Tissue Alert: How A Dying Pit Bull Got A Beautiful Home For The End Of His Life

Canela the pit bull was found as a stray, then wound up at a San Francisco-area shelter with a gigantic, raw-looking, inoperable tumor on his rear, earlier this year.

He was neutered and microchipped, and seemed well-socialized, but attempts to find the dog’s owners went nowhere.

Canela was going to be euthanized at the shelter, because he was so uncomfortable and not much else could be done.

Two doctors – Maria Steelman and Maria Rivero – had another idea.

They decided to give this dying dog a comfortable, love-filled home for however many days, or weeks, he had left.

And they’d like more dogs like Canela to get the same, through a foster hospice program called the Rainbow Bridge Fund.

“We have a feeling there will be many who will need to live out their remaining days with special, committed fosters who believe in end of life care,” says Steelman. “These animals knew love at one time, and something went very wrong. It is hard to face the death of a companion animal, but by far it is much harder to think of that animal alone and scared as it leaves this earth.”

Steelman, a pediatrician for her day job, is founder of PALS East Bay, the rescue group that the Rainbow Bridge Fund is a part of.

The Rainbow Bridge is where pets are said to go after they die, and where their bodies are again whole. But before they get there, for homeless pets, options can be limited.

This program pays for medical expenses – at least in theory; Steelman says the half-dozen families who have taken in Rainbow Bridge Fund dogs so far have insisted on covering vet bills themselves – with the aim of giving homeless animals a foster hospice home, during their last days.

“Once a diagnosis is made, and it is bad, a dog can still find peace and comfort in a home,” says Steelman. “Dogs don’t have a great sense of time, so a week of love in a home can make up for a lot of past sadness.”

Rivero, a semi-retired geriatric doctor, took Canela to her home through that group, in March.

Rivero didn’t know Canela’s background or how long he’d have, at the time. She’d seen the 8-year-old doggie’s photo on the PALS East Bay’s Facebook page, and says she just “wanted to do something that would be of service to shelter dogs.”

“He was obviously a loved companion in his prior life,” says Rivero. “He deserves to have the best possible quality of life and lots of love in this final transition and to die at home in the presence of his family.”

Rivero and her partner Derek Kerr, a retired hospice doctor, brought in a massage therapist for Canela. They gave him a couch, where he could watch the goings-on inside, and when it was nice out he preferred to sit in the sun on the deck. He liked to go for walks, and had three hairless tiny pooches to keep him company.

Canela got medical marijuana to stimulate his appetite. Turns out he has a special fondness, Rivero says, for “scrambled eggs and soft cookie dog treats.”

For more than a month – more time than they thought they might have together, at first – Canela was spoiled. He didn’t have much energy, due to his illness, but he gave lots of love in return. Canela showed himself to be charming and sweet, even while the cancer took over his body.

And, yes, Rivero says, it is hard to love an animal who doesn’t have long left. But worth it.

“The end of life is an important transition for all beings. Dogs are loyal companions to their human families. They deserve to have better quality of life in their final days then a shelter can provide,” she says.

“We are doing what we would want done for our dogs,” says Steelman. “These are old geezers, for the most part, and since we are all going where they are going it feels good to lend them a hand.”

A couple of days ago, the vet came to Rivero’s house for a final visit with Canela.

Canela’s last day at home, on May 2. Photo: Maria Rivero

“He was ready. He had flowers from the garden he loved all around him. We miss him so much. He was a truly remarkable being,” Rivero wrote in a moving Facebook post about Canela’s end.

Rivero tells HuffPost that Canela was giving kisses, and taking walks, and “eating treats and getting lots of attention” right until his last moments.

“He also intuitively knew how to live while dying. Enjoying every day to the fullest,” she says, before dying “peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones and flowers from the garden he loved.”

Losing this dog – whom Rivero calls her “son” – is acutely painful. But even now, just a few days after he’s died, Rivero says she has no regrets. Because Canela’s story might inspire others to give other dying shelter pets their own gentle, loving end.

“Canela taught us that death and dying are an important and valuable part of life. He participated and contributed as a valued member of our family until the very end,” Rivero says. “We are so grateful for the time we had.”

Find out more about PALS East Bay’s work on the group’s Facebook page. There you can also find out information about more Rainbow Bridge Fund dogs who need foster hospice homes.

Contribute to the Rainbow Bridge Fund here.

And get in touch at arin.greenwood@huffingtonpost.com if you have an animal story to share!

It looks like Geordi LaForge’s vision visor is already outdated. A tiny 3mm microchip has given vision back to the blind. Scientists and doctors in Oxford implanted a new “bionic eye” microchip in the eyes of two blind individuals last month during a grueling eight-hour operation. The chips were placed in the back of the eyes and connected with electrodes. Weeks later, both individuals — Chris James and Robin Millar — have regained ‘useful vision’ and are well on their way to recognizing faces and seeing once again, reports Sky News. 

Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/bionic-eyes-activate-microchip-gives-sight-to-the-blind/#ixzz2MGEVuEDh
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Birth control, now in 16-year microchip form 

Thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a woman who doesn’t want to get pregnant could soon implant a matchstick-sized, wireless chip under her arm, stomach or butt and be “on the pill” for years — 16 years, to be exact.

At the moment, no hormonal birth control exists that lasts for more than five years. Non-hormonal copper IUDs last 12.

Read more | Follow micdotcom



Jemma Lough, 43, had given up hope of seeing her beloved Toby again after failing to to return home one day in 2002. Twelve years later, Jemma received a shocking call and couldn’t believe when she heard that her missing cat is found. More than a decade passed and she met her future husband Ant, 40, and set up home with him – 70 miles from the house she had shared with Toby and his mum Jackie. So she was astonished when she received a call from a vet saying the cat, now 16, had been brought in - after he was found living at a drug rehab centre.

Read more: Kitty Army

Bioengineers create circuit board modeled on the human brain

Stanford bioengineers have developed faster, more energy-efficient microchips based on the human brain – 9,000 times faster and using significantly less power than a typical PC. This offers greater possibilities for advances in robotics and a new way of understanding the brain. For instance, a chip as fast and efficient as the human brain could drive prosthetic limbs with the speed and complexity of our own actions.

Stanford bioengineers have developed a new circuit board modeled on the human brain, possibly opening up new frontiers in robotics and computing.

For all their sophistication, computers pale in comparison to the brain. The modest cortex of the mouse, for instance, operates 9,000 times faster than a personal computer simulation of its functions.

Not only is the PC slower, it takes 40,000 times more power to run, writes Kwabena Boahen, associate professor of bioengineering at Stanford, in an article for the Proceedings of the IEEE.

“From a pure energy perspective, the brain is hard to match,” says Boahen, whose article surveys how “neuromorphic” researchers in the United States and Europe are using silicon and software to build electronic systems that mimic neurons and synapses.

Boahen and his team have developed Neurogrid, a circuit board consisting of 16 custom-designed “Neurocore” chips. Together these 16 chips can simulate 1 million neurons and billions of synaptic connections. The team designed these chips with power efficiency in mind. Their strategy was to enable certain synapses to share hardware circuits. The result was Neurogrid – a device about the size of an iPad that can simulate orders of magnitude more neurons and synapses than other brain mimics on the power it takes to run a tablet computer.

The National Institutes of Health funded development of this million-neuron prototype with a five-year Pioneer Award. Now Boahen stands ready for the next steps – lowering costs and creating compiler software that would enable engineers and computer scientists with no knowledge of neuroscience to solve problems – such as controlling a humanoid robot – using Neurogrid.

Its speed and low power characteristics make Neurogrid ideal for more than just modeling the human brain. Boahen is working with other Stanford scientists to develop prosthetic limbs for paralyzed people that would be controlled by a Neurocore-like chip.

“Right now, you have to know how the brain works to program one of these,” said Boahen, gesturing at the $40,000 prototype board on the desk of his Stanford office. “We want to create a neurocompiler so that you would not need to know anything about synapses and neurons to able to use one of these.”

Brain ferment

In his article, Boahen notes the larger context of neuromorphic research, including the European Union’s Human Brain Project, which aims to simulate a human brain on a supercomputer. By contrast, the U.S. BRAIN Project – short for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies – has taken a tool-building approach by challenging scientists, including many at Stanford, to develop new kinds of tools that can read out the activity of thousands or even millions of neurons in the brain as well as write in complex patterns of activity.

Zooming from the big picture, Boahen’s article focuses on two projects comparable to Neurogrid that attempt to model brain functions in silicon and/or software.

One of these efforts is IBM’s SyNAPSE Project – short for Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics. As the name implies, SyNAPSE involves a bid to redesign chips, code-named Golden Gate, to emulate the ability of neurons to make a great many synaptic connections – a feature that helps the brain solve problems on the fly. At present a Golden Gate chip consists of 256 digital neurons each equipped with 1,024 digital synaptic circuits, with IBM on track to greatly increase the numbers of neurons in the system.

Heidelberg University’s BrainScales project has the ambitious goal of developing analog chips to mimic the behaviors of neurons and synapses. Their HICANN chip – short for High Input Count Analog Neural Network – would be the core of a system designed to accelerate brain simulations, to enable researchers to model drug interactions that might take months to play out in a compressed time frame. At present, the HICANN system can emulate 512 neurons each equipped with 224 synaptic circuits, with a roadmap to greatly expand that hardware base.

