(CNN)This cutie with a contagious smile is 18-month-old Lucas Warren and on Wednesday he made history: He’s the first child with Down syndrome to become Gerber’s “Spokesbaby of the year” in its 91-year history.
(CNN)This cutie with a contagious smile is 18-month-old Lucas Warren and on Wednesday he made history: He’s the first child with Down syndrome to become Gerber’s “Spokesbaby of the year” in its 91-year history.
Nutrigene believes your genes may hold the secret to what you might be missing in your diet. The company will send you tailor-made liquid vitamin supplements based on a lifestyle quiz and your DNA.
You fill out an assessment on the startup’s website, choose a recommended package, such as essentials, improve performance or optimize gut health, and Nutrigene will send you liquid supplements built just for you. It is also going to start allowing customers to upload their 23andMe data to find get an assessment of their nutritional needs based on DNA.
Founder Min FitzGerald launched the startup out of Singularity and later accepted a Google fellowship for the idea. Nutrigene is now going through the current YC class. Her co-founder and CTO Van Duesterberg comes from a biotech and epigenetics background and holds a PhD from Stanford.
The idea sounds a bit far-fetched at first — simply take a quiz, import your DNA and you magically have all your nutritional needs taken care of. However, Dawn Barry, former VP at Illumina and now president of Luna DNA, a biotech company powered by the blockchain, says it could have some scientific underpinnings. But, she cautioned, nutrigenetics is still an early science.
Amir Trabelsi, founder of genetic analysis platform Genoox, agrees. And, he pointed out, these types of companies don’t need to provide any proof.
“That doesn’t mean it’s completely wrong,” Trabelsi told TechCrunch. “But we don’t know enough to say this person should use Vitamin A, for example… There needs to be more trials and observation.”
Still, the vitamin industry is big business, pulling in more than $36 billion dollars in just the U.S. last year. With or without the genetic component, Nutrigene promises to deliver high-quality ingredients, optimized in liquid form.
Fitzgerald says the liquid component helps the supplements work 10 times better in your body than powder-based pills and, she points out, some people can’t swallow pills.
Hesitant, I agreed to try it out for myself. The process was fairly easy and the lifestyle quiz only took about 10 minutes. Then, I sent in my raw data from my 23andMe account.
Though genetics are a factor in Nutrigene’s ultimate formulation, FitzGerald told me the DNA part is pretty new and that my biometric details and goals were more indicative of how the company tailored my dosages.
However, I did apparently need more B12, according to FitzGerald. “Hence we gave you a good dose of B12 in your elixir,” she told me.
Does the stuff work? Tough to say. I didn’t feel any different on Nutrigene’s liquid vitamins than I do normally. Though, full disclosure, I’ve been taking what I believe to be some pretty good prenatal vitamins from New Chapter and a DHA supplement from Nordic Naturals for almost a year now while I’ve been building a baby in my womb. My doctor tested my nutritional levels at the beginning of my pregnancy through a blood sample, seemed pleased with my choice to take prenatals and didn’t tell me to do anything different.
Would Nutrigene’s formula be ideal for someone else? Possibly, especially if that person holds a high standard for ingredients in their supplements or has a hard time swallowing pills. However, it seems the jury is still out on the science behind vitamins tailored to your genetics and, like Trabelsi mentioned earlier, we likely need a lot more study on the matter.
For those interested in trying out Nutrigene, you can do so by ordering on the website. Package pricing varies and depends on nutritional needs, but starts at around $85 per month.
Plan to be tested in five cities in effort to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines
This trend encourages people to pick up litter while out running. So, it’s not just good for your health, it’s also good for the environment.
It’s called ‘plogging’—a portmanteau of jogging and the Swedish plocka upp, meaning ‘pick up.’
So hot is this new trend that fitness app Lifesum is allowing its users to log and track their plogging activity as a workout.
Plogging combines going for a run with intermittent squatting or lunging (to collect rubbish), which actually sounds like a pretty satisfying workout. According to Lifesum, a typical user will burn 288 calories in 30 minutes of plogging, which is more or less the same as what’s burned off while jogging.
