Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Stress as the Ultimate Gray Hair Dye?

 When I look at gray hair two things come to mind: aging and stress. Gray hair is most often 

associated with aging because it’s thought that when you grow older, your hair follicles produce 

less color which eventually results in that infamous gray color. Stress can impact the number of 

gray hairs that come out of your head. Now that might be a scary thought, but it turns out when 

stress is eliminated, hair color can be restored Understanding how stress affects hair color can 

give us insight on how stress affects our body.

Hair follicles carry a lot of our biological information. When under the skin, the hair is subject to stress and other influences of the mind and body. When hairs have grown out of the scalp, they mature into a stable form that reflect those exposures. Ayelet Rosenburg developed a method for capturing highly detailed images of small areas of human hair, about 1/20th of a millimeter wide. The individual hairs from 14 volunteers were analyzed by researchers and were compared with each volunteer’s stress diary where the volunteers rated their stress levels for each week. The study revealed obvious associations between stress and graying of the hair. Researchers also found that grays hairs started to revert to their original color when the stress levels of volunteers decreased. Researchers also measured the levels of protein in the hair and how the levels changed. When researchers produced a mathematical model that stimulated a graying head of hair over time, there were changes in about 300 proteins that were observed when hair color changed. The model suggests that changes to the mitochondria may induce stress related graying. The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell and respond to different signals, like psychological stress. 

The data in this study show a connection between the mitochondria and stress, and their effects on hair. Researchers also discovered that graying can be reversed with the elimination of stress. The impacts that stress has on your body need to be better understood and studied, but it’s clear that it takes a toll on the body. So, it’s important that we take care of ourselves physically and mentally. And if you see a new gray hairs in the mirror, that may be a sign that you are due for a vacation. 

Morianna Saint-Cyr (9)

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Positive Impacts of Playing Video Games

 Oftentimes, people hear things about how video games make people more

violent, or are a detriment to brain development. But a research study
conducted in Taiwan provides evidence proves otherwise. There may be more
positive benefits than than most parents assume.

108 students from a Taiwanese high school and middle school participated in
a study recorded by Wei-Fan Chen and Tsung-Yen Chuang. The study was
initially to investigate whether or not computer games help facilitate
childrens’ cognitive learning achievements. They kept the ratio half and
half for each gender to keep things even. Their testing methods included
teaching a lesson standard teaching using computer assistance, and learning
by playing a video game. They then tested the students on knowledge of
specific facts (1) , ability to associate terms (2), and demonstration of
problem solving (3). They discovered that students had significantly higher
scores in categories 1 and 3. In short, those who learned using a video
game to teach them were able to learn  more efficiently while also
improving their problem solving skills and helping them recognize that
there’s more than one solution.

There is always a limit to which video games can help improve cognitive
abilities. Of course, playing an overwhelming amount won’t do anyone any
good. But a certain amount of video games may prove helpful in teaching
critical problem solving skills in children. Hopefully in the future, video
games can become something that is less frowned upon.

Charissa Yu (9)


 CRISPR is a type of technology that can be used to edit genes and works by locating a specific piece of DNA inside the cell. This technology was released in 2012 and has since revolutionized the way scientists can edit genes, both for speed and cost. CRISPR is very exciting technology used to edit genes that we will be seeing in our food, plants, animals, and medicine for years to come. The process works relatively fast compared to the original ways of editing genes.

The Cas9 protein is added to a cell with a piece of guide RNA that has a specific sequence, which allows the CRISPR Cas9 to locate and bind to a specific DNA strand within that cell. The RNA guide strand has about a 20-nucleotide strand that locates and binds to this DNA. When in position, the Cas9 protein can cut the DNA at the target site, essentially turning off that targeted gene, thus editing the gene and cell. This is the most common use of Cas9 and CRISPR, which stands for  clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats.

CRISPR has been used in some promising research lately. One example is its effect on the disease called Transthyretin amyloidosis. This disease is hereditary and affects about 50,000 people worldwide. The disease is caused by mutations to the TTR gene which then go on to affect functions with the organs and lead to heart disease, and in some cases even death. So, CRISPR has been shown to reduce the mutated gene by up to 87% when patients were treated properly. One patient even saw a decrease in TTR protein by 96%, which severely lowered the symptoms of the disease and even offered room for healing. This research proves very promising in future studies for treatment of many different deadly diseases, especially hereditary ones that require some gene editing. There is room for improvement, as CRISPR has worked on these mutated genes and proteins on cells outside of the body that then must be infused back to the body. If researchers could find a way to control CRISPR inside the human body to actively edit genes, we could see a major decrease in disease rates. Hopefully these next steps will soon be made possible, as some researchers report being able to infuse the CRISPR Cas9 protein into living bone marrow of mice. Genome editing should see a boost of support and application with the CRISPR method for years to come.

Epidemiology of COVID-19

 COVID-19 is something we have been dealing with now for over a year. This respiratory illness caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome has now spread to multiple countries. The pace at which the disease spread in the last 4 months, since it was first recognized from China, is unprecedented. While countries such as China, Italy, and the United States have particularly high-rates of infection, the disease is gradually spreading in India as well, threatening the health and economy of the country.

