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)

Giant Orangutans Becoming Smaller Over Time

 Last week, I read a blog post from a peer that talked about birds having smaller bodies over time due to climate change and other outside factors. So, I wondered if there were any other animals that were going through the same thing, and there is. Orangutans. 


The discovery of these ancient fossils were mainly found in Southeast Asia, where they thrived and lived in the forests on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. While observing the fossils and the teeth, they discovered that they all belonged to the same species that had progressively gotten smaller over 2 million years. 


Ancient orangutans were actually giants. From around 2 million to 111,000 years ago, orangutans had a body mass of about 96 kilograms (~212 pounds), which is double the size of orangutans that exist today. From around 111,000 years ago, orangutans progressively had gotten smaller but still quite large, with a body mass of about 80 kilograms (~176 pounds). Which is still a lot larger than the orangutans that we see today. 



Studies have shown that their bodies had begun to get smaller roughly around 400,000 years ago due to the climate becoming cooler. Not only was it just orangutans and other apes bodies that had evolved to be smaller, other animals that resided in Asia had become smaller as well. Such as rhinos and monkeys, and they all had started to shrink around the same time, 400,000 years ago. 


Unfortunately, orangutans had died out in Asia, but it isn’t clear when they had. Scientists suspect it is because of climate change and possibly the arrival of humans in their region around more than 60,000 years ago played a factor in their extinction in Asia.


Selena Yim (9)

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Increased variability in Greenland Ice Sheet runoff from satellite observations

 As the vast majority of the scientific community agrees, climate change is a real threat to our way of life. We see hotter temperatures, more severe storms, increased droughts, poverty and displacement, food shortages, and rising ocean levels. These issues will only be exacerbated by further inaction. For those living near the coast at near sea level altitudes, rising sea levels are a huge threat to the current way of life. A major contributor to the rise of sea level is melting ice at the poles, in glaciers, and in ice sheets.

Recently a group of researchers used satellite altimetry to measure how much ice runoff was flowing from ice sheets in Greenland. The researchers found that between 2011 and 2021 ice sheet surface elevation in the low altitude zone of Greenland’s glaciers decreased on average by 1.4 ± .4m each summer and increased .9 ± .4m each winter. This leads to roughly 357 ± 58Gt of ice runoff per year.

Alan Papenfuhs (8)

Keto Diet: Fact or Fad

 Everyone knows that chronic obesity leads to increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke; it is associated with one of the leading causes of death in the United States. So, to combat the obesity epidemic, another problem has come to light - fad diets. The ketogenic diet, more commonly referred to as the “keto” diet, is one of the most popular diets in the United States right now. Ads on Facebook, Instagram, and even TV boast the many benefits of this diet. However, doctors and other researchers are not so quick to defend this trend.


In the 1920s, the keto diet was a medical diet designed to help people with epilepsy. Doctors found that fasting helped with epilepsy, so they designed a diet low in carbs and high in fat that models the state of fasting, but it is more sustainable. However, mainstream media portrays the keto diet as the cheat code for losing weight by eating primarily high fat and high protein foods. For example: bacon, butter, and cheese. Yes, you read that correctly. These are some of the most common foods used in ketogenic meal plans. The theory is that by consuming a diet of low carbohydrates (20-50 grams or less than two pieces of bread), and eating primarily fat and protein, that there is no glucose to break down for energy. So to survive, your body goes into a state of ketosis. During ketosis, fat reserves are broken down into ketones, and then these ketones are used for energy. In theory, this does sound like a promising way to lose fat. However, there are many side effects of the ketogenic diet that are not so heavily advertised.


Doctors have linked the keto diet to many diseases. For instance, with so much fat and protein to metabolize, keto dieters are at higher risk of developing liver and kidney disease. The liver and the kidney are being overloaded with reactants and cannot keep up with this demand long term without damaging the organs. If someone is not able to break down all of their fat that they are ingesting, then this fat is stored around the body. Fat will even build up on the inner walls of the arteries. This narrows the arteries and restricts blood flow to the heart which raises blood pressure and puts even more stress on the heart. Eventually, this may become coronary heart disease. Additionally, low carb diets such as keto have been linked to brain fog and mood swings because the brain evolved to operate primarily on glucose oxidation for energy. It is also very common for keto dieters to be nutritionally deficient in antioxidants and vitamins because the diet restricts all carbohydrates - even carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables are considered “bad”. And lastly, and something I think most people do not realize when they start this diet, is that the keto diet has been linked to disordered eating. Planning so much of your life and diet is not normal, and for most people this becomes overwhelming and restricting. Someone who can’t even eat a banana without overdoing their carbs for the day is much more likely to develop a disordered or unhealthy relationship with their food. 


While someone who is uncomfortable with their body or worried about their BMI might be tempted to try the keto diet, they’re better off sticking to the more traditional approach. Eating more whole foods and incorporating more movement into their life is a more sustainable way to lose fat. These results may not be as immediate or drastic as the keto diet, but this approach protects the dieters most essential organs and mental health along the way.


Shannon Gray (8) 

Darwin's Bark Spiders

 Just the word spider alone sends shivers down most people’s spines and with good reason too. The fact that they have eight legs and eyes is creepy enough but their diversity in species makes them dangerous because most of them are venomous. Spiders are also known for producing silk which humans use in medicine.Darwin’s Bark Spiders are known for producing a silk so strong that it is labelled as the toughest biological material. It’s silk is ten times tougher than kevlar which is used to make bulletproof vests. These non-poisonous spiders were first discovered in Madagascar and are found in tropical climates adjacent to bodies of water. They are capable of spinning webs that span over and across wide bodies of water in Madagascar in order to maximize their hunting of aquatic insects and alike.  Since these spiders were discovered so recently, more research on them is needed in order to fully understand their extremely effective web biology. 

Tikweze Namadzunda (8)

NASA’s Plan to Return to Venus

 For many decades the mysteries of space and our solar system have intrigued scientists. With the many space exploration missions that have undergone in the past, the primary goal is to understand how life originates and how planets come to be habitable. In the past couple of years mars has been at the spotlight of scientific curiosity, with rovers like opportunity and landers like insight being deployed throughout the years. However, in recent years NASA has begun discussing the possibility of studying our closest planetary neighbor, Venus. 

From a total of four mission finalists, two have been selected by NASA in which Venus, the second planet from the sun, will be heavily studied. The two missions, DAVINCI+ and VERITAS, will set out to understand how the planet Venus could have been habitable at some point in its lifetime and what caused it to become the volcanic wasteland that it is today. The launches are expected to happen by 2028 to 2030 and NASA will be awarding $500 million to each mission to aid with design and development, with a NASA associate claiming, “We’re revving up our planetary science program with intense exploration of a world that NASA hasn’t visited in over 30 years” (1). The last time NASA visited Venus was in 1990, during which the Magellan probe collected information on the layout of planet’s surface along with crucial information on its gravitational field. Venus holds many similarities with earth, although having temperatures up to 880 degrees Fahrenheit and an atmosphere consisting of carbon dioxide. It is hypothesized by scientists that although the planet is now incredibly toxic, Venus was potentially able to host life before greenhouse gasses likely vaporized its oceans. 


Each year it seems that as a species we learn more and more about the world around us and the others in our solar system. With the recent missions sent out to mars we have been trying to educate ourselves as much as we can about what gives a planet its ability to host life, and now with eventual launces of DAVINCI+ and VERITAS maybe we will be able to get closer to answering that question. 




Posted by David Miropolsky (8) 

Climate Change and its Effect on Birds

The Amazon rainforest is home to over 1,300 species of birds. These birds on a daily basis do not see many humans. This does not mean that humans do not have a physiological effect on these birds though. Through human-induced climate change, these birds have changed their body size and their wing length. Scientists from Louisiana State University have been conducting studies on a variety of bird species that inhabit the Amazon and have documented these changes.


