Pediatric Cancer Drug Displays 93% Success Rate

Breakthroughs in cancer research such as gene-altering treatments and the discovery of nanomachines have made waves in the past few years, persistently leading humanity through not-so-tiny victory after not-so-tiny victory in a battle between human and disease that has spanned decades. Just this month, a drug specifically targeting a fused gene found in several cancer types resulted in a 93% response rate among children.

“In some cancers, a part of the TRK [tropomyosin receptor kinase] gene has become attached to another gene, which is called a fusion. When this occurs, it leads to the TRK gene being turned on when it’s not supposed to be and that causes the cells to grow uncontrollably. What’s unique about the drug is it is very selective; it only blocks TRK receptors,” said lead author Dr. Ted Laetsch, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

Most drugs that are already known and used to cure cancer usually target a particular location or organ in the body. According to the researchers at UT Southwestern’s Simmons Cancer Center, Larotrectinib is the first cancer drug designated for people with TRK fusions, or the fusion of two genes in the cancer cell, regardless of whether their cancer is in the lung, colon, or other areas.

“…none of the patients with TRK fusions had to quit the study because of a drug-induced side effect. Equally important, the response was long-lasting for most patients.”

The TRK fusions tend to occur mostly in certain types of pediatric cancer. This implies that, despite also being 75% effective in adult cancers, Larotrectinib is a bigger breakthrough in pediatric cancer research. This is a hopeful and life-giving discovery for children, or the people most capable of giving us hope in our own lives.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Technology Doesn’t Have to Make Us Less Human

Recently, I featured the EMINENT (EMN) token — a token that would get us all started on creating kindness in the world — in an article that talks about how technology and compassion could meet. To be honest, what fascinates me about technology is not just how it makes things convenient and efficient for our daily lives, not just how it gives us so much information and immediate access to everything in the blink of an eye, but also how it could improve our humanity.

I know it seems like a paradox. Facing a computer or phone screen all day could surely make you less human, right? My mom likes to say that we are all slowly becoming less human and more robot in this day and age. But I beg to disagree. So for this one, I will list down some of my favorite apps and how their functions actually encourage, promote, and deepen our sense of humanity.

1. Seek

We’ve all probably seen movies or read books that describe a technological dystopia as a world less human, dominated by robots, androids, cyborgs and other metal stuff. No more organic or natural. Everything is machine. But what’s so interesting about Seek, an app developed by iNaturalist.org, is that it shows the very opposite side of technology.

iNaturalist.org is a virtual community of nature lovers where people share information on nature-related projects in their respective cities, post observations of animals and plants around them, and contribute to archives of scientific data. The app Seek offers the same thing, except gamified. It “encourages outdoor exploration and learning by harnessing image recognition technology” where you could earn badges as you capture photos of more species and learn cool trivia about them afterwards.

Now who’s to say technology will take us away from nature?

2. DailyArt

My mom also likes to complain that today’s generation doesn’t know how to appreciate culture the way previous generations did. The pleasure of reading is reduced to clickbait. Our passions all just revolve around video games and social media. Even our music sounds electronic. There might be truth to those statements, but again, I don’t think it’s necessarily the case.

DailyArt is a good testament. By providing a daily dose of art history, it inspires a whole new generation of prospective artists and art critics through technology. It features one classic masterpiece everyday (you can make it part of your morning routine), loads and loads of fascinating stories about painters and their paintings, and even create your own gallery of your favorite ones. Plus, you can also share them to your friends on social media.

Point is, being very invested in online participation doesn’t really have to distance us from human pursuits such as art. Sometimes, we can even improve our skills and interests through virtual means.

3. Calm

Awarded by Apple as 2017’s App of the Year, Calm offers meditation techniques for sleep, relaxation, and stress reduction. It teaches you how to be mindful and release anxiety, reflect your emotions, be in touch with your body and your senses, relax your muscles, and many other methods.

Contrary to popular belief, technology doesn’t always bombard us with excessive activity or push us into being crazy busy; sometimes it also provides us avenues for feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.

4. BeepBeep Nation

Soon to launch, the BeepBeep Nation app will offer people opportunities to get help and give help to others in need. With just one beep, you can request for whatever type of help such as getting a ride home or reading restaurant recommendations. Underneath that function, however, what BeepBeep Nation really aims to do is make the world a better place by encouraging face-to-face social interactions and a strong culture of kindness. By helping others, you get to meet new people and widen your circle of friends, or even just have a healthy, engaging conversation.

Again, who’s to say technology will keep us apart and make us less human? It might just bring us closer together.

Some apps nurture and promote human interests such as love for nature or the arts. Other apps help us towards reflection and introspection, letting us deeper into ourselves. Others can even help us build personal relationships with others, and not only on a virtual level, but face-to-face.

A lot of these apps, though only made possible through technology, surpass our preconceived ideas of a digital future. Rather than decrease our humanity, technology might even have the ability to make us feel even more human.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

The Science of Compassion (or Why It’s Really Human to Help Out)

Everyday, a plethora of stories arise on the Internet. A huge part of the content is probably fun, entertaining, and/or informational. Some, however, tell the tragedy of the world we live in. And if you read the news, you know that it’s so real. Other stories tell how people address that tragedy and do their share in alleviating the suffering of their fellow human beings. In our blog, we frequently showcase this kind of content — stories of people with exemplary acts of devotion and compassion or even people who do random little acts of kindness in their everyday lives.

Some people who enjoy helping out tend to do so for religious or spiritual reasons. And whether it’s Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, or others, the religions of the world do have discourses of compassion. Though I myself have always been curious about a different but equally important aspect of this human tendency: is there a science behind this?

I’m glad to report: yep, there is. A study done by experimental social psychologists tested how the experience of compassion affected people’s behavior. First, participants were told that they were supposedly part of an experiment about mathematical ability and taste perception. Ostensibly, these were the instructions: participants were supposed to solve as much as they can of 20 math problems, in which they would receive 50 cents for each problem they solved correctly. After being checked and getting paid, they would proceed to the taste perception phase. Here, participants were asked to prepare taste samples for each other by pouring extra-hot hot sauce.

It seems absurd, but here’s the catch. The experimenters hired confederates to pretend to be fake participants. Let’s call the first one Dan and the second Hannah. In one version of the experiment, Dan was asked to cheat badly and very obviously on the math problems, so that the real participants would see. Afterwards, in the taste perception phase, the experimenters noticed that the real participants poured bigger servings of hot sauce to Dan the Cheater. But doesn’t this show revenge instead of compassion?

Well, in another version, Dan the Cheater was asked to do the same thing but now Hannah was gonna play a role. Before the taste perception phase, Hannah would cry and the experimenters would ask why. She’d say she recently found out about her brother’s terminal illness. Increasingly emotional, Hannah asked to be excused from the experiment. In this version, even though the participants still witnessed Dan cheating, they did not pour bigger amounts of hot sauce in the taste perception phase.

What does this show? First, the compassion that the participants felt predicted how much hot sauce they were going to give to another person. And second, more importantly, the compassion that people feel towards one person can predict how they will act towards others.

This experiment is only one of many studies that are now delving into the idea and reality of compassion. Recently, a conference has even been held to discuss it, joined by representatives from different fields such as evolutionary psychologists, clinical psychologists who deal with children suffering from trauma, charity owners who conduct social and emotional skills workshops for the youth, and others.

Using brain scans, one doctor even explained how different parts of the brain are activated when people are in a “compassionate state” or “non-compassionate state.” So interestingly enough, compassion actually seems to have physiological, neurological effects.

But now here’s the thing. My personal epiphany, if you will. We can participate in all these discussions, conduct our own experiments if we’re in the field, compile all these data, but maybe it’ll be a bit more exciting to see for ourselves. There’s all this science about compassion, we know that. But somehow I think the reality of compassion can’t be proven by numbers. Tall order but maybe here’s what we can do: go out there, help people out, and prove it for ourselves.

If you are interested in reading more scientific information about kindness or compassion, here’s a list of various quantitative and qualitative studies about the topic. Then again, if you are more keen to join the action, check out the BeepBeep Nation app and this fun video on how to get started. You might be surprised at the many ways you’ll see how compassion exists.

 

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Why the Leaning Tower of Pisa is Incredibly Resilient

As travellers, we often forget to educate ourselves about the places we visit beyond the usual trivia. Our sources often include the tour guide mumbling facts every time the bus stops or last-minute Google searches before the tour starts. This is why a high-quality map detailing the origins of all the country names in the world should be interesting and helpful to all of us who are even the least bit keen to travel. Well, it should be fascinating to read up on stuff like this even before or without actually travelling, right?

Today’s wave of info has to do with romance, the pope, empires and emperors, pizza and pasta. I’m kidding. But close enough. If you were ever an 8-year-old who obsessively read about the architecture of the world in children’s encyclopedia (like me) or if you ever spent your honeymoon in Italy (unlike me, I’m single), of course you must have heard about the Leaning Tower of Pisa and its secrets — secrets that have finally been unlocked by a team of engineers.

