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Training dogs to detect cancer with their noses

The Penn Vet Working Dog Center trains canines to detect cancer using their remarkable sense of smell.

McBaine, a bouncy black and white springer spaniel, perks up and begins his hunt at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. His nose skims 12 tiny arms that protrude from the edges of a table-size wheel, each holding samples of blood plasma, only one of which is spiked with a drop of cancerous tissue.

The dog makes one focused revolution around the wheel before halting, steely-eyed and confident, in front of sample No. 11. A trainer tosses him his reward, a tennis ball, which he giddily chases around the room, sliding across the floor and bumping into walls like a clumsy puppy.

McBaine is one of four highly trained cancer detection dogs at the center, which trains purebreds to put their superior sense of smell to work in search of the early signs of ovarian cancer. Now, Penn Vet, part of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, is teaming with chemists and physicists to isolate cancer chemicals that only dogs can smell. They hope this will lead to the manufacture of nanotechnology sensors that are capable of detecting bits of cancerous tissue 1/100,000th the thickness of a sheet of paper.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

University of Pennsylvania wins contract to treat memory deficits

The University of Pennsylvania was one of two institutions to win a Department of Defense contract to develop brain implants for memory deficits.

Their aim is to develop new treatments for traumatic brain injury, the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Its most devastating symptom is the blunting of memory and reasoning. Scientists have found in preliminary studies that they can sharpen some kinds of memory by directly recording, and stimulating, circuits deep in the brain...

“A decade ago, only a handful of centers had the expertise to perform such real-time experiments in the context of first-rate surgery,” said Michael Kahana, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania and the recipient of one of the new contracts granted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa. “Today, there are dozens of them, and more on the way; this area is suddenly hot.”


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Funeral for a Home earns national press

Funeral for a Home, a project Flying Kite has covered extensively in the past, earned some national praise for its mission to memorialize a demolished home in Mantua. The Atlantic's CityLab attended and snapped some pictures.

The voices of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church choir echoed off the buildings on Saturday along the 3700 block of West Philadelphia’s Melon Street.

Their usual pulpit sits around the corner at 37th and Wallace. But this past weekend, they sang at the funeral of an unusual neighbor: a small, dilapidated rowhouse at 3711 Melon, torn down that night.


As the choir sang the gospel hymn, the words seemed fitting – “Precious memories, how they linger.” Soon, memories would be all that’s left of the two-story home, a narrow rowhouse that long ago lost its partners.

Original source: The Atlantic's CityLab
Read the complete story here.

Can 30th Street become a hub for a 'livable' neighborhood?

Can the area around 30th Street Station be transformed into a mixed-used community? Next City investigates.

The first hurdle that the planners will have to overcome is the area’s zoning. Most of the parcels immediately adjacent to the station are zoned for industrial use only, essentially limiting their use to Drexel or Penn, since the area is too expensive for real industrial uses and the zoning also allows institutional uses. While the universities are no doubt the area’s anchors and will remain the most important employers, a truly urban neighborhood is hard to fashion out of an “eds and meds” monoculture.

Farther from the station, extending down Market Street to 34th Street and the streets farther south, the blocks are zoned for institutional use, again excluding office and residential uses not affiliated with a university or hospital.

Only in select locations — for example, on the block south of the old post office, where Brandywine is building the apartment building — are general residential and office uses allowed. This building is proof that there is a residential market in this location (and why wouldn’t there be, with the easy access downtown and to suburbs for reverse-commutes by regional rail or the highways?), and the first order of business must be changing the zoning so that developers can build housing and office space. This approach would complement the universities rather than allowing the neighborhood to be totally subsumed by them.


Original source: Next City
Read the complete story here.

Hidden City tackles the 'complicated' CHOP expansion

Hidden City takes an in-depth look at CHOP's expansion to the eastern banks of the Schuylkill.

Doug Carney, CHOP’s senior vice president of facilities, said his hopes were that CHOP would continue to “be attractive to the world-class researchers we compete for.”
 
