Thursday, February 27, 2014

Photosynthetic Animals?

Photosynthesis, the process by which an organism uses energy from the sun to make food, is commonly thought to only be in the domain of plants. However, it turns out that there are in fact some species of animals which are photosynthetic. This post will focus on one particularly amazing species, the sea slug Elysia chlorotica, and the mechanism by which it undergoes photosynthesis.
File:Elysia chlorotica (1).jpg
The sea slug Elysia chlorotica is, it turns out, not born with chloroplasts, the organelles necessary to do photosynthesis. It eats photosynthetic algae for sustenance, particularly when it is young, and somehow in the digestive process it extracts chloroplasts from the algae and incorporates them into its body. The chloroplasts function just as they do in the algae; they synthesize sugar, but this time the snail gets the benefit  instead of the algae!
What has relatively recently been discovered is that the snail actually produces its own chlorophyll to sustain the chloroplasts, using algal DNA that  it somehow incorporated into its genome. The DNA transfer necessary for that to happen (from algae to animal) is virtually unknown in the animal world, but  it  is  clear that it  happened in this case. Nature works in magnificent and mysterious ways, and Elysia chlorotica is certainly evidence  of that! 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

To Breastfeed or Not

Many studies have been done to prove the theory that babies that have been breast feed perform better on their IQ tests and in school, but the reasons why have not surfaced. According to the studies done by sociologists at Brigham Young University , two parenting skills are the explanation on why these breast feed babies become such scholars. These skills include Responding to children's emotional cues and reading to children starting at 9 months. Breastfeeding mothers usually do both of those things, said lead study author Ben Gibbs leading to their children excellence. So it's the breast feeding that necessarily cause this, it's the parenting.  The BYU scholars used a national data set that contained 7,500 mothers and their children from birth to five years old that provided information on the home environment, how often the children were read to, and how early they were read to. Also each of the mothers in the study participated in a recorded activity with their children. In this video, each child tried to complete a challenging task, the mother's supportiveness and sensitivity to their child's emotional cues were measured. Child development expert Sandra Jacobson of Wayne State University School of Medicine noted that children in the study who were breastfed for 6 months or longer performed the best on reading portions because they also experienced the most parenting. The BYU researchers note that the children that didn't do so well on their reading assessments were  least likely to receive the optimal parenting in early childhood. The Forste stated that, "Single moms in the labor force, for example, don't have the same luxuries when it comes to breastfeeding and quality time with the children. Parents with less education don't necessarily hear about research-based parenting practices, either. This is the luxury of the advantaged". This study also may suggest that some children from disadvantaged families probably don't perform well on reading assessments.

Posted by Maylissa Charmant

3D Printing Saves Life

The field, or better yet – art, of 3D printing has come a long way. Just days ago, the 3D printing of a model heart helped save an infant's life. At the Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville Kentucky, 14 month old Roland Lian Cung Bawi was known to have many heart problems. While CT and MRI scans are useful in many ways, they do not provide the true visual depth that one sees when they are actually performing an operation. Using many of these scans cumulatively however, The University of Lousiville's engineering department was able to construct a 3D model of Roland's exact heart printed in a material similar to the consistency of a real heart.

By examining the model print, Roland's doctors were easily able to diagnose him with a double outlet right ventricle. Instead of going in blind and scrambling to come up with the perfect plan while in the middle of a high stress surgery, Roland's doctors were able to plan their mode of attack before making any incisions. This allowed for a smooth surgery where the doctors knew exactly what they were going to do. This was able to minimize the number of cuts needed and also eliminate any follow up surgeries.

While this is a huge advancement for the medical field, it is only just the type of the iceberg. Many researchers today are working on the 3D printing of real livingorgans. A San Diego based company Organovo has even gone as far as to announce they will be unveiling a 3D printed, functional liver sometime this year. Unfortunately, the application of that type of technology is still many years away. When it is here however, our world will be turned upside down as the need for transplants from organ donors will be theoretically eliminated.

