breakthroughs

reuters.com
HIV infection cured in infant through very early treatment

A baby girl in Mississippi who was born with HIV has been cured after very early treatment with standard drug therapy, U.S. researchers reported on Sunday, in a potentially ground-breaking case that could offer insights on how to eradicate HIV infection in its youngest victims.

The child’s story is the first account of an infant achieving a so-called functional cure, a rare event in which a person achieves remission without the need for drugs and standard blood tests show no signs that the virus is making copies of itself.

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The Top 5 Neuroscience Breakthroughs of 2012

More than any year before, 2012 was the year neuroscience exploded into pop culture. From mind-controlled robot hands to cyborg animals to TV specials to triumphant books, brain breakthroughs were tearing up the airwaves and the internets. From all the thrilling neurological adventures we covered over the past year, we’ve collected five stories we want to make absolutely sure you didn’t miss.

A Roadmap of Brain Wiring

Neuroscientists like to compare the task of unraveling the brain’s connections to the frustration of untangling the cords beneath your computer desk – except that in the brain, there are hundreds of millions of cords, and at least one hundred trillion plugs. Even with our most advanced computers, some researchers were despairing of ever seeing a complete connectivity map of the human brain in our lifetimes. But thanks to a team led by Van Wedeen at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital, 2012 gave us an unexpectedly clear glimpse of our brains’ large-scale wiring patterns. As it turns out, the overall pattern isn’t so much a tangle as a fabric – an intricate, multi-layered grid of cross-hatched neural highways. What’s more, it looks like our brains share this grid pattern with many other species. We’re still a long way from decoding how most of this wiring functions, but this is a big step in the right direction.

Laser-Controlled Desire

Scientists have been stimulating rats’ pleasure centers since the 1950s – but 2012 saw the widespread adoption of a new brain-stimulation method that makes all those wires and incisions look positively crude. Researchers in the blossoming field of optogenetics develop delicate devices that control the firing of targeted groups of neurons – using only light itself. By hooking rats up to a tiny fiber-optic cable and firing lasers directly into their brains, a team led by Garret D. Stuber at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine were able to isolate specific neurochemical shifts that cause rats to feel pleasure or anxiety – and switch between them at will. This method isn’t only more precise than electrical stimulation – it’s also much less damaging to the animals.

Programmable Brain Cells

Pluripotent stem cell research took off like a rocket in 2012. After discovering that skin cells can be genetically reprogrammed into stem cells, which can in turn be reprogrammed into just about any cell in the human body, a team led by Sheng Ding at UCSF managed to engineer a working network of newborn neurons from a harvest of old skin cells. In other words, the team didn’t just convert skin cells into stem cells, then into neurons – they actually kept the batch of neurons alive and functional long enough to self-organize into a primitive neural network. In the near future, it’s likely that we’ll be treating many kinds of brain injuries by growing brand-new neurons from other kinds of cells in a patient’s own body. This is already close on the horizon for liver and heart cells – but the thought of being able to technologically shape the re-growth of a damaged brain is even more exciting.

Memories on Disc

We’ve talked a lot about how easily our brains can modify and rewrite our long-term memories of facts and scenarios. In 2012, though, researchers went Full Mad Scientist with the implications of this knowledge, and blew some mouse minds in the process. One team, led by Mark Mayford of the Scripps Research Institute, took advantage of some recently invented technology that enables scientists to record and store a mouse’s memory of a familiar place on a microchip. Mayford’s team figured out how to turn specific mouse memories on and off with the flick of a switch – but they were just getting warmed up. The researchers then proceeded to record a memory in one mouse’s brain, transfer it into another mouse’s nervous system, and activate it in conjunction with one of the second mouse’s own memories. The result was a bizarre “hybrid memory” – familiarity with a place the mouse had never visited. Well, not in the flesh, anyway.

Videos of Thoughts

Our most exciting neuroscience discovery of 2012 is also one of the most controversial. A team of researchers from the Gallant lab at UC Berkeley discovered a way to reconstruct videos of entire scenes from neural activity in a person’s visual cortex. Those on the cautionary side emphasize that activity in the visual cortex is fairly easy to decode (relatively speaking, of course) and that we’re still a long, long way from decoding videos of imaginary voyages or emotional palettes. In fact, from one perspective, this isn’t much different from converting one file format into another. On the other hand, though, these videos offer the first hints of the technological reality our children may inhabit: A world where the boundaries between the objective external world and our individual subjective experiences are gradually blurred and broken down. When it comes to transforming our relationship with our own consciousness – and those of the people around us – it doesn’t get much more profound than that.

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For the first time scientists have printed human embryonic stem cells using a 3D printer.

The Heriot-Watt University team’s research could eventually lead to human organs being printed on demand and an end to animal drug testing. Jim Drury of Reuters reports.