Each of these research teams has made different technical choices, such as whether to dedicate each hardware circuit to modeling a single neural element (e.g., a single synapse) or several (e.g., by activating the hardware circuit twice to model the effect of two active synapses). These choices have resulted in different trade-offs in terms of capability and performance.

In his analysis, Boahen creates a single metric to account for total system cost – including the size of the chip, how many neurons it simulates and the power it consumes.

Neurogrid was by far the most cost-effective way to simulate neurons, in keeping with Boahen’s goal of creating a system affordable enough to be widely used in research.

Speed and efficiency

But much work lies ahead. Each of the current million-neuron Neurogrid circuit boards cost about $40,000. Boahen believes dramatic cost reductions are possible. Neurogrid is based on 16 Neurocores, each of which supports 65,536 neurons. Those chips were made using 15-year-old fabrication technologies.

By switching to modern manufacturing processes and fabricating the chips in large volumes, he could cut a Neurocore’s cost 100-fold – suggesting a million-neuron board for $400 a copy. With that cheaper hardware and compiler software to make it easy to configure, these neuromorphic systems could find numerous applications.

For instance, a chip as fast and efficient as the human brain could drive prosthetic limbs with the speed and complexity of our own actions – but without being tethered to a power source. Krishna Shenoy, an electrical engineering professor at Stanford and Boahen’s neighbor at the interdisciplinary Bio-X center, is developing ways of reading brain signals to understand movement. Boahen envisions a Neurocore-like chip that could be implanted in a paralyzed person’s brain, interpreting those intended movements and translating them to commands for prosthetic limbs without overheating the brain.

A small prosthetic arm in Boahen’s lab is currently controlled by Neurogrid to execute movement commands in real time. For now it doesn’t look like much, but its simple levers and joints hold hope for robotic limbs of the future.

Of course, all of these neuromorphic efforts are beggared by the complexity and efficiency of the human brain.

In his article, Boahen notes that Neurogrid is about 100,000 times more energy efficient than a personal computer simulation of 1 million neurons. Yet it is an energy hog compared to our biological CPU.

“The human brain, with 80,000 times more neurons than Neurogrid, consumes only three times as much power,” Boahen writes. “Achieving this level of energy efficiency while offering greater configurability and scale is the ultimate challenge neuromorphic engineers face.”


Watch the talk here >>

What if the future of medicine is personalized treatment where drugs and treatments are designed just for you? In this talk at TEDxBoston, Dr. Geraldine Hamilton explains how she and her team at the Wyss Institute are designing micro-chips that act like miniature versions of human organs, allowing drug companies to safely test new drugs on humans, and even children. 

So far, her research has produced two different “organs on a chip,” as she calls them – a human gut and a human lung. Watch Dr. Hamilton explain why this is so important for medicine >>

A World Beyond Silicon

by Michael Keller

Our world is now awash in data—as you read this, computers and sensors in your pocket, your home, the automobile outside and the power plant down the street are all generating reams of information.

Analysts say we’re just at the beginning of our ubiquitous-computing society. Our not-too-distant future will see an explosion of data production, from connected jet engines that create and share data about how they’re performing to wearable technologies that monitor your vital signs to tell you how well your body is performing.

Sensors and processors have already started to mediate a majority of elements that comprise the human experience from birth to death. Meanwhile, the infrastructure undergirding civilization is slowly becoming embedded with electronics while we navigate our social and working life with data-generating laptops, smartphones, apps and entertainment systems.

“Today, we have a humongous amount of data coming from video, text, graphics,” said Stanford University electrical engineer H.-S. Philip Wong during a recent American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting. “These are being processed in data centers but also on our bodies in electronics that have different requirements from traditional computers. And soon we’re going to have even more data needing processing from a trillion sensors that will be produced every day.”

Wong says this demand for a range of processors that can fit all the places where people will want to put them means we need to start thinking beyond silicon.

Keep reading

24 August 2013

The Inside Scoop

Fundamentally, biomedical science is about finding out how our bodies, organs, and cells work. Often, the best way to do that is to get under the skin, and see what’s happening inside. But getting inside a tiny, fragile cell isn’t straightforward. Until recently, most information about cells came from looking at them from the outside, but that’s a bit like trying to understand how a TV works by just watching it. Now scientists have designed a sensor that can slip inside cells and feed back information about the internal goings on, like a spy camera hidden in a private room. The chip, shown here (gold rectangle, centre) nestled inside a human cancer cell, is made of silicon and detects pressure changes without disturbing the cell’s normal function. Could similar chips detecting other variables like temperature or chemical concentrations offer a brand new view on cell biology?

Written by Anthony Lewis