Posted by Kevin Barisano (4)  

Sea Levels Rising Pose Threat to the Future

For decades now, we have been living in an age of increased global warming.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, global temperatures have risen 1.4ºF in the past century, and it is only getting worse since the past ten years have been the warmest on record to date.  The reason that global warming is such an issue has to do with the chain reaction of negative effects that follow a warmer-than-normal atmosphere.  Of these many effects, ice sheets melting and sea levels rising are some of the most prevalent because they will affect the greatest amount of people (not to mention the unimaginable amount of precious ecosystems). Two masses of ice that are the target of scientists today are Greenland's 1 million-square-mile ice sheet and Antarctica's 800,000 square-mile Pine Island Glacier.  Studies being done on these two ice sheets show the correlation between atmospheric warming and sea level rising as well as the projected damage to coastal living regions.
Due to the recent global warming, the North Atlantic waters that surround Greenland's ice sheet are the warmest they have been in the past 100 years.  This is important to scientists because they aim to study the melting going on around the edges of the ice sheet where glacier meets the warming ocean.  Here, the glaciers melt and extend into the ocean contributing to increased flow of water into the sea.  Another contributor to the ice sheet melting is the surface pools that develop on top of glaciers in response to warmer temperatures.  These pools trickle down deeply into the glacier causing fresh water rivers underneath.  When these freshwater rivers reach the ocean, the fresh and salt water rapidly mix contributing to the heat transfer from ocean to ice.  Also, these crevices created as a result of flowing of water from the top to underneath the ice mass can literally crack the glacier causing massive chunks of ice to fall into the ocean.  During this study done by physical oceanographers, ice loss from Greenland's ice sheet has increased four-fold causing nearly one-quarter of global sea level rise.

Studies have shown that even the smallest increase in melting of land glaciers can dramatically increase once the process has begun.  In the past twenty years, the Pine Island Glacier has been thinning about 5 feet per year, and increasing its rate evermore.  One of the reasons this is happening is because  the glaciers floating on water that surround the land ice are disappearing by more than 0.6 miles each year.  This floating ice served as a sort of protection barrier to the land ice.  Therefore, as the floating ice disappears, the land ice rapidly thins.  Since the melting of the Pine Glacier accounts for 25% of Antartica's total ice loss, scientists predict it will contribute to a rise in sea level of 0.4 inches in the next few decades.

Along with these disturbing facts about Greenland and the Pine Glacier's contribution to sea levels rising, NASA predicts that the sea level will rise 3 feet by 2100.  This projection displaces 145 million people and affects the lives of 2 billion people living in coastal regions around the world.  Sea levels rising causes flooding damage and storm surges along the coasts everywhere.  Damages are predicted to cost up to $100 billion per year by the end of the century if no adaptation measures are taken.

Posted by: Nicole Bosivert (4)

The Fiery Embrace of a Pine Species

We have all heard of the disastrous effects of forest fires, and perhaps even witnessed their destruction.  Even though forest fires are thought of as a natural disturbance, and not a disaster, they are still capable of inflicting damage. Many factors can influence the start of a forest fire, rate at which it spreads, and the ultimate damage inflicted.  Much of these factors however, have to do with the morphology of the primary species involved, and the time of the year. This means that in thinking of how to prepare for the forest fire season, there are precautions we can take in different areas to help ward off the flames.

In a recent publication in the Journal of Plant Biology, Seo and Choung record their findings of the differences that account for the increased frequency of fire in PInus densiflora stands as opposed to Quercus variabilis stands, and the associated damage in Korea.  There was found to be a larger coverage percentage of the shrub layers of the trees for the pine forests than in the Q. variabilis, or oak stands, due to associated plants of each type of forest.  The low hanging branches of the pine species, as well as the thinner bark also contribute to its likelihood to set fire and maintain a higher intensity especially in the dry season of Spring. These factors coupled with the associated lower level shrubs increase the chance of a vertical spread of the flame in the P. densiflora to completely engulf the forests. 