As with all fitness trends, there are plenty of #plogging pics on Instagram, offering a glimpse of what this trend looks like IRL. Ploggers take plastic bags along with them so they can store the collected litter they find along their route.
I’m showing mom the beauty of #plogga 🌲♻️…so much easier and funnier with a “claw” from @biltemasverige 🦀🔝In only 4k, we filled two bags with cigarette butts (hundreds!), plastics, cans, styrofoam…all things that don’t belong in our nature!🚯 Mom’s retiring now and has made a promise to keep this trail clean…hero! 💚 Please, let’s clean up this mess together 🐜🌍🦋❤️🌳 @hallsverigerent #plogging #ettskräpomdagen #ileavenothingbutfootprints #hållsverigerent #mora
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Swedish fitness app Lifesum claims it’s the first health app to allows its 25 million users to log their plogging activity. Those using the health app can log plogging as a fitness activity, in the same way that they would log running or walking, and the app will estimate how many calories have been burned.
Mike Rosen, senior vice president at Keep America Beautiful, thinks plogging is a great way to encourage people to make a difference in their local environment.
“Plogging is brilliant because it is simple and fun, while empowering everyone to help create cleaner, greener and more beautiful communities,” Rosen said in a statement. “All you need is running gear and a bag for trash or recyclables, and you are not only improving your own health, but your local community too.”
If you’re having trouble staying active (uh, who isn’t??), here’s something that might actually motivate you to get your butt off the couch: This new app helps users track how far they’ve fallen every time they tumble down a flight of stairs.
Finally, a way to figure out how many steps you really fell down on your way to work this morning, without any of the guesswork!
Here’s how it works: The app is called StairTracker, and after you download it and make a StairTracker profile specifying your height and weight, it will automatically log how many vertical feet you drop and how many stair steps you bypass every time you careen headfirst down a flight of stairs. According to StairTracker developers, the app uses the accelerometer on your phone to track your flailing body’s journey as it skids down a staircase—but users who are committed to making tracking their tumbles a part of their lifestyle can also buy a StairTracker watch that syncs with the smartphone app automatically.
Plus, StairTracker lets you set goals for distance fallen, and alerts you with a notification when you’ve hit your “plummet goal” for the day. The app’s developers also made sure to include a social element, so you can add friends to your profile and react to the falls they post with a “nice spill” sticker.
So the next time you find yourself sitting there at the bottom of a staircase, wondering how far you’ve fallen, why not give StairTracker a try? It could be just what you need for the new year.
(CNN)California’s insurance commissioner has launched an investigation into Aetna after learning a former medical director for the insurer admitted under oath he never looked at patients’ records when deciding whether to approve or deny care.
It’s no secret that office jobs can take a serious toll on your mental health, and can induce a variety of disorders including anxiety and depression. Thankfully, though, the American Medical Association has released a new set of guidelines to help you cope: It’s recommending office workers prevent workplace stress by taking a life-changing journey to the Taj Mahal every 30 minutes.
Wow. This one little trick could add years to your life!
If you’re having trouble with work-related anxiety, the AMA says just one horizon-expanding trip to the Taj Mahal every half hour can reduce your stress levels by as much as 15 percent. Sure, your workday might be packed, but a new study conducted by the AMA says that you’ll not only feel happier, but you’ll also boost productivity if you can make the flight to the UNESCO World Heritage Site a regular part of your daily work routine.
“Taking short, frequent breaks from work to contemplatively tour the grounds of India’s most iconic piece of Mughal architecture has been shown to boost circulation and elevate mood,” said the CEO of the American Medical Association, Dr. James Madara. “Humans didn’t evolve to sit staring at a screen for hours on end, and taking a few minutes now and then to marvel at the dazzling marble sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan can help protect you from getting burnt out by a heavy workload.”
Talk about a win-win scenario!