Over the last four decades, studies have shown that the number of resident birds, or birds that live in the area, have declined. Not only has the number of birds reduced, but the birds that live there have gone through physical changes. These changes have a consistency for extremely hot and dry conditions throughout the year. These birds have changed their bodies to become smaller, but for the wings to be longer. With this it could pose new physiological or nutritional problems for the birds. The study for this has only been done on non-migratory birds’ to eliminate other factors that may influence the changes. The data has shown that almost all the non-migratory birds have lost about 2% of their body weight every decade, or every ten years. The data was also not collected in one specific region of the Amazon, but instead throughout the whole of the rainforest. 


Throughout the world, animals are undergoing physical changes in response to climate changes. With these changes can come a variety of challenges that may affect the animals ability for survival and reproduction. Many tend to overlook the effect that climate change has on animals' bodies physically that may become problematic for the animals later in life or for the species further down the road. 


Sara Dunn (8) from=news


All About White Blood Cells

Although white blood cells account for a small portion of our body as a
whole, their impact is big. White blood cells, also known as leukocytes,
protect us from illness and disease. White blood cells are always at war,
they flow through our bloodstream to fight viruses, bacteria, and other
foreign invaders that are a threat to our health. White blood cells are
made in the bone marrow, then stored in our blood and lymph tissues.
Because some white blood cells called neutrophils have a short lifespan,
our bone marrow is constantly making them. Other types of white blood cells
are monocytes, lymphocytes, basophils, and eosinophils.

Monocytes have a longer lifespan than most white blood cells and help kill
bacteria. Lymphocytes create antibodies to fight against bacteria, viruses,
and other harmful invaders. Basophils are small cells that sound an alarm
when infectious agents invade the blood, by secreting a chemical called
histamine to mark allergic diseases. Neutrophils are the most common type
of white blood cells, they are the most dangerous and first line of defense
as they are most effective in killing and digesting bacteria or fungi.
Lastly, eosinophils attack and kill parasites or cancer cells, and also
help with allergic reactions.

White blood cell disorders depend on the white blood cell concentration in
our body, this can be when the count is too high or too low. White blood
cell count can be low if they are being destroyed faster than they are
replenished, or when the bone marrow completely stops producing them to
keep the body healthy. When white blood cell count is too low, the body is
at great risk for infection and disease, which can spiral into a serious
health threat. Various diseases and conditions can impact the white blood
cell levels, including a weak immune system, blood cancer, infections,
disorder, and certain medicines.

Weak immune systems are often caused by illnesses such as HIV/AIDS or by
cancer treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, which destroy
white blood cells. In cases where white blood cell count is too high, there
is an infection that causes this since white blood cells are rapidly
multiplying to fight off the bacteria or virus. Myelodysplastic syndrome is
a condition that causes abnormal productions of blood cells, including
white blood cells in the bone marrow. Cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma
may cause unrestricted growth of an abnormal type of blood cell in the bone
marrow. Lastly, some medicines used in treatment can simply raise or lower
white blood cells count.

Tugba Kahveci (8)

Reproducing Robots

 Robots have become a more common topic of conversation in recent years. Our society is rapidly industrializing itself, and that includes the use and the implementation of robots into our daily lives. Automated machines now dispense money to us, eliminating the need to pay a bank teller, and machines dispense our change and ring us up at the grocery store, taking someone’s minimum wage job. Robots are also being produced by companies like Tesla and may be introduced to the market soon. They are all around us, but the good news is that we, as humans, are in control of what these robots do- aren’t we? 

            As concerning as this may sound, that may not be the case. While we like to think that we are in control, the likelihood of that is slim. As technology and the science of robots advances, so do the robot’s capabilities. The first reproducing robots have now been identified, reproducing in ways not observed in plants or animals. 

