Student Post: Anterolateral Ligament knee ligament orthopedics
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Many already know about the four ligaments in the knee- medial collateral, anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate, and lateral collateral. However, according to a New York Times article, doctors in Belgium have identified a fifth ligament in the knee called the anterolateral ligament (A.L.L.). This ligament was originally speculated about in the 19th century by a French surgeon named Paul Segond. While Segond did note evidence of its presence and function, he failed to name it, and its presence was forgotten.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Template:PD-US-not_renewed (US Public Domain Tag)
However, it has been discovered again and given a proper name. The A.L.L. on the outside, front portion of the thighbone and continues down to the beginning of the shinbone. This placement allows it to stabilize the knee and prevent it from collapsing inward. Previously, doctors thought that the A.L.L. was just a continuation of the illiotibial band, but it is clear now that it is a completely different entity.
A few years ago, Dr. Claes and his colleagues noticed that some patients that had underwent and recovered from A.C.L. surgery had problems with their knees collapsing. He guessed at the existence of a new ligament and searched for the ligament in donated knees; he easily found it. Now doctors are beginning to practice procedures for torn and sprained A.L.L.s. Thanks to Dr. Claes’ rediscovery of Segond’s original hypothesis, doctors will now be able to fully treat all ligaments in the knee.
Student Post: butterfly Eyes green eye janevicroybutterfly jeffreyglassberg ministreak new species texas vicroy wings
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A new species of butterfly has been discovered in Texas, earlier this spring. Named after it’s founder’s wife, the Vicroy’s Ministreak (it’s scientific name is Ministrymon Janevicroy), went unnoticed as a “new” breed because it was mistaken for the Gray Ministreak, due to the similarity of appearance between the two butterfly species. The trademark difference of the Vicroy’s Ministreak, however, is it’s olive green eye. The Gray Ministreak is known for having a dark brown to black eye coloring. Other differences between he two species include the patterns on their wings as well as differences in genital structures. Some of these differences were noticed when both butterflies were examined when dead. The founder, Jeffrey Glassberg, mostly used a new method of study to differentiate between the two Vicroy and Gray Ministreaks; he used cameras and binoculars, instead of the standard net.
The Vicroy’s Ministreak can be found in greater population in southern America and even reaching down to Central America, in “dry deciduous forest and scrub.” They have also been spotted in fewer population some of the northern South American countries. This new species is thought to be among the last that will be discovered in North America.
For additional information about this new breed of butterfly, please check out the following websites:
Student Post: Babies bacteria Immune System Sing Sing Way
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In a recent article published, it is said that baby’s weak immune systems are good because they let in good bacteria. A recent study suggests that babies are deliberately vulnerable to bacterial infections in the months after birth. This vulnerability allows good microbes to enter the baby’s gut, skin, mouth and lungs. Perhaps we could use this system to treat infections in infants and change the way babies are vaccinated.
To test this theory that the weak immune systems let in good bacteria, scientist Sing Sing Way proposed a experiment. Coming from an infectious-disease background, the pediatrician from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital used mice to test this theory. He compared the immune cells in week-old mice to those in adult mice. The younger mice had a higher proportion of red blood cells. With this, he found that these cells suppress the immune response by making the enzyme arginase.
Sing Sing Way then gave the young mice antibodies that removed the red blood cells and stopped the production of arginase. When infected with Listeria Monocytogenes the mice’s immune systems fended off the bacterium. However without the arginase, the mice’s intestinal cells became inflamed. Ofer Levy, from Boston Children’s Hospital, concluded that reducing the inflammation must be the body’s reason for initially suppressing the immunity- “If there were no mechanisms to dampen inflammation, the newborn would fall apart”. What do you think of Levy’s conclusion and this new study?
