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Scientists build tiny human brains in the lab

Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013 @ 8:01 AM
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2013 @ 8:01 AM

For the first time, scientists have grown miniature human brains in a lab — pea-sized models that could hold the key to understanding developmental disorders like autism.

The scientists took skin cells, turned them into stem cells, then grew them into tiny versions of human brains, complete with some basic brain organization and structure. (Via New Scientist)

They call them “organoids,” lab-grown clumps of cells that are almost organs, but not quite. And these neural organoids are the closest thing to a functioning human brain ever grown in the lab. (Via Nature)

The researchers say these mini brains are roughly equivalent to the brain of a 9-week-old fetus.

One of them even developed retinal tissue, which in a normal brain would go on to form part of the eye. (Via LiveScience)

But the researchers aren’t just trying to build a brain in a jar. The mini brains don’t think or feel or have anything like a neural network. That’s because the goal, according to one researcher, is to understand the brain, not rebuild it.

“What’s important here is that we’re trying to understand how the cells behave during development — not that we’re trying to recreate organs or large fragments of tissue.” (Via BBC)

In fact, they’ve already helped scientists understand at least one disorder.

Microcephaly is a condition when the brain and head are smaller than normal. A writer for The Scientist explains how the researchers studied the disorder in one Scottish patient. (Via Wikipedia

“They took skin cells from the patient, reprogrammed them into a stem-like state, and used them to grow organoids that ended up much smaller than usual. By dissecting the organoids, the team discovered the reason for this stunted size.” (Via The Scientist)

Basically, an important step in brain development came too early, brought on by a mutation in a particular gene. Scientists can now use the same techniques to study the effects of other mutations.

And eventually, if the teams can grow somewhat larger brains, they may be able to study the causes of the more common disorders schizophrenia and autism. (Via MIT Technology Review)

See more at Newsy.com

White nationalist Richard Spencer at University of Florida: Live updates

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 9:12 AM
Updated: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 9:22 AM

What You Need To Know: Richard B. Spencer

Florida’s flagship public university braced Thursday for a speech and rally by a white nationalist that was expected to bring thousands of protesters – and, some feared, violent demonstrations -- to its campus. 

>> Read more trending news

Richard Spencer is due to speak from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, about 2 miles from the center of the University of Florida campus.

In this Dec. 6, 2016, file photo, Richard Spencer, who leads a movement that mixes racism, white nationalism and populism, speaks at the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)(David J. Phillip/AP)

Girl dumps piggy bank to help pay for classmate’s milk, starts a milk money movement

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 9:10 AM

Girl Empties Piggy Bank to Help Friend Pay for Milk, Starts a Whole Movement

A little girl was sad that her classmate had to go without when it came to milk break in her kindergarten class, so she decided to do something about it.

Sunshine Oelfke dumped her piggy bank on the floor and started counting her money. Her grandmother, Jackie Oelfke, was watching her when Sunshine put the coins and bills in a plastic bag before putting it in her backpack, CBS News reported.

She asked her granddaughter what she was doing.

>> Read more trending news 

“I’m going to take it for milk money. I’m taking it for my friend Layla. She doesn’t get milk -- her mom doesn’t have milk money and I do,” Oelfke recounted online.

When she met with Sunshine’s teacher, Rita Hausher, Oelfke found out that there are 20 kids in the class who don’t have money for milk, which costs 45 cents a day, CBS News reported.

She shared her story on Facebook.

The post inspired people to pledge money for a milk fund for the class. So Oelfke started a GoFundMe to help pay for milk for the rest of the semester. She set the goal at $700. In a week, the account had more than $1,000 that will pay for milk for every child in the class for the rest of the year.

The goal was raised to $5,000, and donors have surpassed it and then some with more than $9,000.

Oelfke said Sunshine came home a few days later, “Guess what! My whole class got milk today. Layla now has milk money.”

It’s been a month and Puerto Rico still needs your help — where to donate your money, how to volunteer and more

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 11:34 AM

Trump Getting Bad Reviews Over Puerto Rico Visit

Puerto Ricans are still in need of aid nearly one month after Hurricane Maria’s devastation.

» RELATED: What it’s like in Puerto Rico, a month after Hurricane Maria hit

The official death toll on the U.S. island territory has increased to 48, but more than 100 people are still missing, officials said.

