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)

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Trump at CPAC: “The era of empty talk is over”

Published: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 11:12 AM
Updated: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 11:13 AM

Appearing before an excited gathering of conservatives just outside of Washington, D.C., President Trump celebrated his ascent to the White House, vowing to press ahead with his legislative agenda, and declaring that his 2016 win was a “victory was a victory and a win for conservative values.”

In his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Mr. Trump made the case for multiple items on his agenda – getting rid of the Obama health law, a major military buildup, strong measures on the border with Mexico, tax cuts and more – as he said now, “is the time for action.”

“The era of empty talk is over,” the President said, in a line that could well be part of a speech to a Joint Session of Congress next Tuesday night, February 28.

As the President talked about his goals, he once more bemoaned the state of affairs in the United States.

“I inherited a mess,” Mr. Trump said, rattling off a number of actions that he taken in the first month of his time in office, putting an emphasis on his efforts to reduce the threat of terrorism.

“We are going to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country,” the President said to cheers.

The President began his speech by assailing the news media, spending almost eight minutes accusing news organizations of making up sources and making up stories that reflected badly on him.

“They are very smart, very cunning, and very dishonest,” Mr. Trump said of reporters.

“We have to fight it folks,” Mr. Trump said of news stories that he feels are inaccurate, as he zeroed in on reporters who have taken him to task.

'Goodbye racists': Pair kicked off plane after asking Pakistani couple if they had a bomb

Published: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 5:17 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2017 @ 5:17 PM

            'Goodbye racists': Pair kicked off plane after asking Pakistani couple if they had a bomb

A man and his companion were escorted off a United Airlines plane over the weekend after he made racist remarks to a Pakistani couple, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending stories

The passengers, who were not identified, were traveling Saturday from Chicago to Houston when the man in question spotted a Pakistani man and woman dressed in traditional garb, KHOU reported. As the Pakistani pair put their bags into the bin above their seats, the man asked whether they had a bomb.

It appeared the pair didn't hear him, so he repeated the question.

"That's not a bomb in your bag, is it?" he asked, according to a woman on the flight who spoke to KHOU.

>> Related: Muslim family kicked off United Airlines flight for 'safety of flight'

The comment made at least three passengers uncomfortable enough to complain to flight attendants. Among them was the unidentified woman who spoke to KHOU and her boyfriend, who is Indian-American.

After they lodged their complaints, the man in question confronted them.

"(He) asked where my boyfriend was from (and) my boyfriend said, 'It's none of your business,'" the woman told KHOU. "At that point, he said all illegals and all foreigners need to leave the country."

In cellphone footage captured before the man and his companion were escorted from the flight, the man can be heard saying that all "illegals" need to "get out."

Seconds later, a flight attendant asks him to gather his belongings and get off the plane. His companion joins him, smiling sarcastically and occasionally waving a middle finger at the person recording the incident.

>> Related: Delta: Passengers kicked off plane for 'provocative behavior,' not for speaking Arabic

"Happy flight home," the man tells the person recording as he grabs a bag from an overhead bin. "I hope you stay there."

"Get out of here," a woman responds. "Racists aren't welcome in America. This is not Trump's America."

As the man waves, passengers can be heard cheering.

>> Related: Woman escorted off plane after berating Trump supporter

"Goodbye, racists," a woman says.

"Hey, I'll come back, but you'll be gone," the man responds.

United Airlines spokesman Jonathan Guerin told The Washington Post the man and woman who were escorted off the plane were able to get on a later flight to Houston.

>> Related: Veteran claims she was kicked off flight because of her pit bull mix support dog

"We removed two passengers for making others feel uncomfortable on the flight and for saying some inappropriate things to customers on the flight," Guerin told the Post. "Most customers appreciate a place where they feel safe and where they're not going to be attacked, and we want to provide that."


United Airlines Feb 23, 2017 - 5:28 PM

J.C. Penney to close between 130-140 stores

Published: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 8:29 AM
Updated: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 8:31 AM

            J.C. Penney to close between 130-140 stores

J.C. Penney will be closing 130-140 stores in the coming months, the company reported Friday.

"We believe closing stores will also allow us to adjust our business to effectively compete against the growing threat of online retailers," Chief Executive Officer Marvin Ellison said in a statement.

The company also announce it would launch a voluntary early retirement program for about 6,000 eligible employees.

In addition to the retail stores, the company says it will also close two distribution facilities.

J.C. Penney said it expected annual savings of about $200 million from the cost-cutting measures. A list of the stores  to be closed will be released in March, the statement said, after the company notifies its employees. All the stores should be closed in the second quarter of 2017.

Heroin overdose deaths spike nationwide

Published: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 9:45 AM
Updated: Friday, February 24, 2017 @ 9:45 AM

            Heroin overdose deaths spike nationwide

The number of people dying from heroin overdoses has tripled since 2010, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

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In 2015, more than 52,000 people died from drug overdoses.

Overdose deaths involving fentanyl and tramadol also increased, according to data from 2015, which is the latest year available.

Katherine Gallagher Robbins with the Center for American Progress said the impact of the epidemic stretches past those who are struggling with addiction, with dire consequences for families, communities and the economy.

"It's in every corner of this country," Robbins said. "We need to think of this and all drug addiction as a public health crisis."

According to the report, the four states with the highest drug overdose rates in 2015 were West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio.

Robbins said rural communities are hardest hit.

Deaths increased in all age groups, with adults aged 45 to 54 having the highest drug overdose death rate.

Deaths also increased across all races and ethnicities.

President Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail addicts would get the services they need.

Robbins criticized GOP priorities laid out so far this year that she said could do more harm than good.

"I think if we don't address things now we are looking at some really dark things coming in the future," Robbins said.

The data in the report shows fewer people died in 2015 from taking powerful and addictive opioid drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone.