The Texas Senate approved in a preliminary vote Monday its first major anti-abortion bill of the session — a measure that would prohibit state and local governments from partnering with agencies that perform abortions, even if they contract for services not related to the procedure.“I think taxpayers’ dollars should not be used for abortion facilities or their affiliates,” said state Sen. Donna Campbell, who authored the legislation.Senate Bill 22 passed 20 to 11 with Democratic state Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville bucking his party to support the bill. Lucio is the author of another anti-abortion bill, which would ensure abortion providers physically hand a controversial pamphlet detailing alternatives to abortion to women seeking the procedure. “Planned Parenthood is an important part of providing care for many Texas women and their facilities offer services that are essential to maintaining their health,” he said. “If we want to — and I believe all of us want to prevent abortions — the issue should be that we should prevent unwanted and unplanned pregnancies.”Planned Parenthood of South Texas has had 33,918 visits to their clinics in 2017, and only 5% were related to abortion services, according to Sen. Menendez. But Campbell shot the amendment down.Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, worried that the bill would prevent municipalities from contracting with Planned Parenthood to address public health crises like Zika, HIV and STD outbreaks. So, he tried to add an amendment that would create an exception for these cases — but Campbell also shot that down.The state has slashed much of its funding for abortion providers in the last decade. The legislature in 2011 cut the state’s family planning budget by two-thirds in an effort to limit funding for abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. Three years ago, the state kicked Planned Parenthood out of the state’s Medicaid program and cut off $3.1 million in funding —and a federal appeals court upheld that decision in January. However, these efforts only limit state funding—but SB 22 cuts local funding as well.The House State Affairs committee listened to testimony on the House’s version of the bill on Monday. Meanwhile, two other anti-abortion bills, both listed as priorities for Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, are also headed to the full Senate – including a controversial measure regarding the rare case of infants who survive the procedure.Disclosure: Planned Parenthood has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. Anti-abortion advocates support the measure in part because it would terminate “sweetheart rent deals,” which is just one of the ways local governments partner with abortion providers. Campbell, a New Braunfels Republican, has singled out one key target during the bill’s hearing: Planned Parenthood’s $1-per-year rental agreement with the city of Austin.Meanwhile, abortion rights advocates rail against the bill as an attack on local control. The bill would “tie the hands of cities and counties,” according to Yvonne Gutierrez, executive director for Planned Parenthood Texas Votes. She also worried that the language of SB 22, which would limit “transactions” between the government and abortion providers, is too broad and would target more than just the downtown Austin rental deal.During debate on the bill, San Antonio Democrat state Sen. José Menéndezattempted to add an amendment that would allow local government and abortion providers to contract on certain healthcare services, like long-acting reversible contraception, cervical cancer screening and protection, HIV screenings and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.
Share Using an innovative method, EPFL scientists show that the brain is not as compact as we have thought all along.To study the fine structure of the brain, including its connections between neurons, the synapses, scientists must use electron microscopes. However, the tissue must first be fixed to prepare it for this high magnification imaging method. This process causes the brain to shrink; as a result, microscope images can be distorted, e.g. showing neurons to be much closer than they actually are. EPFL scientists have now solved the problem by using a technique that rapidly freezes the brain, preserving its true structure. The work is published in eLife.The shrinking brain Pinterest Recent years have seen an upsurge of brain imaging, with renewed interest in techniques like electron microscopy, which allows us to observe and study the architecture of the brain in unprecedented detail. But at the same time, they have also revived old problems associated with how this delicate tissue is prepared before images can be collected.Typically, the brain is fixed with stabilizing agents, such as aldehydes, and then encased, or embedded, in a resin. However, it has been known since the mid-sixties that this preparation process causes the brain to shrink by at least 30 percent. This in turn, distorts our understanding of the brain’s anatomy, e.g. the actual proximity of neurons, the structures of blood vessels etc.The freezing brainA study by Graham Knott at EPFL, led by Natalya Korogod and working with Carl Petersen, has successfully used an innovative method, called “cryofixation”, to prevent brain shrinkage during the preparation for electron microscopy. The method, whose roots go back to 1965, uses jets of liquid nitrogen to “snap-freeze” brain tissue down to -90oC, within milliseconds. The brain tissue here was mouse cerebral cortex.This image shows two models of brain tissue reconstructed from serial EM images. The purple one is cryo-fixed, the brown one chemically fixed.The rapid freezing method is able to prevent the water in the tissue from forming crystals, as it would do in a regular freezer, by also applying very high pressures. Water crystals can severely damage the tissue by rupturing its cells. But in this high-pressure freezing method, the water turns into a kind of glass, preserving the original structures and architecture of the tissue.The next step is to embed the frozen tissue in resin. This requires removing the glass-water and replacing it first with acetone, which is still a liquid at the low temperatures of cryofixation, and then, over a period of days, with resin; allowing it to slowly and gently push out the glassified water from the brain.The real brainAfter the brain was cryofixed and embedded, it was observed and photographed in using 3D electron microscopy. The researchers then compared the cryofixed brain images to those taken from a brain fixed with an “only chemical” method.The analysis showed that the chemically fixed brain was much smaller in volume, showing a significant loss of extracellular space – the space around neurons. In addition, supporting brain cells called “astrocytes”, seemed to be less connected with neurons and even blood vessels in the brain. And finally, the connections between neurons, the synapses, seemed significantly weaker in the chemically-fixed brain compared to the cryofixed one.The researchers then compared their measurements of the brain to those calculated in functional studies – studies that measure the time it takes for a molecule to travel across that brain region. To the researchers’ surprise, the data matched, adding even more evidence that cryofixation preserves the real anatomy of the brain.“All this shows us that high-pressure cryofixation is a very attractive method for brain imaging,” says Graham Knott. “At the same time, it challenges previous imaging efforts, which we might have to re-examine in light of new evidence.” His team is now aiming to use cryofixation on other parts of the brain and even other types of tissue. Share on Twitter Share on Facebook LinkedIn Email