Adonis Diaries

Archive for May 6th, 2016

These Bedtime Stories Trade Princesses For Women Who Changed The World

Not a damsel in distress in sight.

A new children’s book features bedtime stories written in the form of fairy tales, but its main characters are far from damsels in distress.

Taylor Pittman Voices Staff Writer, The Huffington Post. April 29, 2016

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is made up of 100 stories about real women who have changed the world.

Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, a couple who met in Milan, Italy, and now live in Los Angeles, California, created the book as a way to educate readers about notable women of the past and present.

Favilli told The Huffington Post she felt encouraged to start the project after she wrote an op-ed for The Guardian about being a woman and a tech start-up founder in Silicon Valley and facing abuse online.

“I decided that my next project would be something designed to empower young women,” she said.

See more of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls below.

The stories feature women like the Brontë sisters, Frida Kahlo, Serena Williams and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Instead of waiting for their princes to come like the women in typical fairy tales, these game-changing women have influenced the world themselves. To amp up the girl power even more, each story is illustrated by a different woman from a different part of the world.

As of Friday, the project’s Kickstarter campaign has 26 days left to raise money and has already received more than $54,000 in donations, exceeding its $40,000 goal.

Favilli and Cavallo, who are also behind Timbuktu Labs which focuses on children’s innovation, hope to help parents raise confident girls by exposing them to inspiring women at an early age.

“Gender stereotypes permeate every aspect of our culture,” Favilli said. “We constantly urge ourselves to ‘lean in’ and books on female empowerment proliferate on our shelves… but they come far too late.”

According to Favilli, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is simply the first step in a bigger plan to combat gender stereotypes in children’s products.

“Parents are offered little resources to counter this trend and we want to do something about it,” she said.

A trip back in time on Lebanon’s disappearing railway

Lebanon’s 408km of railway once connected the country to its neighbours, but today the train stations stand abandoned.

Changiz M Varzi | 01 May 2016

In August 1895, the first steam train departed from Beirut and passed across the Bekaa Valley towards Rayak station, near the border with modern-day Syria. It was the golden age of rail transport in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s 408km of railway once connected Beirut to Damascus, Syria, and Haifa, a coastal city in present-day Israel. Today, there is nothing left but dilapidated station buildings and rusted locomotives. The Lebanese civil war, which ran from 1975 to 1990, effectively put an end to rail transport in the country.

Some train stations were demolished by warring factions during the civil war; others were later bulldozed for highway projects; still others have simply been left abandoned. Historic locomotives rust at Rayak and Tripoli stations, while in Europe, the same engines are preserved in museums.

Annia Ciezadlo shared this link. photoessay by Changiz M. Varzi!
Click for the pictures. Pretty sad.
If you want to a have a good impression of Beirut before the civil war, see the pictures in the next link
Karim A. Badra shared AL RIFAI. 

We may not be able to turn back the clock, but we can surely enjoy taking the road back in time!

Meet the Paris of the Middle East. The Lebanese Golden age and the beautiful old Beirut gathered in one photo album from the 50’s to the 70’s.

 Print your own medicine

Chemist Lee Cronin is working on a 3D printer that, instead of objects, is able to print molecules.

An exciting potential long-term application: printing your own medicine using chemical inks.

Organic chemists make molecules, very complicated molecules, by chopping up a big molecule into small molecules and reverse engineering.

And as a chemist, one of the things I wanted to ask my research group a couple of years ago is, could we make a really cool universal chemistry set? In essence, could we “app” chemistry?

0:35 Now what would this mean, and how would we do it?

to start to do this, we took a 3D printer and we started to print our beakers and our test tubes on one side and then print the molecule at the same time on the other side and combine them together in what we call reaction-ware.

And so by printing the vessel and doing the chemistry at the same time, we may start to access this universal toolkit of chemistry.

 what could this mean? Well if we can embed biological and chemical networks like a search engine, so if you have a cell that’s ill that you need to cure or bacteria that you want to kill, if you have this embedded in your device at the same time, and you do the chemistry, you may be able to make drugs in a new way.

how are we doing this in the lab? 

it requires software, it requires hardware and it requires chemical inks. And so the really cool bit is, the idea is that we want to have a universal set of inks that we put out with the printer, and you download the blueprint, the organic chemistry for that molecule and you make it in the device. And so you can make your molecule in the printer using this software.

