a 'Sham"

No surprise there...what a much longer can this go on?
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