Recently, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators have used a new sequencing method to identify a group of genes used by the brain’s immune cells, called microglia, to sense pathogenic organisms (bacteria that cause bacterial infection), toxins or damaged cells. Identifying these genes could lead to better understanding of the role of microglia both in normal brains and in neurodegenerative (nervous system) disorders. This discovery could also lead to ways to protect against brain dysfunctions caused by conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
The set of genes microglial have also been able to react with their environment. “We’ve been able to define, for the first time, a set of genes microglia use to sense their environment, which we are calling the microglial sensome,” says Joseph El Khoury, MD, of the “MGH Center for Immunology and Inflammatory Diseases and Division of Infectious Diseases, senior author of the study”. A type of macrophage microglia are known to consistently test their environment in order to sense any indication of infection, inflammation, and injured or dying cells. Depending on the situation they are involved in, the microglia reacts in a neurotoxic response, replying in a defensive protective manner. The microglia can “engulf pathogenic organisms, toxins or damaged cells or release toxic substances that directly destroy microbes or infected brain cells”. In this way microglia is extremely beneficial to the brain because it is able to identify infections before they have any direct contact with the brain. However, this neurotoxic response can also damage healthy cells and can “contribute to the damage caused by several neurodegenerative disorders”, so keeping the response under control is crucial.
El Khoury’s team’s “next step is to see what happens under pathologic conditions” and to define the sensome of microglia and other brain cells in humans, identifying how the sensome changes in central nervous system disorders, and eventually finding ways to safely manipulate the sensome. Discovering the microglia gene is a large and successful step to eventually finding a cure for infectious brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson ’s disease.
Student Post: Alzheimer's Cognition Holistic Medicine Mental Health
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An exciting new study at the St. Louis University Medical School, has gave way to a new theory regarding the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease. The geriatric researcher, Dr. Susan Farr Ph.D, disclosed at Neuroscience 2013, that extracts of spearmint and rosemary can “reduce deficits caused by mild cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease,”.
The research was conducted on an animal model, so there is no conclusive human evidence yet. But Dr. Farr’s results seem promising in that her tests using an “antioxidant-based ingredient” made from spearmint extract and two different concentrations of a similar antioxidant made from rosemary extract on mice that have age-related cognitive decline.
Farr found that the higher dose rosemary extract compound had the most impact in increasing memory and learning in three tested behaviors. The lower concentration rosemary extract improved memory in two of the behavioral tests, as did the compound made from spearmint extract.
Her research also found that the introduction of these extracts to the subjects’ systems decreased oxidative stress, a “hallmark of age-related decline” in the cerebrum, the learning and memory center of the brain.
As Dr. Farr continues her promising research, are you going to find yourself chewing more spearmint gum?
Student Post: Cancer extinction looney tunes Tasmanian Devils
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The tasmanian devil is most readily remembered by it’s cartoon character, however the extinction of the animal seems to be on the horizon. Tasmanian devils are wild animals of the Dasyuridae family found only in the wild of Australian island of Tasmania. Recently, it has been predicted that a facial cancer on the marsupial will extinct the species in the next ten years.
First reported in 1996, the parasitic tumor has declined the species by seventy percent. The onset of the non-viral tumor was caused by the environment of the animal (who live in high-density populations that suffer from invasions of nonnative species and pollution.) Devil facial tumor disease likely began in what are called Schwann cells. Schwann cells are found in the peripheral nervous system; they produce myelin and other proteins essential for the functions of nerve cells.
Scientists are trying to remedy the infectious disease by breeding a certain species of tasmanian devil that was shown to have a partial immunity to the tumor. After preliminary research on the disease, scientists have come to see that the answers to the tasmanian devil’s circumstance, if uncovered, could lead to answers for human cancers as well. More knowledge of the direction and rate of the tumor in devil populations will help scientists to find out more about how the disease spreads by examining the interactions between the animals. Scientists remain positive; Andrew Storfer, who works closely with the animals on location, says “the answers will help in developing responses to this and other disease outbreaks in Tasmanian devils–and potentially in people.”
In Tibet in 2010 Z. Jack Tseng and Juan Liu travelled to a remote section of the Tibetan Plateau. Whilst there they came across a collection of prehistoric fossils, mostly antelope and other known herbivores, with one notable exception, the skull of a previously undiscovered big cat which they called Panthera blytheae. This skull and the accompanying jawbone fragments belong to what is now, to date, the oldest known big cat. After analysis of its teeth, it has been theorized that this cat would have been quite similar in habitat and hunting style to the modern snow leopard. “In terms of the overall size it would be a little bit smaller than a snow leopard– the size of a clouded leopard and those living cats grow up to around 20kg [44lb],” said Jack Tseng, the discoverer.
This discovery is quite significant with regards to big cat evolutionary history. Current experts hold that big cats broke from the main felinea subfamily some time around 6.37 million years ago. However, until this find, the oldest big cat fossil was a 3.5 million year old fossil from Tanzania. P. blytheae not only pushes the date back almost two million years, being estimated to have lived between 4.10 and 5.95 million years ago, but also gave weight to the theory that big cats originated first in Asia, not in Africa. Anjali Goswami, a palaeobiologist at University College London said, “This beautiful fossil supports the Asian origin for the group, bringing together molecular, living and fossil data into a unified view of pantherine evolution. It also supports the idea that the Tibetan plateau was, and remains, an important biogeographic region for large mammals and is the center of origin for many important groups. Nailing down the place of origin for pantherines also means that we can better understand the environmental and ecological context in which this group evolved.”
Student Post: controversial dangerous mysterious narcotics neuroenhancment
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Perhaps one of the most common social activities among people of all ages, though hopefully not in children, is the consumption or use of drugs like alcohol and cannabis. Generally, these drugs are used for social purposes and lead simply to altered interactions with others; however, more common than one might think is the use of drugs as neuroenhancers by students. A study published last year by researchers in the universities of Zurich and Basel aimed at discovering how common the use of drugs, prescribed or illegal, was by Swiss students with an average age of 23. Among the 6,725 students that were surveyed, roughly 13.8% admitted to having tried alcohol, cannabis, prescribed methylphenidate like Ritalin, some amphetamines, and even cocaine in order to boost brain function during an exam preparation period. These students had heard of the possible brain-boosting properties of the drugs and then attempted to stimulate their brains through the use of either illegal narcotics, or prescribed medicine from physicians that knew what their intended purpose was. The researchers from the universities also conducted surveys of many physicians located in several European countries, related to similar studies that had been done in some European institutions, in order to ascertain the frequency in which the physicians received requests for neuroenhancers and what the typical response to such a situation was. Many of the physicians stated that their acceptance or refusal of requests like these depended on the context. As a whole, only a small minority of the students surveyed claimed to have received the desired effects of the neuroenhancers, begging the question: how effective or safe is the use of these “smart” drugs? Possibly, as hinted by the survey results, the only real reason the students are experimenting with these drugs is due to their high stress situations (meaning that the drugs are most likely being used for stress-relief with the self-justification of brain enhancement). Do any of you think there might be some legitimacy in the use of brain-stimulating drugs to attempt enhancement? Or should the possible safety risks be enough to stray from the attempt?
Student Post: biological control Biosfork bugs Metarhizium outdoors ticks
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Going to an outdoors summer camp, I had a lot of experience with ticks, these pesky, mosquito like bugs, bites you and stick to your skin. I wish the camp had a way to control their tick infestation, so this article was very intriguing. Ticks, or those pesky bugs that attach to your skin when hiking or walking outdoors, may soon be controlled by fungus.
An important term to know for this article is biological control, which is an attempt to reduce pest population by using “natural enemies” or living organisms (like fungus.)
Biosfork, an agricultural and environmental research firm in Norway, is looking into to the tick infestation problem. Ticks seem like such small harmless bugs, but the tick is a lethal predator for many animals. In sheep, a tick bite can lead to the disease TBF, or Tick Borne Fever. This disease causes high fever and severally compromises their immune systems. As a result many animals die from something as small as a tick bite.