Of course, there will be days when gazing up at the Taj Mahal’s towering minarets and making memories that will last a lifetime just won’t be doable every 30 minutes, but in a pinch, even just a quick trip to the Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall of China can give you enough of a blast of our world’s cultural richness to come back to your desk feeling refreshed and alert. Just don’t forget to turn off that phone, says Dr. Madara, because you can’t fully appreciate the thought-provoking wonder of these architectural masterpieces if your brain is still back at the office.
Yep. Set an iCal reminder for every 30 minutes, because you’re going to want to get in on this STAT.
Bottom line, finding time to go to the Taj Mahal during the workday could drastically improve your mental health, so why not try it out and see if it works for you? Big thanks to the American Medical Association for doing its part to make our workplaces stress-free!
(CNN)Set your alarms, space fans — if you can drag yourself out of bed on Wednesday, you’re in for a treat.
I was listening to The Read recently — it’s my favorite podcast — and I was struck by co-host Kid Fury’s observations about reaching the end of the year and feeling tired.
I posted how I felt on Instagram: “Can’t add one more plan tired. Hard to get excited about exciting things tired. Can’t project, assume, or read minds tired. I’m letting myself be tired, be imperfect, be how I am. It is time to hibernate and make meaning of this year, understand the lessons.”
Five hundred people gave it a heart within a few hours. People reached out to me to say they are also tired — exhausted, really. Falling out in meetings, losing things, fighting with loved ones, letting hopelessness have our tongues.
on @thisistheread, the episode before last, @kidfury spoke about reaching the end of the year and feeling tired. can’t add one more plan tired. hard to get excited about exciting things tired. can’t project, assume or read minds tired. so, I’m letting myself be tired, be imperfect, be how I am. moving always towards black love and liberation, towards family, towards outgrowing my most common mistakes, towards falling with as much ease as possible, towards standing back up and doing my best. focusing on the love and laughter, on tarot and @chaninicholas and @naimonujames and praying and meditating and casting spells and listening, listening everywhere for spiritual feedback. all of my questions are big. I’m swallowing my dreams come morning, I want to learn. it is time to hibernate and make meaning of this year, understand the lessons. (image via @lateefahforbart)
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I am a social justice facilitator, practicing and teaching a methodology called Emergent Strategy. The goal is to learn how we do justice work that is adaptive, focuses on the small things that make up all large systems, and prioritizes critical connections over critical mass. I am also a visionary fiction writer (part of the Octavia’s Brood team) and a pleasure activist, which means I believe pleasure is an important measure of freedom, and that we need to make justice the most pleasurable experience we can have.
And, even as someone focused on ease, nature, future, and pleasure, 2017 was a daunting year.
And, even as someone focused on ease, nature, future, and pleasure, 2017 was a daunting year. But I am still going. Movements for social and environmental justice are still moving forward.
Which gets me curious about how we are surviving, how we are generating energy to move forward in 2018 when everything is heavy and everything hurts.
What do we do?
The first thing is to give ourselves lots of room and respect for whatever we have done. It got us this far. So, shout outs to alcohol, sugar, sex, and weed, which have been doing the work of comforting and numbing millions. After the 2016 election, drinking definitely became one of my coping mechanisms for that “They all want my death” feeling that has become daily life.
I know the newness of feeling this every day is as much an indication of my privilege as it is of political change; things aren’t getting worse, they are getting unveiled. Whatever I didn’t see before this moment is a sign that I was somehow benefiting from not seeing it. It feels worse nonetheless.
But we need to be careful about numbing. The long-term impacts of numbing move us away from the very aliveness we are fighting for, that erotic level of presence, alertness, and feeling our miraculous existence in real time. Audre Lorde taught us that, “In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.”
I wanted to offer some strategies beyond numbing that have helped me protect my aliveness. I invite you to practice these throughout 2018.
1. Reconnect with our movement ancestors. We are not the first to be in impossible conditions. And what we know is that we have survived, that our ancestors found ways to survive, to be in dignity and resistance. Focus on ancestors of your own lineage, knowing that every lineage on earth has individuals and groups who have left lessons behind. For me this year has been lit by the north star of Harriet Tubman. You might call on freedom fighters like Berta Cáceres or Bobby Sands — there are so many who inspire. Ancestors can and should humble us.