            These robots are called Xenobots and are C-shaped collections of stem cells from the African clawed frog. These Xenobots are fascinating because they can act in groups, they can heal themselves, and they can move freely. The way that Xenobots reproduce is by gathering loose stem cells into a pile, compressing them until they form and fuse together to produce another viable Xenobot. This form of reproduction is known as “kinetic replication” and is very rarely observed outside of the molecular level. Aside from moving inside of a petri dish and collecting stem cells, the Xenobots have no real applications outside of the lab as of right now, but this technology can sure spark some debate. Is this considered an organism since it can produce offspring? Where do we draw the line when it comes to robots and what they’re capable of? What if this technology falls into the wrong hands? These are the questions that scientists must have the answers to before making this information known to the public. What starts as harmless fun in a petri dish may explode on the global scale.

Hannah Krzyszton (8)

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Diamonds have more benefits than just sitting prettily on someone's finger.

Recently, researchers found an African diamond that contains a
compound that is usually unable to exist on Earth's surface, davemaoite,
which is seen as black flecks on the diamond's surface. This product is
formed at very high temperatures, so it is usually found deep within the

Davemaoite consists mainly of calcium silicate, but can also have traces of
uranium, thorium, and potassium. These compounds are able to generate a lot
of heat in the Earth's mantle, which is found between its crust and core.
This means davemaoite plays a role in how heat moves and cycles through the
layers of the Earth. It makes up most of the Earth's mantle, accounting for
around 5-7% of the material within this layer.

Since the mineral is found at such high temperatures, it mostly exists
660-2700 km below Earth's surface. So, how was a sample of this mineral
acquired? Well, the strength of the diamond allowed the embedded pieces to
exist at higher pressures. This specific sample was found in 1987, and has
been studied for the last 30 years!

-Emma Alderman-Shapiro (7)"

hanging Weather can Indicate Honeybee Disease

Honey bee hives can be succespible to many different dieaseas. However, a new study done in the United Kingdom, by Newcastle University, has found that changing weather patterns can be indicators of these honey bee dieases. This study focused primarily on Varroa Mites, which is one of the most common honey bee dieases. However, it included six different honey bee diseases found in over three hundred thousand honey bee colonies. The weather changes caused some diseases to become more common, while other diseases became less common.

This study found that case numbers of Varroa Mites increased with increasing
temperatures. However, this same study found that Varroa Mites decreased with wind and rainfall. However, this was not the same with the other five honey bee dieases that were studied.
This study is an important part of the ongoing process to save the bees from
extinction. Understanding how weather affects honey bee colonies is a step in the right direction to continue our education on honey bee health and disease prevention. This is due to the fact that honey bee pollination is an important aspect of our food systems.

Article source:

Posted by: Sarah Conant (7)

Cannibalism, Cows, and (en)Cephalopathies

Proteins are extremely important for our everyday life, but what happens when these proteins decide to become silent killers? Some proteins, even though really rare, can misfold from prion, which actually misfold other properly folded proteins causing an exponential chain reaction of misfolded proteins that all end up binding together. In an infected person, these proteins are located in the brain and cause neural issues and death quite quickly. These neurological disorders are known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). They are a group of the rarest diseases and have the highest mortality rate on the planet. There are no known cures or treatments available and these proteins can’t be denatured by proteases, enzymes, heat, radiation, and even autoclaves, which are meant to kill any and all bacteria and viruses.


So how do you get this disease? It’s quite complicated and of course more research needs to go into it, but there are several ways we think we can get it. It starts off by knowing there's a cow version of it called Mad Cow Disease, which you’ve probably heard of. If humans eat beef infected with prions and the prions make it to the brain, it can induce the disease. It's also thought that if humans come in contact with manure or urine from an infected cow that there is a chance of being infected as well. Additionally, wows get it the same way humans do, by eating infected meat. The good news is that the U.S. banned the practice of feeding cattle other cow parts in 1997 to minimize the risk of reinfection. Kuru is another version in which human cannibalism can cause it. People found with Kuru end up with it from eating human brains that are already infected, a common practice in funerary rituals in New Guinea. There’s also an even rarer genetic version, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which causes progressively worsening insomnia. This then leads to delirium and a confused state of dementia where you get so sleepy that you go crazy and eventually die.


Even though prions and the diseases they cause are extremely scary, we have a lot of preventative measures to keep them hopefully out of the population. More research needs to be done on the prions to understand ways to combat them and possible treatments for the issues they cause. Luckily, TSEs are extremely rare and only affect about 1 in every million people each year, so these symptoms are rarely suffered. If we can find a way to disarm prions we can make sure that these proteins don’t decide to go rogue.

Timinte Abraham (7)

Fruit Flies Helping Cancer Patients?

Fruit flies could hold answers to new anti-cancer treatments. A group of researchers at the University of California Berkeley are analyzing fruit flies with tumors up until their death to see what the cause of death is. They saw that tumors are releasing damaging chemicals in addition to the damage caused to critical organs. This seems to be a significant step in cancer treatments as it offers a potential way to lower the mortality rates of certain types of cancers. 


The tumors in fruit flies showed a cytokine called interleukin-6 (IL-6) being released in a barrier between the bloodstream and brain. This blood and brain barrier is very important and if there is mixing between the two, there are increased chances of disease, infection, trauma, and obesity. The inflammation that this cytokine causes is what results in the barrier leak. By keeping it closed, the lifespan of the cancer patient can be increased. This hypothesis was supported with the research done on both fruit flies and mice. One challenge with this is that interleukin-6 (IL-6) is important in other places in the body so the treatment would have to be only blocking this cytokine at the blood-brain barrier. Additionally, fruit flies have shown that tumors release a substance that blocks the effect of insulin and causes blocked veins. The is very important as cachexia, a condition from insulin intolerance, and edema, blocked veins from excess fluid retention and blood clotting, kills many cancer patients. 


The team of researchers believe that targeting tumor host interactions is much more beneficial to the patient as it targets host cells and could lower cancer recurrence from mutations making the cancer resistant to the drug. Also, this type of treatment would make it so patients aren’t being treated with drugs that do a lot of harm to the healthy cells as well as the cancerous ones.  


This research is very promising and gives reason for more interest in this field. Increasing the lifespan of cancer patients and reducing all the harmful side effects of cancer treatments would be a significant jump in treatments. By exploring more options, it could result in better ways of treating such a harmful disease. 


Zach Conant (7) 



Why Does Your Stomach Make Gurgling Sounds?

Have you ever heard someone’s stomach growl or even had your own experience? It can be embarrassing, especially if someone points it out, but it is very natural and is commonly occurring. It turns out there is a biological process that produces these sounds that come from the walls of the stomach and small intestine. Most people experience this when they are hungry. 

According to an article, “Why Do Stomachs Growl” written by EarthSky, it appears that there is a signal sent to the brain when someone is hungry, and the brain sends a response to the digestive system. This response involves the stomach and small intestine getting ready for a meal which usually means, gastric juices are made. It also makes the intestine and stomach contract through the process of peristalsis which is involuntary muscle contractions. The contractions get more frequent and stronger! Because there is gas or air in the intestine, the actual noise of the gurgle is heard when the gas and juice gush into the small hole that separates the stomach and small intestine. There is an actual medical term for this sound, “borborygmi.”

Yes, hunger is the main factor in creating this sound, but there are other reasons as well. They include having ulcers or even having too much air in the intestine, even indigestion. There are ways to reduce the sound of the grumble, and they include drinking water, remaining calm or even lying down on your back and of course, eating slowly! This is a natural thing and most people have experienced it, so no need to feel embarrassed. 

Posted by Kristina Baldeo (7)

The Role of a Sugar Molecule on HIV-infected Cells in Evading the Immune System

Approximately 38 million people are living with HIV, and many people living with HIV do not have adequate access to treatment, care, and there is no cure yet as well. A new study by researchers at the Wistar Institute showed how key features on the surface of HIV-infected cells allow the disease to evade detection from our immune systems. More promisingly they showed how these features can be disabled as well. In this new study, researchers looked at a type of sugar molecule called celiac acid on the surface of HIV-infected cells.  