Some suggested steps to take at this point is to reduce the overall amount of P. densiflora so that the damage could be reduced.  In fact, the authors make a suggestion that firebreak stands should be introduced to the area by human doing if natural means do not account in the future regrowth of the recent 24,000Ha(240,000,000m) fire.   The steps to take around the world whether with these species or other similar dry forests are to include firebreak stands.  It is likely that such fiery natural disturbances can be somewhat unavoidable.  One could wonder if there are possibilities in the future to reduce such effects of forest fire.

Posted by Michael Dailing(4-A)

Are You Really That Depressed?

We all know someone who has suffered from depression at some point in our lives, whether it is a friend, a family member, or even ourselves. While many people come out their depression in time, others may choose to seek either medical or therapeutic treatments. Doctors may prescribe antidepressants to patients, drugs intended to help people control their depression so that they may return to their normal activities in life. However, like many treatments, these drugs may have adverse side effects that make one ask if the risk is really worth the reward.

In research presented by the University of Liverpool, the side effects of antidepressants may be more harmful than previously studied. While a high percentage of those aged 18-25 that participated in a survey about their antidepressant use claimed to no longer feel depressed due to the use of antidepressants, many side effects other than the physical effects of weight gain and nausea were reported. These side effects included difficulties with sexual activity, emotional numbness, feeling abnormal from their usual selves, loss of positive feelings, loss of caring about others, withdrawal effects, and even increased thoughts of suicide.

With the severity of the side effects, one would have to question if it would still be beneficial to partake in the use of antidepressants. Furthermore, doctors should have great concern about prescribing such treatments to patients, especially those that are already a suicide risk. In a world where people swallow pills without a second thought on how it may be hurting them more than it helps, we need to learn to deeply consider how terrible a circumstance needs to be before resorting to a concoction of unnatural substances formed into a tablet or bar and if is the only way to find relief.  

Posted by Ashton Brown (4)

MERS Discovery

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, more commonly abbreviated as MERS is a human disease caused by a type of virus called coronavirus. This disease causes an assortment of respiratory ailments, including shortness of breath, coughing and pneumonia. Along with these symptoms the virus can cause a high grade fever, which to some people can be deadly. About half of the people infected with MERS die from respiratory complications. Although the disease is believed to have originated in the Middle East it is rather widespread, affecting countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Tunisia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Britain. The virus is closely related to SARS, which in the early 2000's caused a deadly outbreak in Asia, infecting thousands and killing hundreds.

Recently, scientists have been able to identify a previously unknown source of this disease, camels. Before this study it had not been known whether humans could contract the disease from animals. This study confirmed that several camels were actively infected with the virus, and that the genetic make up of their version of the virus was very similar, though not identical, to the virus in some infected humans. Maybe even more interestingly though is the fact that only young camels had the actual virus present in their systems. Older camels were much more likely to have antibodies built up against the virus, indicating that the disease is older than previously known.

This study brings up a lot of very relevant questions, one being if the virus has existed in camels for decades why did it take so long to infect humans? The first human cases weren't reported until 2012. The best answer is that the virus hadn't mutated to be able to cross species until recently. Many viruses are specific to their host, which prevents trans-species infections. When a virus develops the ability to cross species it becomes much more dangerous. An example of this we have all heard of is the bird flu. The virus infects birds readily, and jumping from birds to humans cause a world wide health scare recently. So since MERS is a trans species virus should there be a global concern over it? I would say there needs to be more research into the mechanism of transmission of this virus. In some regions which the study observed up to 90% of the camels were or had been infected. These high numbers should be very concerning, and now that his study is available to the public I hope that more awareness is raised. 

