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With Some Structure, Stem Cells Might Still Stop Vision Loss

Getting older is supposed to give you perspective. But for one out of five people over the age of 65, it does the opposite. Macular degeneration is a common progressive eye condition, one that thins and breaks down a tissue behind the center of the retina. Without that tissue, the light-sensing cells it supports atrophy and die, making it impossible to get a clear picture of anything straight ahead of you—like, say, the faces of your loved ones or anything past your steering wheel. Treatments can slow the loss of vision, but there’s no way to reverse it.

Which is why scientists have long been excited about the prospect of using stem cells to restore that tissue, and with it the sharp central vision necessary for driving, reading, and navigating the world. Clinical trials in the last few years have shown that injecting stem cell-derived retinal pigment cells into the eye can be done safely. But so far they haven’t been that effective, because the support cells often don’t wind up in the right place. They need a little help, a little structure.

And for the first time, that’s exactly what a group of scientists from the University of Southern California are giving them. By building a synthetic scaffold, the team of bioengineers could get retinal pigment cells derived from embryonic stem cells into a single, fixed layer that mimics the natural tissue. And when ophthalmologist Amir Kashani and Mark Humayun surgically cemented the implant beneath the retinas of four patients, the new cells didn’t just stay put—they began activating photoreceptors that had gone dormant in the damaged tissue above.

The researchers published initial results from this first human clinical trial Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The implant successfully stopped further vision loss in all four patients in follow-ups that ranged from four months to a year. The youngest patient, a 69-year-old woman, actually got some vision back. She went from only being able to see seven letters on an eyesight test—you know, the one where the letters of the alphabet get smaller and smaller each row you go down—to being able to see 24 just four months post-surgery.

Of course, with a sample size this small it’s impossible to say whether the improvement is statistically (or clinically) significant. The study will continue enrolling until it gets 20 patients, and will follow them for five years. “We certainly need more subjects to be able to say how it works and when it works, and even why it works,” says Kashani. “But the fact we’re getting any improvement in any of these patients who have such advanced diagnoses is a pretty good sign of its potential.”

To pass regulatory muster, treatments like this one—which would be manufactured as an off-the-shelf implant—will require much bigger, longer, more prospective studies to prove their effectiveness. As more of them inch closer to commercialization, the Food and Drug Administration has begun cracking down on the more than 600 clinics across the US that hawk stem cells harvested from the blood and fat of patients, claiming they can treat everything from arthritis to autism. In 2015, doctors at one such clinic in Florida charged three elderly women with macular degeneration $5,000 each to inject these kinds of stem cells into their eyes. All three went blind.

Last August the FDA sent a warning letter to the clinic, which has since ceased administering the treatment for age-related vision loss. “Without commitment to the principles of adequate evidence generation that have led to so much medical progress, we may never see stem cell therapy reach its full potential,” wrote former FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, in an editorial that accompanied a case study of one of the Florida women in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It’s a concern that researchers like Kashani share. The implants he’s studying are the result of a decade of lab work at public research institutions and private companies in southern California. And he fears that in that decade, stem cell treatments have been tarnished by the doctors that rushed ahead to turn a quick profit. “It makes it more difficult when you lose a lot of public trust, frankly,” says Kashani. “At the end of the day you can’t develop these therapies without patient involvement.” A bonafide stem cell cure for macular degeneration is going to take more than a little perspective. It’s going to take patience, too.

Stem Cell Hopes

  • Stem cells have the potential to treat a wide range of diseases, but therapies administered by stem cell clinics across the US are not FDA-approved.
  • Such experimental regenerative medicines got a big boost from the 21st Century Cures Act.
  • And the results can be truly astonishing: In one case, scientists used genetically corrected stem cells to grow a new skin for a boy with a rare genetic disorder.

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Tesla Long-Lost Drawings Reveal Genius Map For Multiplication

Some important documents have been uncovered by Abe Zucca, an artist from Arizona. The documents uncovered include an original Nikola Tesla map to multiplication which is said to contain answers to questions mathematicians have been trying to solve for years. Among the documents, there are also drawings of handheld technological devices and manuscripts detailing free-energy systems.

Map To Multiplication Discovered

Joey Grether, a high school teacher, examined the documents and said of the Map of Multiplication, that it, “offers a comprehensive visual understanding of how all numbers are self-organized into 12 positions of compostability.” He continued to say, “This breakthrough is phenomenal. If we could get students all over the globe to use this technique, to play with it, and help figure out how to use it, we could overcome our cultural aversion to Mathematics. Instead of memorizing the multiplication table, we could learn the positions of numbers and have a better understanding of how they work.”

All numbers work together based on a pattern of twelve numbers also known as 12x or multiples of twelve. There are twelve months in the year, twelve hours on the clock (and twenty-four in a day) and twelve inches in a foot. Twelve is thought to be the most highly recognised composite system with all it’s multiples being divisible by 2, 3, 4 and 6. With a chance of four in twelve numbers being prime, this is another key reason for twelve being an important number.

Numbers, according to this diagram, organise themselves into the pattern of 3, 6, 9 and 12 repeating the sequence, and a quote by Tesla which said, “If you only knew the magnificence of the 3, 6 and 9, then you would have the key to the universe, “suggests that this is vital to solving many of the problems mathematicians have long been trying to uncover.

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Musk Admits Automation At Tesla Factory Was a Bad Idea

Elon Musk is under a lot of pressure right now – Model 3 production over at the Tesla factory isn’t exactly going according to plan. First, Q1 numbers looked grim: less than 10,000 Model 3s rolled off the assembly line — a far shot from his promise of producing 5,000 Model 3s a week. And then there’s the other distraction: Tesla’s big fight with the feds over releasing data it has on a fatal Model X crash back in March.

Elon has a lot of damage control ahead of him, and of course, a growing number of impatient customers and investors.

So where’s the fire, Elon? Is Tesla’s Gigafactory not up to the task? In a head-turning interview with CBS Good Morning, he claimed: it’s the dang robots.

Tesla has increasingly relied on streamlining its assembly process, and has ended up with one of the most robotics-reliant car production lines in the world. As more robots rolled out on to the factory floor, fewer humans were involved — and they’re hurting, spurned on by Musk’s ambitious goals.

The plan: a robotic car-building factory operating at superhuman speeds. But the numbers seem to suggest that Tesla isn’t even close. Who knew that building a $35,000 EV was complicated?

Tesla’s growing pains are more apparent than ever. Musk admits he even sleeps inside a conference room, wearing his little Tesla-logo-adorned baseball cap, at the company’s Fremont factory. “It’s terrible, it’s not even a comfortable couch,” he admits to the CBS reporter. It’s an odd attempt to send a message to the world (and shareholders): See, he cares after all! He’s just like us!

Humans are truly underrated, Elon. But they have their limits, too.

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Uber’s CEO Knows We Need Equality To Move The World Forward

Shortly after taking the helm as CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi read the now-infamous report on the beleaguered company’s culture, it was bad. Real bad. He had to take breaks, he admitted in an on-stage interview with legendary journalist Tina Brown yesterday at the Women in the World conference in New York City.

Uber has had to do a bit of soul-searching in the past year or so. There was the viral blog post from female engineer Susan Fowler that revealed the company’s toxic culture of serial harassment, eventually leading to the ousting Khosrowshahi’s predecessor Travis Kalanick. There was a massive data breach that came to light more than a year after it happened, and the lawsuit against self-driving car company Waymo. And most recently, an autonomous vehicle killed a pedestrian in Arizona. All this has been, understandably, bad for business — users have been deleting the app in droves, and the company’s stock tanked.

Khosrowshahi knew the company was in crisis, of course (though some of the above happened after he became CEO). But in some ways, that makes things easier to shake up. “The crisis was so big that I didn’t have to convince anyone to change things,” he said. He was drawn to the company because it presented a unique opportunity to make a difference in the world; if Uber was going to do that, Khosrowshahi knew the company’s values had to shift.

Late last year, after extensive crowdsourcing, voting, and focus group testing, Khosrowshahi released the company’s new norms, such as “We celebrate differences” and “We do the right thing.” Yes, these new values sound cheesy, but it’s a dramatic shift from the “hustlin’” and “toe-stepping” of the past that allowed such rampant and destructive behavior at the company.

“It’s clear that the culture and approach that got Uber where it is today is not what will get us to the next level,” Khosrowshahi wrote in a post about the new norms on LinkedIn.

At the Women in the World event, Khosrowshahi elaborated a bit on what exactly that means. “There are so many women who are COOs of these companies, but they never get to be CEO,” Brown said, pointing out that male CEOs always talk about their “great pipeline of women.” “But that pipeline seems pretty congested. My question is: How is your pipeline, Dara?”

Khosrowshahi noted that this takes time and investment. Too many companies focus on recruitment when they talk about women in leadership. Uber has done that, he said, but he’s really most interested in development “Recruitment is like a sugar high,” he said — if you really want women to be in charge, it takes years. He points to his time at Expedia, in which he put forth a conscious effort to raise the number of women in charge from about 15 percent to 25 percent. “It took years to do so because it took developing women, shaping them, working with our culture, making sure you move them to the right places in the company,” Khosrowshahi said. He seems to imply that they could do the same at Uber.

But true equality goes beyond gender  it means making a more equal society for everyone. And that fits into Uber’s larger vision of taking you wherever you need to go, no matter how you do it, even if it’s not in a car. Cars sit idle 95 percent of the time, Khosrowshahi said, and parking takes up 25 to 30 percent of space in cities. He envisions a future without car ownership. “If mobility and movement is available to everybody, the delta between the value of real estate in Manhattan vs Queens starts diminishing,” Khosrowshahi said. “Bringing the cost of movement down creates a society that is more equal, and creates opportunity for more people on broader basis.”

And why should you trust Uber to get us to that future? Khosrowshahi’s ready. “Because I’m in charge.”

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