Thursday, May 3, 2012
The device is designed to replace lost cells in the retina. The microchip contains 1,500 small light detectors, the optic nerve can then receive electronic signals from there and the patients in theory will start regaining their sight once the brain starts to make sense of the signaling.
The device is extremely small but must also comprise of a hearing-aid like device worn behind the ear. Although it is perfect for people with diseases that degenerate the retina, it won't work for people whose optic nerve is nonfunctional, such as patients with glaucoma.
Regardless, this is the first trial and already the patients can recognize basic large shapes like dinner plates on a table, and researchers think that they may regain a good amount of vision back through the proper use and calibration of these devices. We'll see what the future has in store.
Mike Selden (3)
Monday, April 30, 2012
There are three types of the plague: bubonic (most common) which occurs from a flea bite, septicemic which happens when Y pestis bacteria multiply in the blood and pneumonic. The centers for disease control and prevention are worried about pneumonic plague being spread (the only type that is contagious) in a bioterrorism act. The plague bacteria can be used in an aerosol attack which affects individuals who inhale it directly. The worst part and biggest concern is the fact that individuals who breathe in this bacterium may not have pneumonic plague until 6 days later leading to a major spreading issue as controlling the disease would then become a lot more difficult.
The last urban plague epidemic in the US happened in 1924 in Los Angeles, California, and since then only about 10 to 15 people contract it in the US each year. It is crazy to think that the plague could be used as a bioterrorism act, yet I am glad officials have taken extreme lengths to make sure an epidemic like this does not occur.
Tara Reynolds (3)
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Telomeres are found on the end of chromosomes and they act as caps that keep the DNA from unraveling. Telomeres get shorter each time the cell divides, until they get so short that the cell can no longer divide at all. Smoking, obesity, psychological disorders and stress have been found to possibly accelerate that process of telomere loss. A new study, run by Idan Shalev, a post-doctoral researcher in psychology and neuroscience at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, followed 1,100 British families with twins since the time the twins were born. The twins are now 18, but the researchers have taken DNA samples from them at ages 5 and 10 as well. The researchers also interviewed the twins' mothers extensively, and know which ones have been subjected to the stress of physical and mental violence as a child. Studies showed that the children who experienced two or more forms of violence as a child had serve telomere loss, which in the long run can lead to poorer survival and chronic disease. It is extremely sad; a child should not have to experience violence at such a young age to begin with. Something like that can cause enough problems in life. Unfortunately, it can effect health in more ways than we thought.
Taylor Pirog (2)
Monday, April 23, 2012
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Have we finally found something that can make us live forever, or at least for a much longer time? Throughout history, kings, sorcerers and even ordinary people have sought to find the secret to immortality. Stories of these people going through treacherous adventures in search of such an object that will grant them eternal life have lived for centuries. Nowadays, these stories are no more than just myths, or even tales we tell to our kids before bed; suggesting that we have lost our belief that a life without death is impossible. However, a group of scientist have found a molecule might hold the key to extending our lives significantly.
Buckminsterfullerene, a molecule consisting of 60 carbon atoms, might not only give us an extended life span, but it has also been considered as a viable treatment for HIV and cancer. Recently, a trial was done to see the effects of this substance. In this trial, scientists had three groups of rats with different diets. One group was given a control, anther group consumed olive oil and a third group was fed a mixture of olive oil and Buckminsterfullerene. The results were remarkable: while the rats that were fed a control lived for 22 months and the group that ate olive oil lived for about 26 months, the rats that were fed a mixture of olive oil and Buckminsterfullerene lived an astonishing 42 months! From their findings, aging is caused by oxidative stress, and Buckminsterfullerene works by reducing this.
While these were only tested on animals, and no one knows how beneficial it will be to humans, it definitely is a step closer to finding a substance that can increase our life expectancy. Plus, it might play a huge role towards cancer treatment and neurodegenerative disorders.
