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Maryam Mirzakhani : The First Woman to Win Fields Medal in Mathematics Equivalent of Nobel Prize Dies

Maryam Mirzakhani died of breast cancer at the age of 40

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Stanford University professor Maryam Mirzakhani received the Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics, in 2014. Source: (VOA)
  • Maryam Mirzakhani was the only woman to win mathematics equivalent of Nobel Prize
  • She died on Saturday as she was battling breast cancer
  • She was born in Iran and joined Stanford University in 2008 as a mathematics professor

Maryam Mirzakhani, a Stanford University professor who was the first and only woman to win the prestigious Fields Medal in mathematics, has died. She was 40.

Mirzakhani, who battled breast cancer, died Saturday, the university announced. It did not indicate where she died.

In 2014, Mirzakhani was one of four winners of the Fields Medal, which is presented every four years and is considered the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize. She was named for her work on complex geometry and dynamic systems.

Also read: A Look Back In History: Contribution of Indian Mathematicians in the field of Mathematics

“Mirzakhani specialized in theoretical mathematics that read like a foreign language by those outside of mathematics: moduli spaces, Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, Ergodic theory and symplectic geometry,” according to the Stanford press announcement. “Mastering these approaches allowed Mirzakhani to pursue her fascination for describing the geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces — spheres, doughnut shapes and even amoebas — in as great detail as possible.”

The work had implications in fields ranging from cryptography to “the theoretical physics of how the universe came to exist,” the university said.

Mirzakhani was born in Tehran, Iran, and studied there and at Harvard University. She joined Stanford as a mathematics professor in 2008.

‘Heart-rending’ loss

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani issued a statement Saturday praising Mirzakhani. “The grievous passing of Maryam Mirzakhani, the eminent Iranian and world-renowned mathematician, is very much heart-rending,” Rouhani said in a message that was reported by the Tehran Times.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said her death pained all Iranians, the Tehran Times reported.

“The news of young Iranian genius and math professor Maryam Mirzakhani’s passing has brought a deep pang of sorrow to me and all Iranians who are proud of their eminent and distinguished scientists,” Zarif posted in Farsi on his Instagram account. “I do offer my heartfelt condolences upon the passing of this lady scientist to all Iranians worldwide, her grieving family and the scientific community.”

Mirzakhani originally dreamed of becoming a writer but then shifted to mathematics.

When she was working, Mirzakhani would doodle on sheets of paper and scribble formulas on the edges of her drawings, leading her daughter to describe the work as painting, according to the Stanford statement.

Mirzakhani once described her work as “like being lost in a jungle and trying to use all the knowledge that you can gather to come up with some new tricks, and with some luck, you might find a way out.”

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne called Mirzakhani a brilliant theorist who made enduring contributions and inspired thousands of women to pursue math and science.

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband, Jan Vondrák, and daughter, Anahita. (VOA)

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Reduce the Spread of Cancer With this Protein, According to Research by University of Guelph, Ontario

Researchers have discovered a new protein that could reduce the spread of cancer by binding the cancer cells together and allowing them to invade tissues

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Fight Cancer
Fight Cancer with this Protein. IANS.

New York, Nov 19: Researchers have discovered a new protein that could reduce the spread of cancer by binding the cancer cells together and allowing them to invade tissues.

The study conducted by the researchers from University of Guelph, Ontario, has identified a protein called cadherin-22, a potential factor in cancer metastasis or the spread of cancer.

The protien also decreased the adhesion and invasion rate of breast and brain cancer cells by up to 90 per cent.

“Cadherin-22 could be a powerful prognostic marker for advanced cancer stages and patient outcomes,” said lead author Jim Uniacke, a professor at the varsity.

“If you can find a treatment or a drug that can block cadherin-22, you could potentially prevent cancer cells from moving, invading and metastasizing.”

The study, published in the journal Oncogene, looks specifically at hypoxia, a condition in which the tissues receive less oxygen.

The researchers found that it is precisely under conditions of low oxygen that cancer cells trigger the production of cadherin-22, putting in motion a kind of protein boost that helps bind cells together, enhancing cellular movement, invasion and likely metastasis.

Studying breast and brain cancer cells in a hypoxia incubator, the researchers discovered that cadherin-22 is involved in this process to enable the spread of cancer cells.

For both cancer types, the research team used molecular tools to reduce the amount of cadherin-22.

They placed the human cancer cells into the incubator and lowered the oxygen to a level comparable to that in a tumour. The cells failed to spread.

“One very powerful and common tool in cell and molecular biology labs is, you can remove a protein from a cell and see how that cell behaves without it.