According to CNN, as of Wednesday, about 1 million people are still without running water and 3 million people are without power.

Only 45 of 70 hospitals are currently operating with electricity, and according to FEMA officials, there is a severe food shortage.

President Donald Trump met local and federal officials in Puerto Rico on Oct. 3 and praised his administration’s response to the storm.

» RELATED: Twitter users, politicians blast Trump's comments, behavior in Puerto Rico as ‘inappropriate’

"I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack," Trump said. "But that's fine.”

His remarks came amid harsh criticism that the administration’s response to the disaster was slow or insufficient.

Trump is set to meet with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello Thursday to discuss rebuilding efforts, White House officials said.

» RELATED: Trying to reach your loved ones in Puerto Rico? Who to call, email

The once-Category 5 storm hit the U.S. Virgin Islands in mid-September and eventually downgraded to a Category 4, but not before it plowed through Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, flooded the streets, collapsed homes and left the entire territory without power.

According to the New York Times, the 155-mph winds also left 80 percent of the United States commonwealth’s crop value completely destroyed.

» RELATED: Hurricane Maria: Live updates

Families desperately trying to connect with their loved ones have also had trouble reaching them, as few of the island’s 1,600 cellphone towers were operational.

“What's out there is total devastation. Total annihilation. People literally gasping for air. I personally have taken people out and put them in ambulances because their generator has run out,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told ABC News.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the dangerous hurricane downgraded to a tropical storm and slowly moved away from the U.S. east coast after causing some storm surge flooding.

» RELATED: Trump promises visit, aid to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico

UTUADO, PUERTO RICO - OCTOBER 18: U.S Army soldiers offload bottled water from a helicopter during recovery efforts four weeks after Hurricane Maria struck on October 18, 2017 in Utuado, Puerto Rico. U.S. soldiers and agents delivered food and water provided by FEMA to remote residents in mountainous Utuado. Puerto Rico is suffering shortages of food and water in areas with only 19.10 percent of grid electricity restored. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, swept through. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

How you can help the victims of Hurricane Maria

Make monetary donations to charities or crowdfunding campaigns

According to the United States Agency for International Development, giving money to reputable relief agencies and nonprofits is the most effective way to help and to avoid using resources to transport or deliver donated goods.

Listed below are several charity organizations or crowdfunding campaigns to choose from. You can also use Charity Navigator to learn more about the organizations before donating.

Note that sending money via text message may seem convenient, but according to the Associated Press, that’s not the case. Charities often have to wait on phone companies to release the money.

Here are some organizations to consider giving money to:

United for Puerto Rico (direct aid and support for Puerto Rico spearheaded by the First Lady of Puerto Rico)

Hispanic Federation (text Unidos and an amount to 4-144 or visit the website)

Americares (emergency and medical supplies)

UNICEF (emergency relief and help for children affected)

Save the Children (emergency relief and help for children affected)

ConPRmetidos (Puerto Rico-based nonprofit to benefit “immediate needs of food, shelter, water” and more)

GlobalGiving Caribbean Hurricane Maria & Irma Relief Fund (from US-based nonprofit Global Giving)

SPCA International (help for animal rescue and care)

Habitat for Humanity (housing and shelter needs)

All Hands (specific for U.S. Virgin Islands)

Salvation Army (supplies and shelter needs)

» RELATED: How you can help Mexico and people affected by the Mexico earthquake

Other crowdfunding campaigns:

- GoFundMe’s Hurricane Maria relief homepage (a landing page with several crowdfunding efforts)

21 US Virgin Island Relief Fund (NBA star Tim Duncan hoping to raise $5 million for his home country)

Dominica Hurricane Maria Relief Fund (bringing relief to Dominica)

Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Hurricane Relief Fund (to help families and countries rebuild after hurricanes)

» RELATED: Hurricane Maria set Puerto Rico back decades, official says

SAN ISIDRO, PUERTO RICO - OCTOBER 17: Gladys Francisco stands in front of her destroyed home after U.S. soldiers unloaded food and water, provided by FEMA, to residents in the neighborhood still without grid electricity or running water on October 17, 2017 in San Isidro, Puerto Rico. The food and water delivery mission included U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard and Puerto Rico Hacienda forces. Residents said this was the first official governmental delivery of food and water to the community, nearly four weeks after the hurricane hit. Puerto Rico is suffering shortages of food and water in areas and only 17.7 percent of grid electricity has been restored. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, swept through. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Make monetary donations via Google search

If you do a Google search for “Hurricane Maria,” you’ll be able to donate money directly in the search results. Scroll down to donate $5, $25 or $50 to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Check if your employer will match your donation

Doublethedonation.com has a nifty tool that lets you enter your company name to find out whether or not your employer offers a matching gift program for donations.