Sialic acid sugars bind with receptors called siglecs on the surface of disease-fighting immune cells and act as inhibitors to the cell signaling immune response. The researchers hypothesized that the HIV-infected cells were covering themselves with these sugars to use this interaction to their advantage and remain undetected to the body's immune surveillance. After finding out that this was the case they investigated whether they could “manipulate this connection” to make the immune cells more effective at killing HIV-infected cells. They first used an enzyme called sialidase to remove sialic acid that was causing the immune inhibition. However, this caused the immune cells to indiscriminately attack cells. Then they developed a sialidase conjugate linked to HIV antibodies that only targeted sialic acid on HIV cells.  Consequently the HIV-infected cells had the sialic acid removed and were attacked by immune cells while the healthy cells were not.


The selective manner of this process allowed the immune cells to become “super killers” for HIV-infected cells. By removing sialic acid from the surfaces of HIV-infected cells, the cells actually become more susceptible to being attacked which has been a crucial research need in the HIV field. It was noted that this approach could be tested in combination with broadly neutralizing antibody therapies currently being studied in clinical trials. Even more promising the researchers noted that the approach may have clinical application in treating other infectious diseases that evade the immune system like hepatitis and COVID. The researchers are now investigating other sugars molecules on HIV cells that may play a similar role to sialic acid.

Declan Downing (7)


Can TikTok Cause Tourettes’?

Tourette’s syndrome is a neurological condition characterized by sudden, repetitive, rapid, and unwanted movements or vocal sounds. This disorder most typically presents between ages 5 and 7 and is four times more common in boys than in girls. This pattern of diagnoses was consistent until the pandemic when doctors began to notice a stark rise of cases in preteen and teen girls. Doctors initially thought that they were observing an isolated phenomenon, but after connecting with other doctors globally, it was revealed to be a trend everywhere. Not only was the demographic of patients similar for these new cases, but the patients even demonstrated the same involuntary behavior. This led doctors to believe that the common denominator in these cases was the usage of a popular social media platform. 

The severity of the outburst and types of uncontrolled behavior in these news cases are much different than what has been observed in patients before the pandemic. Typically, symptoms of Tourette’s would appear gradually early in childhood starting with subtle involuntary movements such as eye blinking, head movements and throat clearing. More complex tics can develop later over a period of months to years after simple tics have been present for some time. However, in the time of the pandemic, the majority of the reported cases were from females who were experiencing a sudden onset of intense symptoms. The sudden onset of unexplained tics only made up a total of 1% of the total Tourette’s cases before the pandemic. Now it makes up 35% of the total cases. 


The development of tics is not only known for occurring gradually, but also for developing uniquely to the individual. It fascinated doctors and researchers as to why so many of the new cases of teens experiencing these sudden onset symptoms had the same patterns of behavior. These patterns from these patients included the repetition of seemingly random words and other obscene phrases such as “beans”, “woo-hoo” and “flying shark”. The same hand and arm movements and gestures were also observed throughout this niche of patients. Because of the wide range of geographic locations these cases were reported in, doctors were led to believe social media was the root cause, specifically a very popular platform called TikTok. 


The next question that was difficult for doctors to understand is why this phenomenon seemingly started occurring as a consequence of the pandemic. Social media has been around for decades and it hasn’t had this grandiose of an impact on the involuntary movement of the users until this point. Researchers and doctors suspect that the patients are experiencing this movement disorder brought on by stress and anxiety which was suspected to be made worse from the pandemic and teens increased social media use. This begs the question: is it really Tourette’s syndrome? Doctors say that although the behavior of these teens is not indicative of Tourette’s, it is still real and concerning. 


In regard to treating these teens experiencing these outbursts, doctors say that they would recommend they engage in behavioral therapy sessions. Although medications have been helpful for treating those who suffer from Tourette’s, those who have been experiencing involuntary movement as a result of learned behavior and stress would benefit more from therapy. With behavioral therapy from trained professionals, these teens can hopefully help channel their stress and anxiety into other things and reduce their involuntary movement.


