Why E-Smokers Are Rejoicing over 2014 Word of the Year

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- "Vape" is the Oxford English Dictionary's word of the year.

If you’re a little hazy on the meaning, it means to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette device, which are themselves also sometimes known as vapes. The word was coined as a way of distancing the act of e-smoking from the act of smoking combustible tobacco cigarettes, the OED said in a statement Tuesday.

Vapers -- the people who puff away on e-smokes -- are feeling pretty good about their pastime officially entering the lexicon. They've taken to Twitter and other social media sites to celebrate.

Word of the year honors were a long time coming for vape. Though the word was just added to the OED's online site this year, electronic cigarettes have been around since the 1960s and the term first came into use around 1980.

Vaping, the activity, didn't really catch on until a decade or so ago but now there are more than 250 brands of "e-cigarettes" available in a variety of flavors, including watermelon, pink bubble gum and java.

The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association estimates that about four million Americans now use battery-powered cigarettes. They project sales of the devices to cross the one billion mark by the end of this year.

Vape beat out words such as "bae," a term of endearment for a romantic partner, and "slacktivism," which describes getting involved in social causes without expending too much effort.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Brittany Maynard's Mom Defends Her Daughter's Choice to Die

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The mother of the young woman who chose to end her life after battling cancer is defending her daughter's right to die, saying critics have no place to comment while her family grieves.

Debbie Ziegler, whose daughter Brittany Maynard died earlier this month, also addressed the Vatican official who recently blasted her daughter's decision as misguided suicide.

"My 29-year-old daughter's choice to die gently rather than suffer physical and mental degradation and intense pain does not deserve to be labelled as reprehensible by strangers a continent away who do not know her or the particulars of her situation," Ziegler wrote in a letter.

Maynard, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer, died on Nov. 1 after taking lethal medication prescribed by her doctor.

She and her family had previously moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of the state's right to die laws.

Her mother said the criticism "is more than a slap in the face."

"It is like kicking us as we struggle to draw a breath," she said in the letter, expressing shock that anyone could have negative things to say about her daughter, especially at such a difficult time.

"Death is not necessarily the enemy in all cases," Ziegler added. "Sometimes a gentle passing is a gift. Misguided doctors caught up in an aspirational belief that they must extend life, whatever the cost, cause individuals and families unnecessary suffering. Brittany stood up to bullies. She never thought anyone else had the right to tell her how long she should suffer. The right to die for the terminally ill is a human rights issue. Plain and simple."

Maynard had become the face of the death with dignity movement in recent months through her work with the group Compassion & Choices, and chronicled her final days online, ticking items off a bucket list like a trip to the Grand Canyon.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Great Dane Gives Birth to 19 Puppies

ABC News(YORK COUNTY, Pa.) -- A great Dane in York County, Pennsylvania gave birth to 19 puppies.

Brandon and Aimie Terry knew their dog – named Snowy – was pregnant, but they never expected this many puppies.

“We had made an appointment to take her into the vet, and they did an X-ray, and found out there were 15 spines in the X-ray,” Brandon Terry told ABC affiliate WHTM.

Great Dane litters usually contain about eight puppies.

The puppies were born three weeks ago – earlier than the family expected. Brandon Terry was doing yard work when he kept hearing a noise, similar to a kitten’s mewing. When he looked, he saw the first puppy. Six more of the puppies were born at the house, with the rest born at an animal hospital.

“It’s a shocker, but I’m glad that they’re all here,” Brandon Terry told WHTM.

The puppies recently opened their eyes.

“Right now they’re into exploring and playing, fighting with each other,” Aimie Terry said.

The puppies are small and cuddly now, but they’ll eventually grow to nearly three feet in height. The family is hoping to find new homes for the dogs.

The largest known litter of puppies is 24, born in 2004 to a Neapolitan mastiff in Cambridgeshire, England, according to Guinness World Records.

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Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Hand Dryers in Public Restrooms May Not Be as Hygienic as You Think

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- New research finds that hand dryers in public restrooms may not be very hygienic.

Hand dryers may be simple and fast, but scientists at the University of Leeds in England say they found that the dryers spread bacteria into the air, onto users, and onto those nearby.

They also determined that the germs remains present in the air for a considerable time after the dryer has stopped.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


New Dating App Vows to Eliminate Creepy Users

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new iPhone dating app claims to be the first of its kind to punish users who misbehave or seem more like spectators than real-world daters.

“My female friends were receiving anything from graphic images to downright hostile comments for absolutely no reason,” said Cliff Lerner, CEO of the company behind The Grade. “I thought to myself, there’s got to be a way to build a product where users are accountable for their actions.”

The Grade, which launched Monday, allows a user to swipe to "like" a profile. If you find a match, then you can start messaging.

The difference from the competition, Lerner said, is that users' interactions are monitored so the site can assess grades.

“We use a sophisticated algorithm that scans messages for inappropriate content,” Lerner said. “Users are then graded based on popularity, compelling messages and frequency of response.”

