Engineers at Stanford Test Biosensor to Monitor Drug Levels in Bloostream!

Dear Commons Community,

A team of engineers, led by H. Tom Soh and Peter Mage at Stanford University, have  developed a biosensor-based monitoring tool to insure that people receive proper dosages of prescribed drugs.  In a paper published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, the group showed that the technology could continuously regulate the level of a chemotherapy drug in living animals.  As reported by the Stanford News Service:

“This is the first time anyone has been able to continuously control the drug levels in the body in real time,” Soh said. “This is a novel concept with big implications because we believe we can adapt our technology to control the levels of a wide range of drugs.”

The new technology has three basic components: a real-time biosensor to continuously monitor drug levels in the bloodstream, a control system to calculate the right dose and a programmable pump that delivers just enough medicine to maintain a desired dose.

The sensor contains molecules called aptamers that are specially designed to bind a drug of interest. (These aptamers are a focus of Soh’s lab.) When the drug is present in the bloodstream, the aptamer changes shape, which an electric sensor detects. The more drug, the more aptamers change shape.

That information, captured every few seconds, is routed through software that controls the pump to deliver additional drugs as needed. Researchers call this a closed-loop system, one that monitors and adjusts continuously.

The group tested the technology by administering the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin in animals. Despite physiological and metabolic differences among individual animals, they were able to keep a constant dosage among all the animals in the study group, something not possible with current drug delivery methods. The researchers also tested for acute drug-drug interactions, deliberately introducing a second drug that is known to cause wide swings in chemotherapy drug levels. Again they found that their system could stabilize drug levels to moderate what might otherwise be a dangerous spike or dip.

If the technology works as well in people as in their animal studies, it could have big implications, Soh said. “For example, what if we could detect and control the levels not only of glucose but also of insulin and glucagon that regulate glucose levels?” he said. That could allow researchers to create an electronic system to replicate the function of the dysfunctional pancreas for patients with type 1 diabetes…

…The team plans to miniaturize the system so that it can be implanted or worn by the patient. At present the technology is an external apparatus, like a smart IV drip. The biosensor is a device about the size of a microscope slide.”

Congratulations to Professor Soh and his team.  Their work portends many more breakthroughs that we will see in the coming years in biosensor technology. 


Mika Brzezinski to CNN: “You’ve got to stop putting Kellyanne [Conway] on the air.”

Dear Commons Community,

Mika Brzezinski on her MSNBC morning show blasted CNN and other media for booking Trump spokesperson, Kellyanne Conway,  calling it “politics porn.” As reported by various media, Brzezinski said:

“Note to CNN: Sorry, I love CNN, but you’ve got to stop putting Kellyanne on the air,” she said.

“It’s politics porn. You’re just getting your little ratings crack, but it’s disgusting. There’s nothing that she brings to the table that’s honest. Your hosts know it. Your hosts look pained when they interview her because they know they’re just doing politics porn. They’re not doing news. We need to stick to the news.”

This isn’t the first time Brzezinski has gone after both Conway and media outlets for booking the controversial Trump advisor. “I feel even more so that everyone should ban her,” Brzezinski told Variety magazine in March.

“I’m surprised that these little acrobatic games are played with her on live national television. I think it denigrates what we do. It’s clear she doesn’t bring anything to the table. It’s clear she doesn’t know exactly what she’s talking about. It’s clear she’s making it up as she goes along.”

Conway last appeared on CNN Tuesday night, defending President Trump’s firing of James Comey as FBI director, stressing that the president acted after receiving a recommendation from his advisers.

“He makes complete sense because he has lost confidence in the FBI director and he took the recommendation of Rob Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general,” Conway said.

However, the president later revealed that he was planning on firing Comey prior to receiving a letter of recommendation.

“I was going to fire regardless of the recommendation,” he said during an interview with NBC News on Thursday. “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.”

I agree with Brzezinski.  Conway twists the truth and provides alternative facts on news topics with the aim of confusing viewers on issues.


14-Year-old Carson Huey-You to Graduate from TCU!

Dear Commons Community,

A big news item yesterday out of Texas was that 14-year-old Carson Huey-You, who is the youngest student ever to attend TCU, will graduate this Saturday and receive his physics diploma. 

Since enrolling in 2013 at Texas Christian University, 14-year-old Carson also double minored in math and Chinese, Noelle Walker of KXAS-TV (NBC5) reports

“It didn’t come easily. It really didn’t,” he told the station. “I knew I wanted to do physics when I was in high school, but then quantum physics was the one that stood out to me, because it was abstract. You can’t actually see what’s going on, so you have to sort of rely on the mathematics to work everything out.”

Carson will begin graduate school at TCU in the fall. 

Physics professor Magnus Rittby told The Dallas Morning News last year that sometimes he forgets Carson’s so young because he’s so advanced. 

