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Aging, Genetics, Stanford News, Videos

Unlocking the secrets to human longevity

Unlocking the secrets to human longevity

Does the key to extending life lie within our genetic code? In this Stanford+Connects micro lecture, Stuart Kim, PhD, a professor of developmental biology and genetics, explains why he believes the answer is yes.

In his lab at Stanford, Kim and colleagues study functional genomics and aging and the search for genes that can either speed up or slow down aging, in particular with respect to the kidney. During this talk, he shares some of his lab’s advances in developmental biology in doubling the lifespan of a nematode, which is the world’s fastest-aging animal.

Previously: Male roundworms shorten females’ lifespan with soluble compounds, say Stanford researchers, Key to naked mole rat longevity may be related to their body’s ability to make proteins accurately, Longevity gene tied to nerve stem cell regeneration, say Stanford researchers and California’s oldest person helping geneticists uncover key to aging

Cancer, Research, Stanford News, Stem Cells, Videos

The latest on stem-cell therapies for leukemia

The latest on stem-cell therapies for leukemia

Leukemia research was the focus of a recent Google Hangout hosted by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine; included in the conversation were Stanford’s Ravi Majeti, MD, PhD; Catriona Jamieson, MD, PhD, with the University of California San Diego; and Karen Berry, PhD, DVM, a CIRM science officer. In the words of CIRM blogger Kevin McCormack, “Between the three of them they painted an optimistic look at the state of stem cell research into leukemia, the progress we are making, and the obstacles we still have to overcome.”

Majeti, whose works focuses on a potential leukemia treatment using an antibody to a protein called CD47, begins talking around the 10-minute mark.

Previously: Blood cancers shown to arise from mutations that accumulate in stem cells and Leukemia prognosis and cancer stem cells
Related: Cancer roundhouse

Public Health, Videos

Exploring popular health myths and how they influence health-care decisions

Exploring popular health myths and how they influence health-care decisions

This week on the TEDMED Great Challenges series, guests discussed popular health myths, ways these myths spread. and how doctors and patients can better evaluate medical information. In the video above, Rusty Hoffman, MD, chief of interventional radiology at Stanford, addresses a variety of topics, including misconceptions related to heart disease and uncertainty around new mammogram guidelines, and discusses building trust between doctors and patients to dispel myths using evidence-based medicine.

Previously: European experts debunk six myths about flu shot, Four common myths about U.S. health care, Exploring popular sleep myths and MythBusters looks at pain myths with Stanford doctor on April 28

Health and Fitness, Health Disparities, Stanford News, Videos

AAMC’s Health Equity Research Snapshot features Stanford project on virtual health advisers

AAMC's Health Equity Research Snapshot features Stanford project on virtual health advisers

To improve public health, Stanford and academic medical centers around the country conduct research to identify solutions to systematic and preventable inequities in medicine and health care. A selection of these projects – including research led by Abby King, PhD, professor of health research and policy and of medicine – have been highlighted in the 2014 Health Equity Research Snapshot developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

King and colleague Timothy Bickmore, PhD, with Northeastern University, are conducting ongoing research examining how virtual advisers can promote physical activity regardless of individuals’ level of education or language. Findings  published last August demonstrated how individuals who participated in an exercise program guided by the online coach had an eight-fold increase in walking compared with those who did not. In the above video, King explains how virtual advisers can be as effective as their human counter parts in promoting regular physical activity and can reach far larger groups of people in a more cost effective way.

In addition to King’s video, the snapshot features six others produced by health-equity researchers and their teams that represent work on a wide array of health outcomes and populations. The AAMC initiative is intended to demonstrate how research at every stage – from basic discovery to community-based participatory research – can contribute to closing or narrowing gaps in heath and health care.

Previously: Help from a virtual friend goes a long way in boosting older adults’ physical activity
Video still in featured-entry box by Relational Agents Group, Northeastern University

Stanford News, Videos

Abraham Verghese shares what’s in his lab coat

Abraham Verghese shares what's in his lab coat

What do modern day physicians carry around in their white coats? And, what tools should young doctors consider keeping in their pockets? In this short Stanford 25 Initiative video, Abraham Verghese, MD, answers this question by providing an intimate look at the objects and tools he carries with him into the exam room.

Verghese has had a long-standing interest in bedside medicine and strongly believes all clinicians should be able to recognize the basic phenotypic expressions of disease that present as abnormal physical signs. He led the effort to develop the Stanford 25, which includes a series of  hands-on workshops teaching essential techniques for examining patients.