-Hermann Kam (1)
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Posted by Khoa Chu (1)
The practice of death by lethal injection is a controversial one. But whether or not you believe in its use, the science behind the method is very interesting. The article from ScienceLine goes into the controversy and ethics of this process. This method involves a series of three shots to be administered in a particular order, all through an intravenous drip. The three shots each affect different aspects of the body and are administered in order to ensure that the individual feels no pain.
The first injection is sodium thiopental. This is an anesthetic that quickly puts the individual into a state of unconsciousness so deep that they will not be able to feel pain. This anesthetic works by suppressing the activity of the CNS (central nervous system) as opposed to just numbing pain in the nerves. The sodium thiopental also amplifies GABA which is a neurotransmitter that suppresses brain activity. This complex state of unconsciousness can be reached in as little as 30 seconds. The dose administered is theoretically large enough to keep the individual under throughout the process. Around 5,000mg are administered during executions as opposed to around 150mg for a 15 minute surgery.
A saline solution is then administered through the drip. After that, a neuromuscular blocker, is administered. This chemical prevents the nerves from communicating with the muscles. This prevents the muscles from moving and subsequently, as the diaphragm can no longer contract, causes the lungs to stop working. Another dose of saline is administered before the next step.
The last chemical administered is . This chemical fills the heart with charged particles that stop the heart from beating by interrupting the signals. These three chemicals together, administered in this order, effectively numb the body, inhibit the lungs, and inhibit the heart.
Posted By Erica Bonnell(1)
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Humans possess the ability to read words even when the interior letters are jumbled, as long as the letters on the boundary of each word remain the same. This is because the positions of letters in most languages are consistent. You know that the words “raed” and “tihs” in the title of this article are not real, because you know how to spell and have used the English language for most of your life. Researchers wanted to see if they could teach baboons to do the same thing.
The scientists conducting this study wanted to see if baboons could tell the difference between real words and jumbled letters. Six baboons were trained to distinguish four-letter English words from strings of letters containing three consonants and one vowel. The baboons were rewarded when they would touch an oval button for real words and a cross when they were nonsense letters. This was not just an example of the baboons learning a memory game to match certain patterns to ovals or crosses. The researchers found that the longer the baboons had used the training program the faster they could differentiate real from fake words. The mistakes would increase based on the similarity of fake words to real ones.
Researchers postulate that the baboons would treat syllables like components of visual objects like the handle of a coffee mug. Letters are part of the word just as the handle is a part of the mug, so we may just be mimicking the way that we identify visual objects rather than through the sounds that syllables make.
Michael Thomas (3)
Rhys Ursuliak (3)
I may be stretching things with my false advertisement that the economic depression in the U.S that we've been trying to recover from for the past decade or so is related to human brain size, but the question certainly didn’t cross my mind after reading an article published by Sciencemag.org, Teamwork Builds Brains.
Graduate students at Trinity College Dublin created a simulation to mimic the evolution of brain growth and compared it to other intelligent animals that have comparably large brains versus their body size to support a hypothesis that brain size is affected by the level of cooperation expressed within a community and amongst species. How they were able to accurately predict how their 3-6 neuron test brains would make decisions when presented with the games Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Snowdrift Game wasn’t discussed in great detail, but seemed like basic genetic testcrosses were applied to predict progeny types. The results of the brain’s choices (meaning their level of cooperation in each game) were then compared to brain size by measuring the number of neurons developed. An increase in neurons reflected more cooperative brains, signifying a higher level of intelligence.
So with leaders like George W. Bush who refuse to cooperate with scientists to attack climate change issues, and when international wars set boundaries making it hard for countries to cooperate with one another, it makes me wonder if there’s any evidence that our brain’s size and cooperation are linked to the economic turmoil. The economic decline is nonetheless motivating. For example, young college students are known to be the brainstorm central where seasoned professors can bounce off the issues at hand and historical events leading to our predicament to try and find resolutions to the numerous issues we are troubled by today. Marketing has taken the depression to a whole other level with power companies like General Electric and British Petroleum advertising that their ‘cooperation’ is leading to jobs and paving the way for a new, innovative America. And the good news is that cooperation in school just may be paying off as careers for the East coast in life science disciplines are increasing, leaving a hopeful and promising future with secure jobs. In a state address by President Obama a few months back, he blatantly accused Republicans of not cooperating. And the republican senator of Illinois responded that Obama is right, that we, as a country, need to cooperate if there is hope for economic recovery and put aside immaterial differences that tend to divide our parties since all Americans have the same goal: Success.