Posted by Tim Daly (2)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Passing on Fear

You know when see a family member who you haven’t seen in a long time and they rave about how you look just like your parents. This is because of genetic traits. Everybody has genetic traits. When women have children each parent transfers or passes traits to the child which explains why children resemble their parents. But according to Laura Sander’s article, phenotypes aren’t the only things that are inherited by parents.  Children can also inherit fear. This was discovered through an experiment done in mice by Brian Dias and Kerry Ressler.  The results showed that a person’s traumatic experience can have a long lasting effect where it can be passed on to the next generation and on. The test involved mice receiving an electric shock every time the smelled orange blossoms. After the experiment was conducted, the offspring of these mice were afraid of smelling orange blossoms. The offspring were never exposed to the shock so it was very surprising that they experienced the same fear as their parents. The test changed the DNA structure of the gene in the shocked mice. It did not damage the gene, but caused a chemical switch that cause the gene to turn on or off. So if you ever noticed some similarities in fears with your parents, it’s probably because they passed on the trait to you.  

Orange Blossoms used  on the mice for the shocking test

Posted by Chelcie Claude 

Thursday, February 20, 2014


For many years, gecko feet have been a subject of interest. Their ability to scale walls and run across ceilings with seemingly no extra effort infers a sticky pad on their foot, but indeed the pad is not sticky. Researchers have shown that geckos can support up to 9 pounds with their four feet, a large task for a small animal. When they release their foot from the surface they are climbing on, a gecko rolls its' foot off rather than just picking it straight up, a factor that only peaked the interest and questions: How do geckos do this? Harnessing the ability to mimic this phenomenon could be a great innovation for many purposes. This mimicking of a natural phenomenon is sometimes referred to as biomimicry, or bioinspiration.

 Studying the anatomy of gecko feet led to a new invention through bioinspiration: Geckskin. A biology professor here at UMass, Duncan Irschick discovered some of the properties of gecko feet that allow them to support their weight on any incline. He realized that the pads on their feet maximize contact with the substrate they are standing on, acting like a draped table cloth over a table. By coming into contact with every small ridge on a surface, and using materials like bathroom caulking, nylon, and fiber (more specifically, polydimethylsiloxane), Irschick and his team made a pad that mimicked the gecko adhesive pad. The pad and a synthetic tendon were formed, maximizing both stiffness and rotational freedom.

A pad that is one square foot holds up to 700 pounds. This pad, like the foot of a gecko, adheres to almost any smooth surface, and is easily removable by simply peeling , reused, leaving behind no sticky residue from tape or glue. The product has many practical purposes such as hanging pictures or televisions, but it is not allowed on the market right now for unannounced reasons. Partially funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, maybe our soldiers are learning how to climb like Spiderman...?

An incredible invention based on biology, a multi-purpose product, and some UMass pride.

Posted by Steven Yu (3-C)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Stem Cells Up and Downs

As many of us know Stem Cells have been a very controversial but interesting topic for the past few decades.  Stem cells have been shown to be able to do a multitude of amazing things in the human body.  The problem with these stem cells, at least the embryonic version, is one of the only ways to get them is from the amniotic fluid of a newly growing baby.  Another type of stem cell is found in some adult tissues such as bone marrow but has much less ability to give rise to other kinds of cells.
            Recent advances in stem cell technology have given rise to induced-pluripotent stem cells by genetic reprogramming.  Scientists can take a regular adult cell and by reprogramming the cell can be able to inject this and other cells in to the affected area to heal the problem.  So far this has seen promise but scientists are not sure if any adverse effects will be seen in adult humans.
            The most recent breakthrough was seen about a month ago when scientists found that if you subjected a cell to physical stress then the cell would regress back into a regular stem cell.  Putting regular blood cells into an acid bath for a certain amount of time would eventually turn these blood cells back into stem cells.  This would be a huge breakthrough in the world of stem cell science.  This would take away the controversy of using embryonic cells and the donors for these cells could come straight from the patients themselves!