Via @StanfordMed25
Previously: Stanford’s Abraham Verghese honored as both author and healer, Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone: Two years as a New York Times best seller, How Abraham Verghese writes, How a battle with Napoleon helped Abraham Verghese write his novel and Abraham Verghese at Work: A New York Times profile

Applied Biotechnology, Bioengineering, Global Health, Stanford News, Videos

Stanford microscope inventor featured on TED Talk

Stanford microscope inventor featured on TED Talk

Earlier today I wrote about the 50-cent paper microscope developed by Stanford bioengineering professor Manu Prakash, PhD. You can now watch a video of him building and demonstrating the microscope on TED.com. This TED “Talk of Week” has already been viewed almost 300,000 times.

Prakash, who grew up in the mega-cities of India without a refrigerator, is a leader in the frugal design movement. His lab is currently developing a number of global health solutions, leveraging the cost savings of emerging manufacturing techniques such as 3D printers, laser cutters and conductive ink printing.

Previously: Stanford bioengineer develops a 50-cent paper microscope, Stanford bioengineer developing an “Electric Band-Aid Worm Test and Stanford bioengineers create an ultra-low-cost oral cancer screening tool

Applied Biotechnology, Bioengineering, Global Health, Stanford News, Videos

Stanford bioengineer develops a 50-cent paper microscope

Stanford bioengineer develops a 50-cent paper microscope

UPDATE: A second blog entry, including a link to Prakash’s TED talk on this topic, can be found here. And this entry discusses Prakash’s plans to give away 10,000 build-your-own paper microscope kits to citizen scientists with the most inspiring ideas for things to do with this new invention.

***

When Manu Prakash, PhD, wants to impress lab visitors with the durability of his Origami-based paper microscope, he throws it off a three-story balcony, stomps on it with his foot and dunks it into a water-filled beaker. Miraculously, it still works.

Even more amazing is that this microscope — a bookmark-sized piece of layered cardstock with a micro-lens — only costs about 50 cents in materials to make.

In the video posted above, you can see his “Foldscope” being built in just a few minutes, then used to project giant images of plant tissue on the wall of a dark room.

Prakash’s dream is that this ultra-low-cost microscope will someday be distributed widely to detect dangerous blood-borne diseases like malaria, African sleeping sickness, schistosomiasis and Chagas.

“I wanted to make the best possible disease-detection instrument that we could almost distribute for free,” said Prakash. “What came out of this project is what we call use-and-throw microscopy.”

The Foldscope can be assembled in minutes, includes no mechanical moving parts, packs in a flat configuration, is extremely rugged and can be incinerated after use to safely dispose of infectious biological samples. With minor design modifications, it can be used for bright-field, multi-fluorescence or projection microscopy.

One of the unique design features of the microscope is the use of inexpensive spherical lenses rather than the precision-ground curved glass lenses used in traditional microscopes. These poppy-seed-sized lenses were originally mass produced in various sizes as an abrasive grit that was thrown into industrial tumblers to knock the rough edges off metal parts. In the simplest configuration of the Foldscope, one 17-cent lens is press-fit into a small hole in the center of the slide-mounting platform. Some of his more sophisticated versions use multiple lenses and filters.

To use a Foldscope, a sample is mounted on a microscope slide and wedged between the paper layers of the microscope. With a thumb and forefinger grasping each end of the layered paper strip, a user holds the micro-lens close enough to one eye that eyebrows touch the paper. Focusing and locating a target object are achieved by flexing and sliding the paper platform with the thumb and fingers.

microbes

Because of the unique optical physics of a spherical lens held close to the eye, samples can be magnified up to 2,000 times. (To the right are two disease-causing microbes, Giardia lamblia and Leishmania donovani, photographed through a Foldscope.)

The Foldscope can be customized for the detection of specific organisms by adding various combinations of colored LED lights powered by a watch battery, sample stains and fluorescent filters. It can also be configured to project images on the wall of a dark room.

In addition, Prakash is passionate about mass-producing the Foldscope for educational purposes, to inspire children — our future scientists — to explore and learn from the microscopic world.

In a recent Stanford bioengineering course, Prakash used the Foldscope to teach students about the physics of microscopy. He had the entire class build their own Foldscope. Then teams wrote reports on microscopic observations or designed Foldscope accessories, such a smartphone camera attachment.

