This Gently Breathing Robot Cuddles You to Sleep

It's breathing. The chest rises and falls rhythmically, hypnotically. We guess it's the chest. Nobody's marketed a sleep robot before, and we're not even sure it's a robot. It looks like a pillowy four-pound kidney bean, about the size of a novelty prize at a carnival game. "Spooning the sleep robot during the night, you will be soothed to sleep," the sales literature claims, with "thousands of years of Buddhist breathing techniques."

To bring upon sleep, breathing has to become slow and even, says Natalie Dautovich, a psychologist and sleep specialist at the National Sleep Foundation. You can't fall asleep when you're huffing like a sled dog, but insomniacs fear bedtime, and fear raises breathing rate, and that makes it hard to fall asleep. The claim goes that, as you hold the sleep robot, called Somnox, you'll subconsciously match your breathing to its slow and steady rhythm, which will lure you to sleep.

Somnox

Work began on the prototype Somnox in 2015 at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. "We were robotics engineers, personally exposed to the effects of sleep deprivation," says Julian Jagtenberg, Somnox's co-founder. "We designed a soft robotic prototype to help ourselves and our family members get sleep again," he says. “We fell asleep faster, we slept longer. Once people we didn't know started reaching out to us because they were having a hard time falling asleep, that was the moment we decided this shouldn't be just an academic project."

Somnox debuted on Kickstarter in November 2017, asking for €100,000, or about $123,000. After a month, 509 backers had pledged double that for an estimated July 2018 delivery, which Jagtenberg says the company is still on track to meet.

Catch Your Breath

Breathing has long been the key to relaxing and, eventually, falling asleep. The 4-7-8 Breathing Method, popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil in 2015 and subsequently copy-and-pasted across the internet, suggested one such method to reduce stress and induce sleep. It directs you to breathe in for four seconds through your nose, hold your breath for seven seconds, and breathe out for eight seconds through your mouth. "We've found out people are having a really hard time doing [the 4-7-8 Breathing Method] because you need to be very focused and disciplined in order to get it working," says Jagtenberg, who acknowledges that it's an effective method. "But we humans, if you interact with one another, you start copying behaviors without even knowing it. We thought this relationship was very strong when it comes to breathing. If you feel it [through the Somnox], you will subconsciously adjust your own breathing."

LEARN MORE

The WIRED Guide to Artificial Intelligence

While few studies have researched breath-mirroring in adults, several have looked at its effects on newborns. A 1995 study by the University of Connecticut suggested that infants who slept with a Breathing Bear—a not-for-sale device that respirated and coaxed sleepy babies to copy its breathing—had slower and more-regular respiration and more restful sleep than the control group. A follow-up study published in 2003 concluded only that Breathing-Bear-babies developed a better mood, presumably from better sleep.

The Somnox hopes to product a similar effect. Looking at it and watching it in action, it's a stretch to call the Somnox "the world's first sleep robot." It just lies there and breathes—a convincing imitation of humanity, but not what you'd call a robot. "It depends on what your concept of a robot is," says Jagtenberg. "In our perception, a robot is a system that can analyze its environment with sensors that think about how to act upon that environment." Somnox is more like a Nest thermostat than a semi-mobile, sentient threat to humanity that falls down stairs.

So it's more like a smart pillow, one that will become smarter with software updates. At launch, it's only got inklings of intelligence: It can play white noise, meditation tracks, heartbeat rhythms, and audio books as you drift off. Bluetooth links it to a Somnox app on your Android or iOS phone, which you can use to speed up or slow down the Somnox's breathing rate and adjust the depth of each breath. After launch, Somnox plans two software updates later this year: an alarm that wakes you gently in the morning by moving and murmuring instead of blaring buzzers, and what Somnox calls a sleeping coach, which will be able to pair with a wearable fitness device and detect when you've had a particularly strenuous or stressful day, then develop a custom breathing rhythm for you that night to compensate.

Kickstarter backers will receive theirs in July. The second batch, taking pre-orders now for $549, will ship in October. So far, Somnox has 1,210 orders.

It's not quite a robot, and it's not yet all that smart, but the Somnox has something more important than limbs or a heart of gold: fake lungs. And would anybody really want to spoon a robot that could throw elbows and mule kicks?


More WIRED Gear

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/somnox-sleep-robot/

Mini Brains Just Got CreepierTheyre Growing Their Own Veins

The first human brain balls—aka cortical spheroids, aka neural organoids—agglomerated into existence just a few short years ago. In the beginning, they were almost comically crude: just stem cells, chemically coerced into proto-neurons and then swirled into blobs in a salty-sweet bath. But still, they were useful for studying some of the most dramatic brain disorders, like the microcephaly caused by the Zika virus.

Then they started growing up. The simple spheres matured into 3D structures, fusing with other types of brain balls and sparking with electricity. The more like real brains they became, the more useful they were for studying complex behaviors and neurological diseases beyond the reach of animal models. And now, in their most human act yet, they’re starting to bleed.

Neural organoids don’t yet, even remotely, resemble adult brains; developmentally, they’re just pushing second trimester tissue organization. But the way Ben Waldau sees it, brain balls might be the best chance his stroke patients have at making a full recovery—and a homegrown blood supply is a big step toward that far-off goal. A blood supply carries oxygen and nutrients, allowing brain balls to grow bigger, complex networks of tissues, those that a doctor could someday use to shore up malfunctioning neurons.

“The whole idea with these organoids is to one day be able to develop a brain structure the patient has lost made with the patient’s own cells,” says Waldau, a vascular neurosurgeon at UC Davis Medical Center. “We see the injuries still there on the CT scans, but there’s nothing we can do. So many of them are left behind with permanent neural deficits—paralysis, numbness, weakness—even after surgery and physical therapy.”

Last week, it was Waldau’s group at UC Davis that published the first results of vascularized human neural organoids. Using brain membrane cells taken from one of his patients during a routine surgery, the team coaxed them first into stem cells, then some of them into the endothelial cells that line blood vessels’ insides. The stem cells they grew into brain balls, which they incubated in a gel matrix coated with those endothelial cells. After incubating for three weeks, they took a single organoid and transplanted it into a tiny cavity carefully carved into a mouse’s brain. Two weeks later the organoid was alive, well—and, critically, had grown capillaries that penetrated all the way to its inner layers.