Carson’s mother, Claretta Kimp, told NBC5 that math first caught his attention at 3 years old. His mother said he has been interested in math since he was 3 years old and that she realized her son had an eighth-grade comprehension of the subject when he was just a toddler. He went on to skip several grades and graduated high school at the age of 10. 

People are also interested in Carson’s younger brother, Cannan, who starts his undergraduate studies at TCU in the fall and plans to major in astrophysics and engineering. 

Congratulations to Carson and his entire family!


Video: Students at Bethune-Cookman University Graduation Boo and Turn their Backs on U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos!


Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gave the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black university in Daytona Beach, Florida. She was soundly greeted by rounds of boos as students turned their backs to her during the graduation ceremony.

DeVos was selected to speak at Bethune-Cookman University despite strong opposition by many students and community members to her presence.   As reported in Black Voices in The Huffington Post:

“DeVos’ speech ignited immediate controversy when it was announced earlier this month, and students criticized the school for selecting her after she downplayed the role of racism in the creation of historically black colleges and universities.

Protesters on Tuesday delivered petitions to the school’s leaders, calling on them to cancel DeVos’ speech due to her ignorance of HBCUs and lack of support for student loan borrowers. Organizers said they had collected 50,000 signatures.

DeVos praised HBCUs as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice” after meeting with school leaders in February.

“They saw that the system wasn’t working, that there was an absence of opportunity, so they took it upon themselves to provide the solution,” she said in a statement.

The comment sparked immediate backlash for “whitewashing” the history of the institutions, formed in response to systemic discrimination that denied black students access to existing schools. DeVos later said that HBCUs were born “out of necessity, in the face of racism.” On Sunday, she issued a statement saying she was looking forward to the commencement, while reiterating her “support for HBCUs.”

“For someone to come and speak at my commencement that cannot relate to me or know what I have been through is kind of like a slap in the face,” graduating student Jasmine Johnson told the Washington Post.

The anti-DeVos petition described her invitation as an “insult” to the legacy of school founder and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune, and the NAACP Florida State Conference called on Bethune-Cookman President Edison Jackson to resign.”

This was a win for the students and a nightmare for President Jackson and his administration.



Trump Fires FBI Director James Comey – Shades of Watergate!

Dear Commons Community,

For those of us old enough to remember President Richard Nixon’s firing of Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor looking into the Watergate burglary that would eventually bring Nixon down, there were shades of recollections yesterday when Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey who was investigating Trump’s ties to Russia during last year’s election.  Here is the New York Times editorial board take on Trump’s action.

“The American people — not to mention the credibility of the world’s oldest democracy — require a thorough, impartial investigation into the extent of Russia’s meddling with the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump and, crucially, whether high-ranking members of Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded in that effort.

By firing the F.B.I. director, James Comey, late Tuesday afternoon, President Trump has cast grave doubt on the viability of any further investigation into what could be one of the biggest political scandals in the country’s history.

The explanation for this shocking move — that Mr. Comey’s bungling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server violated longstanding Justice Department policy and profoundly damaged public trust in the agency — is impossible to take at face value. Certainly Mr. Comey deserves all the criticism heaped upon him for his repeated misstepsin that case, but just as certainly, that’s not the reason Mr. Trump fired him.

Mr. Trump had nothing but praise for Mr. Comey when, in the final days of the presidential campaign, he informed Congress that the bureau was reopening the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s emails. “He brought back his reputation,” Mr. Trump said at the time. “It took a lot of guts.”

Of course, if Mr. Trump truly believed, as he said in his letter of dismissal, that Mr. Comey had undermined “public trust and confidence” in the agency, he could just as well have fired him on his first day in office.

Mr. Comey was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president. Though compromised by his own poor judgment, Mr. Comey’s agency has been pursuing ties between the Russian government and Mr. Trump and his associates, with potentially ruinous consequences for the administration.

With congressional Republicans continuing to resist any serious investigation, Mr. Comey’s inquiry was the only aggressive effort to get to the bottom of Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign. So far, the scandal has engulfed Paul Manafort, one of Mr. Trump’s campaign managers; Roger Stone, a longtime confidant; Carter Page, one of the campaign’s early foreign-policy advisers; Michael Flynn, who was forced out as national security adviser; and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself in March from the Russia inquiry after failing to disclose during his confirmation hearings that he had met twice during the campaign with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

We have said that Mr. Comey’s atrocious handling of the Clinton email investigation, which arguably tipped the election to Mr. Trump, proved that he could not be trusted to be neutral, and that the only credible course of action would be the appointment of a special prosecutor. Given all that has happened — the firing of the F.B.I. director, on top of Mr. Trump’s firing of the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, and his dismissal of nearly all United States attorneys — the need for such a prosecutor is plainer than ever. Because Mr. Sessions is recused, the decision to name a special prosecutor falls to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whose memo, along with a separate one by Mr. Sessions, provided Mr. Trump with the pretense to fire Mr. Comey.

This is a tense and uncertain time in the nation’s history. The president of the United States, who is no more above the law than any other citizen, has now decisively crippled the F.B.I.’s ability to carry out an investigation of him and his associates. There is no guarantee that Mr. Comey’s replacement, who will be chosen by Mr. Trump, will continue that investigation; in fact, there are already hints to the contrary.

The obvious historical parallel to Mr. Trump’s action was the so-called Saturday Night Massacre in October 1973, when President Richard Nixon ordered the firing of the special prosecutor investigating Watergate, prompting the principled resignations of the attorney general and his deputy. But now, there is no special prosecutor in place to determine whether the public trust has been violated, and whether the presidency was effectively stolen by a hostile foreign power. For that reason, the country has reached an even more perilous moment.”

A special investigation can only happen if Republicans break party ranks and join Democrats in insisting on a special prosecutor.  I would be surprised if enough Republicans are willing to do this.


Purdue’s President Mitch Daniels Explains Acquisition of Kaplan University!

Dear Commons Community,

A little more than a week ago, Purdue Univeristy rocked higher education with its announcement that it was acquiring the for-profit Kaplan University.  In a letter (see below) to the Purdue community, President Mitch Daniels explains the rationale for this decision.



Welcome to the World’s Next Public University

In 1862 Abraham Lincoln signed legislation that would enable states to create a new kind of university. These so-called land-grant colleges would, for the first time in history, expand higher education beyond the wealthy and the elites of society. In 1869, Indiana proudly founded its first and only land-grant, Purdue University.

Today, we are no longer a single campus. Purdue now extends from regional campuses in northern Indiana to a flagship university that is among the most prestigious research universities in the world. Each of our campuses has distinct purposes and serves a range of students, but we are all united by our belief that high-quality, higher education should be accessible for all.

That’s even more essential in 2017 than it was in 1862. Today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 36 million Americans over the age of 25 started college but were unable to finish. Another 56 million have had no post-secondary education whatsoever.

Our modern, complex economy is stacked against these men and women. If they are to advance professionally, they must largely balance the demands of school with the obligations of careers, family, and other burdens of adult life. Increasingly, these Americans are finding hope in high-quality, online programs tailored to their unique needs.

Purdue cannot honor our land-grant mission in the 21st century without reaching out to these men and women who have often been overlooked by traditional universities. Over the past few years Purdue has studiously examined how we could better offer access to such potential students. The conclusion we reached was that even if we invested years and millions of dollars into advancing our digital offerings, there would be no guarantee of success.

And then in late 2016 we had another idea: Acquire an institution with a strong reputation, an advanced online infrastructure and a shared commitment to the land-grant mission – and then make it our own by extending its reach and leading it towards even greater excellence.

We will operate this new university with the same care and commitment to student success as we do the other campuses in the Purdue system. We will shape it with the best of Purdue’s academic excellence and the flexibility and online infrastructure that has been associated with Kaplan. As we do, we will carry the land-grant vision into the 21st century.


David Reingold

Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr.



New Orleans: Monuments to White Supremacy!


Dear Commons Community,

Three Confederate monuments set to come down in New Orleans were still standing yesterday (May 8), a day after demonstrators in support and against the statues’ removal clashed briefly at Lee Circle. It’s unclear when the monuments will be removed.

The statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard remain. The obelisk marking the Battle of Liberty Place was taken down early in the morning April 24.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu said the three remaining monuments wouldn’t be removed during Jazz Fest, but now that the festival is over, it’s unclear how quickly the city will act. Officials haven’t released any timelines, citing concerns about the safety of workers and officers involved.

The New York Times editorial (below) this morning justly addresses the issue.  



Monuments of White Supremacy

New York Times Editorial Board

May 9, 2017

The Confederate-flag-waving white supremacist who murdered nine African-Americans in a Charleston, S.C., church two years ago made it impossible to evade the fact that the banner — and Confederate ideology generally — had been a rallying point for white supremacy and racial terrorism for more than 100 years.

That tragedy brought fresh urgency to a reappraisal of public monuments that was underway in many Southern communities, including New Orleans, whose mayor announced within days of the massacre that he planned to relocate four Confederate memorials that were built to celebrate a time when black citizens were not fully human in the eyes of the state.

The city plans to place the memorials in storage until an appropriate setting can be found, perhaps a museum that could put them in historical context. But the unfolding backlash — including threats against crane operators and demonstrations — shows the extent to which many citizens are hesitant to part with even the most abhorrent artifacts of history and how little many of them know about when and why these memorials were built.

