His colleagues were skeptical, but this odd idea may help us grow new organs one day.

We don't have enough kidneys.

There are more than 100,000 people in the United States waiting on a kidney transplant to save their lives. Unfortunately, they may be waiting a long time — the median wait is over three years. For some people, it may be even longer.

"It's been extremely difficult," Amber Reynolds said in an interview. Her mom, Nitrinda "Renay" Reynolds, has been on the kidney waiting list since 2010. Her mom, a school teacher in Acworth, Georgia, had to stop working in September 2012 after too many complications. "Every year, we say this is the year. And now we're six years in," said Amber.


A dialysis machine is, unfortunately, a familiar companion for many people. Image from Irvin calicut/Wikimedia Commons.

One hundred thousand people. That's not even counting the number of people who need livers, lungs, or other organs. And though more than 120 million people are signed up to be organ donors, more than 20 people still die every day waiting for organ transplants.

Wouldn't it be great if we could just grow a new kidney or liver for someone? That's the idea behind artificial organs. And we do have a few — like artificial hearts — but more complicated organs still need a lot of work before we can use them in people.

We may have a new secret weapon in the great quest for lab-grown organs: cotton candy.

Image from Morgan/Flickr.

Yup, cotton candy. Or, more accurately, the machines that make it.

GIF from Vanderbilt University/YouTube.

Professor Leon Bellan and his team at Vanderbilt University are using these cotton candy machines — the same ones you might buy your kid at Target for $39.99 — to build better organs for people who need them.

"Fun for the whole family," reads the product description, though it's unlikely the cotton candy machine manufacturers were thinking of this use when they wrote it.

Here's where things get a little gross. You see, this all has to do with blood.

Your circulatory system is kind of like an internal highway system.

There's an interstate of big, high-capacity vessels. But people don't really live on the interstate. Instead, traffic flows onto smaller streets and neighborhood roads, where the cars can actually pick up people or drop them off. These are your capillaries.

Without capillaries, any large artificial organ is not going to be able to transport the necessary oxygen or nutrients to its cells.

A tuft of cotton candy looks a lot like a tuft of capillaries.

"Some people in the field think this approach is a little crazy," said Bellan. Many other researchers are a little suspicious of something that can look so messy. But after years of work, Bellan's idea is paying off.

To make the artificial organs, the researchers use the cotton candy machine and a special temperature-sensitive polymer to make a bit of pseudo-cotton-candy fluff. Then, they pour a goopy mix of cells and gelatin over the fluff mold. Once it sets, they can adjust the temperature to dissolve the temperature-sensitive polymer threads.

When those threads dissolve, they end up with a big block of cells with a bunch of very fine, very delicate tunnels running through it — kind of like what an organ looks like in real life!

This is what the capillaries in Bellan's gelatin organs look like zoomed in. GIF from Vanderbilt University/YouTube.

This could be a huge tool for anyone who wants to build an organ.

And this is what Bellan's gelatin organs look like zoomed out. Image from Bellan Lab/Vanderbilt University.

This cotton candy method has some key advantages over other attempts. For one, scientists can make the gelatin organs a lot thicker, which could be a big step toward getting them to work like real organs.

And the cells seem pretty happy too — the researchers found that the cells were still up and running even a week after the organ was made.

There's still more work to do, of course. Researchers' next steps will be to try to help the tunnels work more like real blood vessels, to try the technique with a couple different types of cells, and to get the cells to act more like a real organ. But for now, it's significant just to know that they've demonstrated the potential of their technique.

"We're trying to develop a toolbox," Bellan told Upworthy. He and his colleagues want to give both the research and medical communities an entirely new suite of tools that can be used for building real, effective artificial organs.

Imagine a world without a waiting list for an organ transplant. Imagine a world where people don't have to wait years to be healthy.

Wouldn't that be something?

In the meantime, let's hope for the people who are stuck in limbo and praise those selfless enough to literally give away a part of themselves. Let's root for the researchers who might, in the future, make the organ-transplant list a thing of the past. And lastly, let's root for cotton candy.

Heroes

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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via KGW-TV / YouTube

One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture