Kelly Mathews reads Rosie Revere, Engineer to her 6-month-old daughter, Marilyn, at their home in Langhorne, Penn. image

In this July 31, 2014 photo, Kelly Mathews reads “Rosie Revere, Engineer” to her 6-month-old daughter, Marilyn, at their home in Langhorne, Penn. The software engineer is on a mission – to get more girls interested in science, engineering, technology and math

LANGHORNE, Pa. (AP) — Kelly Mathews is on a mission – to get more girls interested in STEM.

That’s science, technology, engineering, and math. And for Mathews, it’s a mission that begins at home with her 9-month old daughter, Marilyn.

“I want her to look at things and wonder how they tick,” Mathews says, “and know that if she looks at something and says, `Wouldn’t it be cool if it could do that?’ that she can make it do that.”

That’s why Mathews reads books like “Rosie Revere, Engineer” to Marilyn and stocks her nursery with other such books, like “HTML for Babies.”

Mathews, a software engineer in Chalfont, Pennsylvania, believes the earlier girls are introduced to these fields, the better the chance they will be empowered to pursue those careers when they graduate from high school.

That’s a belief that is gaining support in the education and business communities. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates women make up less than 25 percent of the workforce in jobs related to STEM, an acronym coined by a member of the National Science Foundation in the 1990s.

Mathews has teamed up with TechGirlz, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that aims to bridge the gender gap by teaching middle and high school girls about careers in technology.

Mathews, one of only two female engineers in her company, feels her mission is simple: “You can be cool and you can be smart,” and that girls “don’t have to choose sides.”

Kelly Parisi, spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the USA, says her organization has been working to empower girls in science since its inception, way back in 1913.

At a recent badge activity in Hempstead, New York, Brownies and Juniors made what the volunteer scientists called “flubber”, a silly putty-type compound made from glue, Borax, water and food coloring.

Parisi points out, the Girl Scouts offer “over thirty S.T.E.M. badges in everything from coding to engineering to computer science.”

Sean Cohen, chief operating officer at the email marketing firm AWeber, says he believes employers should get more involved in high school programs.

“Create job shadowing programs. Create experiences for young women to get more involved in S.T.E.M. programs and see that there are careers around that,” Cohen says.

Mathews hopes that by starting early, her daughter will know a career in STEM is well within her reach.

“If she wants to, and if she doesn’t want to that’s great too. I just want her to know what’s out there.”

Connor Zwick, 19, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, cuts a profile for a smartphone game that he hopes will revolutionise mobile gaming, in San FranciscoConnor Zwick, 19, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, cuts a profile for a smartphone game that he hopes will revolutionise mobile gaming, in San Francisco Photo: The New York Times

Eden Full should be back at Princeton by now. She should be hustling to class, hitting the books, acing tests. In short, she should be climbing that old-school ladder towards a coveted spot among America’s future elite.

She isn’t doing any of that. Instead, Full, as bright and poised and ambitious as the next ivy-leaguer, has done something extraordinary for a Princetonian. She has dropped out.

It wasn’t the exorbitant cost of college. (In total, about $55,000 a year.) She says she simply received a better offer — and, perhaps, a shot at a better education.

Christopher Olah, 19, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, with a 3D printer and printed objects he designed, in Toronto.Christopher Olah, 19, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, with a 3D printer and printed objects he designed, in Toronto. Photo: The New York Times

Full, 20, is part of one of the most unusual experiments in higher education today. It rewards smart, young people for not going to college and, instead, diving into the “real world” of science, technology and business.

The idea isn’t nuts. After all, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs dropped out, and they did OK — to put it mildly.

Their kind of success is rare, degree or no degree. Gates and Jobs changed the world. Full wants to as well, and she’s in a hurry. She has built a low-cost solar panel and is starting to test it in Africa.

An undated handout photo of Laura Deming, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, at age 6, with her grandmother, who inspired her work on anti-aging technology, and younger brother.An undated handout photo of Laura Deming, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, at age 6, with her grandmother, who inspired her work on anti-aging technology, and younger brother. Photo: Family photo via The New York Ti

“I was antsy to get out into the world and execute on my ideas,” she says.

At a time when the value of a college degree is being called into question, and when job prospects for many new graduates are grimmer than they’ve been in years, perhaps it’s no surprise to see a not-back-to-school movement spring up. What is surprising is where it’s springing up and who’s behind it.

The push, which is luring a handful of select students away from the likes of Princeton, Harvard and MIT, is the brainchild of Peter H. Thiel, 44, a billionaire and freethinker with a remarkable record in Silicon Valley.

Eden Full, 20, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, with her rotating solar panel, which she calls the SunSaluter, near her home in Oakland, California.Eden Full, 20, a Thiel Fellowship recipient, with her rotating solar panel, which she calls the SunSaluter, near her home in Oakland, California. Photo: The New York Times

In 1998, during the dot-com boom, Thiel gambled on a company that eventually became PayPal, the giant of online payments. More recently, he got in early on a little startup called Facebook.

Since 2010, he has been bankrolling people under 20 who want to find the next big thing — provided that they don’t look for it in a college classroom. His offer is this: $US50,000 ($47,000) a year for two years, few questions asked. Just no college, unless a class is helpful for your Thiel project.

A cool hundred grand, no strings attached? Unsurprisingly, it is harder to get a Thiel Fellowship than it is to get into Princeton. Thiel (Stanford ’89, Stanford law ’92) has grabbed headlines with his outlandish offer. Less has been said about the handful of plucky people who have actually managed to snag one of his fellowships in the hope of becoming the next Gates or Jobs. The first Thiel fellows are now in their second year of the program. Twenty new fellows were selected this US summer.

Applications for 2013 are not yet being accepted; the due date will be posted in fall at Candidates must be under 20 when they apply.

The final step is typical of Silicon Valley: applicants get two-and-a-half minutes to pitch their ideas to would-be mentors, most of them successful entrepreneurs.

A recent CNBC documentary about the fellowship, “20 Under 20: Transforming Tomorrow”, showed the range of those pitches. One young woman proposed a novel curriculum for students overseas and apologised for being flustered at the podium. Another ignored the instructions and spoke from the middle of the stage, TED-style. Then they and the others waited for would-be mentors in the audience to ask more questions.

Over the past two years, 44 Thiel fellows have been chosen after layers of reviews by 15 to 20 people. They don’t exactly represent a cross-section of the nation. Most of these young people are white or Asian, and men. Only four are women. Applications have come in from 42 countries, from Bhutan to Ethiopia to Guatemala, but only six fellows have been selected from outside the United States — four from Canada, one from Britain and one from Russia. A quarter of applicants apply directly from high school or home schooling.

Full was studying mechanical engineering at Princeton when she applied, hoping to develop a hardy, low-cost solar panel that follows the sun’s path. She calls it the SunSaluter. She is starting to test the latest iteration in Kirindi, Uganda, and Karagwe, Tanzania.

She left Princeton after her sophomore year, and she says the learning curve has been steep.

“I spent the first year of the fellowship learning a lot about the solar industry, what it takes to get a product to market, what I’m good at,” she says. “The timing was perfect.”

But testing the SunSaluter in Kenya, as she did earlier, offered unexpected lessons. Local children played with it, trying to unscrew the bolts. And Full, who is Asian-Canadian, was an object of fascination in villages.

“In the real world,” she says, “you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

She has had to learn to depend on the cooperation of strangers — no small feat for a woman who is used to talking fast and moving faster.

“One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is you have to be pretty flexible,” she says. “Some days, I just want to go back to college.”

Full is friends with another Thiel fellow, Laura Deming, 18. Deming is clearly brilliant. When she was 12, her family moved to San Francisco from New Zealand so she could work with Cynthia Kenyon, a molecular biologist who studies ageing. When Deming was 14, the family moved again, this time to the Boston area, so she could study at MIT.

“Families of Olympic-calibre athletes make these kinds of sacrifices all the time,” says Tabitha Deming, Laura’s mother. “When we lived nearby in Boston, we were lucky to see her once a month. She never came home for weekends.”