Grades are visible to all users. Daters with D grades receive warnings. Daters with Fs can be booted from the app altogether. New users get a grade of pending until a profile is created and they become active.

Those with poor grades have one to two weeks to improve their performance. Otherwise, the profile is removed and the user can appeal to the app operators.

“We believe we are the first to ever offer this function,” Lerner said. “Our ultimate goal is to create a community of high-quality, articulate daters. We’re committed to expelling low-quality users, not just because someone is offensive, but based on how responsive they are to others.”

Frequent dating app user Christiana Padovano, 22, of New York City, said she's willing to give it a try.

“When I go on, I’m looking to meet a decent person -- someone that I can have a good time with,” she said.

In the past, prospective daters have bombarded Padovano with inappropriate sexual comments, to the point where she decided to unplug for a while.

“I deleted my app for three months because I couldn’t deal with the obnoxious messages anymore,” said Padovano. "Now, you’ll find out beforehand so you won’t waste your time.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Toddlers Who Were Preemies Have Special Picnic

iStock/Thinkstock(DALLAS) -- It's hard to believe the toddlers walking around the park on tiny, wobbly feat were born at 36 weeks, 33 weeks, 24 weeks.

These children were born too early, but on the day of Baylor University Medical Center's preemie reunion, they were doing just fine.

It's always a joy just to watch the children color at the reunion after having seen them when they weighed only one or two pounds at birth, said Dr. Vijay Nama, medical director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

Families spend weeks or months in the hospital depending on how early their children were born, and as a result, they form a special bond with the nurses and doctors who took care of their newborns.

"It's almost like you don't just meet them in the hospital," Nama said. "You know them as a family."

These toddlers are among the 1 in 9 children in the United States who are born premature, according to March of Dimes.

The reunion is tied to World Prematurity Day, which, according to March of Dimes, is a day to raise awareness about the 15 million babies a year who are born before their due dates around the globe.

Nama said babies born earlier than 37 weeks gestation are considered premature. The tiniest babies, born between 23 and 27 weeks, have the most difficult road ahead. Like most premature babies, their lungs aren't fully developed. The earlier a baby is born, the less developed it is. As a result, these babies need to be given respiratory support until their lungs can work on their own.

After 27 weeks, the preemies' road is a little easier, Nama said, but on average, they still stay in the hospital until what would have been their due dates.

He said the hospital staff hears from former patients long after they leave the hospital -- either on the phone or through Facebook. And the mothers form their own support groups while they wait for their babies to be healthy enough to leave the hospital.

Prematurity can be caused by a number of factors, including having twins or triplets, an infection in the womb, pregnancy-induced hypertension or a separation of the placenta from the uterus wall. But sometimes, the uterus can begin contracting for no reason at all, Nama said.

Although technology has made advancements for preemies over the years, Nama said the biggest tool doctors have learned to use is the mothers themselves. Breast milk and skin-to-skin contact are just as good as or better than much of the medicine in his arsenal.

"The biggest advancement we've made is really the involvement of the family," he said.

Although he couldn't make it to the reunion this year, he usually attends to see the families whose children are only a few months old or up to 6 years old.

"It's fun to watch them," he said. "Really when you see them weighing one or two pounds, and now they're trying to do painting. ...Imagine when you first see them when they're born."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


UCLA Researchers Announce Gene Therapy Cure for 18 ‘Bubble Baby’ Patients

Courtesy Padilla-Vacarro family(LOS ANGELES) — Researchers at UCLA announced Tuesday that they had cured 18 children who were born with the so-called Bubble Baby disease, a genetic disorder that leaves the young sufferers without a working immune system, putting them at risk of death from infections, even the common cold.

A team led by Dr. Donald Kohn, a stem cell researcher at the university’s Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research in Los Angeles, developed the breakthrough that cured 18 children who had adenosine deaminase (ADA)-deficient severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID).

“All of the children with SCID that I have treated in these stem cell clinical trials would have died in a year or less without this gene therapy, instead they are all thriving with fully functioning immune systems,” Kohn, a professor of pediatrics and of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics in the life sciences at UCLA, said in a statement.

There are several forms of SCID. About 15 percent of all SCID patients are ADA-deficient.

Kohn spent more than 30 years of research on finding the cure, UCLA said Tuesday when it announced the cure. Kohn and his team tested two therapy regimens on the children over the course of two multi-year clinical trials since 2009, UCLA said.

During the trials, the children's blood stem cells were removed from their bone marrow and genetically modified to correct the defect. All of the 18 patients -- who ranged in age from 3 months to 4 years at the time of treatment -- were cured without any side effects, UCLA said.

The breakthrough has meant a cure for Evangelina Padilla-Vaccaro, who was born with the condition in 2012. Evangelina’s fraternal twin, Annabella, was not affected.

The girls’ mother, Alysia Padilla-Vaccaro, of Corona, Calif., said she had a strong sense that something was wrong with Evangelina just a week after giving birth.

Despite having been told that she was experiencing the stress of being a new mother, Padilla-Vaccaro persisted.