In the article “How Epidemiology has Shaped the COVID Pandemic” by TJ Wu, he explains how important epidemiology is. This tactic is essential to figure out why diseases spread. He states, “Analyses of data on infections and deaths, and projections from studies that model the virus’s spread, have driven policy decisions all over the world”. Therefore, data is gathered throughout the world and people are able to analyze these things and make it known to the public about what is going on with these diseases.


Overall, they also highlight how epidemiology will be important as the pandemic progresses — for example, in understanding the potential impact of the new variants that are currently wreaking havoc around the world. Epidemiology is changing the course of the pandemic, but the coronavirus has stress-tested epidemiology as well.


Lara Pereira (8) 

“How Epidemiology Has Shaped the Covid Pandemic.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 27 Jan. 2021,

Cave Fish as a Model for Human Disease

 Astyanax Mexicanus is a species of fish that has adapted to underwater caves. There are the surface fish that thrive in the surface and have unlimited resources, as opposed to the cave-dwelling ones. They have lost their eyes, their pigment, have gained symptoms of diabetes and show symptoms of autism. However, despite this they are thriving. In fact, studies have shown that cave fish are healthier and live longer than their surface counterparts. 

To humans those adaptations seem more harmful than helpful because humans with any of those tend to struggle more in life. So how is it possible for these fish to live healthier and longer lives? By looking at their genome we can determine what genes cause these maladaptations. It is possible to determine the exact genes because of the difference between the cave and surface fish. They are the same species and have the same genome making it easier to determine the specific genes that cause the changes. 


Theoretically once the genes that cause these maladaptations are determined it will allow researchers to determine the genes more accurately in humans that cause these illnesses. It could either help determine how to “fix” the illnesses, or it could help researchers understand how it can become a positive adaptation. It can allow people to live healthy and long lives alongside these illnesses.


Jackelyn Raymundo Santizo (9)

Fun times with Fungi: How Magic Mushrooms Can be Used to Treat Depression and Addiction

 I know that when discussing psychedelics, we tend to think about crazy hallucinations and having a crazy dream like trip, but recently researchers have found that there are a lot of benefits that can come from the use of psychedelic drugs. In particular there is a new type of therapy called psychedelic therapy where psychedelics are used to help aid patients.  Psychedelic drugs have been used in other nonwestern forms of medicine for centuries. 


Very Early research using psychedelic drugs first began in the 1960’s until the drugs were made illegal in the United States. While psychedelic drugs such as LSD and psilocybin are still illegal in the U.S., they are believed to have the potential to treat a range of conditions including anxiety, depression, and addiction. This research has been picked up once again, but this time in the twenty first century with twenty first century laboratories and equipment. 


Since psychedelics are very illegal the techniques in which this form of therapy can be carried out are widely distributed. The most agreed upon method is called microdosing. Microdosing involves taking very small, sub hallucinogenic doses of psychedelic substances. This means that there will be no hallucinogenic reaction by taking the drug in this small way. Proponents of microdosing suggest that even very low doses can have beneficial health effects such as enhancing performance, increasing energy, and decreasing depression.  Psychedelic therapy can help treat anxiety and mood disorders, alcohol and substance use disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. While it is still in its early stages of research, I honestly think that we will start to see the legal use of psychedelic drugs like we already have begun to see it in Oregon.


Jessica Ross (9)


Potential Liver Risks in those Exposed to Zero Gravity Environments

 Although alcohol is not allowed on the international space station, astronauts still have reason to watch their livers. A recent study published in Nature shows potential risks associated with microgravity.The study, led by the University of Tsubuka, Japan, found that mice sent to the International Space Station had their livers stressed out by the time they returned to Earth. If this same factor is also causing risk to astronauts, then it provides a potentially serious problem to fix. But to understand it in humans, it is often easier to assess it first in mice. 

Animal studies are often used to identify potential risks to humans, and find ways to address them. Different model species (E.g. rats, mice,fruit flies, yeast) are used for different research goals. Mice and humans are both mammals so their liver structures are largely similar, and experience stress in many of the same ways. This study found that the oxidative stress of a zero gravity wore down the liver’s antioxidant reserves. By the time they returned to Earth the mice had high levels of gene expression for those related to fighting oxidative stress, and had depleted their antioxidant capacity. The stress was less bad in those mice exposed to artificial gravity, which is a positive sign at least. 

The practical application of this research is very hopeful. The stress caused by microgravity could be mitigated by the use of artificial gravity. Any long term space living would require some form of artificial gravity to combat much of the liver damage, and, according to professor Iwao Ohtsu of the University of Tsubuka, “whereas those caused by other environmental effects could be treated with alternative solutions, such as the addition of dietary supplements to astronauts' diets". With those two factors in mind, hopefully those living in low gravity environments will have one less health worry to deal with.

William Sobchuk (9)