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: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/11/211109080729.htm

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) 


Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210916131326.htm

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.

Source: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/tiktok-causing-tics-in-teen-girls/

“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)

References: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2323472/

Underwater Volcanoes and Pumice

I don’t know if you have heard about this, but recently there was an underwater volcano that erupted nearby Japan on August 13th. Even though the volcano is underwater, it works just the same as volcanoes on dry land. The process of volcanoes erupting is called subduction. As cool as volcanoes being underwater sounds, it has been quite the problem for Japan. When the volcano erupts, it forms these stones with air pockets in them that float above the surface of the ocean. These stones are called pumice, and they are very abrasive. Many have washed up on Japan’s coastline in the Okinawa Prefecture. 



Pumice is actually very common after an underwater volcanic eruption. Large amounts of it are formed and it's very cool to look at. If you look up a video, it would look like the beach is moving along with the waves of the ocean, but the damages that it causes are not something you would look forward to. Because of their abrasiveness along with the movement of the ocean, it will cause damage to boats and any structure that is at the surface of the water. Disrupting fishing vessels, damaging piers, and more. Which one would expect since it is technically a form of rock, but floats. 


Pumice will usually float to a coastline of some sort and become part of the coast that it lands on, but if it doesn’t, then it can possibly just float around wandering the ocean for months or maybe years before it can be broken down or eventually sink. It’s quite an interesting topic to research if you are into marine biology and such. I’m surprised that there haven’t been many preventative technologies to stop pumice from damaging boats and other things. Or a way to collect it from the ocean so the situation can be resolved quickly. Either way, it is quite interesting how much one underwater volcanic eruption can do.



Selena Yim (6)

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Is Junk DNA What Makes the Human Brain Unique?

In our genome, about 98% of DNA sequences are non-coding regions that were previously dismissed as junk DNA.” However, Junk DNA contains a variety of regions which directly control the expression of genes. Taking this into account, a team of researchers at Lund University has investigated aspects of our DNA that makes human and chimpanzee brains different and found that the answer underlies non-coding DNA.

The study was conducted using stem cells grown in a lab, as a substitute of cells derived from living humans and chimpanzees. The stem cells were reprogrammed from skin cells, and then were developed and examined as brain cells. Using the stem cells, Professor Jackonsson and colleagues were able to grow brain cells specifically from humans and chimpanzees and compared the two types of cells. As a result of their experiment, they found that humans and chimpanzees use a part of their DNA in different ways, which appears to play a role in the development of our brains. This part of DNA was a structural variant of DNA that was previously called junk DNA, a long repetitive DNA string which was claimed to have no function.

Previously, researchers have searched for answers in the part of the DNA where the protein-producing genes are located, which only makes up about 2% of our entire genome, and examined the proteins themselves to find examples of differences. The new findings of Lund University indicate that the differences appear outside the protein-coding genes, suggesting that the basis for human brain’s evolution include genetic mechanisms that are a lot more complex than previously thought, since the answer is not in the 2% of the genetic DNA and is perhaps hidden in the overlooked 98%. These new results may also contribute to genetically-based answers to questions about psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.

Source: http://www.sci-news.com/biology/human-brain-junk-dna-10156.html 

Tugba Kahveci (5)

Obesity In House Pets

Obesity nearly affects 24-40% of house pets (1). This is usually because of a tactic called “free feeding” which is when pet owners leave a bowl of food out which then allows the pet to gain unlimited access to the food. Another example of why pets may be obese is because of little to no exercise. If the animal sits around all day and does not have a place to run around, it is difficult to keep them in shape. This may cause health risks to them later on in life especially if an operation needs to be performed. 

In the article “Pet Obesity is an Epidemic” by Tony McReynolds, he discusses how 51% of adult dogs seen at the Banfield Hospital are classified as overweight. When animals are overweight, it can cause several health conditions, some include: endocrinopathies, metabolic abnormalities, cardiovascular disease, functional alterations, such as joint disorders and decreased immune functions. This leads the animal to have a shorter lifespan because they are so unhealthy.

Overall, pet obesity is unfortunately very common in the United States. It is ordinary that people give their animals treats or table food which is the leading cause of obesity. This adds up immensely and before the owner knows it, their pet is considered obese and then have to support their animals further to make sure they are healthy again.



Lara Pereira (5)

Increased risk for COVID-19 in patients with vitamin D deficiency


As we begin to enter the autumn and winter months the sun starts to give us a lot less warmth and energy, we cover up in extra layers, and we stay indoors far more than during the summer. Along with this, we will get a lot less vitamin D, a nutrient that aids in maintaining blood calcium and phosphorus levels. Contact with ultraviolet radiation from the sun allows our body to produce vitamin D. Most people get a large proportion of their vitamin D from sunlight, so vitamin D deficiency rates begin to rise. Unfortunately, covid-19 also is on the rise during the autumn and winter when we are cramped indoors.


A study that was published last year looked into the relationship between the risk of covid-19 infection and vitamin D deficiency. The researchers found that those who were vitamin D deficient were 4.6x more likely to test positive for covid-19 than patients without a vitamin D deficiency. The researchers also controlled for other factors that were known to contribute to covid-19 infection rate. Factors like: sex, malabsorption of vitamins, dental diseases, race, diabetes, age, and obesity. From a population of 987,849 patients found on the University of Florida patient registry platform, 887 of the patients contracted covid-19 and 31,950 had vitamin D deficiency, and 87 patients had both vitamin D deficiency and covid-19.


I think, despite the vast accumulation of knowledge that has occurred over the past year with covid-19, it is important to understand risk factors for infection. In the span of time since this study was conducted, we underwent a vaccine rollout that has significantly impacted the rate of infection among those who received either one or two shots. I feel that this association between risk of covid-19 infection and vitamin D deficiency is pretty surprising. I wonder how this association stands in the wake of our vaccination effort. Are those who are vaccinated still more likely to be infected with covid-19 if they are vitamin D deficient? Additionally, I wonder if rises in vitamin D deficiency during the colder months along with increased time indoors add appreciable amounts to positivity rates of covid-19.


Alan Papenfuhs (5)

Alzheimer’s Disease

 The Alzheimer’s Disease is a pressing issue in the field of Biology as it affects many individuals with symptoms of memory loss, difficulty completing traditional tasks, and new problems with speaking or reading words. This disease is neurodegenerative and effects all kinds of mentation abilities, and in 2021 its estimated that over 6 million Americans suffer from the disease. It is known that pathological proteins can cause the spread of the disease to other tissues, leading to the symptoms that are presented with the disease. The first evidence that proteins other than prions could be pathologic was described in 1994, when the introduction of brain tissue from a patient with Alzheimer's disease into the brains of aged marmosets was followed by the seeding of Aβ plaques. These Aβ plaques are lesions in the brain that identify the disease in patients through MRI scans of the brain.

Luckily, there are some new treatments being made for patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s. Some of the new Alzheimer's treatments in development target microscopic clumps of the protein beta-amyloid plaques. New studies with monoclonal antibodies prove significant, as they mimic the effects of antibodies the body would naturally produce as an immune system response to the disease. These unique antibodies have been evident in removing the amyloid plaque and are now in phase 3 human trials. This clinical trial includes 3,000 patients to evaluate how effective the new treatments may be for the disease and may be approved in the coming years. Monoclonal antibodies have also been used to treat some patients with Covid-19 because of their relieving effect to boost the natural immunity of the immune system response. This idea is being applied to diseases like Alzheimer’s now to limit the buildup of plaque on the brain as well as stop the spread of the disease-causing proteins.

There is lots of room for hope for the future as studies on new treatments continue to develop and pass clinical trials. Unfortunately, there is no signs of a cure for the disease. The field of biology has been working relentlessly on treatments for neurodegenerative diseases that offer relief of pain or symptoms, and in many cases halting the onset of the disease, which adds life expectancy for patients who suffer from severe cases.



https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/alzheimers- treatments/art-20047780


Tyler Whiffen (5)

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Exercise and Telomere Length

It is common knowledge that to lead a long, healthy life that one must watch what they eat and drink, be consciences of what substances they put into their bodies, and of course, adopt an exercise regimen. But what are the exact benefits of working out specifically? Could it possibly be because with exercise comes strengthened joints and muscles, or maybe it increases blood flow? The answer may not be just our bones and joints but may lie within our genes and genetic makeup. 