“Angela Baily” (7) 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Can Plants Scream?



When you stub your toe on the corner of a desk the first thing you’ll do is scream. Most animals have standard responses to stress and pain. A lot of times the response is screaming. It is a common response, and it can clearly be heard. What if plants were also screaming in response to pain and stress? In a study, researchers isolated tomato and tobacco plants and tested them in different situations. They were trying to figure out if they would scream in response the situations. 


The results of the study were surprising. They discovered that tomato and tobacco plants let out a specific frequency when their stems are cut. However, in a natural state they do not emit any noise. Also, they simulated drought conditions on both plants and once again the plants emitted certain noises in these conditions. These noises were compared to any noises the plants produced during normal and non-stressful environments. This revealed that in a sense plant are screaming in response to pain.


I found this study interesting because the question of do plants feel pain has been up in the air for quite a long time. There have been conclusions that plants in fact do not feel pain, but it is interesting to see the physical responses they have to stressors. Also, it is funny to think that people who refuse to eat animals because of morality issues will also have the same response to plants if there is evidence for them feeling pain.


Jackelyn Raymundo Santizo (6)

Is Earth’s Lower Atmosphere Rising?

Temperatures on earth are rising and so is the actual atmosphere. Researchers found that the atmosphere is rising by 50 to 60 meters per decade! It has been found that the main driving force behind this is the increasing temperatures. This was discovered by using weather balloons in the Northern Hemisphere for the last 40 years. The part of the atmosphere that is moving, is the upper boundary of the troposphere, which is the part of sky closes to the ground. It is normal for the upper level of the troposphere, termed the tropopause to rise and fall with the seasons as air contracts in the cold and expands with warm weather. The troposphere varies in height in different parts of the world. In the tropics it is as high as 20 kilometers and near the poles it has a height of around 7 kilometers. Researchers found that the tropopause rose 200 meters in height in between 1980 and 2020. The greenhouse gases trap more heat in, which makes the air stay expanded which is causing are atmosphere to literally move.

Although researchers say that this won’t have a drastic effect on weather, this evidence of the troposphere moving is a huge reminder of the impact climate change has had on our earth. We are used to seeing the effects of climate change in weather, emissions, sea levels rising and glaciers melting, but now climate change is found in the height of the our atmosphere

Jessica Ross (6)

Why can’t we remember our dreams?

We spend, on average, about one third of our lives asleep. At some point in
your life, you have probably remembered having a dream. They can range from
something you had done that day, to something beyond any imagination.
However, most people report that they are unable to remember all of their
dreams. Why is that?

According to a study done in 2011 by Journal Neuron, “When we fall asleep,
not all of the regions of the brain go offline at the same time. Researchers
have found one of the last regions to go to sleep is the hippocampus…
critical for moving information from short-term memory into long-term
memory. If the hippocampus is the last to go to sleep, it could very well
be the last to wake up.” After waking up from a dream, the dream may reside
in a person’s short term memory for a little while. But if the hippocampus
is still asleep at that moment, the memories of that dream will not be able
to move into the person’s long term memory, and therefore the brain will
forget that dream.

Another study done in 2017 that was published by Journal Frontiers in Human
Neuroscience explores people’s sleep patterns in comparison to their
ability to retain knowledge of their dreams. They monitored 18 people who
were able to remember their dreams every night, and 18 people who rarely
remembered. The research team discovered that people who had high dream
recalls woke up more frequently throughout the night for longer periods of
time than those who were unable to remember.

In conclusion, the main contributors to a person’s ability to remember
their dreams are the number of times that a person wakes up, and the amount
of time that they are awake for. People are unable to remember their dreams
easily because their hippocampus has not fully activated when they first
wake up.

Charissa Yu (6)

Different Waters - Scam or Not?