According to their research Biosfork has found that Metarhizium, a pathogenic fungus, can systematically kill ticks. Metarhizium is present in most soils, but scientist at Biosfork feel that releasing this fungus in large quantities in tick invested area will stop the horrible pesky ticks. Biosfork has released this fungus into controlled environments and has found that Metarhizium is a brutal, yet effective way to eliminate these pesky ticks.
This can have many practical applications. By eliminating ticks this fungus could save many sheep pastures by eliminating this pesky predator. Reducing tick populations can make that hike more enjoyable by limiting the pesky tick bites that make the outdoors a nightmare.
Student Post: Color genetic variation patterns reproduction
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In a recent article from Nature, researchers observed mating patterns in guppies. While most guppies are plain in color, a few male guppies are vibrant and have interesting color variation. In the lab at Weill Cornell Medical College, it was seen that these colorful males father the most offspring. This is due to negative frequency-dependent selection, or the “rare-male effect“. Because the colorful male guppies are rare, they are attractive to female guppies looking for a mate. The variation in color is an effect from the guppies’ genes. Theoretically, these color variations were supposed to be “normal” a long time ago, because of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Rather than conforming to the common pattern, the few males that are colorful show bright colors and diverse patterns. Apparently this is due to the rare male effect. Female guppies simply prefer rare guppies and do not care for the pattern.
Although the results prove this theory in the lab, the researchers were doubtful that this happened in a natural setting. Therefore, the scientists went to Trinidad to see the guppies in their wild setting. They collected the colorful males, numbered them and then released them. Next, they waited for the guppies to mate and then counted their offspring. They did this twice. The first brood showed that the rare male effect was present, but the second did not. The researchers questioned, even though the effect was present in the first brood of offspring, the staying power of this effect. The scientists believed that the effect’s purpose was to prevent insect, which hinders the evolution of the fish.
Why are the mating patterns of guppies so important? What can they help us with in future research?
Here are some articles to further your knowledge in mating patterns and evolution
Student Post: Boston Children's Hospital Genes lin28a medicine metabolism mice mitochondria regrowth
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Can adults repair their tissues as easily as children can? A study currently conducted at Boston Children’s hospital is attempting to find the answer to this question. Researchers have found that by activating a gene called Lin28a, they were able to “regrow hair and repair cartilage, bone, skin and other soft tissues in a mouse model.” The scientists found that Lin28a works by enhancing metabolism in mitochondria—which, as we learned in class, are the “powerhouses” of the cells. This in turn helps generate the energy needed to stimulate and grow new tissues.
This discovery is a very exciting one for the field of medicine. The study’s senior investigator George Daley said, “[Previous] efforts to improve wound healing and tissue repair have mostly failed, but altering metabolism provides a new strategy which we hope will prove successful.” Scientists were even able to bypass Lin28a and directly activate the mitochondrial metabolism with a small compound and still enhance healing. Researcher Shyh-Chang says of this, “Since Lin28 itself is difficult to introduce into cells, the fact that we were able to activate mitochondrial metabolism pharmacologically gives us hope.” Since it is difficult for scientist to actually introduce Lin28a into a cell, it might be easier to simply synthetically create a substitute and introduce that. Either way, I think this is a very promising discovery! What other uses can you think of for this discovery?
Student Post: Detection Jack Andraka New Test Pancreatic Cancer
A recent article talked about Jack Andraka, who is not the average 15 year old. This young man has just made “the biggest breakthrough in pancreatic cancer detection methods in more than half a century”. Jack, a high school student from Maryland is being praised around the world as a genius.
But what inspired this young man to start his research? When he was 13, a family friend developed pancreatic cancer and unfortunately passed away. Jack did some research and found that the traditional method for checking for pancreatic cancer only worked 30% of the time. Even worse is that the method had not been updated in 60 years and cost about eight-hundred dollars! Upset about the situation, a 13 year old Jack decided to change all of this.
