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Indian-American scientist uses sound waves to control brain cells

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photo credit: www.biosciencetechnology.com

Washington: Indian-American researcher Sreekanth Chalasani, from Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California has developed a new way to selectively activate brain, heart, muscle and other cells using ultrasonic sound waves.

photo credit: www.ndtv.com
photo credit: www.ndtv.com

Dubbed as sonogenetics, the new technique has some similarities to the burgeoning use of light to activate brain cells in order to better understand the brain.

“Light-based techniques are great for some uses. But this is a new, additional tool to manipulate neurons and other cells in the body,” informed Sreekanth Chalasani, assistant professor in Salk’s molecular neurobiology laboratory.

The new method – which uses the same type of waves used in medical sonograms – may have advantages over the light-based approach – known as optogenetics – particularly when it comes to adapting the technology to human therapeutics.

In optogenetics, researchers add light-sensitive channel proteins to neurons they wish to study.

By shining a focused laser on the cells, they can selectively open these channels, either activating or silencing the target neurons.

Chalasani and his group decided to see if they could develop an approach that instead relied on ultrasound waves for the activation.

“In contrast to light, low-frequency ultrasound can travel through the body without any scattering,” he noted.

“This could be a big advantage when you want to stimulate a region deep in the brain without affecting other regions,” adds Stuart Ibsen, post-doctoral fellow in the Chalasani lab.

“The real prize will be to see whether this could work in a mammalian brain,” Chalasani pointed out.

His group has already begun testing the approach in mice. “When we make the leap into therapies for humans, I think we have a better shot with noninvasive sonogenetics approaches than with optogenetics,” he emphasised in a paper appeared in the journal Nature Communications.

Chalasani obtained his PhD from University of Pennsylvania. He then did his post-doctoral research in the laboratory of Dr Cori Bargmann at the Rockefeller University in New York.

(IANS)

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California Becomes the first US State to allow Gender-neutral Birth Certificates

The so-called "nonbinary" gender means not exclusively male or female or a combination of two or more "genders."

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The law, published on the government official website, also made it easier for people to change their gender identity on official documents. Pixabay

California, October 17, 2017 : California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a state senate bill, allowing a gender-neutral marker on birth certificates and driver’s licenses starting from 2019.

California thus became the first state in the US to allow a “nonbinary” gender to be marked on birth certificates, Xinhua news agency reported.

The so-called “nonbinary” gender means not exclusively male or female or a combination of two or more “genders.”

According to the Gender Recognition Act approved on Sunday, California will offer a gender-neutral option on state documents for those who are transgender, intersex and others who are not identified as male or female.

ALSO READ Finding their place in the world; Oxford Dictionary to include honorific Mx for transgenders

The law, published on the government official website, also made it easier for people to change their gender identity on official documents.

“Existing law authorises a person who was born in this state and who has undergone clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition to obtain a new birth certificate from the State Registrar,” the bill read.

The Golden State is now also the second state in the US to allow residents to be identified by a gender marker other than “F” or “M” on their driver’s license.

Oregon and the District of Columbia had earlier issued the gender-neutral option on their driver’s licenses.

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Apple Has Shut Down Iranian Mobile Apps: Iran Media Report

Apple is not officially in Iran or any other Persian Gulf countries, but many Iranians purchase its products from stores inside Iran

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Iran mobile apps
An Iranian woman tries out an iPhone in an electronics shop selling Apple products in Tehran, Iran. VOA
  • Apple Inc. has removed all Iranian mobile apps from its App Store
  • Telecommunication Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said Apple should respect its Iranian consumers
  • Giving respect to consumer rights is a principle today which Apple has not followed

Tehran, August 26, 2017: Iranian media is reporting that Apple Inc. has removed all Iranian mobile apps from its App Store.

In reaction to the decision, Telecommunication Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said Apple should respect its Iranian consumers. He also sent out this tweet:

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Also Read: How Iran protects itself from the Islamic State (ISIS) Terrorist Attacks? Read it here!

Jahromi tweeted: “11 percent of Iran’s mobile phone market share is owned by Apple. Giving respect to consumer rights is a principle today which Apple has not followed. We will follow up the cutting of the apps legally.”

Apple is not officially in Iran or any other Persian Gulf countries, but many Iranians purchase its products from stores inside Iran. (VOA)

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Cambodian Girls compete in a Mobile App Competition, Pushes Boundaries for Women in Technology

Cambodian girl coders achieve recognition at a Global Competition

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The five Cambodian girls of the app team Cambodia Identity Product, right, stand next to other coders from India and Hong Kong, at Technovation Challenge World Pitch Summit competition at Google headquarters
The five Cambodian girls of the app team Cambodia Identity Product, right, stand next to other coders from India and Hong Kong, at Technovation Challenge World Pitch Summit competition at Google headquarters. VOA
  • We want to increase employment for Cambodians
  • In Cambodia, just 14 percent of students in information technology were women

A group of Cambodian girls who recently traveled to California to compete in a mobile app competition offered inspiration for other girls worldwide to consider careers in technology.

Their pitch in Silicon Valley wasn’t a bid to be the next billion-dollar company. Instead, they want to help their country with a mobile phone application to address poverty.

“Let’s fight poverty by using our app. Don’t find customers for your product, find products for your customers,” said Lorn Dara Soucheng, 12, who led the team that created the app, Cambodian Identity Product.

“We want to increase employment for Cambodians, so there will be a reduction of Cambodian migrants to work in other countries, reducing poverty through making income and providing charity to local Cambodians,” Chea Sopheata, 11, told the judges at Google’s headquarters. Google was one of the program’s sponsors.

To participate in the Aug. 7-11 Technovation global competition, girls around the world had to build a mobile app — and a business plan — that addressed a U.N. development goal. The Cambodian girls picked poverty.

While globalization has boosted the economic growth of Cambodia, especially its tourism industry, it has also created greater economic inequality and competition. The girls think their app can help.

“We want to promote our culture to people from all over the world,” said Lorn Dara Soucheng.

At their young age, no one expects these girls to be able to solve their country’s most pressing issues quite yet. But their presence here highlighted another issue: girls in tech fields.

In the U.S. and worldwide, the number of women in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) remains low and has even dropped.

In Cambodia, just 14 percent of students in information technology were women as of 2010. It’s a situation some attribute to a lack of equal access to education and a lack of female role models.

It’s hoped that programs like Technovation can reverse that trend.

“For the first time in history, technology can really help girls have a strong voice and help us have a society that has equality,” said Tara Chklovski, founder, and CEO of Iridescent, the nonprofit organization behind Technovation.

These young Cambodian girls have proved how far they can go with technology. Most come from underprivileged backgrounds but had support from teachers, mentors, and family.

Cambodian American Pauline Seng, a program manager at Google, said the young coders have become role models for many other Cambodians, including herself. She didn’t get into technology until she was 23.

“There’s going to be so many people who aspire to reach this stage and also inspire other people to get involved in technology,” she said.

Although the Cambodian girls did not win the grand prize, which went to a team from Hong Kong, they were proud to have made it to Google and Silicon Valley.

After watching the male CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, speaking at the closing ceremony, the girls said they believed the tech giant would one day have a female leader.

“Yes!” they said, in unison.

Whether that will come true or not, they have themselves already become the youngest role models to inspire others, one girl at a time. (VOA)