Many folks find humor in the broad variety of drinking water we are presented with in today’s retail world. For most, many advertisements with respect to what the water contains, and its quality are nothing more than a mere scam. It is simple for consumers to purchase the water that is most economically viable by dividing the volume by the price of water contained in the bottle. Today, different companies advertise minerals, forms of filtering, and pH on the label of water bottles. In this article, we are going to contradict the belief that these are all a scam by focusing on the effects pH has on the human body when it comes to drinking water. 

For reference, allow me to enlighten you on the varying pH values of common drinking water brands seen in today’s retail market. Dasani, and Aquafina are between 5 and 6 on the pH scale. Poland Springs and average tap water are between 6 and 7 on the pH scale. Fiji and Lifewtr are between 7 and 8 on the pH scale. Lastly, Aquahydrate is between 9 and 10 on the pH scale. Evidently, many water brands straddle the pH level of 7 due to it being neutral; however, some waters try to be more basic. Acidity is frowned upon in beverages; for, most beverages bad for your health such as soda are between 4 and 5 on the pH scale. This contributes to the damage they do to your teeth.


Our bodies love to maintain a blood pH of about 7.4 - almost neutral. Surpassing this range by a substantial value can cause severe health issues. However, the pH advertised by water is mostly due to the other substances mentioned before such as minerals. Minerals play a large role in the pH of drinking water. 


After a workout, and having perspired for a series of time, many see the need to replenish their electrolytes. Due to immense advertising, names such as Gatorade and Powerade come to mind. However, the added sugars, flavors, and other chemicals in Gatorade offset the health benefits of the gained electrolytes. Some turn to salty foods after a workout, however that not done in moderation can severely disturb blood pH. 


All in all, a slight difference in pH itself has been proven to not affect much in the human body when it comes to drinking water unless the water is extremely contaminated or acidic. Electrolyte value is far more important when it comes to what is advertised on drinking water bottles. After a workout, Aquahydrate may be your best bet to replenish your electrolytes without the added sugars, flavors, or chemicals. If flavor is a massive factor for you, perhaps a flavoring such as Mio with no added calories can provide the perfect balance. To circle back to my initial statement, advertisements are not a scam - but, they must be interpreted correctly. The pros and cons must be balanced to reduce long term effects and boost the true potential of the seemingly simple water we drink every day.


Edward Khouri (6)

Therapeutic Cloning and Stem Cells

Our bodies are the ultimate factory. Every cell has a specific job to do and a shape to perform that job perfectly. A muscle cell is a muscle cell. A nerve cell will only ever be a nerve cell. And a red blood cell can only ever be just that. The fate of each cell is determined during the embryo stage and then can not be changed. However, cutting edge research made a major discovery for modern science. There are these unique cells that exist called stem cells. These cells have the ability to become any type of cell because they are not yet specialized. Scientists were hugely surprised by their discovery because they can be used to repair damaged organs, bones, or cartilage. They can also be used to help treat diseases, such as by making new brain cells to treat people with Parkinson's disease. Or they could be used to repair damaged immune systems, and even reverse paralysis and regrow lost limbs.

The discovery of stem cells is huge for modern medicine and could have a massive impact. There are two different types of stem cells in humans, embryonic and adult. Embryonic stem cells are unspecialized and can develop into any type of cell. Adult stem cells are also unspecialized, but while they can develop into many types of cells, they cannot develop into every type of cell, unlike embryonic ones. Adult stem cells come from tissues such as bone marrow while embryonic stem cells, as in the name, can be removed from unused embryos, such as those left over from fertility treatments. One big social and ethical debate is therapeutic cloning. This is the concept of cloning a patient by growing an embryo from the cloned cells and then extracting stem cells from the embryo to grow a specific organ needed by the patient. This is particularly useful because the patient's body would not reject this organ since it was made from the patient's own cells. The ethical debate focuses on several questions, such as “when does life start”, “is the embryo alive”, and “are scientists just playing God?”


While many social and ethical considerations need to be taken into account, the discovery of stem cells offers large potential for medicine and biotechnology. A lot of research was, and still is, needed to find out exactly how they work and how we can control them to do what we want, rather than grow uncontrollably. 


Posted by “Timinte Abraham” (6)