2. Tune in to the three Gs every day: gratitude, good news, and genius. If you look, all three are within reach.
a) Start and/or end the day with gratitude. It’s a gorgeous world; pay attention to the beauty, the connection, the generosity and growth.
b) Read between the lines and find the good news. It’s always there, but it might be very small. For me, it’s often in the news of what movements for social and environmental justice are doing to resist. Boost it, grow it with your attention.
c) Our continued survival is actually a long, iterative practice of collective genius. Pay attention to the people and organizations who are doing more than reacting to the daily news or pulling each other down. Tune into the work of the Movement for Black Lives, the Women’s March, #MeToo, Cooperation Jackson, Movement Generation, #ourpowerpr, Mi Gente. These initiatives are attempting audacious, visionary, and difficult work that relies on the genius that arises from people working together across difference to address the challenges and opportunities of their real lives.
3. That thing about putting on your oxygen mask before helping others? It’s real. It’s not like other masks that hide your true face from others, which is an important distinction here. You don’t need to put anything over your truth right now to cover the emotional rollercoaster of being a human who is paying attention. But you do need to take care of yourself at a material level. Soothe without numbing, rest without guilt, hydrate to replenish your foundation, and use your body while there is still miracle in it. Hibernate: turn inward, get still, write down what you have learned from surviving the last year as well as what has been liberated within you, and what you are ready to grow.
4. And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t remind y’all that an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away. Remember that your body is literally wired to feel good, thread with nerves that communicate pleasure and let you know what to move toward. And you can choose between the orgasm and the orgasmic — do a massage exchange with friends, eat delicious home-cooked meals, watch comedy shows. There are so many ways to turn up your aliveness.
None of these practices are small or trite. We are in the worst of times right now. If you need to be convinced to care for your body, mind, and spirit so that you can care for your community and this planet, let’s just review the past 12 months.
four of knives. this card is about “giving yourself permission to rest. let your internal processes knit you back together.” but reversed, it includes “feeling distracted or preoccupied. delaying or putting off a course of action. the seed of an idea. beginning to imagine something new.” from @slowholler deck – #resistancetarot #movementtarot
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There was a period of denial and grief for many of us. Perhaps you also spent some time under a blanket, wondering why our species is so self-sabotaging and embarrassing? Maybe you too called friends to discuss where you could run to, and realized, again, that there was no place far enough, no place beyond the reach of the United States?
Those of us with an intersectional analysis of our current situation know that every uphill battle we’ve been fighting is at least twice as steep. We are looking ahead at battles around the tax plan, net neutrality, protecting the planet as a livable planet for our species, resisting a police force encouraged to unleash increased violence on our devastated vulnerable communities. All while watching 45 play nuclear roulette with North Korea on Twitter.
For those of us working to create social change, 2017 was a wild year. We take our whiplashed necks and try to keep up the pace as we run from protest to petition to planning meeting. We have held some lines, we have shown up and said no to racist bans and efforts to strip us of hard-won rights, and we have reached for each other. We’ve been surprised and excited as scientists marched and national parks workers used Twitter to resist fascist policy making.
a. if i can’t see what you are creating, i’m not interested in watching you destroy.
b. creating is the hardest work.
creating when you could destroy is a sign of maturity at any age.
— adriennemaree (@adriennemaree) December 3, 2017
And, in our exhaustion, we have sometimes turned on each other. Interpersonal beef drains organizational resources. Tactical differences become landmines. Places where we could learn together instead become battlegrounds that play out on social media. We long for something different but are stretched too thin to practice new approaches. We want each other to be perfect and to be transparent about our flaws. We are punitive and transformative in the same breath.
We are in a fight for our survival and there’s no turning away from it, no turning back. 2017 was a reckoning, an unveiling. An embarrassment, yes, but it’s honest. And now we are at a very real risk of becoming too exhausted to continue our fight, our journey.
Ella Baker taught us that “we who believe in freedom cannot rest.”