Carney’s invocation of “world-class,” however, left an opening for those in the audience unhappy with CHOP’s plan for a 23-story, half-a-million-square-foot tower right next to the low-rise neighborhoods of Graduate Hospital and the Devil’s Pocket, which would bring 1,000 CHOP researchers to the site each day. (Note that this is not going to be a place for patient care, as with CHOP’s complex across the river, but an office building for research.) “Is it world-class,” a follow-up questioner asked the CHOP team, “to drive 76 then take a ramp into a parking garage?”

It doesn’t seem that CHOP’s institutional ambitions and the city’s ideal planning needs will coalesce. But CHOP, which is currently undertaking a remarkable amount of expansion, has goodwill on its side -- it is, after all, devoted to the care of children -- as well as, frankly, considerable leverage to do what it wants. The Graduate Hospital Area project serves as a good insight into CHOP’s role in the city and illustrates the influence it wields.


Original source: Hidden City Philadelphia
Read the complete story here.

Inventing the Future: Researchers at Monell tackle the roots of obesity

Monell Chemical Senses Center, a nonprofit research organization in University City, is at the forefront of research into how eating habits during pregnancy and infancy impact obesity.

The Monell researchers have identified several sensitive periods for taste preference development. One is before three and a half months of age, which makes what the mother eats while pregnant and breast-feeding so important. “It’s our fundamental belief that during evolution, we as humans are exposed to flavors both in utero and via mother’s milk that are signals of things that will be in our diets as we grow up and learn about what flavors are acceptable based on those experiences,” said Gary Beauchamp, the director of the Monell Center. “Infants exposed to a variety of flavors in infancy are more willing to accept a variety of flavors, including flavors that are associated with various vegetables and so forth and that might lead to a more healthy eating style later on.”

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Mighty Writers moves into Hawthorne Hall on Lancaster Avenue

Curbed Philly reports on an exciting development: Mighty Writers is moving into Hawthorne Hall on Lancaster Avenue.

While Hawthorne Hall patiently awaits its anchor tenant, a surge of youthful creativity is bursting forth just a few doors down.

On the western edge of the building cluster is the former home of Truelight Missionary Baptist Church, where its once-abandoned pews have been replaced with collaborative workspaces, a small performance area, and the seasoned influential voice of Annette John-Hall, Director of Mighty Writers West Philadelphia campus at 3861 Lancaster Avenue.

Founded in 2009 by former Philadelphia Weekly editor Tim Whitaker, Mighty Writers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that offers SAT prep courses, homework help, mentorships, and writing workshops to Philadelphia students between the ages of 7-17. The volunteer-rich organization has been a tremendous benefactor of academic growth in the wake of massive budget cuts to Philadelphia schools in recent years.


Original source: Curbed Philly
Read the complete story here.

Penn doctors examine the black-white divide in breast cancer outcomes

For years, scientists and doctors have puzzled over the disparity in outcomes between white and black breast cancer sufferers. A team at the University of Pennsylvania recently published a report on the subject.

The findings were striking. Over all, white women with breast cancer lived three years longer than black women. Of the women studied, nearly 70 percent of white women lived at least five years after diagnosis, while 56 percent of black women were still alive five years later. The difference is not explained by more aggressive cancers among black women. Instead, the researchers found a troubling pattern in which black women were less likely to receive a diagnosis when their cancer was at an early stage and most curable. In addition, a significant number of black women also receive lower-quality cancer care after diagnosis, although those differences do not explain the survival gap.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Jose Garces' Distrito named one of the best Mexican spots in U.S.

Travel & Leisure names Jose Garces' Distrito, the West Philly taco-and-margarita mecca, one of the best Mexican restaurants in the country.

Television celebrity chefs and quality Mexican food aren’t necessarily a match made en el cielo, but in the case of Food Network’s Chicago-born Ecuadorian Iron Chef Jose Garces’ Distrito, the connection pays off. The somewhat gaudy, pink, loud, huge restaurant is dedicated to the cuisine of Mexico City and serves nachos, ceviches,huaraches, tamales, enchiladas, and moles that Philadelphians recognize as not necessarily authentic, but some of the most satisfying versions on the East Coast regardless.

Original source: Travel & Leisure 
Read the complete list here.

