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Science Today is a daily radio feature produced by the University of California for the CBS Radio Network. From breakthroughs in medicine, agriculture and the environment to insights into the world around us, Science Today covers it all.

ucsdhealthsciences:

Novel Technologies Advance Brain Surgery to Benefit Patients
Minimally invasive brain surgery at UC San Diego Health System

In a milestone procedure, neurosurgeons at UC San Diego Health System have integrated advanced 3D imaging, computer simulation and next-generation surgical tools to perform a highly complex brain surgery through a small incision to remove deep-seated tumors. This is the first time this complex choreography of technologies has been brought together in an operating room in California.

“Tumors located at the base of the skull are particularly challenging to treat due to the location of delicate anatomic structures and critical blood vessels,” said neurosurgeon Clark C. Chen, MD, PhD, UC San Diego Health System. “The conventional approach to excising these tumors involves long skin incisions and removal of a large piece of skull. This new minimally invasive approach is far less radical. It decreases the risk of the surgery and shortens the patient’s hospital stay.” 

“A critical part of this surgery involves identifying the neural fibers in the brain, the connections that allow the brain to perform its essential functions. The orientation of these fibers determines the trajectory to the tumor,” said Chen, vice-chairman of Academic Affairs for the Division of Neurosurgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “We visualized these fibers with restriction spectrum imaging, a proprietary technology developed at UC San Diego. Color-coded visualization of the tracts allows us to plot the safest path to the tumor.”

After surgery planning, a 2-inch incision was made near the patient’s hairline, followed by a quarter-sized hole in the skull. The surgery was carried out through a thin tube-like retractor that created a narrow path to the tumor.  Aided by a robotic arm and high-resolution cameras, the team was able to safely remove two tumors within millimeter precision.

“What we are seeing is a new wave of advances in minimally invasive surgery for patients with brain cancer,” said Bob Carter, MD, PhD, professor and chief of Neurosurgery, UC San Diego School of Medicine. “These minimally invasive approaches permit smaller incisions and a shorter recovery. In this case, the patient was able to go home the day after the successful removal of multiple brain tumors.”

Right on, ucsdhealthsciences!

If you’re one of the nation’s experts on spiders and the properties of their silk, you best not have a hint of arachnophobia. Fortunately for us UC Riverside’s evolutionary biologist Cheryl Hayashi does not have this problem. 
We had the pleasure of interviewing Hayashi in the past and she told us then that one of the spider silk proteins they genetically sequenced dated back about 250 million years.

That’s a really long period of time. I mean, we’re going back to the Mesozoic, when dinosaurs are walking around. And so this is a long time for these sequences to be conserved. And to us, that argues that these regions of the sequence are probably very important for the functioning of spider silks.

Hayashi explained that there’s lots of interest in creating synthetic spider silks.

Spider silk is very strong and very tough. It actually surpasses a lot of the common man-made materials. It’s stronger than high tensile steel and has a toughness that is greater than Kevlar. So there’s a lot of interest in being able to mass produce spider silk.

If you’re one of the nation’s experts on spiders and the properties of their silk, you best not have a hint of arachnophobia. Fortunately for us UC Riverside’s evolutionary biologist Cheryl Hayashi does not have this problem.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Hayashi in the past and she told us then that one of the spider silk proteins they genetically sequenced dated back about 250 million years.

That’s a really long period of time. I mean, we’re going back to the Mesozoic, when dinosaurs are walking around. And so this is a long time for these sequences to be conserved. And to us, that argues that these regions of the sequence are probably very important for the functioning of spider silks.

Hayashi explained that there’s lots of interest in creating synthetic spider silks.

Spider silk is very strong and very tough. It actually surpasses a lot of the common man-made materials. It’s stronger than high tensile steel and has a toughness that is greater than Kevlar. So there’s a lot of interest in being able to mass produce spider silk.

If you were to translate ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall’ in another language, a lot depends on what language you’re speaking. Cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky of UC San Diego explains.

Let’s just focus on the verb ‘sat’. If this is something you want to say in English and it’s something that happened in the past, then you have to change the verb to mark tense. But in other languages, not only do you have to mark tense, there may be five different past tenses.

In other languages, gender and how you even came to know this information about Mr. Dumpty are factored in, too. The cognition behind language got Boroditsky interested in whether bilinguals have two separate systems for thinking in two languages or, do they have one integrated system for both? She found it’s actually a combination of the two.

They may change based on the language they’re speaking in the moment, but they’re almost always still different from the monolinguals of either language. So, it seems that there’s both combination and differentiation in the bilingual mind.

What about you? Do you speak more than one language?

If you were to translate ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall’ in another language, a lot depends on what language you’re speaking. Cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky of UC San Diego explains.

Let’s just focus on the verb ‘sat’. If this is something you want to say in English and it’s something that happened in the past, then you have to change the verb to mark tense. But in other languages, not only do you have to mark tense, there may be five different past tenses.

In other languages, gender and how you even came to know this information about Mr. Dumpty are factored in, too. The cognition behind language got Boroditsky interested in whether bilinguals have two separate systems for thinking in two languages or, do they have one integrated system for both? She found it’s actually a combination of the two.

They may change based on the language they’re speaking in the moment, but they’re almost always still different from the monolinguals of either language. So, it seems that there’s both combination and differentiation in the bilingual mind.

What about you? Do you speak more than one language?