Paul’s letter to the church of God in Corinth says “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” -2 Corinthians 1:3-4

We experience problems, heartbreaks, setbacks and circumstances that seem too hard to handle not because God doesn’t love us, but because He wants us to become a conqueror through CHRIST. And just as He promised, He will never forsake us and He will provide the comfort that we need. There’s just one thing He asks of us, to remain steadfast in times of trials. So that one day, when others experience the same circumstance we had gone through, we could share the comfort God has given us by giving them the same comfort we received from Him.  MY SUFFERING TODAY IS SOMEBODY’S COMFORT TOMORROW.  -maub

nytimes.com
Speed of Light Lingers in Face of New Camera

More than 70 years ago, the M.I.T. electrical engineer Harold (Doc) Edgerton began using strobe lights to create remarkable photographs: a bullet stopped in flight as it pierced an apple, the coronet created by the splash of a drop of milk.

Now scientists at M.I.T.’s Media Lab are using an ultrafast imaging system to capture light itself as it passes through liquids and objects, in effect snapping a picture in less than two-trillionths of a second. 

U.S. scores diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea
  • the deal The U.S. got North Korea to agree to curb its nuclear testing and enrichment processes and allow outside investigators to monitor its main reactor, which is a fairly major breakthrough for the countries.
  • the perk In exchange, North Korea will get 240,000 metric tons of food aid. While the U.S. has long considered offering aid for purely humanitarian reasons, North Korea insisted that it be tied to this deal. source

» Significant, if “limited”: This result came after a set of talks last week that initially did not seem to go well, but later proved be palatable for the North Koreans. The two countries previously were close to some sort of deal before Kim Jong-il’s death, but the latest development seems to have gone over. “The United States still has profound concerns regarding North Korean behavior across a wide range of areas,“ said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, "but today’s announcement reflects important, if limited, progress in addressing some of these.”

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BreakFast

Our annual Fasting in Victory’s now over and what just happened in QC’s the best way to end the fast.

We prayed for breakthroughs in all aspects of our lives: healing, financial breakthroughs, restoration of lost relationships, promotions, careers, student life and so much more. 

Im claiming everything in Your name. I know You’ll do amazing things for me this year. Im calling out on You, Baal Perazim, the Lord of breakthroughs to break the bondage of sin in my life and to break through me that I may experience fully Your glorious presence.

2012, Im so ready for you! Trials, crises, problems and obstacles may come my way but what’s a breakthrough when there’s nothing to break? I know You’ll be with me and You’ll keep Your promises to me. All Your promises wont let go of me. 

Yet and again, 2012 is gonna be the year of breakthroughs!

Our ability to attract, and more importantly retain, great talent over the next five years will shape public education for the next 30 years—it is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity…It is important to emphasize that the challenge to our schools is not just a looming teacher shortage, but rather a shortage of great teachers in the schools and communities where they are needed most.
—  Arne Duncan 
It was the first time, writing, I had a sense for how total a writer’s freedom is. I don’t think that ever completely went away, and it seems the biggest leap I made: from thinking I had to write in a certain way to realizing that nobody was there with me as I was sitting at my desk — and for good reason — because your only obligation is to listen to yourself.
—  Love this. Sheila Heti talks about her epiphanic moments while writing How Should a Person Be? as part of a NY Mag story on artistic breakthroughs.
The Process of Awakening

‘Sometimes the long arc of awakening is punctuated by great breakthroughs. In an instant, the true nature of things become vivid. The apprentice sees the emptiness of everything, meaning that she experiences how big and radiant everything is, and how everything is connected to anything else. People have these experiences in the meditation hall after years of practice, and they have them spontaneously as children, or in the most unlikely of circumstances. Awakening isn’t snobbish about where and when it reveals itself, so we probably shouldn’t be, either. A breakthrough will leak away, though, unless we ground the experience. Without a way to deepen and broaden it, to maintain a living relationship with it, it tends to fade into a fond or frustrating memory of what might have been.

Here’s where the practice of daily life can be helpful. Awakening doesn’t happen only like a bolt of lightening; sometimes it’s a dawning awareness that the sky has been gradually getting lighter for some time. In the midst of our daily lives, we become aware of domestic, local moments of seeing the emptiness of things. A man starts to tell a familiar story whose meaning was set sometime in the last century about some relationship, and he finds that he can’t get past the first sentence; suddenly the habitual narrative seems unreal, completely made up, even ridiculously funny. That’s also seeing emptiness, just a particular emptiness rather than the emptiness of everything all at once. If we let the floor be pulled out from under us and for a moment fall freely, that moment of falling freely is a moment of breakthrough. With practice, we won’t try to catch ourselves too soon, to reconstitute the self that has for a moment vanished. Crucially, if these moments of falling freely are recognized and appreciated, they tend to leak away less readily than the big breakthroughs; they accumulate and cause lasting change, and this can be tremendously encouraging. If the breakthroughs give us the biggest perspective of all, this falling freely shows us what that looks like in any moment of any day.

The fundamental promise of Buddhism is that any of us can awaken. As Buddhism has evolved, it has become clear that awakening is not just an individual matter. We are all in this world together, and we are all awakening together. So a matter of great importance is how we encourage practice that compromises on neither the awakening of the individual nor awakening in the field that holds us all - that sees both as essential to the uncompartmentalized Way. What an extraordinary, what a beautiful, challenge to be given.’

- Joan Sutherland, The Whole Way, from the February 2009 issue of the Shambhala Sun.