            This would be a huge breakthrough for the world of stem cells but in even more recent news the scientists that have been trying to prove this idea and replicate the results have been having a extremely hard time.  This has brought the plausibility and the reliability of these results into question.  It looks as though this time we will have to wait a little longer for an end all, be all in finding perfect stem cell therapy.

Alex Sroczynski

Master monkey's brain controls sedated 'avatar'

Master Monkey's Brain Controls Sedated 'Avatar'

In this BBC News Article, science reporter James Gallagher talks about how how scientists used brain scans of the master monkey to electrically stimulate the spinal cord of the avatar which resulted in specified controlled movement. This finding is important because the group of scientists hope to refine this method in order to let paralyzed people recover the control of their own body. These finding were published in the Nature Communications and it talks about how the damage to spinal cord prevents the flow of information from the body to the brain and vice versa.

How the process worked was the master monkey had a brain chip implanted in its brain to monitor activity so that it's physical activities can be recorded and matched up with the electrical activity of the neurons. The avatar was also hooked up to electrodes in its spinal cord. The monkeys were then hooked up to brain scan so that one controlled the movement while the other performed it; as in the avatar monkey had a joystick and the master monkey would have to think about moving it. Results show that over 90% of the time the master monkey was able to control the joystick and move it around. This is useful because the goal of the study was to eventually take the damaged (paralyzed) brain stem and go around the injury. The only worry of the situation that the scientists declared as a no brainier was the worry about someone else controlling your body. Prof. Christopher James said that, "an able bodied person still has the control over their limbs, so no-one is going to control anyone else's body anytime soon." This is a goal that is long way off because there are a lot of factors that needs to be considered such as the difference in muscles of the paralyzed individuals because it becomes rigid, also fluctuating blood pressure is also another issue to consider while restoring control. These challenges need to be dealt with in order for this technology to be released to the people who need it.

Posted by: Jefiya Varghese (3)

The Adam and Eve Have Been Found

Most people, despite their religious affiliation or lack thereof, know the general idea of  the story of Adam and Eve from Christianity, they are said to be the first man and woman created by god, well geneticists use these popular terms for labeling the first X and Y chromosome of the human species when using genetic analysis to date them. Recently a new study by Eran Elhaik from the University of Sheffield was published in the European Journal of Human Genetics giving a new approximation of the “Y-chromosome Adam”. The new date for when the first male with the Adam chromosome lived is 208,000 years ago, only 8000 years prior to when Homo sapiens are estimated to have risen, via fossil data.

About a year ago a study was released that placed “Adam” to have been living approximately 33800 years ago, right around the same time frame that Neanderthals are genetically sequenced, via fossil records, to have appeared. Elhaik noticed how this study implied that the Y-chromosome would have to predate all anatomical modern humans, meaning there was a abundant amount of interbreeding between the variations of human species living at the same time, rather than the odd accounts that had been speculated. Yet, there is very little fossil record in behalf of this old study, Elhaik deemed this to be the result of poor data analysis and stated that the study was disastrous since it placed the oldest member of Homo sapiens prior to when the species had come to be: he referred to this poor study as folly due to a “space-time paradox”, which prompted him to repeat the study himself.

A person is composed of their parents’ chromosomes, an XY from the father and an XX from the mother; the Y chromosome is attributed to male characteristics and other sex dependent connotations, it is, normally, only given to males this is the reasoning for receiving the male character’s name from the biblical story. Meanwhile the X-chromosome, which can be given by both parents, is called the mitochondrial genome for one of the X-chromosomes from the mother is always given to the offspring, so the name the common ancestor of the X-chromosome to Homo sapiens is given is the “mitochondrial Eve”, falling in suit with the biblical story line. “Mitochondrial Eve” is actually supported by the fossil record and placed at a very similar time frame to the “Adam chromosome”, she is a at a fairly definite 208,300 years ago.