[They] finally solved the mystery of how the seemingly unstable Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy has managed to stay standing for more than six hundred years, even in a seismically active region. A team led by Roma Tre University concluded that the tower’s height of 183 feet, the soft soil in which it stands, and the structural strength of the its marble all contribute to its remarkable resilience. This phenomenon is known as dynamic soil-structure interaction (DSSI).

The Leaning Tower of Pisa began construction in the 12th century. Even then, engineers seemed to understand how the soil mix of the area contributed to the leaning, which reportedly started when the third storey was being built. This truth has again been recently uncovered.

The Roma Tre University researchers further developed previous studies by analyzing structural and seismic data records over time, the material composition of the tower (and its physical, chemical, and mechanical properties), as well as the rock and soil itself in the area. Their findings say that frequent and powerful earthquakes in the city didn’t damage the Leaning Tower of Pisa because of the insulation caused by the DDSI.

“Ironically, the very same soil that caused the leaning instability and brought the Tower to the verge of collapse, can be credited for helping it survive these seismic events,” said University of Bristol researcher George Mylonakis in a statement.

If people are equal to buildings or structures, then I suppose this is the perfect time to say: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, eh?

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

NASA’s Podcast Boasts Real Space Stories

Do you want to hear astronauts themselves talk about the possibility of life on Saturn’s moon, the adventures of planet protection officers against alien microbes, and other real stories that could have come from science fiction books but definitely didn’t? You might want to check out NASA’s official website for their fantastic podcast.

The podcast features plenty of astronauts reliving their greatest accomplishments and talking about their rigorous training. Recent episodes bring you audio from inside the Orion, the capsule that NASA is developing to carry a crew of four astronauts into deep space, and along Scott Tingle’s path from test pilot to astronaut.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center launched “Houston, We Have a Podcast” last July 2017 and has since released more than 40 episodes on its official site. The cleverly-titled podcast is revitalized every week, which means you only have to wait that long to get your new fill of amazing space-related content.

The show overflows with the voices of the engineers, researchers and mission control flight directors who develop and test NASA’s most complex technology and protect astronauts during their flights. There’s historical information on pioneering missions and space explorers, too.

While on the way home from work, shopping at the grocery, or making dinner, you might want to relive your childhood dreams of becoming an astronaut. Thanks to the podcast form, it has never been this contemporary and accessible.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Late Menopause May Benefit Women’s Memory

The past few years have seen an increase in various research studies about women’s health that have truly been a long time coming. One example is New Delhi’s move to proliferate biodegradable sanitary pads which not only addresses women’s reproductive needs but also the needs of our environment.

Recently, a new study led by Diana Kuh from University College London in the United Kingdom looked at how the late onset of menopause may benefit the memory of women later in their lives. By using data from 1,315 women, they found out that women whose menopause occurred naturally and later in life scored higher on the memory assessment tests that they conducted.

Kuh comments on the findings, saying, “The difference in verbal memory scores for a 10-year difference in the start of menopause was small — recalling only one additional word, but it’s possible that this benefit could translate to a reduced risk of dementia years later.”

However, she adds, “More research and follow-up are needed to determine whether that is the case.”

The study’s scope also included other aspects about the women’s health like whether they were taking hormone replacement therapy, whether they had a hysterectomy, their cognitive ability since childhood, as well as social factors like their education and line of work.

Kuh and her colleagues conclude: “Our findings suggest lifelong hormonal processes, not just short-term fluctuations during the menopause transition, may be associated with verbal memory, consistent with evidence from a variety of neurobiological studies.”

Of course, I agree with Dr. Kuh’s statement. Further research is definitely necessary. I also think, as seen in the recently-won fight for equal pay like in Nordic countries such as Iceland, that perhaps more and more institutions and organizations would see the importance of studying and addressing women’s concerns, as more and more women around the world push further for their rights.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

11 New Deep-Sea Creatures Found in Indian Ocean

More than half of it has not yet passed, but 2018 already seems to be a great year for zoological findings. There is the sudden resurfacing of a previously extinct insectivore in Australia, there is the identification of a new type of exploding ant in Borneo, and now the first scientific expedition to the Indian Ocean yields at least 11 previously undiscovered species of deep-sea creatures.

The expedition is a collaboration between the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. The team collected over 12,000 specimens from 63 sites in the two weeks that they stayed in the coasts of West Java.