Perhaps competition is what prevents our brains from growing larger, and we’ve reached our brain growth maximum capacity as a species, but I’d like to believe my exaggerated ‘theory’ may be stretching the facts and that our brains will grow like those in the Trinity lab the more we cooperate, giving me hope for future social and economic relief, assuming our species can evolve rapidly enough, and of course, get along.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
in Dublin has found that herbal preparations of thyme could be more effective than over the counter or prescription creams.
Researchers from Leeds Metropolitan University tested thyme, along with marigold and myrrh on Propionibacterium acne, which is the bacterium that infects pores causing acne of white heads, red bumps, and puss filled cysts. Acne was exposed to these three substances for five minutes. Although all three were able to kill the bacterium within the five minutes,
thyme was the most efficient and effective of the three. It was further discovered that thyme tincture had a greater antibacterial effect than the active ingredient in most acne creams, benzoyl peroxide. A tincture, made from plants and herbs is kept in alcohol for many days or even weeks drawing out the active compounds in plants in order to be effectively completed. The thyme tincture was tested against over the counter and prescription creams as well as an alcohol base. Findings explained that thyme tincture most effectively and efficiently removed and killed off the acne bacterium.
Further and extensive research on tinctures is said to be continued yet the current results have been overwhelming. An herbal treatment of thyme would be a wonderful addition to acne care. It would be beneficial for users with sensitive skin, and would be a very positive natural
alternative to current prescription creams.
Tara Reynolds (3)
At home, I have a herd of horses and i agree with this study's findings. When we add a new horse to the herd, it is taught how to act by the other horses. Either the newby makes a buddy that shows him the ropes, or he is bullied by the herd until he does what is expected of the adult leaders.
We can see this pattern in human groups as well. In a group of people that is mostly adults, the children are better behaved. In a group that children out number adults, it will most likely be a little more chaotic. For example, in a daycare setting, you can probably observe that it is quite hectic compared to one babysitter watching one or two kids. With a smaller ratio, the youngsters get more individual attention, and in turn behave better.
Posted by Jen Silva(3)
Monday, April 9, 2012
Thursday, April 5, 2012
It is well known that dinosaurs are related to birds and that many small dinosaurs had feathers. However, a recent discovery in China has found fossilized dinosaurs that weigh over 1 ton that had feathers. It has been dubbed Yutyrannus huali – or, “beautiful feathered tyrant”. This is a significant finding and helps re frame the debate about feather evolution and dino ecology.
Which came first – flying or thermoregulation? It is a question that is batted around in biology. This finding may help better understand the role of feathers in evolution. It is clear that Y. huali did not fly - it was far too big. So what were the feathers for? Scientists claim they were for thermoregulation – however it is argued that larger animals like Y. huali would have little trouble staying warm and would in fact have issues over heating. So, it is then argued that possibly the climate was cooler during that period of time – however, that too is argued against since large wooly animals today like wildebeests have little trouble staying cool in warm climates. So what were the feathers for? Other hypotheses have been presented that focus on display and mating.
I find discoveries like this one intriguing. Oh how little we truly know about those beasts of ancient times. Maybe the feathers on Y. huali were present for a reason not understood in light of modern biology. If I were to pick a side, however, I would probably lean towards the thermoregulation team. I think it makes sense that scales modified over time to produce feathers that allowed more control of the thermoregulatory processes of these large reptiles.
William Mohn (2)
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Cystic fibrosis is the most common fatal genetic disease in the United States. Those with cystic fibrosis are faced with a life of deadly lung infections, persistant cough, and poor growth. Receiving the diagnosis is heart breaking for sufferers’ families, as only 47% of them will live past the age of 18.