For more on Foldscope optics, a materials list and construction details, read Prakash’s technical paper.

Previously: Stanford bioengineer developing an “Electric Band-Aid Worm TestStanford bioengineers create an ultra-low-cost oral cancer screening tool,
Related: Prakash wins Gates grant for paper microscope development

Cardiovascular Medicine, Stanford News, Videos

Stanford researchers ride the ‘vomit comet’ to test device for monitoring astronauts’ heart function

Stanford researchers ride the 'vomit comet' to test device for monitoring astronauts' heart function

When astronauts travel into space, their heart muscles don’t have to work as hard to circulate blood because of the lack of gravity. Past research has shown that half of astronauts on missions lasting two weeks or less and nearly all of those who spend four to six months in space suffer from hypotension, or abnormally low blood pressure.

To improve astronaut safety, Stanford researchers have developed a simple device that provides high-fidelity measurements of astronauts’ cardiovascular performance. As reported in a Stanford Report story, the project involved re-engineering a digital bathroom scale so that it is capable of determining cardiac output even in microgravity. Bjorn Carey writes:

After more than a dozen publications on the technology and its performance in human tests, the researchers found that the ballistocardiograph measured by their modified scale could measure cardiovascular activity in equal or better resolution than other clinical mechanical monitoring devices.

In a single 10-second measurement, the scale can glean enough data from a patient to assess his or her cardiovascular risks. [Richard Wiard, a bioengineering doctoral candidate] said that the scale does this with greater accuracy than the standard assessment used today, and also provides a clearer picture of a patient’s (or space-faring astronaut’s) near-term risk.

The above video shows footage from researchers’ ride on what astronauts have affectionately dubbed the “vomit comet,” a fixed-wing airplane that dips and climbs through the air to simulate the feeling of weightlessness.

Previously: Students design special stethoscope for use in space, noisy places, Space: A new frontier for doctors and patients and Fruit flies in space! Researchers hope to learn more about the heart through space-station experiment

Complementary Medicine, In the News, Mental Health, Pediatrics, Stanford News, Videos

Stanford researchers use yoga to help underserved youth manage stress and gain focus

Stanford researchers use yoga to help underserved youth manage stress and gain focus

A segment on PBS NewsHour yesterday explored how Stanford researchers have brought yoga and mindfulness practices to students who experience post-traumatic stress disorder owing to difficult life circumstances. At Cesar Chavez Academy in East Palo Alto, Calif. – a low-income, high-crime area – a group of seventh-graders worked with Stanford’s Victor Carrion, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and his team during a 10-week program introducing breathing and movement practices to help students manage their emotions and improve their concentration in school.

The researchers used imaging techniques to understand how children respond to daily stress. “With functional imaging, we actually can see what the brain is doing,” Carrion told PBS. “There is a deficit in the area of the middle frontal cortex in kids that have PTSD,” which, he noted, may discourage learning.

In the piece, seventh-grader Brayan Solorio describes how rolling out his yoga mat at home helps him keep his cool.

Previously: Med students awarded Schweitzer Fellowships lead health-care programs for underserved youthThe remarkable impact of yoga breathing for trauma, The promise of yoga-based treatments to help veterans with PTSD and Stanford and other medical schools to increase training and research for PTSD, combat injuries

Public Health, Research, Science Policy, Videos

Federal investments in research and higher education key to U.S. maintaining innovation edge

Federal investments in research and higher education key to U.S. maintaining innovation edge

Government investment in research and higher education have made the United States a global innovation leader and have led to the creation of the Internet, global positioning systems, magnetic resonance imaging, touch-screen technology, and life-saving vaccines (among other things). But some worry that recent cuts and stagnating funding pose a serious risk to America’s ability to maintain its innovation edge at a time when other nations are rapidly increasing their research investments.

In preparation for the release of President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal and the start of the appropriations season on Capitol Hill, a group of 14 business, higher education and scientific organizations have produced a video explaining the direct link between basic research, economic growth, improved medical treatments, and national security. Take a moment to watch it and learn more about how renewed investments in research would significantly benefit the country.

Previously: Future of medical research is at risk, says Stanford medical school dean, The economic benefits of publicly funded medical research, Report: NIH investments created $68 billion in economic activity last year, Academic medical centers bring billions to the economy and New initiatives show how federal stimulus dollars advance scientific and medical research

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