Category Archives: Health and Medicine

What is in the Air We Breathe?

“What we do in my group is we zoom in on the aerosols.”

Vicki Grassian and her team look at aerosols at a microscopic level to determine their impact on our health and our climate. Aerosols can be mineral dust and sea spray from the ocean or created by human activity or stem from any number of sources. They can travel across the globe impacting people, animals, and the planet in their wake.

Grassian’s work seeks to understand how aerosols and other gases not only affect us but how we might harness them for solar geoengineering.

Watch — What is in the Air We Breathe? – Exploring Ethics

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Breast Cancer Prevention

Despite significant advances in breast cancer treatment, people continue to be diagnosed with breast cancer at astounding rates – rates that have remained essentially unchanged over the past three decades. Of the approximately $2 billion spent on breast cancer research each year, less than 10 percent is dedicated to prevention research. The opportunity for discovery is immense, and the time for breakthroughs is now – to help prevent the more than 2 million breast cancers that are diagnosed each year.

The California Breast Cancer Research Program (CBCRP), aims to advance breast cancer primary prevention by surfacing innovative breast cancer prevention research ideas from researchers and others interested in breast cancer prevention through the Global Challenge to Prevent Breast Cancer, a competition designed to surface game-changing breast cancer prevention research ideas.

This series presents the ten finalists with the most promising ideas for advancing breast cancer prevention.

Browse more programs in Global Challenge to Prevent Breast Cancer.

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Searching for a Cure for Blindness

There are a number of diseases that can lead to blindness. But, a researcher at UC San Diego thinks there might be one way to cure them all. It’s called endogenous regeneration. Think of a lizard re-growing a lost tail. Zebrafish can do something similar with retinal tissue. Researcher Karl Wahlin says there is evidence humans have the potential to do the same, if scientists can figure out how to activate the process.

Wahlin’s work isn’t limited to teaching the body to repair itself. He’s also using stem cells to study different eye diseases and search for cures. He works with what are known as retinal organoids – miniature retinal models grown in the lab. These can be made from stem cells of people with specific eye diseases so researchers can see how those diseases might develop in the womb, and which treatments might be effective against them.

Now, Wahlin is teaming up with Alysson Muotri from the UC San Diego Stem Cell program who uses brain organoids for similar research. The two have begun working together with the help of a bioengineer who builds 3D-printing machines that can incorporate stem cells. Learn how it all works in the latest piece from the Building the Brain Series.

Watch — Stem Cells and Curing Blindness – Karl Wahlin

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Aging Bones and Joints

Osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal degenerative conditions of aging affect millions of adults resulting in pain, dysfunction and decreased quality of life. In an aging active population, what can be done to prevent these degenerative changes, treat them when they occur, and restore individuals back to an active high functioning lifestyle?

This series presented by leaders in the field from the UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, sheds light on current and future directions of orthopaedic surgery in treating degenerative conditions from our fingers to our toes.

Browse more programs in Aging Bones and Joints: Understanding Fractures and Cutting-Edge Approaches in Orthopaedics.

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Building the Brain With Alysson Muotri

Inside of each brain, there is the possibility to understand how trillions of neural connections come to sense the world, record memories, create an individual, and shape who you are and who you will become. Can we ever learn how this happens?

By using cortical organoids – self organized clusters of neurons generated by stem cells, that is what Alysson Muotri’s lab at the Sanford Consortium for regenerative medicine wants to learn.

Called “brain organoids” because they exhibit many of the characteristics of a developing brain they are asking what happens to build a brain? What happens to create a human mind, and who we are? How does this process become disordered, giving rise to conditions like autism, schizophrenia, epilepsy, and degeneration? And how can they find ways to intervene and rescue the mind from disorders, and even restore lost function?

Muotri’s lab and a host of collaborators in and out of UC San Diego are using a diverse array of methods and tools on these brain organoids, from researching the details of vision to how neurons connect and form networks, to engineering ways to help the organoids become more complex, to the differences between normal brains and brains with cognitive disorders, even to growing brain organoids in space to understand causes of autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

Join Alysson Muotri, Director of the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program as he takes you on a journey to visit the labs and collaborators who are exploring how a brain is built on Building the Brain.

Watch — Building The Brain With Alysson Muotri

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