This image shows that reprogrammed human neurons grown on 3-D scaffolds (within the white dash line) and then transplanted onto brain tissue (red) extended out (yellow lines) and integrated. Credit: Neal K. Bennett, Moghe Laboratory, Rutgers Biomedical Engineering.
Scientists at Rutgers and Stanford universities have created a new technology that could someday help treat Parkinson’s disease and other devastating brain-related conditions that affect millions of people.
The technology – a major innovation – involves converting adult tissue-derived stem cells into human neurons on 3-D “scaffolds,” or tiny islands, of fibers, said Prabhas V. Moghe, a distinguished professor in the departments of Biomedical Engineering and Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at Rutgers University.
The scaffolds, loaded with healthy, beneficial neurons that can replace diseased cells, were injected into mouse brains.
“If you can transplant cells in a way that mimics how these cells are already configured in the brain, then you’re one step closer to getting the brain to communicate with the cells that you’re now transplanting,” said Moghe, research director for the School of Engineering/Health Sciences Partnerships at Rutgers. “In this work, we’ve done that by providing cues for neurons to rapidly network in 3-D.”
In their multidisciplinary study, published online today in Nature Communications, a dozen scientists from several Rutgers teams and Stanford discuss the 3-D scaffolds and their potentially widespread benefits.
Neurons, or nerve cells, are critical for human health and functioning. Human brains have about 100 billion neurons, which serve as messengers that transmit signals from the body to the brain and vice versa.
Moghe said a 3-D scaffold, developed by the scientists, consists of tiny polymer fibers. Hundreds of neurons attach to the fibers and branch out, sending their signals. Scaffolds are about 100 micrometers wide – roughly the width of a human hair.
“We take a whole bunch of these islands and then we inject them into the brain of the mouse,” he said. “These neurons that are transplanted into the brain actually survived quite miraculously well. In fact, they survived so much better than the gold standard in the field.”
Indeed, the scaffold technology results in a 100-fold increase in cell survival over other methods, Moghe said.
And that may eventually help people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries, and concussions, he said.
These diseases and conditions often arise from the loss of brain cells. Parkinson’s disease, for example, is caused by the loss of brain cells that produce dopamine, a key neurotransmitter. Brain cell loss can lead to trembling in the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face; rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; slowness of movement; and impaired balance and coordination, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The next step would be to further improve the scaffold biomaterials, allowing scientists to increase the number of implanted neurons in the brain. “The more neurons we can transplant, the more therapeutic benefits you can bring to the disease,” Moghe said. “We want to try to stuff as many neurons as we can in as little space as we can.”
The idea is to “create a very dense circuitry of neurons that is not only highly functioning but also better controlled,” he said, adding that testing of mice with Parkinson’s disease is underway to see if they improve or recover from the illness.
Eventually, with continued progress, the researchers could perform studies in people. Moghe estimated that it would take 10 to 20 years to test the technology in humans.
Developing the scaffold technology and reprogramming the stem cells in the scaffolds was “very hard team work,” he said. “It took many years to get here, so there was a lot of sweat and toil.”
How could that city be upside-down? The city, Chicago, was actually perfectly right-side up.
The long shadows it projected onto nearby Lake Michigan near sunset, however, when seen in reflection, made the buildings appear inverted.
This fascinating, puzzling, yet beautiful image was captured by a photographer in 2014 on an airplane on approach to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The Sun can be seen both above and below the cloud deck, with the later reflected in the calm lake.
As a bonus, if you look really closely — and this is quite a challenge — you can find another airplane in the image, likely also on approach to the same airport.
Below are 10 reservoirs that have dwindled considerably since 2001. The “before” picture for each slide is from September or October 2001, while the “after” picture is from the same month in 2016. Move the slider over each image to see the changes.
1. Lake San Antonio
Lake San Antonio is located in Monterey County (used to cross the border to northern San Luis Obispo County) and covers an area of 8.9 square miles (23 square kilometers). The lake is formed by the San Antonio Dam on the San Antonio River. The dam was completed in 1965 and is 202 feet (62 m) tall.
2. Lake Cachuma
Lake Cachuma is located in central Santa Barbara County, on the Santa Ynez River. The reservoir was created by the construction of Bradbury Dam in 1953, which is 201 ft (61 m) high. At full capacity, Lake Cachuma has a surface area of 5 square miles (13 square kilometers), but it hasn’t reached that since July 2011.
3. San Luis Reservoir
San Luis Reservoir is the 5th largest reservoir in California, approximately 9 miles (14 km) long and 5 miles (8 km) wide. It is located in Merced County, west of Los Banos on State Route 152. The dam that created the reservoir is called San Luis Dam, was completed in 1967 and is the 4th largest embankment dam in the U.S.
The last time the reservoir came close to reaching full capacity was in April 2011, when San Luis Reservoir was 99.3 percent full.
4. New Melones Lake
New Melones Lake is located in the central Sierra Nevada Foothills on the Stanislaus River and has a surface area of 19.6 square miles (51 square kilometers). The reservoir is formed by the New Melones Dam, which is 625 ft (191 m) high.
