Author Archives: sonia

I’ll be speaking at Novus tomorrow in SF

Here’s the description:

“A one-day event with leading influencers and visionaries to reimagine the American dream in an intimate setting at The Battery in San Francisco. NOVUS is a tour de force that unites global shapers from around the world to tackle the today’s grand challenges via actionable change. “

Young blood helps repair fractured bones of ageing mice

From the New Scientist:

“Over the past few years, researchers have reversed muscle atrophy, memory loss, heart degradation and some of the effects of cognitive decline by pumping the blood of young mice into old mice. The results from these animal experiments were so intriguing that last year a team at Stanford University began the ultimate rejuvenation trial: giving blood plasma from under 30s to people with Alzheimer’s. Results are expected next year.

Now, Benjamin Alman, a professor of surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, and his colleagues have tested young blood’s ability to heal bones.”

A 3-D-printed airway splint cures babies, then disappears

From the LAT:

“So far, the medical implant has been tested in three children between the ages of 3 months and 16 months. Before getting the implant, the young patients had spent much of their lives in intensive care, where they needed to be on ventilators full-time to help them breathe. But after surgeons inserted the small white device around their narrow airways, all three recovered rapidly, according to a study published this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine.”

Obama’s BRAIN Initiative’s first study results

Scientists controlled a mouse’s behavior using a method called “DREADDs (designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs).” Not a great acronym (given the potential abuse for such a method), but it does reflect a shift away from linking mental “illnesses to “chemical imbalances” in the brain, instead tracing them to miswiring and misfiring in neuronal circuits.” Here’s the story.

Transforming all donated blood into a universal type


“What do you do when a patient needs a blood transfusion but you don’t have their blood type in the blood bank? It’s a problem that scientists have been trying to solve for years but haven’t been able to find an economic solution – until now.

University of British Columbia chemists and scientists in the Centre for Blood Research have created an enzyme that could potentially solve this problem. The enzyme works by snipping off the sugars, also known as antigens, found in Type A and Type B blood, making it more like Type O. Type O blood is known as the universal donor and can be given to patients of all blood types.”

Read more at:

100 Plus in the Washington Post

Here’s the latest news piece to cite 100 Plus. The author interviewed some naysayers on the topic of healthspan, but ultimately I think it’s clear that if Silicon Valley can figure out how to increase human health, that is a good thing for everyone.

Killing cancer with the polio virus

Researchers at Duke University have engineered a polio virus to infect cancer cells. This weakens the cancer and alerts the body’s immune system to the fact that there is something growing in the body that shouldn’t be there. It’s brilliant work and 60 Minutes has done a great job of capturing the story. Watch it here.

23andMe Announces Intention to Invent Drugs Using Customer Data

Here’s the story from Forbes.

“The company has hired Richard Scheller, who led drug discovery at biotech icon Genentech for 14 years before announcing he would retire in December, and who has won some of science’s top awards, including the Lasker Prize, often referred to as “America’s Nobel,” and the Kavli Prize.”

Senolytics: Scientists identify new class of drugs that slows the aging process

From the Independent:

“A new class of drugs has been identified that slow the ageing process in mice, alleviating symptoms of frailty and extending a healthy lifespan.

If their effect on humans is as marked as it is on animal models, their benefit could be enormous.

The research was carried out by a team from Mayo Clinic, The Scripps Institute and other institutions and published in the journal Aging Cell yesterday.

“We view this study as a big, first step toward developing treatments that can be given safely to patients to extend healthspan or to treat age-related diseases and disorders,” said co-lead author and TSRI Professor Paul Robbins, PhD.”

Craig Venter lecture at the Beckman Symposium

It was a pleasure to meet Dr. Craig Venter at Stanford this week. As you can imagine, he had strong views and a huge amount of energy. I’m super-interested in all of his work, but was surprised to find out about his efforts to fight the spread of influenza using genomics. He convinced me that it is possible to create an annual flu vaccine that actually targets the flu of that year. That would be useful.

Craig Venter and Charles Shultz

TedX Wake Forest Talk

I spent last weekend at Wake Forest University in NC at their annual TedX event. It was a great group of people, and I’m looking forward to posting links to all the talks when they are released.


Blind Minnesota man gets ‘bionic eye,’ beholds his wife for first time in a decade

A great story. And another example of how man is blending with machine.

From the NY Daily News:

“Zderad became the 15th person in the country, and the first in his home state, to receive the implanted sight device created by Second Sight, Inc., according to the Mayo Clinic.

The tiny implant works by sending light waves to the optic nerve, bypassing the damaged retina. Wires attach to a prosthetic device that looks like sunglasses and renders a certain amount of imagery.”

Brain Organoids

An interesting new way to study diseases of the brain. From MIT Tech Review:

“A new method for growing human brain cells could unlock the mysteries of dementia, mental illness, and other neurological disorders.”

Scientists use stem cells to grow new human hair in the lab

Lots of people I know will be interested in this. Here’s the story from the researchers at Sanford-Burnham.

“We have developed a method using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells capable of initiating human hair growth. The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another,” said Alexey Terskikh, Ph.D., associate professor in the Development, Aging, and Regeneration Program. “Our stem cell method provides an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and isn’t limited by the availability of existing hair follicles.”

Trying my hand at a CAR-T simulation

Yesterday, I visited with a bunch of scientists from UCSF’s Lim Lab. They had a cool simulation game to show how CAR-T therapy works. Essentially, you want to make your “T” cell recognize the cancer cell so it will kill it. I did it on the first try — super-fun!