A stained cross-section of a brain organoid showing that blood vessels (in red) have penetrated both the outer, more organized layers and the inner core.
UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures

Waldau got the idea from his work treating a rare disorder called Moyamoya disease. Patients have blocked arteries at the base of their brain, keeping blood from reaching the rest of the organ. “We sometimes lay a patient’s own artery on top of the brain to get the blood vessels to start growing in,” says Waldau. “When we replicated that process on a miniaturized scale we saw these vessels self-assemble.”

While it wasn’t clear from this experiment whether or not there was rodent blood coursing through its capillaries—the scientists had to flush them to accomplish fluorescent staining—the UC Davis team did demonstrate that the blood vessels themselves were comprised of human cells. Other research groups at the Salk Institute and the University of Pennsylvania have successfully transplanted human organoids into the brains of mice, but in both cases, blood vessels from the rodent host spontaneously grew into the transplanted tissue. When brain balls make their own blood vessels, they can potentially live much longer by hooking them up to microfluidic pumps—no rodent required.

That might give them a chance to actually mature into a complex computational organ. “It’s a big deal,” says Christof Koch, president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, “but it’s still early days.” The next problem will be getting these cells wired into circuits that can receive and process information. “The fact that I can look out at the world and see it as spatially organized—left, right, near, far— is all due to the organization of my cortex that reflects the regularity of the world,” says Koch. “There’s nothing like that in these organoids yet.”

Not yet, maybe, but it’s not too soon to start asking what happens when they do. How large do they have to be before society has a moral mandate to provide them some kind of special protections? If an organoid comes from your cells, are you then its legal guardian? Can a brain ball give its consent to be studied?

Just last week the National Institutes of Health convened a neuroethics workshop to confront some of these thorny questions. Addressing a room filled with neuroscientists, doctors, and philosophers, Walter Koroshetz, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said the time for involving the public was now, even if the technology takes a century to become reality. “The question here is, as those cells come together to form information processing units, when do they get to the point where they’re as good as what we do now in a mouse? When does it go beyond that, to information processing you only see in a human? And what type of information processing would be to a point where you would say, ‘I don’t think we should go there’?”

Of course, that assumes that neuroscientists would be able to recognize consciousness in an organoid if they saw it. Biology has yet to settle on a theory of consciousness in humans, let alone measure it in a ball of brain cells. Because, after all, a brain isn’t really a brain until has experience. You can have all the right wires and connections, but until it’s hooked up to some kind of input, it won’t process anything. Blood vessels are a good start—but we won’t start worrying about consciousness until the brain balls have eyes.


More Brain Balls

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/mini-brains-just-got-creepiertheyre-growing-their-own-veins/

People With Depression Use Language Differently – Here’s How To Spot It

The Conversation

From the way you move and sleep, to how you interact with people around you, depression changes just about everything. It is even noticeable in the way you speak and express yourself in writing. Sometimes this “language of depression” can have a powerful effect on others. Just consider the impact of the poetry and song lyrics of Sylvia Plath and Kurt Cobain, who both killed themselves after suffering from depression.

Scientists have long tried to pin down the exact relationship between depression and language, and technology is helping us get closer to a full picture. Our new study, published in Clinical Psychological Science, has now unveiled a class of words that can help accurately predict whether someone is suffering from depression.

Traditionally, linguistic analyses in this field have been carried out by researchers reading and taking notes. Nowadays, computerised text analysis methods allow the processing of extremely large data banks in minutes. This can help spot linguistic features which humans may miss, calculating the percentage prevalence of words and classes of words, lexical diversity, average sentence length, grammatical patterns and many other metrics.

So far, personal essays and diary entries by depressed people have been useful, as has the work of well-known artists such as Cobain and Plath. For the spoken word, snippets of natural language of people with depression have also provided insight. Taken together, the findings from such research reveal clear and consistent differences in language between those with and without symptoms of depression.

Content

Language can be separated into two components: content and style. The content relates to what we express – that is, the meaning or subject matter of statements. It will surprise no one to learn that those with symptoms of depression use an excessive amount of words conveying negative emotions, specifically negative adjectives and adverbs – such as “lonely”, “sad” or “miserable”.

More interesting is the use of pronouns. Those with symptoms of depression use significantly more first person singular pronouns – such as “me”, “myself” and “I” – and significantly fewer second and third person pronouns – such as “they”, “them” or “she”. This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words.

Negative words and first person pronouns can give a clue. hikrcn/Shutterstock

We know that rumination (dwelling on personal problems) and social isolation are common features of depression. However, we don’t know whether these findings reflect differences in attention or thinking style. Does depression cause people to focus on themselves, or do people who focus on themselves get symptoms of depression?

Style

The style of language relates to how we express ourselves, rather than the content we express. Our lab recently conducted a big data text analysis of 64 different online mental health forums, examining over 6,400 members. “Absolutist words” – which convey absolute magnitudes or probabilities, such as “always”, “nothing” or “completely” – were found to be better markers for mental health forums than either pronouns or negative emotion words.

From the outset, we predicted that those with depression will have a more black and white view of the world, and that this would manifest in their style of language. Compared to 19 different control forums (for example, Mumsnet and StudentRoom), the prevalence of absolutist words is approximately 50% greater in anxiety and depression forums, and approximately 80% greater for suicidal ideation forums.

Pronouns produced a similar distributional pattern as absolutist words across the forums, but the effect was smaller. By contrast, negative emotion words were paradoxically less prevalent in suicidal ideation forums than in anxiety and depression forums.

Our research also included recovery forums, where members who feel they have recovered from a depressive episode write positive and encouraging posts about their recovery. Here we found that negative emotion words were used at comparable levels to control forums, while positive emotion words were elevated by approximately 70%. Nevertheless, the prevalence of absolutist words remained significantly greater than that of controls, but slightly lower than in anxiety and depression forums.

Crucially, those who have previously had depressive symptoms are more likely to have them again. Therefore, their greater tendency for absolutist thinking, even when there are currently no symptoms of depression, is a sign that it may play a role in causing depressive episodes. The same effect is seen in use of pronouns, but not for negative emotion words.

Practical implications

Understanding the language of depression can help us understand the way those with symptoms of depression think, but it also has practical implications. Researchers are combining automated text analysis with machine learning (computers that can learn from experience without being programmed) to classify a variety of mental health conditions from natural language text samples such as blog posts.