The issue with pancreatic cancer detection is that by the time it is usually found, it has spread from the pancreas to other vital organs. The survival rate of this cancer is less than two percent, but Jack is hopeful that his new method for detecting this cancer will change that statistic.
The old method included doctors “having to spot a minute irregularity in the level of one of the over 8,000 proteins that can be measured in the bloodstream”. This 60-year-old detection test called enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (or ELISA) was lacking in efficiency. You can read more about the previous test here. Jack’s test came from his idea of using a piece of paper containing a carbon nanotube (a tube of carbon with a thickness of a single atom), this paper contains antibodies that would react in the presence of mesothelin (a protein found in high levels in people with pancreatic cancer). When the paper is dipped in blood or urine, the mesothhelin adheres to the antibodies and changes can be detected in the nanotubes electrical conductivity. The best part is that this is a non-invasive test!
Jack’s promising idea however was not accepted by many institutions. He had sent his proposal paper to over 200 institutions. In the span of two months he had received rejections from 199 of these institutions- but one place, Johns Hopkins University, reconized the genius of his idea. They agreed to work with the teen and in just seven months Jack’s new test was complete. And the results were astounding!
His test has proved to be 168 times faster than the previous existing tests, it has been accurate 100% of the time, and it only costs 3 cents! Not only is his new test able to detect pancreatic cancer, but it may be able to test for other types of cancer as well as HIV!
Because of his amazing success, Jack has been granted scholarships from Intel, and other donors. He won the Gordon E. Moore award and was invited to speak on TED talks. You can find his talk here.
Jack hopes to start up a company to commercialize his test. He offered advice to teens all around the world- “Make sure to be passionate about whatever it is you get into, because otherwise you won’t put the right amount of work into it”. I know Jack has inspired many high school students across the country, and he has sure inspired me! What will you do by the time you are 18?
Student Post: Biotech food GMOs Monsanto soybean oil
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Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs have long had an unfortunate reputation. Viewed on par with crops that make use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals, and often thought to be unhealthy. Organic farmers and magazines scorn their use and consumers think twice before purchasing products that make use of them. However, Monsanto, an extremely large and influential agriculture company that is similarly often cast in a negative light, has teamed up with DuPont Pioneer to revamp the genetic makeup of the soybean to create a bean that produces oil completely free of trans fats. It’s new fat composition is similar to that of olive oil, and it can potentially be produced on a larger scale and cheaper than it’s olive counterpart. Companies believe that this new innovation will help to improve the public image of GMOs and other biotech. As most endeavors up to this point have focused on resistance to weeds and parasites, rather than health and taste, it has been easy for consumers to create a negative view of GMOs, but this new soybean, more consumer oriented, might help to sway that view.
The specific genetic modifications to the oil are the alteration of a gene that converts oleic fatty acids into linoleic acid. This conversion causes soybean oil to have an extremely short shelf life. The problem used to be solved by treating the oil with hydrogen gas, but this caused it to become saturated. With the gene silenced, there is no need for the hydrogen treatment, and the oil can remain unsaturated and free of trans-fats.
Cardiac arrhythmia is a problem with the rate of heart beat that currently affects 4 million Americans. During arrhythmia, the heart may beat too fast, too slow, or have an obvious irregular rhythm. In some cases, this heart condition may be life-threatening with the ability to damage the brain, heart, and other organs due to the lack of blood flow.
Oscar Abilez, a cardiovascular physician at Stanford University has developed the solution to this condition: light. With his team, he is working to create a new biological pacemaker that is able to control the heart with light. The first phase of his research involves optogenetics. This uses techniques from both optics and genetics to control the activity of individual neurons in living tissue. In 2002, German scientists were able to isolate the genes for the proteins called opsins. Before this discovery, algae and few other organisms were the only know carriers of light sensitive cells. These opsins, however, are responsible for cells’ light sensitivity in humans and modify the genetic code of other cells so that they, too, would produce these opsins.