Just recently, the FDA approved Kalydeco, a new drug to treat a specific subset of cystic fibrosis patients. This drug specifically targets the G551D mutation which is found in only 4% of CF sufferers. Although this is the minority of the population, it can be the difference between life and death. The G551D mutation creates a defective protein that fails to balance the absorbtion and secreation of water and chloride ions across cell membranes. This leads to the buildup of thick mucus in the lungs, digestive tract, and other internal organs, which in turn causes severe repiratory and digestive problems as well as infections and diabetes.
Kalydeco improves lung function and minimizes infection by restoring proper protein activity. It is the most effective medicine, because it addresses the root cause of cystic fibrosis, not just the symptoms. Children and adolescents who receive treatment are able to do sports or go away to college, which would be virtually impossible otherwise.
This is one of the first drugs made to target a specific genetic defect. Scientists have known about this faulty gene since 1989, but have only recently had the technology to treat it. As Kalydeco is ‘personalized’, it is not effective if a patient has a different mutation. However, it gives hope because there may soon be a treatment developed for their mutation also.
Video Interview: http://www.myfoxboston.com/dpp/news/local/fda-approves-new-drug-to-fight-cystic-fibrosis-20120131
Posted by Erica Fitzpatrick (1)
It has been shown that there is a strong link between the change in song and the change in noise, in the sparrows of San Fransisco's Presidio district. The current study being done tracks bird songs from as far back as 1969 up until current day. Researchers also know how San Fransisco's streets have become much noisier based on studies done in 1974 and 2008. The quiet areas that these birds once lived in are now filled with noise pollution. The sparrows in return, have made themselves louder. The birds used to have a low hum which would work, until a car came along and covered up the sound. Now they have one primary high-range dialect. The birds have adapted because these songs are their form of communication. It is how the attract mates, as well as warn each other of predators. When these calls can't be heard, the sparrows start running into trouble. Compared to the calls recorded in 1969, the calls of today are not only louder but they sound more threatening. These birds are much more defensive, which is understandable due to their current surrounds. A lot of animals have a hard time surviving when rural areas become cities, but this is just another example of natural selection at its finest.
We’ve all heard the BPA, found virtually everywhere in plastics, cans, and other polymers, is bad for us. Now, according to an article on ScienceDaily.com a study performed by Daniel Weber of UW-Milwaukee has shown that even exposure to small concentrations as an embryo has big effects on later adult life.
The test Weber performed was a simple learning test in which he condition adult fish to turn left in a T-shaped maze. After learning to turn left, he then reversed the direction and attempted to condition them to turn right. The adult fish that were no exposed to BPA as embryos took only about 7-10 trials before they learned to turn left. The adult fish that were exposed to concentrations of BPA as embryos, however, took 2-3 times as many trials to learn to turn right instead of left, and those that were exposed to the highest concentrations of BPA as embryos were never able to turn left in the first place.
In addition to the learning disabilities evident in adulthood as a result of BPA exposure, there was also an observed immediate effect of hyperactivity upon hatching.
It is obvious then, that these effects are connected. Hyperactivity makes it difficult to learn, as is seen in children with ADHD, and even though the exposure only occurred in the embryonic stage, the wiring in the brain was permanently effected and the learning and memory impairments are evident in adulthood.
I think this study is a breakthrough that will only lead to further knowledge about the effects of BPA and other man-made environmental toxins. With so many children being born with behavioral and learning disabilities, especially hyperactivity disorders, these findings cannot be ignored. I have been avoiding BPA for years by using stainless steel bottles and mugs, but it is everywhere in our environment now and is, sadly, unavoidable. I hope that this and further studies will lead to the permanent banning of BPA and other known dangerous chemicals found in plastics, so we can stop condemning and increasing number of our children to a life of learning and behavioral issues.
