SCIENCE

A Foundation For Other Kids With Cancer by 12 year old Cancer Patient

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You would be hard pressed to find anyone who would criticize young Jose Montaño for thinking about himself these days. After all, having been diagnosed with one of the most deadly forms of cancer two years ago, the California native might feel entitled to focus all his youthful energy into simply trying to survive.

But instead, the 12-year-old has directed his efforts towards helping other kids like himself, and now he’s getting the praise he deserves for it.

That little bit of consideration is the idea behind what has become a big project for Montaño, which he founded along with his father. The Jose Montaño foundation hands out gift bags to patients who, like the young philanthropist, have to spend (too) many of their days in the hospital.

Montaño himself is a carrier of a disease known as Medulloblastoma, an illness that has resulted from the most malignant brain tumor a child can have. He has gone through intense chemotherapy ever since being diagnosed and spends five days a week in the hospital, but that doesn’t stop him from delivering charitable goods by hand around Rady Children’s Hospital.

VISIT ALSO: Creative Roots Found in the Human Brain

This past weekend, Montaño’s efforts went beyond hospital walls and into the sun as he organized a 5K fundraiser run to raise money for families that his foundation wants to help. 300 people came out and registered in show of support for the event, which was held at San Diego’s Liberty Station.

The charity event is just another line in a long list of accomplishments that have made the 12-year-old’s father his biggest fan.

Moving forward, Montaño says he wants to make the 5K an annual event. No matter what he does from this point on, however, he is likely to keep in mind the six simple words he spoke on camera.

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Hidden Features of iOS7

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If you’ve upgraded to iOS 7 on your iPhone or iPad, you’re probably familiar with a whole collection of new features. But some of the best additions in the software update are hiding beneath the surface and take a little time to uncover.

We’ve been digging deep into Apple’s new mobile operating system, discovering some surprises along the way. From night mode in Apple Maps to a faster way to close apps, here’s a few useful features that you can find — as long as you know where to look:

Clock Icon,

Go ahead and look at your clock app icon. Take a closer look. It’s an actual clock with a working second hand. A nice little touch from Apple.

Text Timestamps,

If you slide text messages to the left, you can see the timestamp for all of them — not just the most recent.

The Level,

By opening up the Compass app and swiping your finger across it, a new digital “level” feature is revealed. You’ll never have a crooked painting on the wall again.

Night Mode for Maps,

If you’re driving late at night, the glow of your iPhone screen can be nearly blinding as you try to use the Apple Maps app. Now, the platform displays a darker interface at certain times. This is less distracting and easier on the eyes when navigating at night.

Closing Multiple Apps,

You can close multiple apps at once! Here’s how: double click the home button to reveal open webpages and platforms.You can then swipe up to three apps at once by using three fingers and dragging them upwards.

Siri Controls Settings,

You can use Siri to set alarms and reminders on previous iOS versions, but now you can lean on her to navigate settings too. For example, by saying “Open Settings,” Siri will open the Settings folder. By asking Siri to “Turn Off Wi-Fi,” she’ll gladly oblige without you having to lift a finger. You can also tell her to make calls and play voicemail messages too.

Block Calls,

If you’re getting harassing calls, you can now put a stop to it. Visit Settings > Phone > Blocked to add numbers you want to restrict.

Apps Near Me,

The Apple App Store has a new “Near Me” feature, which shows apps that are popular near your current location. So if you live in New York City, it will highlight handy apps such as NYC Subway KICKMap and Way2ride taxi, which lets you pay for cab rides via the app.

Find any other not-so-obvious features? Let us know in the comments below.

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Creative Roots Found in the Human Brain

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The ability of humans to create art, think rationally or invent new tools has long interested scientists, and a new study reveals how the brain achieves these imaginative feats.

Human imagination stems from a widespread network of brain areas that collectively manipulate ideas, images and symbols, the study finds. This “mental workspace” had been theorized before, but this study provides new empirical evidence, the researchers say.

Creativity in art, science, music and other fields requires the ability to combine different mental representations to form new ones. [Creative Genius: The World’s Greatest Minds]

For example, if a person is asked to imagine a banana spinning around quickly and getting bigger or smaller, he can do so effortlessly, said study researcher Alex Schlegel, a cognitive neuroscientist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H.

“When you start to look at more complex cognitive process[es] like imagination or creative thinking, it’s not just isolated [brain] areas that are responsible, but communication of the entire brain that’s required,” Schlegel told LiveScience.

In the study, the researchers focused on visual forms of imagination.

Schlegel and his colleagues asked participants to imagine certain shapes and sometimes manipulate them by either combining them with other shapes or mentally breaking the shapes apart. They put people in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner to measure their brain activity during the task.

The scans showed that a broad network of brain areas were involved in the imagination task, and they appeared to be working in concert. In particular, manipulating the images involved a network of four core brain areas — the occipital cortex, the posterior parietal cortex (PPC), the posterior precuneus and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) — which are involved in visual processing, attention and executive functions.

In addition, several other brain regions were active during the task, suggesting the brain’s mental workspace involves a more extended network.

Previous studies suggested the brain’s visual processing areas are also involved in creating imagery. But the new study looked at not only how the brain forms images, but also how it modifies them.

The imagination experiment was somewhat unrealistic compared with creative tasks in everyday life. “It would be great if we could stick someone in an MRI machine and say ‘create some art,'” Schlegel said. But for a scientific study, the task must be more uniform, he added.

Understanding imagination reveals what makes humans unique among animals, Schlegel said.

The findings could ultimately help improve artificial intelligence. Computers are good at a lot of things, but are less adept at seeing patterns or thinking creatively. “The more we understand how the human brain does this, the better we can design machines,” Schlegel said.

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The study was detailed this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

How Long Can Earth Support Life ?

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Earth could continue to host life for at least another 1.75 billion years, as long as a nuclear holocaust, an errant asteroid or some other disaster doesn’t intervene, a new study calculates.

But even without such dramatic doomsday scenarios, astronomical forces will eventually render the planet uninhabitable. Somewhere between 1.75 billion and 3.25 billion years from now, Earth will travel out of the solar system‘s habitable zone and into the “hot zone,” new research indicates.

These zones are defined by water. In the habitable zone, a planet (whether in this solar system or an alien one) is just the right distance from its star to have liquid water. Closer to the sun, in the “hot zone,” the Earth’s oceans would evaporate. Of course, conditions for complex life — including humans — would become untenable before the planet entered the hot zone.

But the researchers’ main concern was the search for life on other planets, not predicting a timeline for the end of life on this one.

The evolution of complex life on Earth suggests the process requires a lot of time.

Simple cells first appeared on Earth nearly 4 billion years ago. “We had insects 400 million years ago, dinosaurs 300 million years ago and flowering plants 130 million years ago,” lead researcher Andrew Rushby, of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. “Anatomically modern humans have only been around for the last 200,000 years — so you can see it takes a really long time for intelligent life to develop.”

Rushby and his colleagues developed a new tool to help evaluate the amount of time available for the evolution of life on other planets: a model that predicts the time a planet would spend in its habitable zone. In the research, published Wednesday in the journal Astrobiology,they applied the model to Earth and eight other planets currently in the habitable zone, including Mars.

They calculated that Earth’s habitable-zone lifetime is as long as 7.79 billion years. (Earth is estimated to be about 4.5 billion years old.) Meanwhile, the other planets had habitable-zone lifetimes ranging from 1 billion years to 54.72 billion years.

“If we ever needed to move to another planet, Mars is probably our best bet,” Rushby said in the statement. “It’s very close and will remain in the habitable zone until the end of the sun’s lifetime — 6 billion years from now.”

While other models have been developed for Earth, they are not suitable for other planets, he added.

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Human Brain From Stem Cells by Scientists

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Ear, eyeliver, windpipe, bladder and even a heart. The list of body parts grown from stem cells is getting longer and longer. Now add to it one of the most complex organs: the brain.

A team of European scientists has grown parts of a human brain in tissue culture from stem cells. Their work could help scientists understand the origins of schizophrenia or autism and lead to drugs to treat them, said Juergen Knoblich, deputy scientific director at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and one of the paper’s co-authors.

The advance could also eliminate the need for conducting experiments on animals, whose brains are not a perfect model for humans.

To grow the brain structures, called organoids, the scientists used stem cells, which can develop into any other kind of cell in the body. They put the stem cells into a special solution designed to promote the growth of neural cells. Bits of gel interspersed throughout the solution gave the cells a three-dimensional structure to grow upon. In eight to 10 days, the stem cells turned into brain cells. After 20 days to a month, the cells matured into a size between three and four millimeters, representing specific brain regions such as the cortex and the hindbrain.

Growing brain tissue this way marks a major advancement because the lab-grown brain cells self-organized and took on growth patterns seen in a developing, fetal brain.

Currently, the organoids are limited on how big they can get because they do not have a circulatory system to move around nutrients.

Knoblich’s team didn’t stop at growing the brain organoids, though. They went a step further and used the developing tissue to study microcephaly, a condition in which the brain stops growing. Microcephalic patients are born with smaller brains and impaired cognitive development. Studying microcephaly in mice doesn’t help because human and mouse brains are too different.

For this part of the study, the researchers used stem cells from a microcephalic patient and grew neurons in a culture. They found that normal brains have progenitor stem cells that make neurons and can do so repeatedly. In microcephalic brains, the progenitor cells differentiate into neurons earlier, said Madeline A. Lancaster, the study’s lead author. The brain doesn’t make as many neurons and a child is born with a much smaller brain volume.

Yoshiki Sasai, a stem-cell biologist at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, garnered headlines last year by growing the precursors to a human eye.

“The most important advancement is that they combined this self-organization culture with disease-specific cells to model a genetic disease of human brain malformation,” he said.

“Everything we have done with other organs starts with this stage,” said Dr. Anthony Atala, the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, who has done years of research on using 3D printers to build organs. Atala was not involved in this study, but he noted that before he could build organs, he needed to grow the pieces in order to get the cells to differentiate in just the right way. So though it’s unlikely anyone will print brains the way he did a kidney, this kind of experiment is where organ regeneration starts.

Knoblich said the next step is studying other brain disorders, but it will take some time to grow enough brain tissue. One factor is maximum size and how far the brain can develop in the culture. Brain cells develop in layers, and there are several by the time a baby is born. The cortical cells Knoblich’s team grew only had one such layer. Another factor is getting blood vessels inside the tissue. That problem could be solved some time in the future, though he said he couldn’t predict when.

It is tempting to think one day there will be whole brains in vats, but that isn’t likely to happen.

“Aside from the severe ethical problem, I do not think this will be possible,” Knoblich said. To form actual functioning neural circuits, a brain needs sensory input. “Without any sensory input, the proper organization may not happen.”