“This is a part of the Indian Ocean that has never been sampled for deep-sea animals so we really didn’t know what to find,” Peter Ng, head of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at NUS and chief scientist for the Singapore team, told AFP. “We were very surprised by the findings.”

From the specimens, they were able to identify 800 species from families of jellyfish, molluscs, crabs, fish, worms, and others. The 11 newfound deep-sea creatures include a crab nicknamed “big ears” for the ear-shaped plate that covers its eyes, a hermit crab with green eyes, a zebra-striped orange lobster, and many others.

The team has yet to sort, analyse and catalogue the entire collection, but fully expect more new species to emerge — the reason the crustaceans were so quickly picked up is because the expedition included experts in crabs and shrimps.

The scientists from both Singapore and Indonesia are expected to categorize and study further the samples they collected until they are ready to release their results, targeting a 2020 publishing date. Come to think of it, two years is a very short time, relative to the hundreds and hundreds when these deep-sea creatures were previously unknown to science.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Contact Lenses that Adjust to the Sun

The medical industry does not lack developments specific to addressing eye conditions. Some particularly interesting examples are the world’s first synthetic retinas and a teen-made AI system that diagnoses eye diseases. Today, I bring good news to my fellow four-eyed people: you can now wear FDA-approved contact lenses that adjust to the sunlight.

“This contact lens is the first of its kind to incorporate the same technology that is used in eyeglasses that automatically darken in the sun,” Malvina Eydelman said in a statement. Eydelman is the director of the Division of Ophthalmic, and Ear, Nose and Throat Devices at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

The light-reactive lenses, which Johnson & Johnson calls Acuvue Oasys Contact Lenses with Transitions Light Intelligent Technology, are for everyday use and lasts up to 14 days. While it might not yet be available for purchase, it could hit the stores soon enough, as it has already been approved by Food and Drug Administration last week.

The contact lenses contain a photochromic coating that adapts to UV light exposure. Johnson & Johnson says the lenses will automatically return to a regular tint when exposed to normal or dark lighting conditions.

The company also reassures future buyers that wearing darkening lenses does not mean having to look like a demon or an alien; a gray tint just appears, which is nearly imperceptible in brown eyes and just the slightest bit noticeable in lighter eyes. So no worries there, pal.

Now I can barely wait for summer to try this one out.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

A Camera to See the Sea like a Mantis Shrimp

Humans never stop trying to improve the world for fellow creatures. We turn empty lots into homes for bees, we make highways so that hedgehogs may survive our cities, we teach orcas human speech. But we don’t know everything, and there’s a lot to learn about the world through these animals’ eyes as well. In this instance, through the eyes of a shrimp:

For a small glimpse of the mantis shrimp’s view of the ocean, humans can now look through a mantis-shrimp-inspired camera from a team led by Viktor Gruev, an engineer at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Mantis shrimp have the ability to detect up to six types of polarization in the ocean, a property of light that is impossible for humans to see. To imitate this, Gruev’s team made miniature polarized lenses, popped them inside a video camera, and collaborated with marine biologists to study how different underwater creatures use polarization.

[T]he ability to see detect polarization is widespread among cuttlefish, octopus, squid, crabs, and even some fish. Perhaps marine animals use polarization to communicate with each other, or perhaps it enhances contrast underwater for them to detect predators.

Through their findings, the team was also able to raise another important factor in the survival of marine animals: navigation. Do the mantis shrimp and other animals actually use polarization as their very own GPS? Scientists are not yet certain as to exactly how. But the idea already sounds awesome.

And with this camera, the world just might get a whole lot bigger in the future.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

We Can Soon Grow Replacement Organs

It never fails to impress me how we are always one step closer to figuring out the human body. We’ve learned how to handle it with robotic surgeries and now, with even more efficiency. Scientists at Monash University may have figured out how to grow replacement organs.

The team has discovered that a protein called Meox1 is pivotal in promoting the growth of muscles. They came across the protein while studying zebrafish, which are ideal candidates for the research due to their rapid rate of growth and biological similarities with humans.

Meox1 directs muscle growth by selecting the relevant stem cells for producing the specific tissue.

Apparently, we’ve got some fish to thank this this groundbreaking discovery. For years we have understood the functions of stem cells–but never how they function. Grasping its mechanisms mean researchers will ultimately have more control.

Stem cells are also increasingly being recognized as an integral tool for treating — and even curing — a number debilitating diseases. Everything from blindness to paralysis to neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease have already seen breakthroughs with the help of stem cells.

With new knowledge always comes the opportunity to manipulate nature to our benefit. If it saves lives, then why not?

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends: