VBAC Facts: Is Vaginal Birth After Caesarean Right for You? – The New York Times

Illustration by Lily Padula

If you’re pregnant and you’ve previously had a cesarean section, you may have a decision to make: Do you try for a vaginal birth after cesarean (otherwise known as a V.B.A.C.) or schedule another cesarean? Deciding whether or not to try for a V.B.A.C. means reckoning with the details of your medical situation in the context of your values, according to the experts. “I think it’s important to know that V.B.A.C. is an option for most women, and their chances of success are actually quite high,” said Dr. Jeanne-Marie Guise, M.D. M.P.H., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine.

When and Why to Get Ultrasounds During Pregnancy – The New York Times

Image via The New York Times

Early pregnancy can feel unreal. How do you know the fetus is there when you can’t see it or feel it moving yet? So the first ultrasound picture can feel momentous: Finally, your whirring brain can be placated with direct proof. But other than the visual evidence that you’re not dreaming all this, you may not know what to expect from prenatal ultrasounds. We’re here to walk you through it. For this guide, I interviewed two obstetricians who specialize in ultrasounds — and a radiologist whose observation led to a diagnostic breakthrough — to find out what you need to know about prenatal ultrasounds.

How climate change might affect tea – Nature

Image by Michael S. Yamashita/National Geographic

When you take a sip of tea, you’re drinking a beverage that is grounded in a particular time and place. In Yunnan province, southwestern China, which is the source of a highly prized tea known as pu-erh, summer brings monsoon rains, whereas spring is comparatively dry. Tea leaves that are harvested in spring therefore have different qualities to those collected in summer: each tea contains around 50 chemicals that are unique to its season of harvest, says Albert Robbat. The sensitivity of tea plants to the environment makes the crop vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Variations in temperature and precipitation are known to affect tea yield, as well as alter the complex balance of chemicals that gives tea its flavour and potential health benefits.

The automatic-design tools that are changing synthetic biology – Nature

Illustration by The Project Twins

Computerized genetic-design tools automate the process by which researchers design complex genetic circuits that can program cells — especially bacteria and yeast — to carry out specific actions, such as activating a particular enzyme or churning out a certain protein. Synthetic biologists have used single-celled organisms in this way to produce drugs, biological sensors that include cells or antibodies, enzymes for use in industry, and more.

The world’s strongest MRI machines are pushing human imaging to new limits – Nature

Image credit: Centre for Advanced Imaging, The University of Queensland

On a cold morning in Minneapolis last December, a man walked into a research centre to venture where only pigs had gone before: into the strongest magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine built to scan the human body. First, he changed into a hospital gown, and researchers made sure he had no metal on his body: no piercings, rings, metal implants or pacemakers. Any metal could be ripped out by the immensely powerful, 10.5-tesla magnet — weighing almost 3 times more than a Boeing 737 aeroplane and a full 50% more powerful than the strongest magnets approved for clinical use. “This is a window we’ve just never had in the intact human brain,” says Ravi Menon.

How cerebral organoids are guiding brain-cancer research and therapies – Nature

Image credit: M. Lancaster/MRC-LMB

People with glioblastoma multiforme, one of the most common forms of brain cancer, have a median survival of less than 15 months after diagnosis. If researchers could grow numerous small brain-like structures that contained a replica of the person’s tumour and then bathe them in various treatments, in the space of a few weeks, they might learn exactly which ones would have the best chance of fighting brain cancer in that individual. Howard Fine, a neuro-oncologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, is developing such models, known as cerebral organoids. Organoids are particularly valuable for studying brain cancer because neither human brain tumours transplanted into mice nor human tumour stem cells grown in a culture dish behave in the same way as their counterparts in the body.