Last Saturday, July 21st, over six hundred families rallied together in the morning for a “reunion” in front of the Randall Children’s Hospital. Each family had surrendered a newly-born family member to the neonatal intensive care unit in the hopes of saving a loved one’s life. Now, whether they had visited the NICU several months ago or many years ago, all gathered together to celebrate life with music and other activities.
Another event took place in front of Randall Children’s Hospital later that day to raise money for cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The event, titled “Shave to Save a Life,” gathered together current and former patients, families, staff, and friends to shave heads to raise awareness and money for the cause. A diverse crowd offered up their hair for the cause, including young children, teens, and adults from all walks of life. The foundation funds more childhood cancer research grants than any other private organization in the United States.
View an article on Fox12 Oregon for more information, pictures, and videos of the two events.
Anushka Naiknaware, a thirteen year-old from Portland, invented a special bandage that tells doctors when it needs to be changed. The invention was a finalist in an international science contest sponsored by Google, an honor that has won Naiknaware a $15,000 scholarship, a trip to the Lego world headquarters in Denmark, and a year of entrepreneurial mentorship with a Lego executive. She was the youngest scientist to win one of the contest’s substantial prizes.
The bandage has tiny monitors embedded into its design, allowing nurses and doctors to “see” if the dressing has dried enough to be changed, without having to remove it from the patient. Large wounds have to be kept moist to improve healing and pulling up bandages too often to check moisture levels can worsen wounds. Naiknaware created and experimented with different ways to use ink printed into fractal patterns in order to embed nanoparticles of graphene into the bandage. These particles allow for accurate monitoring of moisture levels.
The Google contest judges were enthralled with her invention. She was named one of 16 global finalists chosen to travel to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. Interacting with other teen scientists from all around the world was one of her favorite life experiences, she said.
Naiknaware won the Lego Education Builder Award that recognizes “a student who uses an innovative, hands-on approach to solve some of the greatest engineering challenges.” In addition to the scholarship, mentorship and the trip to Denmark, she won a chance to address Lego’s board of directors and her own custom-built Lego brick.
Naiknaware intends to make the most of her mentor’s advice to see if her bandages can be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be used in hospitals across the country.
Researchers have uncovered part of why exercise and brain health are connected.
Henriette van Praag, neuroscience researcher at the National Institute on Aging, says their team’s findings provide “another piece to the puzzle.” The report released to the journal Cell Metabolism shows that running releases a protein that seemingly generates new cells and connections in the brain’s memory center.
Van Praag and her team had begun searching broadly for factors in the link between fitness and memory to follow up on previous research that had established the connection. They soon found a protein called cathepsin B while searching for substances produced by the muscles in response to exercise.
Cathepsin B is known to be associated with cell death and some diseases. Experiments showed that its levels rose in mice that spent increased time on their exercise wheels. The protein caused new cell growth and connections in the hippocampus of the mice so that they performed more effectively on a memory test. This test required them to swim to a platform hidden just beneath the surface of a small pool.
Upon broadening their research, the team found out the exercise led to raised levels of cathepsin in Rhesus monkeys as well.
The next step was to test for these results in humans, so the team picked 43 sedentary university students. Half of the students continued their regular habits while the other half began rigorous treadmill workouts several times a week. Like the mice, the exercising students had higher levels of cathepsin and improved in a memory task: reproducing a geometric pattern they had seen after several minutes had passed.
Neurologist and team member Dr. Emrah Duzel said, “Those individuals that showed the largest gains in memory also were those that had the largest increase in cathepsin. Van Praag added that cathepsin is likely just one of several factors behind the connection between exercise and brain function, but that this is a step in the right direction.
Van Praag also cautions that trying to raise cathepsin levels artificially might be dangerous as cathepsin is also produced by tumor cells and has been linked to brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s, but some jogging can be a good way to raise cathepsin levels naturally, promoting the brain’s memory function.
This year’s Lila May’s Tutu Trot, a fun run and walk benefiting Solving Kids Cancer in Hood River, is scheduled for Saturday, May 7.
The fun run began as a fundraiser for young Lila May Schow, who battled cancer until last year when she passed at the age of 5. This is the third year of the event, now giving back to the non-profit organization that helps fund research for children with cancer just like they did Lila May.
“I really felt that as hard as it was to do it this year that we needed it as a way to remember her and to say goodbye to her as a town,” said family friend and run-organizer Jenny Lorenzen.
Last year , the Hood River community threw Lila May a big princess party for her birthday. The party, which took place shortly before she died, received international attention and was an event where everyone gets into the fun with tutus.
Lorenzen said that all who met Lila saw “a trail of glitter following her in her spunk, in her smile, in her personality. And I really hope to shower the events with a bunch of glitter, just reminding everybody she isn’t forgotten and won’t be forgotten.”
For more information and to pre-register and run with people from all across the country at the event visit: Lila May’s Tutu Trot.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network has released its annual World Happiness Report, which publishes a list of countries ranked by happiness level.
158 were included in the report, which measures “happiness” by a variety of factors including GDP per capita, life expectancy, generosity, freedom, community support, and absence of corruption.
And the happiest country in the world? Switzerland. Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Canada are close runners-up, followed by Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand and Australia.
Israel is the 11th happiest country in the world, and US comes in as the 15th.
Unsurprisingly, considering the current struggles against terrorism, Afghanistan and Syria have some of the lowest happiness levels, along with the Ivory Coast, Guinea and Chad.
The report was first published in 2012. “As the science of happiness advances, we are getting to the heart of what factors define quality of life for citizens,” said Professor John F. Helliwell, editor of the report. “We are encouraged that more and more governments around the world are listening and responding with policies that put well-being first. Countries with strong social and institutional capital not only support greater well-being, but are more resilient to social and economic crises.”
The goal of the report is to “guide progress toward social, economic and environmental development.”