Language analysis can help diagnose depression. Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock

 

Such classification is already outperforming that made by trained therapists. Importantly, machine learning classification will only improve as more data is provided and more sophisticated algorithms are developed. This goes beyond looking at the broad patterns of absolutism, negativity and pronouns already discussed. Work has begun on using computers to accurately identify increasingly specific subcategories of mental health problems – such as perfectionism, self-esteem problems and social anxiety.

That said, it is of course possible to use a language associated with depression without actually being depressed. Ultimately, it is how you feel over time that determines whether you are suffering. But as the World Health Organisation estimates that more than 300m people worldwide are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% since 2005, having more tools available to spot the condition is certainly important to improve health and prevent tragic suicides such as those of Plath and Cobain.

Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, PhD Candidate in Psychology, University of Reading

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/people-with-depression-use-language-differently-heres-how-to-spot-it/

What Are Screens Doing to Our Eyesand Our Ability to See?

The eyes are unwell. Their childhood suppleness is lost. The lenses, as we log hours on this earth, thicken, stiffen, even calcify. The eyes are no longer windows on souls. They’re closer to teeth.

To see if your own eyes are hardening, look no further than your phone, which should require no exertion; you’re probably already there. Keep peering at your screen, reading and staring, snubbing life’s third dimension and natural hues. The first sign of the eyes’ becoming teeth is the squinting at phones. Next comes the reflexive extending of the arm, the impulse to resize letters into the preschool range. And at last the buying of drugstore readers.

Virginia Heffernan (@page88) is an Ideas contributor at WIRED. She is the author of Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art. She is also a cohost of Trumpcast, an op-ed columnist at the Los Angeles Times, and a frequent contributor to Politico. Before coming to WIRED she was a staff writer at the New York Times—first a TV critic, then a magazine columnist, and then an opinion writer. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree and PhD in English from Harvard. In 1979 she stumbled onto the internet, when it was the back office of weird clerics, and she’s been in the thunderdome ever since.

Modern medicine offers little apart from magnifying glasses to treat presbyopia (from the Greek presbus, meaning “old man”). But those $3.99 specs will get you on your feet just fine, which is to say, you can once again relish your phone without squinting or arm-stretching. A remedy for farsightedness evidently succeeds to the degree that it restores a woman or man to the comfortable consumption of texts, email, ecommerce, and social media on a glazed rectangle of aluminum alloys held at a standard reading distance of 16 inches. With reading glasses we live again.

Doesn’t this seem like an unwholesome loop? The eyes may be unwell, but the primary object of our eyesight seems corrosive. We measure our vision against the phone, all the while suspecting the phone itself is compromising our ability to see it.

Even if we don’t say out loud that failing vision has something to do with our vastly narrowed visual field, our bodies seem to know what’s up. How convenient, for example, that you can turn up a phone’s contrast and brightness with a few taps. If perception can’t be improved, objects can be made more perceivable, right? But then the brightness seems, like morphine, to produce a need for more brightness, and you find yourself topping out, hitting the button in vain for more light only to realize that’s it. You’ve blinded yourself to the light that was already there.

Having recently, in my forties, gotten reading glasses, I now find myself having to choose between reading and being, since I can’t read without them and I can’t see the world with them. The glasses date from a time when reading was much rarer a pastime than being; you’d grope for them to see a book, while relying on your naked eyes for driving, talking, walking.

But of course now so many of us read all day long. And I opt to flood my field of vision with the merry play of pixels and emoji rather than the less scintillating, brown-gray “real world.” This means wearing the reading glasses, even on the street, and affecting blindness to everything but my phone.

What might modern vision be today without the phone as its reason for being? If you were a nomadic goatherd in the Mongolian grasslands, you might not even consider presbyopia a pathology. Many nomads carry cell phones for calls and music, but, except to play games, they rarely gaze at them. Instead, they rest their eyes on the ever-moving flock, alert to vagaries in the animals’ collective configuration and inclinations; but simultaneously they soften the vision to wide angle, so as to detect peripheral anomalies and threats. On camelback in the wide-open grasslands, the eyes line easily with the horizon, which means their eyes take in distance, proximity, an unpixelated spectrum, and unsimulated movement. A panoramic view of the horizon line roots the beholder in the geometer’s simplest concepts of perspective: foreshortening, a vanishing point, linearity, and the changeable shadows cast by the movement of the sun over and under the horizon line. That third dimension—depth—is never, ever forgotten by the nomads. The sun rises and sets on depth.

See more from the Life Issue.
April 2018. Subscribe to WIRED.

Nik Mirus

Depending on your after-hours curriculum in Mongolia (cooking, talking, playing the fiddle), you might rarely even need to do what digital moderns never stop doing: recruit the eye’s ciliary muscle and contract it, releasing tension in the ligaments that suspend the eye to acutely curve the lens and train it to a pixelated 1.4-milimeter letter x on, for instance, a mobile news app. If you explained to a nomad the failures of her aging eyes, she might shrug: Who needs anxious ciliary muscles?

Indeed. And the use of those muscles by digital moderns gets even more complicated when we encounter our x’s not on paper—carbon-­black ink, like liquid soot, inscribed on bleached pulpwood—but on screens. That’s where we come across the quivering and uncertain symbols that play across the—surface, is it? Where are they exactly? Somewhere on or in our devices. No wonder the eyes are unwell.

Every vocation has consequences for eyesight. Ice fishermen can go snowblind. Welders suffer arc eye. Ships’ lookouts hallucinate. Academics develop myopia. And texters—call it an avocation—have blurred vision.

There are at least two recorded cases of something called smartphone blindness. The New England Journal of Medicine notes that both patients had been reading their phones in bed, on their sides, faces half-hidden, in the dark. “We hypothesized that the symptoms were due to differential bleaching of photo-­pigment, with the viewing eye becoming light-adapted.” Differential bleaching of the eyes! Fortunately, smartphone blindness of this kind is transient.

The blanket term for screen-borne eyesight problems is computer vision syndrome, an unsatisfactory name given to the blurring, dry eyes, and headaches suffered by the people of the screen. The name is unsatisfactory because, like many syndromes, it describes a set of phenomena without situating them in a coherent narrative—medical or otherwise. For contrast, arc eye is a burn: Welders get it from their exposure to bright ultraviolet light. Snowblindness is caused when corneas are sunburned by light reflecting off snow. Hallucinations afflict lookouts because, as Ishmael explains in Moby-Dick, they’re up at odd hours and alone, parsing the “blending cadence of waves with thoughts” for danger, whales, or other vessels; the brain and eyes are inclined to make meaning and mirages of undifferentiated land- and seascapes where none exist.

Computer vision syndrome is not nearly as romantic. The American Optometric Association uses it to describe the discomfort that people report feeling after looking at screens for a “prolonged” period of time. When screens pervade the field of vision all day, what counts as prolonged? (Moreover, reports of discomfort seem like not much to predicate a whole syndrome on.) But the AOA’s treatment of the syndrome is intriguing. This is the so-called 20-20-20 rule, which asks that screen people take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

The remedy helps us reverse-engineer the syndrome. This suffering is thought to be a function not of blue light or intrusive ads or bullying and other scourges. It’s thought to be a function of unbroken concentration on a screen 8 inches to 2 feet from the eyes. The person suffering eyestrain is taught to look 20 feet away but she might presumably look at a painting or a wall. Twenty feet, though, suggests it’s depth she may be thirsty for.

The naming of a syndrome discharges the latest anxiety about screens, which have always been a source of social suspicion. People who are glued to screens to the exclusion of other people are regarded with disdain: narcissistic, withholding, deceitful, sneaky. This was true even with the panels that prefigured electronic screens, including shoji, as well as mirrors and newspaper broadsheets. The mirror-gazer may have been the first selfie fanatic, and in the heyday of mirrors the truly vain had handheld mirrors they toted around the way we carry phones. And hand fans and shoji—forget it. The concealing and revealing of faces allowed by fans and translucent partitions suggest the masquerade and deceptions of social media. An infatuation with screens can easily slide into a moral failing.

Not long ago a science writer named Gabriel Popkin began leading tree walks for city dwellers in Washington, DC, whose monomaniacal attention to screens had left them tree-blind. That’s right, tree blindness—and the broader concept of blindness to the natural world—might actually be the real danger screens pose to vision. In 2012, Popkin had learned about trees to cure this blindness in himself and went from a naif who could barely pick out an oak tree to an amateur arboriculturist who can distinguish hundreds of trees. The biggest living beings in his city suddenly seemed like friends to him, with features he could recognize and relish.

I opt to flood my field of vision with the merry play of pixels and emoji rather than the brown-gray “real world.” This means wearing reading glasses, even on the street, and affecting blindness to everything but my phone.

Once he could see trees, they became objects of intense interest to him—more exhilarating than apps, if you can believe it. “Take a moment to watch and listen to a flowering redbud tree full of pollen-drunk bumblebees,” he has written. “I promise you won’t be bored.”

If computer vision syndrome has been invented as a catch-all to express a whole range of fears, those fears may not be confined to what blue light or too much close-range texting are doing to the eyesight. Maybe the syndrome is a broader blindness—eyes that don’t know how to see and minds that increasingly don’t know how to recognize nondigital artifacts, especially nature.

Lately, when I pull away from the screen to stare into the middle distance for a spell, I take off my glasses. I try to find a tree. If I’m inside, I open a window; if I’m outside, I will even approach a tree. I don’t want mediation or glass. The trees are still strangers; I hardly know their names yet, but I’m testing myself on leaf shapes and shades of green. All I know so far is that trees are very unlike screens. They’re a prodigious interface. Very buggy. When my eyes settle after a minute or two, I—what’s that expression, “the scales fell from my eyes”? It’s almost, at times, like that.

Read More

Real Wedding, Virtual SpaceThe Pursuit of YouthThe True Screen AddictsGamers Age OutRebooting ReproductionSilicon Valley's Brotox BoomThe Next Steve JobsSolving Health Issues at All Stages


Virginia Heffernan (@page88) is a contributing editor at WIRED and the author of Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art.

This article appears in the April issue. Subscribe now.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/failing-vision-screens-blindness/

Stem cell transplant ‘game changer’ for MS patients

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media caption“I’d given up hope”: Louise Willetts says she is completely well following her treatment

Doctors say a stem cell transplant could be a “game changer” for many patients with multiple sclerosis.

Results from an international trial show that it was able to stop the disease and improve symptoms.

It involves wiping out a patient’s immune system using cancer drugs and then rebooting it with a stem cell transplant.

Louise Willetts, 36, from Rotherham, is now symptom-free and told me: “It feels like a miracle.”

A total of 100,000 people in the UK have MS, which attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

Just over 100 patients took part in the trial, in hospitals in Chicago, Sheffield, Uppsala in Sweden and Sao Paolo in Brazil.

They all had relapsing remitting MS – where attacks or relapses are followed by periods of remission.

The interim results were released at the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation in Lisbon.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Nerve connections become damaged in people with MS

The patients received either haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) or drug treatment.

After one year, only one relapse occurred among the stem cell group compared with 39 in the drug group.

After an average follow-up of three years, the transplants had failed in three out of 52 patients (6%), compared with 30 of 50 (60%) in the control group.

Those in the transplant group experienced a reduction in disability, whereas symptoms worsened in the drug group.

Prof Richard Burt, lead investigator, Northwestern University Chicago, told me: “The data is stunningly in favour of transplant against the best available drugs – the neurological community has been sceptical about this treatment, but these results will change that.”


Multiple sclerosis

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition which can affect the brain and/or spinal cord
  • It can cause problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance
  • Average life expectancy is slightly reduced
  • It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 people diagnosed with MS in the UK

Source: NHS


The treatment uses chemotherapy to destroy the faulty immune system.

Stem cells taken from the patient’s blood and bone marrow are then re-infused.

These are unaffected by MS and they rebuild the immune system.

Prof John Snowden, director of blood and bone marrow transplantation at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, told me: “We are thrilled with the results – they are a game changer for patients with drug resistant and disabling multiple sclerosis”.

Prof Basil Sharrock, neurologist at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, told me: “This is interim analysis, but with that caveat, this is the best result I have seen in any trial for multiple sclerosis.”

‘Lived in fear’

Louise was diagnosed with MS in 2010 when she was only 28.

She told me: “MS ruled my life and I lived in fear of the next relapse.

“The worst time was not being able to get out of bed because I had no stability in my body – I struggled to walk and even spent time in a wheelchair.

“It also affected my cognition – it was like a brain fog and I misread words and struggled to keep up with conversations.”

The BBC’s Panorama filmed her undergoing her transplant in October 2015 and she is now back to full health.

