TIME Research

Duke Researchers Hail Breakthrough After Growing Muscle Tissue in Lab

Advancement may form bedrock for future personalized medicines

Scientists at Duke University announced this week that human skeletal muscle has been successfully grown in the laboratory that is able to react to stimuli just like native tissue.

The lab-grown muscle will allow researchers to study the effects that drugs and disease have on muscle tissue without having to endanger the health of a potential patient, reports Science Daily.

“The beauty of this work is that it can serve as a test bed for clinical trials in a dish,” says Nenad Bursac, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University.

Bursac said the development would hopefully allow doctors to begin prescribing personalized medicine to patients in the future.

“We can take a biopsy from each patient, grow many new muscles to use as test samples and experiment to see which drugs would work best for each person,” he explained.

[Science Daily]

TIME Children and Families

Let Your Kids Sleep More For Better Grades

Getty Images

Slumber particularly helps with math, says a new study.

Sorry, parents, but you might need to start enforcing bedtime. Or letting your kids sleep in.

While no one likes a bedtime battle, a new study shows that a good night’s sleep can translate to improved academic performance. Researchers at McGill University and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal found that children who had a better quality sleep performed better in math and languages.

Specifically researchers found a link between academic performance and something called sleep efficiency, which is more or less how well you sleep at night. “Sleep efficiency is the proportion of the amount of time you slept to the amount of time you were in bed,” says clinical psychologist Reut Gruber, lead author of the study. “Simply put, you go to bed, you lie down and spend time in bed, but if you’re not able to sleep through the time in bed, that’s not efficient sleep.”

“Short or poor sleep is a significant risk factor for poor academic performance that is frequently ignored,” says Gruber, and while there are other studies out there that linked sleep and academic performance, she wanted to take a slightly different tack. “I wanted to look at specific subject areas, not to lump them together, knowing that different skills are needed for different subjects.”

When it comes to math and language skills specifically, Gruber says, it’s a question of brain anatomy. “For math and languages, we need to use the skills that are called ‘executive functions’—things like working memory, planning, not being distracted. The hardware that supports those skills is in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, which is very sensitive to the effects of poor sleep or insufficient sleep.”

So Gruber’s team looked 75 healthy children between the ages of 7 and 11. The children were each given a wristwatch-like device called an “actigraph” that is used to evaluate sleep by monitoring their night time activity, averaged the data over five nights and correlated the data with the kids’ report-card grades.

They then controlled for variables already known to be associated with academic performance—socio-economic status of the parents and the age of the child and used the sleep variables to predict the report cards grades. “Math, English, French, each one separately,” said Gruber. “Then we looked at how much variability in the specific grade or subject was explained by the sleep variables after controlling for the other what we call ‘confounders.’”

What they found was a “significant” performance variable in math and languages that was related to a good night’s sleep. Especially math. “We found that 14% of the variability we found in math …was explained by sleep deficiency,” said Gruber. “It was 7% and 8% for English and French.”

While parents are on the hook for enforcing bedtime, Gruber thinks pediatricians should ask about the quality and quantity of sleep during routine checkups. “I think many kids might have some sleep issues that nobody is aware of,” she says. “Regular screening for possible sleep issues is particularly important for students who exhibit difficulties in math, languages or reading.”

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children ages five to 12 get 10-11 hours of sleep a night. (Teenagers need about 9 hours, but studies suggest only 15% of them get it.) If your child currently clocks in less than that, it might be time for a bed time reevaluation. In previous studies, Gruber and her team looked at sleep extension—adding hours to sleep time—and while they didn’t look at math, they did study behavior and attention and saw an improvement in both areas.

To develop healthy sleep habits, the National Sleep Foundation suggest parents establish a consistent bedtime routine, emphasize the need for a regular sleep schedule, keep television and computers out of bedrooms and teach children about healthy sleep habits.

TIME Insects

‘Super Mosquito’ Resistant to Malaria Insecticide Found in Mali

Bed nets can't hold back new breed of mosquito

Interbreeding between two mosquito species has created a new “super” species that is resistant to bed nets treated with malaria insecticide, a new study has found.

The species has been found in the West African country of Mali and, according to research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is a result of an evolutionary change caused by the introduction of the treated nets to the environment.

The treated nets have been credited with helping reduce the number of malaria deaths over the past decade. The World Health Organization reports deaths have decreased by 47 percent since 2000. According to a press release from the University of California at Davis, specialists were not surprised by the emergence of an insecticide resistant species.

“Growing resistance has been observed for some time,” said lead researcher and medical entomologist Gregory Lanzaro in the release. “Recently it has reached a level at some localities in Africa where it is resulting in the failure of the nets to provide meaningful control, and it is my opinion that this will increase.”

The scientists are urging the development of “new and effective malaria vector control strategies.”

Read next: How To Stop Chikungunya

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME vaccines

Disneyland: The Latest Victim of the Anti-Vaxxers

Get your shots first: The Magic Kingdom has the measles
Get your shots first: The Magic Kingdom is feeling sick Barry King—WireImage

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

The happiest place on Earth catches a bad case of measles—and the usual suspects are to blame

Updated: Jan. 23, 2015

Somewhere in Orange County, Mary Poppins and Ariel the mermaid may be running a fever. The same could be true for her coworkers—any of the other 23,000 people (OK, or characters) who punch in for work at Disneyland every day. And the same could be true too for any one of the estimated 16 million people who will pour into the theme park this year.

The reason? Measles. The cause? This may not come entirely as a surprise: the anti-vaccine crowd.

Just when you think they’ve been run to ground, shamed into silence, and just when you can watch a whole evening of Jenny McCarthy co-hosting the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square and not hear her utter a word of unscientific nonsense, the anti-vaxxers come roaring back. Only three weeks into 2015 the year’s first stories are emerging about the latest victims of the nation’s declining vaccine rate. And this time, ground zero is the self-proclaimed Happiest Place on Earth, which is in danger of becoming the decidedly less consumer-friendly Most Expensive Disease Vector on Earth.

So far, according to epidemiologists, there are 59 cases of measles across California and 42 of the cases are believed to have been contracted at Disneyland. The outbreak has spread to five other states—which is to be expected when the place that is ground zero for any infection attracts visitors from all over the world. Of the first 20 Disneyland victims, 15 were unvaccinated. Concern about the infections has gotten so great that California State epidemiologist Gil Chavez warned the public that anyone who has not had the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine should avoid all California theme parks “for the time being.”

The Disneyland epidemic is not an aberration. In the past year, California had its highest measles caseload in two decades—66, with 23 of them in Orange County. The U.S. recorded 610 cases total in 2014, triple the number as recently as 2011. In the first half of last year, the CDC reported that 69% of the documented cases (200 out of 288) were among unvaccinated people.

It’s no coincidence, as TIME has reported, that the areas of the country with the highest vaccine refusal rates—Orange County; New York City; Columbus, Ohio; Silicon Valley—have higher rates of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, too. What gives the anti-vaccinators so much power to do so much harm is that once vaccine rates fall below 95%, herd immunity—the protection that a well-vaccinated community offers to the few people in its midst who must remain unvaccinated for legitimate medical reasons—starts to break down. In 2012, California was right at that baseline 95% vaccination rate for measles and whooping cough. It’s now at 92%.

Those small percentages can make huge differences. In 2003, a few provinces in northern Nigeria banned polio vaccines, when local religious leaders claimed the drops were designed to sterilize Muslim girls and transmit AIDS. Within three years, 20 previously polio-free countries recorded cases of the disease—all of them the Nigerian strain.

The reaction to the Disneyland epidemic and the anti-vaccine community responsible for it has been blistering. The Washington Post ran an extensive feature on the disgraced and disgraceful Dr. Andrew Wakefield, whose fraudulent and entirely retracted 1998 study birthed the antivaccine nonsense. A Los Angeles Times editorial laid the blame for current problem directly at the antivaxxers’ feet and made the story Tweetable with a succinct, 78-character indictment: “Disneyland measles outbreak spurred by ill-informed, anti-science stubbornness.”

American anti-vaxxers remain impervious not only to the public shaming, but to other epidemiological warning flags, like the ongoing whooping cough epidemic in California or last year’s outbreaks of measles in New York and mumps in Columbus. As the Disneyland outbreak continues to worsen, the reaction is likely to be more of the same—which is to say denial coupled with a lot of echo-chamber prattle about a bought-off media carrying water for big pharma, plus the usual scattering of glib Twitter code like #CDCWhistleblower, which purports to be final proof of the great vaccine coverup, but which is nothing of the kind.

Hashtag science is not real science, and conspiracy theories have nothing to do with facts. The problem is, children infected with measles—or polio or whooping cough or mumps—are indeed very real. In the age of vaccines, there ought to be no place they feel unsafe—least of all Disneyland.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

Marine Biologists Capture Rare Photo of a Shark Birth

Scientists noticed a visibly "agitated" shark off of the Philippines coastline

Marine biologists say they’ve never seen anything like it: Possibly the first known snapshot of an elusive species of shark giving birth in the open ocean.