Telomeres are the end caps located on our chromosomes and serve a similar purpose to that of an aglet on a shoelace- telomeres stop the chromosome from fraying or from sticking to other chromosomes. Telomeres have been linked to aging as they progressively shorten over time in response to stress signals. In essence, telomeres serve as a biological clock in humans- so how does exercise influence telomere length? 

Telomere length is inversely related to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer and it has been found that athletes have longer telomeres than non-athletes later in life. A study from Brigham Young University found that “…adults that got 30 minutes of exercise five days per week had telomeres that appeared to be nine years ‘younger’ than those who were sedentary” (MD, M. H.). While the relationship of telomere length and life longevity is still not 100% clear, chronic physiological stress may be the main culprit as to why the telomeres shorten overtime. Exercise helps moderate the stress response thus preventing the telomeres from shrinking early on. 

Individuals with high stress jobs (doctor, lawyer, financial analysts) and individuals with sedentary jobs (office worker, phone operators, etc.) are at the highest risk for telomere shortening compared to professional athletes or just individuals with a higher activity level. Fortunately, it only really takes 15 minutes of exercise per day to keep your telomeres in check and to prevent them from prematurely shortening. Essentially, if you walk across campus every day you are all set, and you have very little to worry about!


 MD, M. H. (2021, April 3). How exercise changes your biology. Medium. Retrieved November 2, 2021, from https://medium.com/beingwell/how-exercise-changes-your-biology-9f9107ef3ffb. 

Hannah Krzyszton (5)


Malaria has been terrorizing sub-saharan Africa for well over two millennia and it unfortunately claims the lives of more than 260 thousand African children annually. In the 20th century alone, Malaria has claimed the lives of over 300 million people worldwide, accounting for 5 percent of all deaths in this time period. 


The WHO recently endorsed a vaccine known as “Mosquirix” designed to target the plasmodium parasite that causes Malaria. The emergence of a vaccine would significantly benefit those living in sub-saharan Africa as the death toll from malaria would decline. 

The following article presents the important details about the vaccine. It’s highly cost-effective, has no negative impacts on existing measures put in place to prevent the contraction of malaria and the vaccine has already had 2.3 million doses administered without any negative side effects to accompany it. 

In order to make a significant difference in malaria cases in the future, the WHO is recommending the widespread use of the vaccine all across sub-saharan Africa. 

Tikweze Namadzunda (5)

Growing a new limb

The study of limb regeneration is not a new concept, it has been theorized and tried multiple times. These studies are normally conducted on animals such as salamanders that are already able to regenerate their limbs on their own. In animals such as lizards, their limb regeneration is limited. For the most part the regrown limb is not similar to the past limb, so the new growth tends to be a very poor imitation of the past. At the University of Southern California, Thomas Lozito and his team has been working on regenerating limbs that are more like the original. Lozito uses embryonic stem cells in his work, and through this he has noticed that the newly grown limbs have bone like grooves in the cartilage as well as new neural tissue in the tip of the tail. This is a step in the right direction for limb regeneration as this is the closest to a replica of the past limb anyone has come. As of right now the new limb still does not have a spinal cord so it is still an imitation of the former limb. 

What does this mean for humans though? The researchers at this university hope to one day perfect their study by regrowing the tail. What this could mean is that one day there will be a chance that human limb regeneration will be possible. Besides those working in Lozitos lab, there have been many other studies across the world. Currently some of our organs such as our liver and skin have the ability to regenerate but when it comes to our legs that's where it starts to get a little tricky. It has been noted that, unlike salamanders, we do not have a gene that will allow us to regenerate. Hopefully one day all of these studies will allow us to understand limb regrowth and allow us to regrow ours on our own. 

Sara Dunn  (5)

The Lake That Turns Animals into Stone

 It’s common knowledge that there are many lakes in existence around the world, with each one containing different properties. However, one wouldn’t think that among all those is a lake which carries characteristics unseen anywhere else. Indeed, such a lake does exist in Tanzania, and it is called lake natron because of its overwhelming concentration of the chemical natron, a mix of sodium carbonate and baking soda.          