“We culture our cancer cells in this very low-oxygen environment, and they start behaving like they are inside a low-oxygen tumour,” Uniacke added. (IANS)

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Women can Boost their Working Memory with Hormone Therapy

Benefits of oestrogen therapy in women.

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oestrogen therapy can increase working memory under stress
oestrogen therapy can increase working memory under stress. wikimedia commons

New York, Nov 5: Undergoing a type of hormone replacement therapy — used for menopausal treatment — may help protect as well as improve working memory for some women as they age, according to a new study.

Hormone replacement therapy uses female hormones – oestrogen and progesterone – to treat common symptoms of menopause and ageing.

The findings showed that women taking oestrogen-only therapy had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and performed better on tests of “working memory” following exposure to stress compared to women taking a placebo.

“Our study suggests that oestrogen treatment after menopause protects the memory that is needed for short-term cognitive tasks from the effects of stress,” said lead author Alexandra Ycaza Herrera, a researcher at the University of Southern California – Davis.

To measure the effect of oestrogen therapy on working memory under stress, the team recruited 42 women with an average age of 66.

Half of the postmenopausal women had been on estradiol — a type of oestrogen therapy — for approximately five years, while the others had received a placebo.

The researchers, in the paper published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, collected saliva to measure the women’s levels of cortisol, oestrogen, and progesterone.

They also ran a test of working memory called a “sentence span task”, in which the women were each given a series and then asked whether each sentence made sense. They also were asked to recall the last word of each one.

While women receiving oestrogen therapy had a smaller increase in cortisol and showed no decrease in working memory function, even after being exposed to stressful situation, those taking the placebo experienced a spike in cortisol levels as well as demonstrated a decrease in working memory function.

Previous studies have pointed to potential health risks — the Ahigher risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots — of the treatment.

Thus, Herrera noted that “hormone replacement therapy may not be right for every woman, but women need to be able to have the conversation with their doctors”.(IANS)

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All Breast Lumps are Not Cancerous, Says Radiologist Expert

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breast lump simulation
breast lump simulation. Wikimedia

New Delhi, Oct 7, 2017: Breast Cancer is one of the supreme causes of female deaths, however, it’s awareness is low in India. A leading Radiologist, Dr. Jyoti Arora, Associate Director, Medanta – the Medicity states that 8 out of 10 cases of breast lumps are not cancerous and undergoing biopsy is the only way to rule out breast cancer.

In India, two responses with respect to breast lumps are generally normal. Either the feeling of a lump formation in the breast is disregarded or the patient gets hysterical. The two responses are extreme and caused by the absence of proper awareness but in altogether different ways.

A recent study summarized that its predominance is as high as 25.8 per 1,00,000 women and its death rate are 12.7 per 1,00,000 women, mentioned ANI.

Dr. Arora has disclosed that because of the absence of awareness, a huge number of Indian women do not choose  appropriate tests and treatment.

Arora said, “One of the first symptoms of breast cancer is the formation of lumps in the breast. While many women from not so educated and aware sections of society do not identify lump in the breast as a reason enough to see the doctor, those who are aware of the connection between breast lumps and cancer does not realize that in 8 out of 10 cases, lumps in breasts are non-cancerous. For them, a breast lump is the synonym of breast cancer and they feel it’s the end of their life so do not get it evaluated.”

As the lumps are associated with pain, some females do not seek medical advice. The non-cancerous lumps are cyst formation, fibro-adenoma which is an abnormal non-cancerous growth, or maybe a temporary sign due to woman’s menstrual cycle.

Cancerous lumps are usually hard to feel and not associated with pain.

So if a female feels a lump, she should visit a breast specialist who will get a mammography and ultrasound done. If a solid lump is confirmed on imaging then in most of the cases biopsy would be needed to confirm whether the lump is cancerous or not.

To check cancerous cells, a radiologist removes tissue while conducting a breast biopsy from the suspected area for lab testing.

Also Read: Esteé Lauder’s Breast Cancer Awareness ‘Pink Ribbon Campaign’ Marks 25 Year Milestone 

“There are various types of biopsies that a patient is offered. Tru cut needle biopsy is performed in majority of the cases, however when the abnormality is very small, subtle or when seen only on the mammograms in the form of calcifications or only on the breast MRI, vacuum-assisted breast biopsies (VABB) are preferred as they increase the accuracy and sensitivity of getting a representative sample from the abnormal area. Through VABB, more tissue can be removed than by the true cut needle biopsy and hence a more accurate report can be generated by the pathologist,” added Arora.

One should look for changes in the breast in terms of size and shape. Other than formation of lump, observe whether there are skin changes such as swelling and redness, in drawing of the nipples or if there is pain, irritation, change of color, or peeling and flaking of nipple skin.