The image, which was published in the December issue of the journal Coral Reefs, was captured off of the Philippines coastline in 2013. Scientists there, during a routine reef survey, noticed a “visibly” agitated thresher shark swimming nearby, trailed by several cleaner fish pecking at its pelvic region. One marine photographer snapped a photo, which later revealed the cause of the shark’s agitation: The head of a newborn pup jutting out head-first from the shark’s body.

“I freaked out,” study author Simon Arthur told BBC News, adding that it was the first image of a shark birth he had encountered in his career.

TIME space

Senator Ted Cruz to Head Senate Subcommittee on Space

Conservatives Speak At Values Voters Summit In Washington
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), speaks at the 2013 Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council, on October 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

The appointment is part of a broader reshuffle

Texas Senator Ted Cruz was appointed the chair of the Senate subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness last week — which means he will be in charge of overseeing space agency NASA in Congress.

The Republican lawmaker’s appointment is part of a larger reshuffle following the GOP’s win in the 2014 Congressional election.

The Verge reports that Cruz has previously denied climate change exists and also unsuccessfully attempted to reduce NASA’s funding in July 2013.

But Cruz, whose role at the subcommittee’s helm will be confirmed later this month, has also previously said that it was “critical that the United States ensure its continued leadership in space.”

TIME space

Watch TIME’s Jeff Kluger Talk About the History and Impact of SpaceX

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launch early Saturday was a success, despite the failed soft landing attempt of the rocket booster at sea.

See TIME’s senior science writer and editor at large, Jeff Kluger, explain the history and importance of SpaceX.

TIME space travel

Watch: SpaceX Makes Second Launch Attempt for Daring Ocean Barge Landing

Reusable rockets could change the future of space exploration

SpaceX to launched its Falcon 9 rocket early Saturday morning in an ambitious attempt to open a new era of rocket reusability, potentially reshaping space travel after years of fits and starts.

The Falcon 9 launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 4:47 a.m. E.T., and will attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on an ocean barge. An initial launch attempt was scrapped at the last minute a few days earlier.

Since the beginning of space programs, rockets have been used just once and then discarded. Billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX venture is aimed at making spaceflight more affordable by creating reusable rockets.

“If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred,” Musk once said. “A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.”

TIME animals

Fire at South Carolina Zoo Kills 28 Animals

“This is very devastating," a zoo official said

A fire at Hollywild Animal Park in South Carolina killed 28 animals in the organization’s primate barn early Friday, park officials said.

A staff member at the park found smoke in the barn as he arrived for work a little before 8:30 a.m. on Friday, according to a Facebook post from the park. Twenty-eight animals died due to smoke inhalation, and 14 other animals in the building survived and are being treated.

“This is very devastating to me and the entire Hollywild family,” said Dr. Beverly Hargus, Hollywild’s veterinarian. “At this point, we do not feel any animals are suffering. None were burned. The survivors are recovering from smoke inhalation. It appears it was a quick and painless death for the animals that died.”

Local fire officials said the fire was caused by an electrical short in a light fixture that traveled into the ceiling and spread, causing the building to fill with smoke.

Four chimpanzees, two baboons, eight lemurs, one bear cub and three tortoises were among the animals that died.

“This is definitely the kind of fire that can just happen anywhere,” Hargus said.

TIME space travel

Your Ride on Another Planet Will Be Self-Driven

Latest Electronics Products Are Displayed At Ceatec Japan
Nissan Motor Co.'s Autonomous Drive Leaf electric vehicle is driven for a demonstration ride at the CEATEC Japan 2013 exhibition in Chiba, Japan, on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

NASA and Nissan team up to create autonomous vehicles for other worlds

Nissan has begun developing a self-driving car in partnership with NASA, in the hopes that some of the technology will one day be used to ferry passengers around on other planets.

The Japanese car manufacturer and the U.S. space agency announced a five-year partnership on Thursday to jointly engineer vehicles capable of self-operation, Wired magazine reports.

The cars will be developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center, close to Nissan’s Silicon Valley facility in California. They will also be zero emission, modeled on the electric Nissan Leaf.

“This is a perfect blend of the capability of what the robotics folks at NASA Ames have and the autonomy that we bring,” said Martin Sierhuis, the director of Nissan’s Silicon Valley research center. Sierhuis, incidentally, is a former NASA scientist.

NASA said that it was looking forward to using some of the automation technology pioneered by Nissan in its space programs. “We have a rover on Mars. It is not very autonomous. As we go deeper into space, into more and more dangerous locations, we need to add that autonomy,” Pete Worden, director of the Ames Research Center, told Wired.

[Wired]

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