“I just knew something was wrong with my Evangelina,” she told ABC News.

Her fear was later confirmed. The twins’ father, Christian Vaccaro, said he and his wife were devastated to get the diagnosis when Evangelina was just six weeks old.

Evangelina had to be kept in isolation at home. Only immediate family could come into contact with her, and they had to shower immediately prior and wear a mask and gown to hold her.

Kohn said the condition is rare and the affected children “look fine at birth” despite not having a functioning immune system.

Patients born with ADA-deficient SCID must be kept in isolation to protect them from germs. If left untreated, the condition could be fatal within the first year of life, according to UCLA.

The standard treatment for this condition is a bone marrow transplant, but Angelina wasn't a match for her sister. Evangelina qualified for a clinical trial that used the gene therapy.

“It's their own cells so it's a perfect match,” Kohn told ABC News. “And when it works...they grow a whole immune system, and can lead normal lives.”

UCLA said Evangelina's new immune system developed soon after she underwent the treatment, which included chemotherapy. The process took about seven weeks from beginning to end, Padilla-Vaccaro said.

The little girl is now able to live a normal life. Her parents can take her to the store, the beach and to the playground, and they are grateful.

"To finally kiss your child on the lips, to hold her, it’s impossible to describe what a gift that is,” Padilla-Vacarro said. “I gave birth to my daughter, but Dr. Kohn gave my baby life.”

According to the NLM, ADA-deficient SCID occurs in an estimated 1 in 200,000 to 1 million newborns worldwide.

The next step is to seek FDA approval for the gene therapy, UCLA said.

The research also lays the groundwork for a clinical test of gene therapy in the treatment of sickle cell disease. UCLA says trials are set to start next year.

"We've been working for the last five years to take the success we've had with this stem cell gene therapy for SCID to sickle cell,” said Kohn. “We now have the potential to take the gene that blocks sickling and get it into enough of a patient’s stem cells to block the disease.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


New App Shows You What 200 Calories Looks Like

Calorific(NEW YORK) — Think one tiny piece of pie won't sabotage your diet? Thanks to a new app that depicts 200 calories worth of common foods, you can stop kidding yourself.

The Calorific app presents 200 calorie serving sizes in clean and simple images, taking the guess work out of portion control.

"We saw some apps that showed how many calories are in a meal but we thought it would be useful to show the individual foods," said Nic Mulvaney, the British graphic designer who designed the app.

The minuscule amount of peanut butter you get for 200 calories is somewhat disheartening. And you can only eat about three quarters of a burger -- hold the bun -- before hitting the 200 calorie threshold. But for an equal number of calories you can chow down on a huge mound of berries, two humongous heads of lettuce or five lemons.

To come up with exact portion sizes, Mulvaney and his photographer friend Tim Diacon trawled several nutritional databases and pored over the nutritional information on food packaging. After an epic grocery shopping trip, they spent three days chopping, measuring and photographing more than 140 regularly eaten foods.

"We kept sneaking bits of the samples so towards the end we got quite sick of eating," Mulvaney said of the app's photo shoot.

The free app comes with about 30 food images preloaded, but "unlocking" all the food photos costs $2.99. Some of the foods aren't recognizable to many Americans but Mulvaney said they plan to add many more in the near future.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Lady Transforms into Dudes for Men's Health Awareness

Van Lokey-Saltzman(DALLAS) — Men aren’t the only ones rocking a mustache in honor of the Movember men’s health awareness movement.

For the past two Novembers, Dallas-based artist Van Lokey-Saltzman has transformed herself into a series of mustachioed menfolk so realistic even her own mother didn’t recognize her in the photos.

“It started out as a goof where I would put on a pink or purple 'stache,” Lokey-Saltzman said. “But then I started doing more realistic ones to see if I could make myself disappear into the pictures.”

Lokey-Saltzman, who said she was also motivated by a family member’s illness, does all of the makeup and wardrobe herself. She then takes pictures on her iPhone and posts them to her Facebook page.

“The response has been overwhelming,” she said. “But a lot of people don’t believe it’s me or they think I’ve manipulated the images with Photoshop, in some way.”

Lokey-Saltzman isn’t sure she will repeat her Movember masquerade again next year but she said is happy her photos have generated publicity for a good cause.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Parents Wary of Children in Day Care Who Weren't Vaccinated

iStock/Thinkstock(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) — Parents who make sure their young children receive up-to-date vaccinations are wary of other adults who won't take their kids in for shots.

In fact, a University of Michigan study says that 75 percent of parents would consider yanking their child out of day care upon learning others in the class had not been vaccinated.

As it happens, parents have a right to be concerned since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that three out of ten two-year-olds haven't received the vaccines pediatricians recommend.

The study of more than 600 adults with youngsters five and under also revealed that 40 percent endorse a day care policy that won't allow under-vaccinated kids in a facility and two out three want to know how many children aren't up to date on vaccinations.

However, there is some respect for privacy as just a quarter say they also want names of children who aren't fully vaccinated.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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