Ella Baker taught us that “we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” I wrestle with these words all the time, because I believe in freedom, and I believe my body is a crucial part of the fight for freedom. So I interpret these words through my work. I do not rest in terms of how I work. I tirelessly show up for movements I believe in, to hold planned or unexpected hard conversations and mediations, to invite transformation in the face of frustration. I tirelessly seek out old and new ways of moving through our current paradigm and into a viable future.
But when it comes to my body, I rest. I rest in myriad ways that allow me to show up fully for each facilitation. I ensure that I have quiet time each evening, a bath when there’s a tub, at least seven hours of sleep each night. I want to give us more permission to rest our bodies so that we don’t burn out our spirits and minds in our lifelong commitment to liberation.
It is in that spirit that I invite you to honor your ancestors and remember that they believed in you before your first breath. They believed you could generate gratitude, uplift good news, contribute to genius. Put on your oxygen mask and open to the pleasurable experiences of life. This is our moment to shape.
Before Pierre Curie met the chemist Marie Sklodowska; before they married and she took his name; before he abandoned his physics work and moved into her laboratory on Rue Lhomond where they would discover the radioactive elements polonium and radium, Curie discovered something called piezoelectricity. Some materials, he found—like quartz and certain kinds of salts and ceramics—build up an electric charge when you squeeze them. Sure, it’s no nuclear power. But thanks to piezoelectricity, US troops could locate enemy submarines during World War I. Thousands of expectant parents could see their baby’s face for the first time. And one day soon, it may be how doctors cure disease.
Ultrasound, as you may have figured out by now, runs on piezoelectricity. Applying voltage to a piezoelectric crystal makes it vibrate, sending out a sound wave. When the echo that bounces back is converted into electrical signals, you get an image of, say, a fetus, or a submarine. But in the last few years, the lo-fi tech has reinvented itself in some weird new ways.
Researchers are fitting people’s heads with ultrasound-emitting helmets to treat tremors and Alzheimer’s. They’re using it to remotely activate cancer-fighting immune cells. Startups are designing swallowable capsules and ultrasonically vibrating enemas to shoot drugs into the bloodstream. One company is even using the shockwaves to heal wounds—stuff Curie never could have even imagined.
So how did this 100-year-old technology learn some new tricks? With the help of modern-day medical imaging, and lots and lots of bubbles.
Bubbles are what brought Tao Sun from Nanjing, China to California as an exchange student in 2011, and eventually to the Focused Ultrasound Lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The 27-year-old electrical engineering grad student studies a particular kind of bubble—the gas-filled microbubbles that technicians use to bump up contrast in grainy ultrasound images. Passing ultrasonic waves compress the bubbles’ gas cores, resulting in a stronger echo that pops out against tissue. “We’re starting to realize they can be much more versatile,” says Sun. “We can chemically design their shells to alter their physical properties, load them with tissue-seeking markers, even attach drugs to them.”
Nearly two decades ago, scientists discovered that those microbubbles could do something else: They could shake loose the blood-brain barrier. This impassable membrane is why neurological conditions like epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s are so hard to treat: 98 percent of drugs simply can’t get to the brain. But if you station a battalion of microbubbles at the barrier and hit them with a focused beam of ultrasound, the tiny orbs begin to oscillate. They grow and grow until they reach the critical size of 8 microns, and then, like some Grey Wizard magic, the blood-brain barrier opens—and for a few hours, any drugs that happen to be in the bloodstream can also slip in. Things like chemo drugs, or anti-seizure medications.
This is both super cool and not a little bit scary. Too much pressure and those bubbles can implode violently, irreversibly damaging the barrier.
That’s where Sun comes in. Last year he developed a device that could listen in on the bubbles and tell how stable they were. If he eavesdropped while playing with the ultrasound input, he could find a sweet spot where the barrier opens and the bubbles don’t burst. In November, Sun’s team successfully tested the approach in rats and mice, publishing their results in Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences.