She got married to her partner Steve, on the first anniversary of her transplant, and their baby daughter Joy is now a month old.

“I feel like my diagnosis was just a bad dream. I live every day as I want to, rather than planning my life around my MS.”

The transplant costs around £30,000, about the same as the annual price of some MS drugs.

Doctors stress it is not suitable for all MS patients and the process can be gruelling, involving chemotherapy and a few weeks in isolation in hospital.

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at the MS Society, said the stem cell transplant HSCT “will soon be recognised as an established treatment in England – and when that happens our priority will be making sure those who could benefit can actually get it”.

She added: “We’ve seen life-changing results for some people and having that opportunity can’t depend on your postcode.”

Follow Fergus on Twitter.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43435868

These teachers work up to 6 jobs. Now they’re fed up and ready to walk out

(CNN)Craig Troxell steps precariously across a customer’s roof, marking hail damage from yet another Oklahoma storm. He still smells of the freshly cut grass from the swanky side of town, where he had just mowed lawns to make a few extra dollars.

“Teacher morale gets worse every year,” said Troxell, who also drives a school bus before and after school. “I’ve heard a lot of my (teacher) acquaintances walk away and get a different job. They don’t want to do it anymore.”

    Why Craig Troxell still teaches in Oklahoma

Oklahoma is among the bottom three states for teacher salaries, where educators often work about 10 years before reaching the $40,000 salary mark. And they haven’t gotten a raise from the state in 10 years.
While educators nationwide have seen slight paycheck bumps over the past decade, when adjusted for inflation, teachers have actually lost 3% of their income from 2006 to 2016, according to the National Education Association.
Lawmakers agreed on an average teacher raise of $6,100, $1,250 for support staff and a $50 million increase in education funding — a measure Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Thursday.
But many teachers say it’s not enough. So on Monday, Troxell and thousands of other teachers will walk out — prompting some schools to shut down indefinitely.
    “We’re at the end of the rope,” Troxell said.
    He’s far from alone. Several teachers told CNN they’re working multiple jobs in food delivery, retail, rideshare driving, restaurants and even surrogate pregnancy to pay the bills. Some now rely on a food bank to feed their own children.

    The teacher with six jobs

    Almost every morning, Jonathan Moy’s two daughters ask him the same heartbreaking question:
    “Are we going to see you today?”
    He gets visibly emotional thinking about how many days he tells them no.
    “It’s really tough when your daughters get sad because you tell them you’re not going to see them,” said Moy, 40. “And it almost breaks your heart, because it’s not their fault. It’s not my fault. It’s the situation that we’re in.”
    Moy teaches high school algebra, drives a school bus in the afternoon, coaches football and wrestling, umpires Little League baseball and drives for rideshare services.
    All of that combined, Moy said, brings home about $36,000 a year after taxes.
    “Last night I drove Lyft and Uber for six, seven hours,” Moy said. “When you have to do that to help supplement your income, it’s tough when you don’t get home when your kids go to bed.”
      But he fights off the exhaustion by the time the bell rings at Yukon High School, just west of Oklahoma City. As 32 teenagers fill his classroom, Moy’s demeanor is as cheerful as the yellow and blue lights strung all across his ceiling.
      “Half of teaching is having them just enjoy coming into school,” Moy said. “If you can actually get them to enjoy coming into your classroom with your atmosphere, your jokes or just having a good time, that’s half the battle.”
      When explaining a new algebra concept, Moy draws analogies to jelly beans and tacos. He plays “Hotel California” and “Roll With It” as students practice factoring polynomials.
      Moy’s unorthodox style has paid off.
        “I was looking at your STAR (standardized) test we took,” he told his class of mostly freshmen. “You started the year at a 7th grade level. Now you’re above a 12th.”
        Freshman Zach Ennis said Moy has made algebra easier to learn.
        “I really like him, he’s a really good teacher. He explains stuff really good,” Ennis said.
        Ennis said he supports his teacher walking out next week, even though he might have to make up school days in the summer.
        “It’s kind of sad that he has to do that many jobs,” Ennis said. “He should be able to concentrate just on teaching.”

          What drives Jonathan Moy to stay in education

        Moy said he wants to keep teaching in Oklahoma, where he was born and raised. But he and his wife Kendra, who’s an elementary school teacher, can’t understand why educators in their state are paid so little compared to neighboring Texas and Arkansas.
        “The salary in Fort Worth (Texas) is starting at $51,000 to work at Fort Worth public schools,” Moy said. “In Oklahoma, the starting pay is $31,000. And even if you’ve been teaching 25, 30 years, it’s really tough to get to that level of income as a teacher.”
        Despite their meager incomes, the Moys said they spend a combined $2,000 on their classrooms each year — including crayons and glue sticks for Kendra Moy’s 3rd grade students. At her school, the entire student body qualifies for free or reduced lunch.
          Their 10-year-old daughter Karlie said she wishes her dad could go to more of her basketball and softball games. But she understands why he keeps teaching and working so many jobs.
          “I just want him to do what he likes,” she said. “He’s just trying to help our family out.”

          The teacher who’s also a surrogate mother

          When Allyson Kubat started teaching at Mustang High School, the school had no debate program.
          Just three years after launching one, Kubat’s getting ready to take her undefeated debate team to the most elite tournament this June.
          “We’re going to nationals this year, which is kind of crazy,” said Kubat, 29.
          It will be her final act as a teacher.
          “I decided, as hard as it is, that next year I’m not going to be teaching anymore,” Kubat said.
          She realized the 60 to 90 hours a week she works to support her kids meant that she rarely got to see her kids. The epiphany came when her 9-year-old daughter called her after school one day.
          “She said, ‘Mom, are you coming home today? Or are you going back to work?’ Because I leave work (at the school) and I go to my second job, or my third job, and I don’t get home until she’s in bed or almost in bed.”
          Kubat’s other jobs include event coordinating, food delivery and surrogate motherhood — a venture that puts a significant strain on her body but pays more than her teaching salary of about $33,000.
          “One of my students asked, ‘So what’s your other job?’ Because the kids in this state know that their teachers are not just teachers,” she said. “They know that we have to do something else to survive.”
          Her husband, Clint, is an office manager who doesn’t make much more than his wife’s teaching salary. Before she started her second surrogate pregnancy this week, he said, the couple had already budgeted for that income.
          After this school year, Kubat will become a full-time event planner — a bittersweet move, given how passionately she loves teaching.
          “It is hard to give up what I’ve worked so hard to become,” Kubat said. But she’s tired of sacrificing crucial family time for teaching.
          “It’s time to stop being a martyr.”