The water level in the lake has been in an almost continuous decline since July 2011.
5. Lake Berryessa
Lake Berryessa is located in Napa County and was formed by the Monticello Dam, a 304-foot (93 m) concrete arch dam that was completed in 1957. Lake Berryessa hasn’t reached full capacity since April 2006.
6. Trinity Lake
Trinity Lake was formed by Trinity Dam, which was completed in the early 1960s and stands 538 ft (164 m) high. The lake, formed on the Trinity River, is one of the largest reservoirs in California. It came close to reaching full capacity in June 2011, but hasn’t reached average historical levels since June 2013.
7. Lake Casitas
Lake Casitas is located in the Los Padres National Forest of Ventura County. It was created by the construction of Casitas Dam on Coyote Creek, 2 miles (3 km) before it joins the Ventura River. The dam was was completed in 1959 and is 334 ft (102 m) high.
The water level in the lake has been in decline since April 2011, when the reservoir was 87.3 percent full.
8. Lake Piru
Like Lake Casitas, Lake Piru is also located in Los Padres National Forest of Ventura County. It was created in 1955 by the construction of the Santa Felicia Dam on Piru Creek. Water level in the lake has been in a steep decline since August 2012.
9. Lake Perris
Lake Perris was completed in 1973 and is located in a mountain-rimmed valley between Moreno Valley and Perris, in what is now the Lake Perris State Recreation Area. The dam that impounds the lake is 128 ft (39 m) high. The lake hasn’t reached its average historical level since September 2005.
10. Santa Margarita Lake
Santa Margarita Lake, also called Salinas Reservoir, is located several miles southeast of the town of Santa Margarita in San Luis Obispo County. The lake was created by the construction of Salinas Dam on the southern end of the Salinas River.
The dam was built in 1941, and the lake provides the city of San Luis Obispo with a portion of its drinking water. Water level in the lake has been declining since June 2011.
The sound appears to come from the sea floor in Hecla and Fury Strait. Northeast of Igloolik is Steensby Inlet, where Quassa says Baffinland, owner of the Mary River mine, has been doing sonar surveys. The company says it has no equipment in the water. (CBC)
Mysterious sound from the Arctic seafloor baffles Canadians.
Canadian Military investigates mysterious sound from the bottom of the the Hecla and Fury Strait – a narrow channel of water in Nunavut. Sometimes sounds like a beep, a ping, or a hum, the sound is scaring away animals.
Located right up north, next to Greenland, the area is the newest, largest, and least populous territory of Canada. A government official said the noise was “emanating from the seafloor.” Nobody seems to know where the sound comes from.
A spokesperson explains:
“The Department of National Defence has been informed of the strange noises emanating in the Fury and Hecla Strait area, and the Canadian Armed Forces are taking the appropriate steps to actively investigate the situation.”
For a while now there has been a picture circulating on Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and other internet sites regarding a genetic mutation called Alexandria’s Genesis. Supposedly the characteristics of this mutations consist mainly of pro’s without the con’s (unless you think the whole purple eye thing is a con): you get purple eyes, people with this condition only have hair on their heads, long lifespan, high metabolism, and women with this condition do not menstruate. For about three seconds after reading this I thought: “now that’s cool, why wasn’t I born with this condition?” Before realising, that it’s just too good to be true.
The supposed origin of the myth dates back 1000 years
Supporters of this myth claim that Alexandria’s Genesis can be dated back to over a thousand years. The legend started in Egypt when a mysterious light flashed in the sky, and everyone who was outside at the moment it happened, developed pale skin and purple eyes. Eventually these people were said to have moved north, were they eventually disappeared.
Alexandria’s Genesis is a fabrication of author Cameron Aubernon
Around the year 2000 author Cameron Aubernon was writing a Daria fan fiction and thought it would be fun for some of her characters to have a genetic mutation she called Alexandria’s Genesis. The characteristics of this mutation we have already listed above (purple eyes, no body hair, no menstruation yet still fertile, long lifespan, high metabolism), and as soon as Aubernon posted it online, they internet took over and it spread like wildfire. Since then Aubernon has explained and dispelled the myth on her blog.
Could Alexandria’s Genesis technically exist?
There is not enough scientific evidence to support the myth. Purple eyes would be technically possible through severe lack of eye pigmentation (e.g. albinism), but any eyes that would have this mutation would be extremely sensitive to sunlight, not what the original myth perpetrates. A lack of body hair could also be possible, but not as selective as with Alexandria’s Genesis. Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome can result in a lack of body hair, but it only happens to women, and since women affected with this syndrome have no uteri, they are infertile. Another aspect of Alexandria’s Genesis debunked. The two other aspects of Alexandria’s Genesis – long lifespan and high metabolism – are also highly unlikely as anyone with such a high metabolism would have an extremely high body temperature that would not be medically possible, and a long lifespan that would result in people becoming on average 150 years old is also highly unlikely.
All in all, though it’s a fun thing to imagine, people with Alexandria’s Genesis do not – at this time – exist. Yet who knows what the future will bring, mutations occur all the time. We are after all mutated from single-celled organisms to being the dominant form of reproductive life on this planet.