John Deming, Laura’s father, graduated from Brandeis University at the age of 35 but disdains formal education at every level. His daughter was home-schooled.

“I can’t think of a worse environment than school if you want your kids to learn how to make decisions, manage risk and take responsibility for their choices,” Deming, an investor, wrote in an email. “Rather than sending them to school, turn your kids loose on the world. Introduce them to the rigours of reality, the most important of which is earning your own way.”

He added, “I detest American so-called ‘education’.”

His daughter’s quest to slow ageing was spurred by her maternal grandmother, Bertie Deming, 85, who began having neuromuscular problems a decade ago. Laura, a first-year fellow, now spends her days combing medical journals, seeking researchers who are worth venture-capital funding.

“I’m looking for therapies that target ageing damage and slow or reverse it,” she says. “I’ve already spent six years on this stuff. So far I’ve found only a few companies — two or three I’m really bullish on.”

She, too, has tasted failure.

“The venture capitalists I met out here were sceptical at first,” she says. “People say ‘no’ all the time. I had a lot of bad rejection at the start. It took a couple of months to get them to understand that while early-stage research isn’t profitable, it can be later if you structure the company very well.”

But thanks to the Thiel Fellowship, access to some of the nation’s most successful businesspeople is quick and easy.

“I made a list of the 50 people I wanted to meet, and I’ve met almost all of them,” she says. “It’s really the connections you have and the people you know. I’ve had really positive feedback and got some really large amounts of money.”

Her father calls her Little Miss Relentless. Not all parents are initially so enthusiastic, however.

Another Thiel fellow, Noor Siddiqui, 18, is the daughter of parents who were born in Pakistan.

“This is shocking for my parents,” she says. “It’s not the safest road. I had to apply in secret.”

But she has postponed college — she was accepted to Brown University, the University of Chicago and the University of Virginia, among others — to try to help impoverished workers in developing countries connect with North American businesses. Her parents now know about the fellowship and are supportive.

Frances Zomer, who runs her own accounting firm in Toronto, wasn’t thrilled when her son, Christopher Olah, 19, decided to leave the University of Toronto, a top-ranked Canadian school. He had already spent a year there studying maths.

“The hardest part was him not going back to school,” Zomer says. “The door had closed.”

Now Olah divides his time between his mother’s home in Toronto and a so-called hacker hostel, for aspiring tech entrepreneurs, in the Bay Area — and Zomer has changed her mind completely.

“This is stuff you don’t learn in a classroom. He’s blogging, he’s teaching, he’s writing software,” she says. “I think it’s brilliant. I know so many people who’ve got a Bachelor of Arts and have nothing to show for it.”

But what if Silicon Valley doesn’t work out?

“Failure has crossed my mind,” Zomer says. “There are three possibilities. He’s extremely successful and he stays. He’s not successful and he stays. He can always come home. It’s his life.”

Dylan Field, 20, had already interned for Flipboard, the app for browsing news and social media, when he won a Thiel Fellowship. He left Brown to work on a browser-based photo application — a sort of no-cost, easy-to-use, amateur-friendly competitor to Photoshop, which is designed for, and largely sold to, professional users.

When it comes to regular folks, “most of our creative tools are broken right now”, Field says. “If I have an idea without the tools to bring it to reality, that’s a moral wrong. Our tools need to be improved and made accessible. I think that market is huge.”

He has become close friends with Olah, who is writing software to enable three-dimensional printing.

Olah, who volunteers much of his time when in Toronto, is unusual in this group of innovators, many of whom are intensely driven to market their creations.

“I’m not starting a company right now,” he says. “I want to make awesome tools available to other people.”

Connor Zwick, 19, left Harvard to work a game application for smartphones — he calls it the “coco controller” — that he hopes will “revolutionise mobile gaming”. For him, as for several other fellows, the Thiel Fellowship’s gifts of time, money and access seem almost an afterthought.

If fellows focus all their energy on the fellowship and not their own work, “you’re doing something wrong”, he says. “You’ve lost focus. The benefit is the validation for our ideas. The money is nice, but I already have enough income from my projects that I don’t need it.”

Some people question Thiel’s blunt dismissal of the college experience, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, says that the fellowships are nice but their message is destructive.

“These very unusual and talented kids are in a very high-powered learning environment,” Carnevale says. “They’re enormously privileged people who’ve been allowed to develop all their horsepower with no constraints. I think it makes you an odd duck.”

A college education remains essential for people from less privileged backgrounds, says Carmen Wong Ulrich, co-founder of Alta Wealth Management, a three-woman investment firm in New York City.

“Many African-Americans and Asians can’t even afford to ask the question, ‘Is college worth it?’ ”

Ulrich, born in Harlem, grew up in a family of six. She and her mother worked as waitresses. Today, she mentors young Latinos.

“We’re not all starting from the same starting line,” she says. “While I certainly support some of Mr. Thiel’s ideas, his kids are miles ahead of too many others. Go to Silicon Valley? Start your own business? Many of us are the first in our family to even attend college.”

Carnevale says of the program: “It’s a lab experiment. We’ll see.”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


In Creating innovators, Harvard University’s Tony Wagner sets out to describe the crisis facing education in a society that requires innovative workers and thinkers. He presents a systems perspective, and explores what parents, teachers, and employers must do to develop the capacities & capabilities of young people to become innovators. To make it happen, he argues we must invest more in enabling play, passion, and purpose in the lives of learners — and focus less on industrial modes of production (i.e., refocusing away from standardized tests).

Featuring interviews with innovators, thought leaders, and people working to make change happen in schools & public institutions, the book does not serve to produce new knowledge. It instead serves as a primer to what innovation is, why it is important for nations, and some of the best practices we can & should engage in now.

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As a nice addition, the book incorporates in-line video content that can be viewed through a mobile device. While the book claims they use QR codes, the scannable codes appear in a proprietary Microsoft format, and require readers to download an app from Microsoft. For users of non-Microsoft platforms (i.e., iOS or Android devices), this could present problems in the future. Thankfully, videos will be also made available at the book’s website,

While the book provides a nice survey into some of the thinking of innovation in education, it revolves around legacy models of what schools are, and falls flat when it looks toward the future of innovation as it still relies on these old structures. Wagner would have done better to ponder what a continuously innovative society looks like — and might even question whether we need “schools” any more. - Free SMS Mobile Community

Maintaining a sharp focus on the old conceptualizations of education, Wagner focuses the bulk of his discussions on what to learn (i.e., STEM), rather than how to learn. Perhaps by exploring the how issues, the book could have provided critical insight into which skills and competencies are critical for success in a society that is driven by continuous, disruptive innovation. Play, passion, and purpose are just fine (and alliterate well), but their usefulness could be constructed within a broader framework (i.e., together with soft skills development) that enables contextually beneficial expressions of personal knowledge.

The bottom line: Creating innovators is an enjoyable primer for those who are just catching on to the innovation bandwagon, but it is not a jumping point for developing new ideas and practices that will transform our education futures.

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With the publisher’s permission, here is an excerpt:

How Do We Develop Young People to Become Innovators?

In the past, our country has produced innovators more by accident than by design. Rarely do entrepreneurs or innovators talk about how their schooling or their places of work — or even their parents — developed their talents or encouraged their aspirations. Three of the most innovative entrepreneurs of the last half century — Edwin Land, the inventor of the Polaroid instant camera; Bill Gates; and Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook — had to drop out of Harvard to pursue their ideas. Apple’s Steve Jobs; Michael Dell of Dell Computer; Larry Ellison, founder of the software giant Oracle; and the inventor Dean Kamen are other famous high-tech college dropouts.

So what would it mean if we were to intentionally develop the entrepreneurial and innovative talents of all young people — to nurture their initiative, curiosity, imagination, creativity, and collaborative skills, as well as their analytical abilities — along with essential qualities of character such as persistence, empathy, and a strong moral foundation? What can parents do to nurture these qualities? What do the most effective teachers and college professors do, and what can they — and the young people themselves — tell us about how schools and colleges need to change to teach these qualities? Finally, what can we learn from those who successfully mentor aspiring entrepreneurial innovators? These are the driving questions in this book.

How Do We Develop Young People to Become Innovators?

If we agree on the need to develop the capabilities of many more youth to be innovators, and if we agree that many of the qualities of an innovator can be nurtured and learned, the question now becomes, what do we do? Where do we start as parents, teachers, mentors, and employers?
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Encourage Play

Research shows that human beings are born with an innate desire to explore, experiment, and imagine new possibilities — to innovate.

How do children learn such skills? In a word — through play.

And it’s not just infants and children who learn through play. Joost Bonsen, who is an alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and currently serves as a lecturer in the world-famous MIT Media Lab, talked about the importance of the famous tradition of pranks at the university.

“Being innovative is central to being human.” Bonsen told me. “We’re curious and playful animals, until it’s pounded out of us. Look at the tradition of pranks here at MIT. What did it take to put a police car on a dome that was fifteen stories high [one of most famous MIT student pranks], with a locked trapdoor being the only access? It was an incredible engineering feat. To pull that off was a systems problem, and it took tremendous leadership and teamwork.

“Pranks reinforce the cultural ethos of creative joy.” Joost added. “Getting something done in a short period of time with no budget, and challenging circumstances. It’s glorious and epic. They didn’t ask for permission. Not even forgiveness.”

These students were playing — just doing something for the fun of it. Play, then, is part of our human nature and an intrinsic motivation.

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Encourage Passion

Passion is familiar to all of us as an intrinsic motivation for doing things. The passion to explore, to learn something new, to understand something more deeply; to master something difficult. We see these passions all around us and have likely experienced them for ourselves.

In more than one hundred and fifty interviews for this book — lengthy conversations with innovators and their parents, teachers, and mentors — passionwas the most frequently recurring word.

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Encourage Purpose

Pure passion, by itself, is not enough to sustain the motivation to do difficult things and to persevere — in love or in work! In my research, I observe that young innovators almost invariably develop a passion to learn or do something as adolescents, but their passions evolve through learning and exploration into something far deeper, more sustainable, and trustworthy — purpose.
The sense of purpose can take many forms. But the one that emerged most frequently in my interviews and in the interviews by the authors of “the Innovator’s DNA” is the desire to somehow “make a difference”

In the lives of young innovators whom I interviewed, I discovered a consistent link and developmental arc in their progression from play to passion to purpose. They played a great deal — but their play was frequently far less structured than most children’s, and they had opportunities to explore, experiment, and discover through trial and error — to take risks and to fall down. Through this kind of more creative play as children, these young innovators discovered a passion. As they pursued their passions, their interests changed and took surprising turns. They developed new passions, which, over time, evolved into a deeper and more mature sense of purpose — a kind of shared adult play.
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These young innovators did not learn these things alone. They received help from parents, teachers, and mentors along the way. Their evolution as innovators was almost invariably facilitated by at least one adult — and often several. What these parents, teachers, and mentors did that was so helpful may surprise you. Each, in his or her own quiet way, is often following a different, less conventional path in his or her role as a parent, teacher, or mentor. They acted differently so that the young people with whom they interacted could think differently.

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Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Children in the developed world have a lot of choice when it comes to scientific toys. In fact, there are whole stores devoted to selling things like robotics kits, ant farms, and simple microscopes. In the developing world, however, such fancy toys are relatively scarce. So, what’s an adult to do if they want to get the local children interested in the sciences? Well, in the case of Arvind Gupta, he show the kids how to make scientific toys from throwaways.

Gupta’s story began in the 70s, when he was an engineering student at the Indian Institute of Technology. While he was there, he took it upon himself to teach the children of the mess staff, who couldn’t afford a formal education.

Upon graduation, he went on to work at Tata Motors, where he helped to build trucks. After five years of doing so, however, it was clear that it wasn’t the career for him. In 1978, he took a one-year leave from his job, and took part in the Hoshangabad Science Teaching Program. “The objective was to make science fun and exciting for village children using simple, low-cost materials available in their environment,” he told us. “This experience had a profound impact on me. I found it was much more satisfying than making trucks.”

Gupta proceeded to dedicatee his life to designing toys that demonstrate scientific principles, that children can build for themselves out of cheap or free parts. He’s written numerous instructional books on the subject, starting with 1986’s Matchstick Models and other Science Experiments, which has been reprinted in 12 languages.

Today, he is part of the four-person team that runs the Children’s Science Centre, at India’s Pune University. Together, they have designed approximately 800 trash-based educational toys … so far. Instructions and explanations for all of the toys are available copyright-free through their Toys-from-Trash website, as are all of their books, and over 250 linked YouTube videos.

“Every day over 50,000 children and teachers across the world watch these videos,” said Gupta. “Thousands of books are downloaded every day and this fills our hearts with hope and joy. We feel privileged to be able to share our work with at least some children across the entire world.”

Out of all of the toys, there are a few that have proven particularly popular. One of those is Matchstick Mecanno, in which little bits of rubber bicycle valve tube and matchsticks are used to make 2D and 3D shapes. Other favorites include the Simple Electric Motor and the Levitating Pencil, in which ring magnets are used to keep a spinning pencil floating in the air.

One of his young students, a girl named Hamsa Padmanabhan, found the pencil toy particularly fascinating. “She wrote a 12-page scientific paper on it, which won the second Intel International Award of US$2,500. Today a minor planet is named after Hamsa,” he told us. “Another girl, Durga Jetty, made the Bottle Turbine which won her 0.6 million Indian Rupees! This is indeed quite a feat.”

Needless to say, however, Arvind isn’t in it for the money, nor for the chance to become famous. Instead, he simply wishes to nurture a quality that he believes all children possess.

“Every child is born a scientist,” he said. “We kill this innate curiosity by rote learning and boring state texts. If we just remove some of the authoritarian structures in schools, children will naturally gravitate to science – simply because science is fun and exciting.”

An example of one of the instructional videos can be seen below.

Source: Toys-from-Trash

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

New method of gene therapy is developed


FLANDERS, Belgium (UPI) — Flemish scientists say they have developed an improved and safer technique to deliver genes into the body’s cells during genetic therapy.

Gene therapy is the introduction of genetic material into a patient’s cells resulting in a cure or a therapeutic effect, said researchers at the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology in Belgium. The success of gene therapy ultimately depends on the gene delivery vehicles, or vectors, and most vectors have been derived from viruses that can be tailor-made to deliver therapeutic genes. The drawback is some of the viral vectors can induce side effects, including cancer and inflammation.

Now Marinee Chuah, Thierry VandenDriessche, Eyayu Belay and colleagues at the Catholic University of Leuven say they’ve developed a non-viral approach that overcomes some limitations associated with viral vectors.

The technique is based on non-viral genetic elements called transposons — mobile DNA elements — that the scientists constructed to carry therapeutic genes into the target cell DNA, eliminating the need for viral vectors.
“We show for the first time that it is now possible to efficiently deliver genes into stem cells, particularly those of the immune system, using non-viral gene delivery,” Chuah said.

The researchers, in collaboration with Zsuzsanna Iszvak and Zoltan Ivics and colleagues at the Max Delbrück Center in Berlin are now testing the technology to treat specific diseases, including cancer and genetic disorders.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 11th May 2009

Weather plays a role in swine flu outbreak


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (UPI) — With swine flu being reported in the United States, one might wonder whether weather has any part in spreading the flu — and the answer is maybe


The main way swine flu is transmitted is through contact with an infected person or contact with a pig that is infected. In people, it’s thought to spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing.

As to the question of the role weather conditions play in the outbreak, said the warmer weather means more people are gathering for events and, therefore, they can come into contact with infected people who potentially remain contagious for up to seven days following illness onset.

An infected person who sneezes or coughs without covering their mouth can theoretically allow a dispersion of the virus in crowded, public locations, thereby expanding the outbreak.
And noted the warmer spring weather also means more vacations and more people traveling. That means some of the cases might be related to people traveling into Mexico, the outbreak’s epicenter. Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity urges travelers to check the CDC Web site for information on restrictions due to the swine flu.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 30th April 2009

Phthalates found in obese children


NEW YORK (UPI) — A U.S. study suggests endocrine disruptors such as phthalates may play a role in childhood obesity, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine said.

Researchers found children in New York’s East Harlem are three times more likely than other children in the United States to be overweight.
The study determined neighborhood characteristics — including availability of convenience foods — likely play a strong role in the number of obese children. Eighty percent of the children in the study reported purchasing food items from convenience stores at least one time per week, the hospital said in a report released Thursday.

High levels of phthalates and Bisphenol A found in the children’s urine may play a role in obesity by disrupting hormones that regulate growth and development, researchers said. Higher levels of three endocrine disruptors — 2,5 DCP, MBP and MEHHP — were also found.
The levels of DCP, formed in the body from the chemical DCB, were three to 10 times higher than those found in a national sample of children the same age, the report said. The chemical is common in mothballs, room deodorizers and toilet bowl deodorizer cakes.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 22nd April 2009

New nerve block may change pain management


BOSTON (UPI) — Children’s Hospital Boston scientists say they’ve created a slow-release anesthetic drug-delivery system that could potentially revolutionize pain treatment.

The researchers said their National Institutes of Health-funded work might change the way physicians treat pain during and after surgery, as well chronic pain.

The scientists said they used specially designed fat-based particles called liposomes to package saxitoxin, a potent anesthetic, and produced long-lasting local anesthesia in rats without apparent toxicity to nerve or muscle cells.

“The idea was to have a single injection that could produce a nerve block lasting for days, weeks, maybe even sometimes months,” said Dr. Daniel Kohane, the report’s senior author. “It would be useful for conditions like chronic pain where, rather than use narcotics (that) are systemic and pose a risk of addiction, you could just put that piece of the body to sleep, so to speak.”

The scientists said that previous attempts to develop slow-release anesthetics have been unsuccessful due to toxicity problems. But in the new study, Kohane and his colleagues report saxitoxin packaged within liposomes is able to block nerve transmission of pain without causing significant nerve or muscle damage.

Kohane said he is now optimizing the formulation to make it last even longer and it is quite conceivable that clinical trials would soon start.

The research appears in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 20th April 2009

Stem cell therapy grows new blood vessels



LONDON, Ontario ,  — A Canadian researcher has grown new blood vessels using bone marrow stem cells.

David Hess of The University of Western Ontario in London drew human bone marrow and simultaneously isolated three different types of stem cells that co-ordinate together to form new blood vessels.

These cells — pro-angiogenic stem cells — were purified to remove inflammatory or contaminated cells and injected into the circulation of mice with one of their leg arteries. The stem cells honed into the area of ischemia — inadequate blood supply — and induced blood vessel repair.

“We can select the right stem cells from the patient’s own bone marrow and put them back in the area of ischemia to allow these cells to coordinate the formation of new blood vessels.” Hess said in a statement. “These principles could be applied not only to ischemic limbs but to aid in the formation of new blood vessels in ischemic tissue anywhere in the body, as an  example after a stroke or heart attack.”

A clinical trial involving 21 patients with end-stage peripheral artery disease is currently underway in Houston USA. The study was published in the journal Blood.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and publ;ished 15th April 2009 by Henry Sapiecha

Face transplant performed in Boston



BOSTON (USA) — A man  injured severly  in a fall has undergone the second partial face transplant performed in the United States, says a spokesman  from a Boston hospital.

Eight surgeons, led by Dr. Bohdan Pomahac at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, performed the transplant Thursday during 17 hours of intense surgery, The Boston Herald reported Friday.

The surgeons replaced the man’s nose, hard palate, upper lip, facial skin, muscles that animate the face and the nerves that power them and provide sensation, the hospital statement said.

The surgery was made possible through organ donation from the New England Organ Bank, the hospital said, adding that the patient’s identity was being kept private.



The first face transplant in the United States was performed in December at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic on a woman who had suffered severe facial trauma. The woman was able to breathe through her nose, smell, eat solid foods and drink from a cup once the surgery was completed, her doctors said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 15th April 2009