 So what could this mean? Well, ultimately, it could mean that you could print your own medicine. And this is what we’re doing in the lab at the moment.

But to take baby steps to get there, first of all we want to look at drug design and production, or drug discovery and manufacturing. Because if we can manufacture it after we’ve discovered it, we could deploy it anywhere.

You don’t need to go to the chemist anymore. We can print drugs at point of need. We can download new diagnostics. Say a new super bug has emerged. You put it in your search engine, and you create the drug to treat the threat. So this allows you on-the-fly molecular assembly.

But perhaps for me the core bit going into the future is this idea of taking your own stem cells, with your genes and your environment, and you print your own personal medicine.

2:41 And if that doesn’t seem fanciful enough, where do you think we’re going to go?

you’re going to have your own personal matter fabricator. Beam me up, Scotty. 

This 3D printer will print molecules instead of objects.| Lee Cronin. Chemist
A professor of chemistry, nano-science and chemical complexity, Lee Cronin and his research group investigate how chemistry can revolutionize modern technology and even create life. Full bio

Grow new brain cells at any age?

Can we, as adults, grow new neurons?

Neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret says that we can, and she offers research and practical advice on how we can help our brains better perform neurogenesis—improving mood, increasing memory formation and preventing the decline associated with aging along the way.

Sandrine Thuret. Neural stem cell researcher
She studies the way adult brains create new nerve cells in the hippocampus — a brain area involved in memory and mood. Full bio
Can we, as adults, grow new nerve cells? There’s still some confusion about that question, as this is a fairly new field of research.
For example, I was talking to one of my colleagues, Robert, who is an oncologist, and he was telling me, “Sandrine, this is puzzling. Some of my patients that have been told they are cured of their cancer still develop symptoms of depression.”
And I responded to him, “Well, from my point of view that makes sense. The drug you give to your patients that stops the cancer cells multiplying also stops the newborn neurons being generated in their brain.”

And then Robert looked at me like I was crazy and said, “But Sandrine, these are adult patients — adults do not grow new nerve cells.” And much to his surprise, I said, “Well actually, we do.” And this is a phenomenon that we call neurogenesis.

TED|By Sandrine Thuret. June 2015

1:14 Now Robert is not a neuroscientist, and when he went to medical school he was not taught what we know now — that the adult brain can generate new nerve cells. So Robert, you know, being the good doctor that he is, wanted to come to my lab to understand the topic a little bit better.

And I took him for a tour of one of the most exciting parts of the brain when it comes to neurogenesis — and this is the hippocampus. So this is this gray structure in the center of the brain. And what we’ve known already for very long, is that this is important for learning, memory, mood and emotion.

However, what we have learned more recently is that this is one of the unique structures of the adult brain where new neurons can be generated. And if we slice through the hippocampus and zoom in, what you actually see here in blue is a newborn neuron in an adult mouse brain.

So when it comes to the human brain — my colleague Jonas Frisén from the Karolinska Institutet, has estimated that we produce 700 new neurons per day in the hippocampus. You might think this is not much, compared to the billions of neurons we have. But by the time we turn 50, we will have all exchanged the neurons we were born with in that structure with adult-born neurons.

So why are these new neurons important and what are their functions?

First, we know that they’re important for learning and memory. And in the lab we have shown that if we block the ability of the adult brain to produce new neurons in the hippocampus, then we block certain memory abilities. And this is especially new and true for spatial recognition — so like, how you navigate your way in the city.

We are still learning a lot, and neurons are not only important for memory capacity, but also for the quality of the memory. And they will have been helpful to add time to our memory and they will help differentiate very similar memories, like: how do you find your bike that you park at the station every day in the same area, but in a slightly different position?

And more interesting to my colleague Robert is the research we have been doing on neurogenesis and depression. So in an animal model of depression, we have seen that we have a lower level of neurogenesis.

 if we give antidepressants, then we increase the production of these newborn neurons, and we decrease the symptoms of depression, establishing a clear link between neurogenesis and depression. But moreover, if you just block neurogenesis, then you block the efficacy of the antidepressant.