Source article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120404101812.htm
Due to many comments expressing confusion about BPA, I thought I would provide a little background information. BPA, or bisphenol A, is an organic compound that is used to make many different plastics, polycarbonates and resins that we encounter in our daily lives. I have posted a picture of the structure of BPA below for reference. Basically, BPA has been used in the commercial production of plastics since 1957, and approximately 8 billion pounds of BPA is used yearly. You encounter BPA numerous times a day, in your shatter-proof, polycarbonate nalgene water bottle, in baby bottle, sports equipment, household electronics, eyeglasses, and on and on. However, it has been discovered that BPA is an endocrine disruptor, and can mimic estrogen. This can lead to negative health effects, especially when exposure occurs during early developmental stages. BPA exposure, which is virtually unavoidable (in a recent study, 96% of pregnant women were found to have BPA in their bodies), has been linked to not only neurological and developmental issues, but also to obesity, thyroid function, and cancer. The most common way the BPA enters our bodies is through ingestions. When materials containing BPA are washed, heated, or stressed in some way, the chemical leeches into our food. Considering BPA is in almost all food packaging, containers, and bottles, it is leeching into all of our food, daily. According to a story by TIME magazine, "if you don't have BPA in your body, you are not living in the modern world."
Posted by Laura Moro (2)
Monday, April 2, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Though some might debate this notion, most of us know the existence of climate change to be true. But despite all the documentaries, science articles and textbook readings about it, most of us aren’t really conscious of the impact it has on the environment; one of these reasons being that nothing in our immediate surrounding has really drastically changed. But to creatures living in extreme conditions, some changes in the climate have already been noticed, and no matter how small, it can affect them in huge ways.
Take the Antarctic fur seals for instance. These cute creatures are very delicate in the early stages of their lives, requiring huge amounts of energy to grow, and to begin living independently. Now, due to climate change, conditions in the Antarctica are becoming more wet and windy. As a result, these seal pups are finding it even harder to meet these energy requirements, as they now need to use more of their energy to keep themselves warm. These can result in lower survival rates, as these pups will have less energy available to them for growth. But that’s not all, as the climate changes so does prey availability, which means the pups now more than ever, need to conserve and allocate more of their energy to keep warm instead of growth.
According to scientist Birgitte McDonald, a postdoctoral researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, these changes can have adverse effects on these seals as it they’ll find it a bigger challenge to be able to shift towards nutritional independence successfully. From a study she carried out, in which she studied the amounts of energy these pup seals invest in different areas (growing, thermoregulation, energy storage, etc), she found that the newborns use 60% of their energy they get from their mothers for growth. But as they progress to 1 month old, these number drops to 25%. This shows how important energy allocations to the right areas are in the early stage of the pup seal’s life. This is due to the fact that this stage is used to focus on growing, learning, and to prepare for a future independent from their mothers.
Even though predictions from climate models suggests that the places they live in will have higher temperatures, they expect rainfall , snowfall, and stronger winds to be more abundant, making these pup use more of their energy to keep warm, as they lack the insulation that an adult coat would offer. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the impacts that are affecting our planet, even if we don’t see it in our surroundings. The decisions we make in the next decade will shape the fate of such species and our earth as a whole.
-Hermann Kam (1)
Why aren't there Neanderthals anymore? It seems odd that such a close relative of humans wouldn’t be around anymore. Especially since modern humans occupy nearly every part of the planet. Why are we around and not the Neanderthals? There's an older theory that says that Neanderthals were driven to extinction by the ancestors of modern humans. This theory made sense because lets face it, humans have not always been accepting of those different from them.
However, recent evidence suggests that there is a different reason. Science Daily has an article that refers to research done by Barton and Julien Riel-Salvatore of the University of Colorado Denver. This research consisted of using stone artifacts to tract the paths of these ancient groups as well as computer modeling. Basically, their research says that during the the Upper Pleistocene the ancestors of modern humans, and Neanderthals encountered each other in Western Eurasia. The two groups then mated and hybridized, but because the Neanderthal population was much smaller than the ancient human population, the Neanderthal population became “absorbed” into the ancient human population.
The above is supported by genetic analysis which shows that some DNA (1-4% of the total human genome) that came from Neanderthals. This is especially seen in modern humans of European descent.
Posted by Joseph Frimpong Group A March 28 2011