So although it does seem that the “Adam” and “Eve” of our species did appear around the same time frame, based on genetic analysis of the fossil records, it also seems they were a bit older than the creation date given by Christianity… which is about 14,800 years too young actually and the land was more than likely no garden of Eden.

Nicole Peterkin (3)

Adderall: A Wonder Drug for Success?

Four exams in one week, multiple papers and assignments due on the same day, endless hours of reading you fell behind in; we have all experienced such atrocities as college students, and with the mounting pressure to do well in school and get straight A’s for an eventual successful job, it is no wonder students have been feeling desperate for something to help achieve success. A “study drug” that will help them focus, study for countless hours, and ace their exams! Who wouldn’t want to swallow a pill with such promising effects?

This is part of the emergent problem in the US; the growing prevalence of the abuse of prescription amphetamines such as Adderall on college campuses. Numerous studies have been conducted recently to discover just how many students are opting to use such a substance to aid in their studies. After surveying students enrolled in 119colleges across America, it was discovered that up to 25% of them have used the drug. Another study performed at BrighamYoung University in Provo, Utah decided to use the social networking site Twitter to access the prevalence of Adderall among young adults. They scanned the website for mentions of the drug, and found “a total of 213,633 tweets” between November 2011 and May 2012, with an increased frequency during final exam periods nationwide! Clearly, from these studies, and even just our own experience as college students, it is evident that the use of Adderall has been on the rise.

So what exactly is Adderall and why is its increasing pervasiveness of such concern? Adderall is amphetamine anddextroamphetamine, both which serve as stimulants to the central nervous system and affect nerves and brain chemicals contributing to hyperactivity and impulse control that is conventionally used as a treatment for attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy.  For people who are in need of Adderall for such conditions, it aids in patients ability to focus, pay attention and control behavior. However when abused, and taken without doctor consent, the effects of Adderall can be quite destructive. As a schedule II medication, it is possible to become addicted or develop dependence to the substance. Adderall triggers the release of adrenaline, increases heart rate and flow of the blood to muscles. It’s effect on heart rate can cause cardiovascular problems such as increased blood pressure or disrupted heart rhythm. While short term effects of dryness of the mouth, difficultly sleeping, headaches, or even chest pain may seem as a mere inconvenience to desperate college students, its long term effects are much more daunting. Abuse of Adderall can increase a person’s risk for heart attack and stroke, and cause them to develop mental health disorders such as depression, paranoia and hostility.

Adderall has become one of the most prescribed drugs in the US, and is becoming one of the most abused pharmaceutical drugs on college campuses nationwide. With the availability, affordability, and promising effects of concentration and success in school it is understandable why many college students opt to experiment with the substance. Many people are unaware of the harmful effects, and risks abuse of the substance may pose.

Posted by Kristen Whitehead (3)

Itch Research Gaining Steam

Scratching is the natural response to itch and, by definition, inseparable from it. The act of scratching not only diminishes itch, but also can be rewarding and addictive. In December, there was a study done that aimed to visualize in real-time by brain imaging the core mechanisms of the itch- scratch cycle when scratching was preformed by subjects themselves.
For a long time, itching was long overshadowed by pain in both research and treatment, and was even considered just a mild form of pain. But times have changed. Dr. Lynn Cornelius, chief of the dermatology division at Washington University School of Medicine stated that itching “used to be lumped together with pain.” But now, she said, “there is more interest in itching and in sorting out its different types, and more research money being spent on it.” Research has found nerves, molecules and cellular receptors that are specific for itching and set it apart from pain. The worry isn’t so much about nasty mosquito bites and poison ivy, in which skin cells release histamine, causing nerves in the skin to fire off signals to the spinal cord and brain. But rather they are looking at the unending wretchedness caused by chronic itching — the kind that won’t go away, and very often resists remedies like antihistamines and cortisone cream.
Researchers say that before, the focus was on finding new age antihistamines, but now it’s on new molecular and cellular targets to develop new therapies. Some breakthrough work happened when a Washington University team, led by Zhou-Feng Chen, was studying receptors on mice. The group was the first to find a receptor in the spinal cord that was specific for itching, called gastrin-releasing peptide receptor, or GRPR. The discovery helped to prove that signals for itching and pain travel on different pathways. In an interview, Dr. Chen said that mice without the receptor — or with the receptor blocked by a drug — did not itch. Dr. Chen additionally pointed out that the receptor is also present on humans and that it’s possible to develop a drug that would block it. 
This is definitely an interesting field of research and is gaining lots of popularity as itching research and treatment centers have opened: Temple’s in September, in Philadelphia, and Washington University’s Center for the Study of Itch. Most of us go throughout our days without thinking about how many times we get an itch, or about the amount of people suffering from a chronic itching disorder. I’m excited to see as more and more studies come out about the itch-scratch cycle. 