“In the longer term we want to make this into something that doesn’t require a super complicated device, something idiot-proof that can be used in any doctor’s office,” says Nathan McDannold, co-author on Sun’s paper and director of the Focused Ultrasound Lab. He discovered ultrasonic blood-brain barrier disruption, along with biomedical physicist Kullervo Hynynen, who is leading the world’s first clinical trial evaluating its usefulness for Alzheimer’s patients at the Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto. Current technology requires patients to don special ultrasound helmets and hop in an MRI machine, to ensure the sonic beams go to the right place. For the treatment to gain any widespread traction, it’ll have to become as portable as the ultrasound carts wheeled around hospitals today.
More recently, scientists have realized that the blood-brain barrier isn’t the only tissue that could benefit from ultrasound and microbubbles. The colon, for instance, is pretty terrible at absorbing the most common drugs for treating Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and other inflammatory bowel diseases. So they’re often delivered via enemas—which, inconveniently, need to be left in for hours.
But if you send ultrasound waves waves through the colon, you could shorten that process to minutes. In 2015, pioneering MIT engineer Robert Langer and then-PhD student Carl Schoellhammer showed that mice treated with mesalamine and one second of ultrasound every day for two weeks were cured of their colitis symptoms. The method also worked to deliver insulin, a far larger molecule, into pigs.
Since then, the duo has continued to develop the technology within a start-up called Suono Bio, which is supported by MIT’s tech accelerator, The Engine. The company intends to submit its tech for FDA approval in humans sometime later this year.
Instead of injecting manufactured microbubbles, Suono Bio uses ultrasound to make them in the wilds of the gut. They act like jets, propelling whatever is in the liquid into nearby tissues. In addition to its backdoor approach, Suono is also working on an ultrasound-emitting capsule that could work in the stomach for things like insulin, which is too fragile to be orally administered (hence all the needle sticks). But Schoellhammer says they have yet to find a limit on the kinds of molecules they can force into the bloodstream using ultrasound.
“We’ve done small molecules, we’ve done biologics, we’ve tried DNA, naked RNA, we’ve even tried Crispr,” he says. “As superficial as it may sound, it all just works.”
Earlier this year, Schoellhammer and his colleagues used ultrasound to deliver a scrap of RNA that was designed to silence production of a protein called tumor necrosis factor in mice with colitis. (And yes, this involved designing 20mm-long ultrasound wands to fit in their rectums). Seven days later, levels of the inflammatory protein had decreased sevenfold and symptoms had dissipated.
Now, without human data, it’s a little premature to say that ultrasound is a cure-all for the delivery problems facing gene therapies using Crispr and RNA silencing. But these early animal studies do offer some insights into how the tech might be used to treat genetic conditions in specific tissues.
Even more intriguing though, is the possibility of using ultrasound to remotely control genetically-engineered cells. That’s what new research led by Peter Yingxiao Wang, a bioengineer at UC San Diego, promises to do. The latest craze in oncology is designing the T-cells of your immune system to better target and kill cancer cells. But so far no one has found a way to go after solid tumors without having the T-cells also attack healthy tissue. Being able to turn on T-cells near a tumor but nowhere else would solve that.
Wang’s team took a big step in that direction last week, publishing a paper that showed how you could convert an ultrasonic signal into a genetic one. The secret? More microbubbles.
This time, they coupled the bubbles to proteins on the surface of a specially designed T-cell. Every time an ultrasonic wave passed by, the bubble would expand and shrink, opening and closing the protein, letting calcium ions flow into the cell. The calcium would eventually trigger the T-cell to make a set of genetically encoded receptors, directing it it to attack the tumor.
“Now we’re working on figuring out the detection piece,” says Wang. “Adding another receptor so that we’ll known when they’ve accumulated at the tumor site, then we’ll use ultrasound to turn them on.”
In his death, Pierre Curie was quickly eclipsed by Marie; she went on to win another Nobel, this time in chemistry. The discovery for which she had become so famous—radiation—would eventually take her life, though it would save the lives of so many cancer patients in the decades to follow. As ultrasound’s second act unfolds, perhaps her husband’s first great discovery will do the same.
Artificial intelligence is now detecting cancer and robots are doing nursing tasks. But are there risks to handing over elements of our health to machines, no matter how sophisticated?