So by then, Robert had understood that very likely his patients were suffering from depression even after being cured of their cancer, because the cancer drug had stopped newborn neurons from being generated. And it will take time to generate new neurons that reach normal functions.

 collectively, now we think we have enough evidence to say that neurogenesis is a target of choice if we want to improve memory formation or mood, or even prevent the decline associated with aging, or associated with stress.

 the next question is: can we control neurogenesis? The answer is yes. And we are now going to do a little quiz. I’m going to give you a set of behaviors and activities, and you tell me if you think they will increase neurogenesis or if they will decrease neurogenesis. Are we ready? OK, let’s go.

 So what about learning? Increasing? Yes. Learning will increase the production of these new neurons.

 How about stress? Yes, stress will decrease the production of new neurons in the hippocampus.

How about sleep deprivation? Indeed, it will decrease neurogenesis.

How about sex? Oh, wow!

 Yes, you are right, it will increase the production of new neurons. However, it’s all about balance here. We don’t want to fall in a situation —  about too much sex leading to sleep deprivation.

How about getting older? So the neurogenesis rate will decrease as we get older, but it is still occurring.

And then finally, how about running? I will let you judge that one by yourself.

 So this is one of the first studies that was carried out by one of my mentors, Rusty Gage from the Salk Institute, showing that the environment can have an impact on the production of new neurons.

And here you see a section of the hippocampus of a mouse that had no running wheel in its cage. And the little black dots you see are actually newborn neurons-to-be. And now, you see a section of the hippocampus of a mouse that had a running wheel in its cage. So you see the massive increase of the black dots representing the new neurons-to-be.

 So activity impacts neurogenesis, but that’s not all. What you eat will have an effect on the production of new neurons in the hippocampus.

here we have a sample of diet — of nutrients that have been shown to have efficacy. And I’m just going to point a few out to you: Calorie restriction of 20 to 30 percent will increase neurogenesis. Intermittent fasting — spacing the time between your meals — will increase neurogenesis. Intake of flavonoids, which are contained in dark chocolate or blueberries, will increase neurogenesis. Omega-3 fatty acids, present in fatty fish, like salmon, will increase the production of these new neurons.

Conversely, a diet rich in high saturated fat will have a negative impact on neurogenesis. Ethanol — intake of alcohol — will decrease neurogenesis. However, not everything is lost; resveratrol, which is contained in red wine, has been shown to promote the survival of these new neurons. So next time you are at a dinner party, you might want to reach for this possibly “neurogenesis-neutral” drink.

And then finally, let me point out the last one — a quirky one. So Japanese groups are fascinated with food textures, and they have shown that actually soft diet impairs neurogenesis, as opposed to food that requires mastication — chewing — or crunchy food.

all of this data, where we need to look at the cellular level, has been generated using animal models. But this diet has also been given to human participants, and what we could see is that the diet modulates memory and mood in the same direction as it modulates neurogenesis, such as: calorie restriction will improve memory capacity, whereas a high-fat diet will exacerbate symptoms of depression — as opposed to omega-3 fatty acids, which increase neurogenesis, and also help to decrease the symptoms of depression.

So we think that the effect of diet on mental health, on memory and mood, is actually mediated by the production of the new neurons in the hippocampus. And it’s not only what you eat, but it’s also the texture of the food, when you eat it and how much of it you eat.

 On our side — neuroscientists interested in neurogenesis — we need to understand better the function of these new neurons, and how we can control their survival and their production. We also need to find a way to protect the neurogenesis of Robert’s patients. And on your side — I leave you in charge of your neurogenesis.

10:13 Margaret Heffernan: Fantastic research, Sandrine. Now, I told you you changed my life — I now eat a lot of blueberries.

Sandrine Thuret: Very good.

 MH: I’m really interested in the running thing. Do I have to run? Or is it really just about aerobic exercise, getting oxygen to the brain? Could it be any kind of vigorous exercise?

ST: So for the moment, we can’t really say if it’s just the running itself, but we think that anything that indeed will increase the production — or moving the blood flow to the brain, should be beneficial.

MH: So I don’t have to get a running wheel in my office?

10:53 ST: No, you don’t!




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