The haunting lake natron is a salt Lake located in northern Tanzania. A salt lake is a lake in which the water manages to flow in but cannot flow out, with the only escape being through evaporation. As the water evaporates what’s left behind is a high concentration of salt and other minerals, resulting in a pH that has been observed to be as high as 10.5 in some areas. Few animals can call lake natron their home as can be expected from harsh waters that can reach up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. These animals include one species of fish, algae and flamingoes that feed on the algae. Other similar salt lakes such as the dead sea and the salt lake in Utah share some common characteristics with lake natron, but unlike all those lake natron is alkaline meaning the carbonate salts within it are able to calcify and preserve certain birds and other animals that end up in the body of water. Photographer Nick Brandt proposed a theory as to why some migratory birds end up in the chemically rich waters in which he claimed that the highly reflective properties of the water create an illusion that causes birds and in one instance a helicopter to crash into the lake. As Brandt worked with locals to collect certain specimens during dry season, he was shocked at the abundance of preserved animals claiming, “You’d, literally get, say, a hundred finches washed ashore in a 50-yards stretch” (1). 

Lake natron definitely stands out from all other lakes with its chemical rich composition, high pH and temperature, and illusion creating abilities. However, despite this some species were able to adapt to the harsh conditions and thrive in such a hostile environment. 


Source: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/this-alkaline-african-lake-turns-animals-into-stone-445359/


Posted by: David Miropolsky (5)



The Genetics of Twins

Being a twin is a double-edged sword: a twin can either be your best friend, or your biggest competition. Some people wish for twins to grow up as best friends, while others dread the idea of having two infants at one time and having to spend twice as much money than expected. Most people know at least somebody that is a twin and always wonder what it is like. However, I am more interested in why twins run in families. How does having twins get passed on from generation to generation? 

Primarily, it is important to understand that there are two types of twins. Twins can either be fraternal (dizygotic) or identical (monozygotic). Fraternal twins occur when two egg cells are fertilized by two different sperm cells within the same menstrual cycle. Some believe this could be more likely for women who release more than one egg in a single menstrual cycle due to hyperovulation. It also is more common for women to have fraternal twins if they conceive through in vitro fertilization (IVF). On the other hand, identical twins occur when a single egg is fertilized by a single sperm. Then, early in development, this zygote splits into two zygotes. With 1 in about every 250 births being twins, having twins is fairly common. But not all twins can pass on the “twin” gene to their offspring.

Only fraternal twins have been found to pass on their twin genes to their prodigy. For instance, women who have a sibling that is a fraternal twin are 2.5 times more likely to have twins themselves. Scientists gathered this by analyzing case studies and finding this trend, but no genes have been explicitly linked to the likelihood of a woman having twins until recently. In a more recent study, scientists from eight countries have found two SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphism) that increase a woman’s chance of having twins. One SNP is close to the FSHB gene which affects FSH levels. High FSH levels can lead to women releasing two eggs in the same menstrual cycle which would increase the chance of fraternal twins. Additionally, a second SNP called SMAD3. Scientists have not quite determined how this SNP helps increase the chance of women having twins, but they did conclude that women who have both these SNPs are 29% more likely to have fraternal twins.


Given that DNA sequencing is still relatively new, there is still much to study and learn about twins and genetics. Now that we are heading towards a world where designer babies are becoming more and more attainable, I also wonder if people will be able to pay for twins as well. 


 Shannon Gray (5)


Microgreens: Small but Mighty

 Many people have seen microgreen growing in popularity, specifically through social media. Most social media fads do not stand up to the hype, but microgreen, which are small, but mighty, do. This is due to the fact that microgreen are easy to grow, making them both a healthy and cost-friendly food for many people.

A recent study has found that microgreen could be the secret to providing global nutritional security. This project is titled “Food Resiliance in the Face of Catastrophic Global Events,” and aims to find vegetables that can be grown in environments without soil, light, and can be grown indoors. This could be a great source of food for people when supply chains are disrupted or due to weather events such as hurricanes or tornadoes. In fact, scientists at NASA have even used microgreen to feed astronauts in space.

Microgreen could be a great cost-effective way to grow vegetables for those with little outdoor space or money. This is due to the fact that microgreen can be grown indoors, with a very short growing cycle. To add to this, the materials needed to grow them can be found in the average kitchen. All that would need to be purchased would be the seeds of the plants themselves.

Microgreens can be grown from sunflower seeds, peas, radish, broccoli, lettuce, garlic, onion, cauliflower, and many other different vegetable seeds. Microgreens contain many different nutrients and antioxidents as well. These inclue iron, potassium, and zinc.

Posted by: Sarah Conant (5)


Article source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210928193820.htm