The first memorial was relocated last month by workers who wore masks and bulletproof vests because they feared for their lives. It is called the Battle of Liberty Place Monument and was erected in 1891 to commemorate the uprising of the Crescent City White League, white supremacists who opposed Reconstruction and the integrated police force that resulted. Decades later, in 1932, a plaque was added expressly articulating its white supremacist origins.

The memorials that are slated to be relocated belong to the cult of the lost cause and were built to valorize a treasonous war that was fought to preserve slavery — and to essentially deify generals like Robert E. Lee who fought it.

Some who claim attachment to these monuments, which dominate the city’s most prominent public spaces, are white supremacists themselves. Others need to understand that the monuments were typically built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the Southern states were unleashing a reign of racial terror on black communities while simultaneously writing them out of their constitutions.

Citizens of color have always understood this and chafed at the sight of the monuments on their streets. As one African-American told The New York Times recently, “They’re putting that image right in our face and saying, ‘Blacks at the bottom, whites at the top.’”

Critics have accused Mayor Mitch Landrieu of trying to rewrite history. But as he noted when he addressed the New Orleans Council on this matter two years ago, many people, including African-Americans, who were voiceless when the city stocked its plazas and thoroughfares with monuments to white supremacy have voices now and deserve to be heard on this matter.

As for the city’s future, he asked, “How can we expect to inspire a nation when our most prominent public spaces are dedicated to the reverence of the fight for bondage and supremacy?”

France and Europe Breathe a Sigh of Relief after Emmanuel Macron Easily Defeats Right-Wing Nationalist Marine Le Pen in Presidential Election!

Dear Commons Community,

Emmanuel Macron handily won France’s presidential election yesterday, defeating the right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen. As reported by the New York Times:

“Mr. Macron, 39, who has never held elected office, will be the youngest president in the 59-year history of France’s Fifth Republic after leading an improbable campaign that swept aside France’s establishment political parties.

The election was watched around the world for magnifying many of the broader tensions rippling through Western democracies, including the United States: populist anger at the political mainstream, economic insecurity among middle-class voters and rising resentment toward immigrants.

Mr. Macron’s victory offered significant relief to the European Union, which Ms. Le Pen had threatened to leave. His platform to loosen labor rules, make France more competitive globally and deepen ties with the European Union is also likely to reassure a global financial market that was jittery at the prospect of a Le Pen victory.

Her loss provided further signs that the populist wave that swept Britain out of the European Union and Donald J. Trump into the White House may have crested in Europe, for now.

“I understand the divisions of our country that have led some to vote for extremists,” Mr. Macron said after the vote. “I understand the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that a great part among us have also expressed.”

Mr. Macron pledged to do all he could in his five-year term to bring France together. “I will do everything I can in the coming five years to make sure you never have a reason to vote for extremism again,” he said later Sunday evening, standing before the glass pyramid in front of the Louvre, once the main residence of France’s kings, as thousands of flag-waving supporters gathered in the courtyard to celebrate.

But the election results showed that many people chose not to vote for either candidate, signaling skepticism about his project. And Mr. Macron quickly made clear that he understood the magnitude of the task before him after an often angry campaign.

“It is my responsibility to hear and protect the most fragile,” he said.

With nearly 100 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Macron had 66 percent, compared with 34 percent for Ms. Le Pen, according to the official count from the Interior Ministry.”

We will be hearing a lot about President-elect Macron!



U.S. Airforce X-37B Space Plane Completes Two-Year Mission!


Dear Commons Community,

The U.S. Airforce completed a two-year secret mission yesterday of its X-37B space plane, a small space shuttle-style vehicle. As reported by Reuters:

“The U.S. military’s experimental X-37B space plane landed on Sunday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completing a classified mission that lasted nearly two years, the Air Force said.

The unmanned X-37B, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, touched down at 7:47 a.m. EDT (1147 GMT) on a runway formerly used for landings of the now-mothballed space shuttles, the Air Force said in an email.

The Boeing-built space plane blasted off in May 2015 from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.

The X-37B, one of two in the Air Force fleet, conducted unspecified experiments for more than 700 days while in orbit. It was the fourth and lengthiest mission so far for the secretive program, managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

The orbiters “perform risk reduction, experimentation and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies,” the Air Force has said without providing details. The cost of the program is also classified.

The Secure World Foundation, a nonprofit group promoting the peaceful exploration of space, says the secrecy surrounding the X-37B suggests the presence of intelligence-related hardware being tested or evaluated aboard the craft.

The vehicles are 29 feet (9 meters) long and have a wingspan of 15 feet, making them about one quarter of the size of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s now-retired space shuttles.

The X-37B, also known as Orbital Test Vehicle, or OTV, first flew in April 2010 and returned after eight months. A second mission launched in March 2011 and lasted 15 months, while a third took flight in December 2012 and returned after 22 months.

Two years in space, landing like a plane, and no mishaps.  Impressive!