Posted by Samuel Ustayev (3)

Can Chronic Stress Lead to Brain Disorders?

As a college student, we have all experienced what it feels like to be stressed. Chronic stress is when a person experiences ongoing stress which causes the body's autonomic nervous system to lack a relaxation response. The body is in a constant state of physiological arousal. Can this chronic stress lead to brain disorders in our later years? 
During a recent research done at University of California Berkley, it is found that chronic stress may lead to long-term changes in the brain. These changes include mental problems like anxiety and mood disorders.The findings may lead to new therapies to help reduce the risk of developing mental illness after stressful events. 

In a series of experiment, Dr. Daniela Kaufer and her colleagues discovered that chronic stress creates more myelin-producing cells and less neurons than in a normal non-stressed person. The excess myelin causes the changes in the balance and timing of communication within the brain. The researchers all found that chronic stress caused the stem cells in the hippocampus (which regulates memory and emotions) to mature into oligodendrocytes (a type of glial cell that produces the myelin that sheaths nerve cells). Oligodendrocytes also play the role of helping control the growth of other pathways of axon. 

Now that classes are picking up and exams are coming up soon...stress levels are probably rising as well. So remember to take a break from studying and work to rest the mind. You can do yoga, go for a run, meditate, or have some tea. Good luck with exams everyone and have a great rest of the week!

Posted by Amber Vien (3)

Doctors “See” the Cancer Light

          When someone says that they have “seen the light”, it often is in reference to something religious, not scientific.  However, any progress towards successfully treating cancer, in my opinion, is worth praising Jesus himself over.  When I saw that there has been a pair of glasses that let surgeons visualize where cancer cells in a patient are through a dye and light technology, I couldn’t help but say a quick “thank god” in the name of this breakthrough technology.

            The technology used is a fluorescent marker that is injected into the patient, which glows blue when seen through the glasses.  The purpose of this technology is to easier differentiate between healthy cells and cancerous cells, and to ensure that no stray cancerous cells are left behind during surgery. A study in the Journal of BiomedicalOptics made note that tumors as small as 1 mm in diameter could be detected with the new technology.  The glasses were first used in surgery on February 10, 2014.  This technology is so brand spanking new that it does not even have a name yet. 

            The glasses can reduce the need for additional surgical procedures, thus minimizing a patient’s “pain, inconvenience, and anxiety”.  This is due to the fact that the technology would eliminate the need for surgeons to remove surrounding tissue beyond the scope of the tumor to test it to see if it also is infected with cancerous cells.  This testing leads to additional surgeries if the tissues are found to also be infected.  The article states that 20-25% of women who are breast cancer patients have to go back in for a second procedure due to the lacking of accuracy of the current technology.

            The technology was developed by a team led by Dr. Samuel Achilefu, professor of radiology and biomedical engineering at Washington University.  It utilizes custom video technology with a head mounted display and the injected dye (“molecular agent”) that attaches to the cancer cells.  He is still seeking FDA approval for any revisions he has to make his technology the absolute best it can be before it can go public.

Posted by Taylor Schille (3)