Donate blood

The American Red Cross urges generous volunteer blood donors to give blood year-round, not only at the time of disaster. Currently, a need for platelet and type O blood donations are especially needed, according to the organization website.

Visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to begin the donation process.

» RELATED: Disaster declared in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastates island

Donate useful goods

Monetary donations are preferred, but this nationwide Google spreadsheet also has donation drop-off locations for essential items.

» RELATED: Puerto Rico mayor Cruz begs for solar-powered supplies on CNN; slams acting Homeland Security head

According to the spreadsheet, there’s not a great need for clothing, and transporting water and food may waste resources.

Instead, think about long-term supplies someone may need without electricity or food, such as asthma pumps, bug repellent, eye drops water purification products.

Other high-ticket items include solar powered USB chargers, lanterns, radios, batteries, baby items and duct tape.

Some locations on the Google spreadsheet only collected items through the end of September, but others are collecting them on an ongoing basis. 

Please check the spreadsheet for updated times and locations and give the site manager a call before dropping off supplies.

Volunteer

The American Red Cross is looking is dispatching volunteers to aid areas affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Local residents should use this form.

All non-local residents interested in volunteering should use this separate form.

More information about volunteer expectations and requirements at redcross.org.

You can also volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

» RELATED: Trump: “Big decisions” must be made about rebuilding Puerto Rico

The organization is assessing housing and shelter needs in impacted areas and is evaluating the support it receives from donors, volunteers and other partners before making any long-term decisions.

“We ask that your enthusiasm and interest stay long after the first few weeks as volunteers will be critically needed throughout the recovery and rebuilding phase, which may last months or even years,” the organization posted on its website.

Sign up for the Habitat for Humanity volunteer registry here.

The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) is allowing volunteers to register to help, but notes that Puerto Rico is asking for volunteers not to deploy to the communities affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Several VOAD volunteer opportunities from casework, cleanup and more are posted here.

Spread awareness on social media

Sometimes, word of mouth (or text) is all it takes. Take part in the relief campaign by retweeting news and alerts about shelters, donations and more from official accounts such as @PRFAA@FEMARegion2@ricardorosselloUnivision PR@USNationalGuard and several news organizations.

Be sure to share your donation links, let people know how to donate and continue to spread awareness with hashtags (#PuertoRico, #MariaPR, #PrayForPuertoRico, #UnidosPorPR, #UnitedForPR are some examples).

PUERTO RICO - OCTOBER 18: Destroyed buildings are viewed from the air during recovery efforts four weeks after Hurricane Maria struck on October 18, 2017 in-flight over Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is suffering shortages of food and water in areas with only 19.10 percent of grid electricity restored. Puerto Rico experienced widespread damage including most of the electrical, gas and water grid as well as agriculture after Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, swept through. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Roomy interior: Pony evacuated from wildfire in backseat of Honda Accord

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 12:13 PM

Pony Escapes California Wildfires In Honda Accord

When there’s a wildfire inching closer to your property and you have no time to waste, you do what you can to save lives, whether they’re human or animal.

Lauren Mesaros had to move three horses from her Northern California property. The problem was that the trailer could hold only two and the fire was a mile away, SFGATE.com reported.

>> Read more trending news

So instead of leaving one behind, she sacrificed the backseat of her vehicle.

Mesaros’ two mares were loaded into a friend’s trailer, and her pony, Stardust, climbed into the back of her 2001 Honda Accord.

She said Stardust, with a little help of a carrot as a treat, crawled into the Accord just like a dog.

Someone grabbed a picture and posted it to Facebook, where it has been shared more than 17,000 times.

After the unusual rescue, the winds shifted and the wildfire spared Mesaros’ property.

The same can’t be said about the car.

“My car will never smell the same again. It’s a little funky in the backseat, but (Stardust)survived,” Mesaros told the SFGATE.com.