Eater's Top 25 Burgers list features Philly favorites

The national food blog Eater -- which also has a local chapter, Eater Philly -- recently released a list of the "25 Hottest Burgers in America Right Now." Hickory Lane and Spot Gourmet (a food truck!) made the cut. This description of Hickory Lane's entry has us drooling.

Former Rouge chef Matt Zagorski is cooking really nice food at this Fairmount Avenue restaurant. But the burger, as critic Craig Laban will tell you, is the way to go: "10 ounces of custom-ground brisket, filet, and deckle, seared to a cast-iron crisp and then snugged in the embrace of a brioche bun between delicate folds of bibb lettuce and a molten lid of tangy Cabot cheddar. It’s hard to imagine a burger this tasty as a burden. Then again, it’s so good that it’s also become clear: No change of scenery or molecular tricks will ever let Zagorski truly escape. The power of his patty is simply the best reason to visit Hickory Lane."

Original source: Eater
Read the full list here.

Local researchers examine impact of fracking on health

The University of Pennsylvania's Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology is leading the effort to assess the health risks of natural gas extraction. They are heading up a national coalition of institutions set to analyze and map the risks of fracking.

The aim is to bring academic discipline to the unresolved national debate, which pits an industry that denies any link between fracking and environmental contamination against those who assert that fracking poisons air and water with natural and man-made chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects and other illnesses.

“There is an enormous amount of rhetoric on both sides,” said Trevor M. Penning, head of the Penn toxicology center and the driving force behind the Environmental Health Sciences Core Center Hydrofracking Working Group. “We felt that because we are situated in Pennsylvania, we had a duty to get on top of what was known and what was not known.”


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

CHOP's innovative treatment for Leukemia shows tremendous promise

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) used a disabled form the AIDS virus to treat a young girl's leukemia. The results have been remarkable for 7-year-old Emma Whitehead and her family, and constitute a major breakthrough in the treatment of cancer. Doctors hope the new treatment, developed at the University of Pennsylvania, will eventually replace bone-marrow transplantation.

The treatment very nearly killed her. But she emerged from it cancer-free, and about seven months later is still in complete remission. She is the first child and one of the first humans ever in whom new techniques have achieved a long-sought goal — giving a patient’s own immune system the lasting ability to fight cancer.
 
Original Source: The New York Times
Read the full story here.

Wharton study: Entrepreneurship yields happiness, even sans success

A study by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School indicates entrepreneurship and happiness go together like peanut butter and jelly, even if one's startup isn't crushing it, reports The Street.
 
In general, the study contradicted the old saying that money cannot buy happiness; the more money someone earned, the happier they tended to be. The older respondents also tended to be happier than the younger ones.
 
Original source: The Street
Read the full story here.
 

Second annual Vendy Awards honor best Philly food trucks on Saturday

Zagat checks in on the Philly food truck scene, including Saturday's second annual Philadelphia Vendy Awards.
 
After sifting through nominations, organizers have determined the 12 contenders for best food truck in Philly, judged by both a panel of food industry pro and festival attendees. The savory options at The Lot in West Philly on that late July Saturday will come from Delicias, The Foo Truck, King of Falafel, Lil Dan’s Gourmet, The Smoke Truck, Tacos Don Memo, Vernalicious and Yumtown. On the sweet side, enjoy desserts from Lil’ Pop Shop, Little Baby’s Ice Cream, Sugar Philly and Sweet Box. To eat your fill of all that goodness and make your food truck vote count, snag a ticket for $55 to the 3-7 PM event here (bonus: the price of admission does include beer).
 
Original source: Zagat
Read the full story here.
 

Women draft their way to the front of craft brewing

The Washington Post profiles prominent ladies of the craft brew scene, including Rosemarie Certo of Dock Street Brewing Co. iN West Philadelphia.
 
Certo’s interest in beer started when she began making beer at home because she wasn’t happy with what was available domestically at the time. She started Dock Street in 1985 and remembers in the early days going to make a sales pitch to a distributor and being the only woman in a room of more than 50. “I remember not being bothered by it,” she recalls.
 
Original source: Washington Post
Read the full story here.
 
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