          The rookie teacher and waitress

          By 8 a.m., Jennifer Winchester is teaching language arts to 5th graders. By 8 p.m., she’s hoisting trays of enchiladas at a Mexican restaurant.
          As a first-year teacher, Winchester “always understood” she would struggle financially.
          “In college, they would show us the pay increments … from zero to 25 years,” Winchester said.
          She said a guest speaker came into her college class and “literally begged us to stay in Oklahoma,” telling prospective teachers to think of the kids and realize “it’s not their fault.”
          So Winchester pursued her passion, even if it meant moonlighting as a server to help pay the bills.
          “I can remember back in the 4th grade, my teacher told my mom at a parent-teacher conference, ‘If she doesn’t become a teacher, I’ll be very disappointed.’ Even in the classroom, I’d help other students,” Winchester recalled.
          Now, as a professional teacher, she again finds herself going the extra mile for students. Despite her $31,000 teaching salary, she spent about $1,200 getting her classroom in shape for this school year, buying new shelves and books and replacing worn-out desks.
          “I tried to stop tracking those receipts, because it depresses me,” she said.

            Why Jennifer Winchester wants to keep teaching

          Winchester’s long-term goal is to be a high school counselor. But she doesn’t want to take on a master’s degree in counseling until she’s paid off her $23,000 in student loans.
          For now, she’s hoping her nearly 10-year-old car “with as many dents as you can find in it” doesn’t break down, since that could spell financial disaster.
          She fantasizes about owning a slightly nicer car one day.
          “My goal is to have automatic windows and locks,” she said.

          The teacher with 2 degrees and 2 mall jobs

          Shontée Branton has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood education. But when she gets to the checkout lane at the grocery store, she has to turn around.
          “In my mind, I’m like, ‘What do I need to put back?’ Because I know I can’t afford all of this,” said the 1st-grade teacher at Epperly Heights Elementary.
          “Maybe I want the strawberries, but I can make it without.”
          Branton, who’s been teaching for nine years, said she makes about $36,000 a year.
          She supplements that by tutoring, teaching summer school and working at Macy’s — both on the retail floor and in the human resources office.
          “Normally, I leave from the school and go straight to Macy’s and clock in,” she said. ‘”There’s times I leave my house at 7 in the morning, and I don’t come home until 10 o’clock at night.”
          That’s when her 3rd-floor apartment looks more like a mountain summit.
          “I literally come home and sit in my car for 30 minutes because I can’t muster the strength to go up the stairs,” she said.
          Branton said she’s thinking about moving to Texas, where a teacher with her experience and education can earn about $20,000 more a year. But she feels a calling to teach in Del City, where she grew up and where all the students at her school qualify for free or reduced lunch.
          “I grew up with a single-parent home; both parents struggled with drug abuse,” she said. “When I see those kids, I see myself. And I had a teacher or two who believed in me.”
          Branton said she’s walking out Monday not just for teachers’ raises, but for another key demand: more funding for education in the state. She said she never wants to teach an overstuffed class of 34 students with only 25 textbooks again.
          “A lot of people are saying we’re walking out on our kids. And that’s been one of the most hurtful things, because we feel like we’re walking for our children,” Branton said.
          “People are expecting us to do a job without the proper resources. And not only is it not fair to educators, it’s not fair to the kids.”

            Why Shontée Branton still teaches

          “It would have to be the kids. I mean, that’s non-negotiable,” Branton said. “Yes, I need more money. I’m tired of working multiple jobs. But in the grand scheme of things, if we educate these kids, then that’s better for society.”
          If neither of those demands are fully met, Branton said, Oklahoma could lose yet another teacher.
          “If it’s not passed, I probably will leave,” she said. “It would be the hardest choice.”

          The state superintendent’s response

          Joy Hofmeister says the teachers’ frustration is justified.
          “Our teachers are right — they have been underpaid,” the state superintendent said. “We know that the frustration is high, that it’s something that comes after a decade-long reduction to public education funding.”

          The Oklahoma teachers’ union wants:

          • $10,000
          • raises for teachers

          • $5,000
          • raises for support staff, such as janitors and cafeteria workers

          • $200 million
          • in education funding

          What just got signed into law:

          • Average teacher raises of $6,100
          • $1,250 raises for support staff
          • $50 million
          • in education funding

          But “the legislature can’t reverse in one bill the cuts that have come over a decade.”
          She said the main reason why it’s been so difficult to increase spending for teachers and education is because in 1992, the state constitution was changed to require a supermajority approval — 75% of the legislature — before taxes could be raised.
          “It’s been 28 years since Oklahoma has raised taxes,” Hofmeister said. “We’ve been operating with the same dollars as 2008, but with more than 50,000 more students.”
          She said it’s “unconscionable” that some teachers work three to six jobs to make ends meet.
          “Our teachers deserve better,” she said. “And that was answered with this historic teacher pay raise. This is an important step forward. But it’s not the only thing that is needed.”

          The food bank that serves teachers

          Lori Decter Wright admits there’s a stereotype about those who rely on food banks. Maybe they work at fast-food restaurants. Maybe they got hit with an unexpected medical bill.
          Then, starting around 2015, she noticed a shocking trend: teachers, including some with master’s degrees, also needed supplies of cereal, beans and canned vegetables.
          “We have teachers near the poverty level,” said Decter Wright, executive director of Kendall Whittier, Inc. — a ministry that runs an emergency food pantry in Tulsa.
          “I really had to start asking the question, ‘What is going on in Oklahoma that full-time, working professional teachers have to rely on services like ours to make ends meet?”
          Michael Turner is one of the teachers who came in to the food pantry, embarrassed that he needed assistance.
          “You’re used to taking care of yourself. No one likes to ask for help, and that’s pretty tough,” said Turner, a recently divorced father of a special needs daughter.
          Turner said he “answered a call to action” when he became a special needs teacher.
          “There was a big push in the state of Oklahoma to hire veterans to teach special ed at the middle school level,” he said.
          “It’s very, very difficult to be a teacher … I knew that it was hard, but teaching today is much more difficult.”
          And when he comes home to his own child, he faces the guilt of seeing a kitchen pantry with empty shelves.
          Turner says he’s grateful for the food bank’s assistance and regrets not reaching out for help months earlier.
          “I always fought the notion that I would be the one asking for services, asking for help,” he said. “I’d much rather be giving it.”

          Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/31/us/oklahoma-teachers-profiles/index.html

          Rob Kardashian Is Ready To Bounce Back For Real ‘More Active’ Now Following Public Weight Struggle!

          Move over Khloé because Rob Kardashian is working on his Revenge Body!

          As we reported, the KUWTK brother turned 31 on Saturday and posted a photo of him and daughter Dream Kardashian where the father of one looks noticeably slimmer (above).

          According to a People source, the Arthur George sock designer — who has publicly battled weight gain, depression, and type 2 diabetes — “needs to get his eating in check” though he has been “more active” lately.

          Luckily, the USC graduate has lots of support from his loved ones. The insider continued:

          “Everyone hopes this time he can turn himself around… He’s been doing better and has been spending a lot more time around his family, which is good for him.”

          Despite his nasty split from ex Blac Chyna, who wished him happy birthday over the weekend, Rob is doing everything in his power to give him and his daughter a better life.

          “There is a lot of sympathy for Rob — he fell hard for Chyna… He’s trying to focus on Dream and being a good dad to her. Dream is the sweetest little girl and loves Rob.”

          You got this, dude!

          [Image via Rob Kardashian/Twitter.]

          Read more: http://perezhilton.com/2018-03-19-rob-kardashian-blac-chyna-dream-kardashian-active-lifestyle

          Bernie Sanders Economic Inequality Town Hall Draws 1.7 Million Live Viewers

          WASHINGTON ― Sen. Bernie Sanders’ televised town hall on economic inequality drew about 1.7 million live viewers during an online broadcast Monday night.

          The panel-discussion-style event, called “Inequality in America: The Rise of Oligarchy and Collapse of the Middle Class,” exceeded the viewership of Sanders’ first live town hall on single-payer health care in January.

          The broadcast provided the Vermont independent with an opportunity to expand his new alternative media revue beyond “Medicare for all” to the broader issue of economic inequality, which he maintains that commercial media outlets frequently ignore.

          “What I would say to our friends in the corporate media: Start paying attention to the reality of how many people in our country are struggling economically every single day ― and talk about it,” Sanders declared at one point during the discussion.

          Not content to wait for the cable television channels and newspapers to take him up on his advice, Sanders partnered with The Guardian, The Young Turks, NowThis and Act.tv to do just that for about an hour and a half on Monday night.

          Three co-hosts aided Sanders in his efforts: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), New School economist Darrick Hamilton and filmmaker Michael Moore.

          Together they interviewed three guests with specialized knowledge of the economic and political structures suppressing economic mobility and funneling wealth upward. Catherine Coleman Flowers, a founder of the anti-poverty Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise Community Development Corp., spoke about the destitute poverty of the rural black community in Lowndes County, Alabama, where exposure to untreated sewage prompted a rare outbreak of hookworm.

          Cindy Estrada, a vice president of the United Auto Workers, addressed the role of organized labor in raising living standards ― and how its decline has lowered them. And Gordon Lafer, a political scientist from the University of Oregon, explained how corporate interests neutralized public opposition through campaign donations and massive lobbying efforts.

          An audience of about 450 people attended the town hall in person in the U.S. Capitol auditorium. An additional 100 people viewed the event on monitors in an overflow room.

          The rest of what Sanders’ staff estimates were 1.7 million live viewers saw the event online. (HuffPost’s back-of-the-envelope tally from the social media pages of Sanders, Warren and the various digital partners produced a similar figure.)

          Billed as a seminar on the causes of, and solutions to, rising income and wealth inequality, the town hall often doubled as a progressive pep rally for social democratic reforms.

          During Estrada’s appearance, for example, Warren’s homage to labor unions elicited thunderous applause. “Unions built America’s middle class. It’ll take unions to rebuild America’s middle class,” she said.

          For his part, Moore focused on the failure of the Democratic Party, which fashions itself as the party of working people, to stand true to its mission. This line of inquiry took Moore first into a discussion of the ostensibly Democratic leanings of the three wealthiest men in the country ― Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos ― and later into a riff on the Democrats who voted to authorize the Iraq War exactly 15 years earlier.

          Moore appeared to be saying that letting Democrats off the hook had contributed to the collapse of the middle class.

          “It’s so important that we hold the people who say they’re for the people ― hold their feet to the fire! And if they’re not going to do the job they say they’re going to do, let’s get somebody else,” he concluded to loud ovation.

          The origins of American inequality that Sanders and his allies sketched on Monday are by now familiar to left-leaning activists immersed in the works of Robert Reich and Jacob Hacker, among other progressive thinkers.

          In this history, former President Ronald Reagan ushered in a new era of corporate domination with his symbolic decision to fire striking air traffic controllers in August 1981. The move was the opening salvo in a prolonged war against organized labor that steadily diminished unions’ ranks and reduced their clout, according to numerous liberal scholars.

          A host of tax breaks, deregulatory measures, corporate-skewed trade agreements and safety net reductions backed by members of both parties in subsequent decades served to heighten the inequality generated in the 1980s. The result, Sanders said in his introductory remarks, is a country where “the top 10th of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 99 percent.

          “In recent years, we have seen incredible growth in the number of billionaires, while 40 million Americans continue to live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth,” he continued.

          A prominent feature of the evening’s analysis that Sanders’ critics have sometimes accused him of downplaying was an explicit breakdown of the racial roots of American poverty.

          Flowers, who invited the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty to witness the squalid conditions in Lowndes County, argued that state authorities have failed to address the issue of inadequate sewage systems because of entrenched racist views.

          Some of those same types of attitudes that existed prior to the 1960s, the structural racism that was reinforced by racial terror, is still in existence today,” Flowers said.

          Hamilton suggested that the universal programs Sanders favors would not erase the racial inequities that follow black Americans at every level of socioeconomic and educational attainment. He noted that a black household headed by a college graduate has, on average, less wealth than a white household headed by a high school dropout.

          “So when Sen. Sanders proposes that we should have tuition-free public education ― absolutely, but as an end unto itself. We exaggerate the returns from education, particularly to marginalized groups,” Hamilton said.

          Sanders, Warren and Moore all endorsed relatively well-known left-leaning solutions to inequality, including a $15 minimum wage, stronger unions, free college education and paid family leave policies.

          Perhaps in keeping with his intersectional focus, Hamilton embraced more radical measures. His preferred solutions included the creation of trust funds for every American at birth, a federal job guarantee, the replacement of private payday lenders with postal banking and an end to academic tracking in grade school, which he argued often replicates racial segregation, even within relatively integrated schools.

          “To really get beyond our race problem, when we’re ready as a nation to come together, we need to come to grips with reparations,” Hamilton concluded, prompting cheers from the crowd.

          Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bernie-sanders-economic-inequality-town-hall-million-viewers_us_5ab08fb6e4b0e862383ab6b4

          Promising Cancer “Vaccine” Is Set To Begin Human Trials

          An immune system-boosting cancer treatment that recently demonstrated astounding results in mice is now advancing to human testing.

          Published less than two months ago in Science Translational Medicine, a study by Stanford University researchers showed that injection of two immune-stimulating agents directly into a tumor caused T-cells to recognize and destroy cancerous cells in both the local tumor as well as a distantly located secondary mass.

          Because the combination treatment provokes an immune response and can be easily administered by an injection, the scientists have referred to it as a cancer “vaccine”, although technically speaking it is not a true vaccine.

          Normally, T-cells are infective against tumors because the malignant cells within are either too similar to healthy cells to be recognized or the cancerous cells actually excrete chemicals that allow them to go undetected.

          Existing antibody-based cancer treatments get around this by targeting cancerous cells through highly specific mutations, but consequently only work on certain cancers. The newly approved CAR T-cell therapies also work by boosting T-cell function, yet the treatment requires each individual patient’s immune cells to be genetically engineered.

          Thus, the Stanford team’s finding that a simple injection of two agents caused mouse T-cells to mobilize themselves against genetically identical nearby cancer cells – plus far away ones that mimic metastasized cells – is quite remarkable. Moreover, the treatment was effective against multiple types of cancer. The best results, a whopping 97 percent cure rate, were seen against lymphoma. 

          Now, the researchers will evaluate the injection in humans with a subtype of lymphoma called low-grade B-cell Non-Hodgkin.

          Dr Ronald Levy, leader of the planned phase 1 trial and senior author of the mouse study, told the SF Gate that he and his colleagues hope to enroll a total of 35 adult patients for two study groups by the end of this year.

          Each participant will first receive low-dose radiation therapy to kill some cancer cells and weaken those that remain, followed by two rounds of treatment injection.

          The aim of the trial will be to determine the optimal dose and examine the treatment’s side effects.

          “The two drugs we are injecting are made by two different companies and have already been proven safe for people,” Levy said. “It’s the combination we are testing.”

          One of the treatment’s components is an antibody called anti-OX40 that activates both CD4 T-cells, helper cells that communicate with other immune cells, and CD8 killer cells, which, as the name suggests, release chemicals that destroy targeted cells.

          The other ingredient is a short strand of synthetic DNA that tells immune cells to express a cell surface protein called TLR9 ligand – this, in turn, boosts antibody production and leads to the creation of specialized memory cells whose purpose is to quickly sound the alarm if the same threatening cell reappears in the future.  

          Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/promising-cancer-vaccine-is-set-to-begin-human-trials/

          Parkland suspect Nikolas Cruz showered with fan mail, donations: report

          The bloody Valentine’s Day massacre at a Parkland, Fla., high school last month has led some observers to fall in love — with the suspect.

          Lovestruck groupies from around the country are showering gunman Nikolas Cruz with fan mail, including sexually provocative photos and donations, according to a report.

          One 18-year-old from Texas purportedly professed her love to Cruz in a March 15 letter adorned with smiley faces and hand-drawn hearts, South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel reported.

          “When I saw your picture on the television, something attracted me to you,” the letter said. “Your eyes are beautiful and the freckles on your face make you so handsome.”

          The missive flatly concludes: “I’m really skinny and have 34C sized breasts.” 

          Another Texas woman reportedly sent a bizzare handwritten love note less than a week after Cruz gunned down 17 people Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

          Nikolas and Zachary Cruz reportedly discussed their newfound popularity in a jail visit.  (Broward County Sheriff)

          “I reserve the right to care about you, Nikolas!” read the unsolicited declaration.

          PROSECUTORS: NIKOLAS CRUZ’S BROTHER BRAGGED ABOUT THEIR POPULARITY

          A Chicago woman reportedly sent Cruz numerous suggestive photos, including one in which she slurps a Popsicle while wearing a bikini, and another in which she shows off her backside for the camera.

          Cruz, who jail officials say has received nearly $800 in donations to his prison commissary account since the shooting, has also caught the eye of some members of his own sex.

          A New Yorker with a bushy moustache sent Cruz a card featuring a cat and a photo of himself sitting in a white 1992 Nissan convertible, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

          “I’m really skinny and have 34C sized breasts.”

          – Letter sent to Nikolas Cruz by admirer

          At least for now, though, the mass murderer’s suitors are pining at the wind. Jail officials, who screen all letters to inmates, said Cruz has not seen the letters, and remains on suicide watch. 

          As a matter of policy, authorities seize letters that contain obscene material, privileged communications, or threats to public safety.

          “We read a few religious ones to him that extended wishes for his soul and to come to God,” Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein told the Sun-Sentinel, “but we have not and will not read him the fan letters or share the photos of scantily-clad teenage girls.”

          Finkelstein added that he’s “never seen this many letters to a defendant” in his 40 years as a public defender.

          FLASHBACK: ROLLING STONE COVER FEATURES ‘BAD BOY’ BOSTON BOMBER

          But dozens of admirers have also flooded social media, where some have claimed that they’ve gotten through to Cruz.

          “I want you all to know that Nikolas knows about us and he had the biggest smile on his face when he was told that we all support him,” one Facebook user wrote on a pro-Cruz group.

          When Zachary Cruz, Nikolas’ younger brother, visited Nikolas in jail, the two discussed their popularity, according to prosecutors.

          Zachary’s attorneys are expected to argue in court Thursday that his $500,000 bail on a trespassing charge is excessive. The 18-year-old was arrested Mar. 19 after authorities found him skateboarding at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

          The unseemly interest in Cruz may stem from women with poor parental relationships, or a strong desire to save an apparently lonely and vulnerable figure, mental health experts told the paper.

          Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/03/29/parkland-suspect-nikolas-cruz-showered-with-fan-mail-donations-report.html