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)