The next phase of his research involves stem cells. Oscar Abilez hopes to convert the stem cells light-sensitive cardiomyocytes from a person who is suffering from this condition. These cells that make up the muscle tissue in the heart would be able to be “grafted” onto a person’s heart. This would then ideally carry out Abilez’s vision, which he hopes will be achieved in the next decade or so, allowing physicians to control the whole heart’s rhythm using light.
Student Post: blood cells bone marrow cancers melanoma metastasized White Blood Cells
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A metastasized tumor is a group of cancer cells that have spread from a localized area through out the body. Normally once a cancer has metastasized the patient has a more serious prognosis. In some cancers, metastatic disease can be a death sentence. For years scientists have been challenged with understanding how tumors spread beyond their initial boundaries.
Their questions may have finally been answered. Researchers at Yale University have found metastasis in the brain of a cancer patient with melanoma that is a hybrid of Tumor and White Blood Cells. It is hypothesized that these hybrids may explain how cancers travel to distant sites and metastasize. This theory had been proposed before, but it was not until recently that genes from both tumor and White Blood cells were found in tumor cells. Researchers tested their theory on a sixty-eight year old cancer patient who had received a bone marrow transplant from his brother. Bone marrow helps stimulate the production of white blood cells. No one person’s bone marrow is exactly alike, even if they are brothers. Researchers found that the bone marrow the patient had received from his brother fused with the cancer cells to make a hybrid cell almost identical to that of the patient. This implies that the cancer cells are not just targeting the specific, weak white blood cells of the cancer patient, but also the healthier blood cells of his brother. Cancer can metastasize quicker than we had assumed.
So it leaves us with the question: What are we to do with this information? Researchers suggest that when the mechanism of fusion is fully understood, target therapies can be developed to attack the formation of the White Cell- tumor Hybrids.
Student Post: biodiversity brazil climate change deforestation forests global warming indonesia
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Deforestation has always been viewed as a problem by modern observers. No one can deny that the cutting down of forests is necessary for economic development and continued prosperity in some lumber rich nations, however, things are getting out of control. In a recent study, it was revealed that a total loss of 2.3 million acres of forest was destroyed in between 2000 and 2012. To put that amount in perspective, it is equivalent to six Californians or the entirety of the United States east of the Mississippi River. This massive loss of forest land was countered by a gain of only .8 million acres, resulting in a 1.5 million acre net loss of forest land around the globe.
According to Ritchie King, a reporter on the subject, “Deforestation at this scale is having a tremendous ecological impact, on both species and climate. From 2000 to 2011, deforestation effectively added 14.5 billion tonnes (16 billion tons) of carbon to the atmosphere, about 13% of the world’s total contribution to climate change.” Some nations who, in the past, have been the greatest culprits of deforestation, such as Brazil, have cut back their logging and have greatly reduced the rate at which land is cleared, however, in other parts of the world, particularly Indonesia, (if you scroll to the bottom of the article there is a graphic) deforestation has sped up rapidly. Not only does deforestation threaten the world as a whole through the production of a large precent of the earths greenhouse gases, but it also threatens the delicate forest ecosystems around the world. Heavy deforestation in areas with Rain forests, such as Brazil and Indonesia threatens the unique species of plants and animals which live there, and threatens to reduce the biodiversity present on Earth.
Student Post: Biofuel enzyme glycoside hydrolase trichoderma reesei
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There is currently a great desire worldwide to create fuels from plants (that are abundant and not eaten). For background on this topic, click here. This process is possible, but making the fuel is expensive, time consuming, and difficult. However, chemists at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have done research to develop a new, highly improved method for procuring economical, more realistic biofuels.
The most crucial step in the biofuel production process (making fuel from plants such as corn stalks and switchgrass) is the break down of sugar polymers into monomers, which can then be made into fuel compounds. Plants contain energy, which they store in their carbon bonds. This energy can be converted to fuel if these bonds are broken. However, lignocellulose, which holds the plants together structurally, is difficult to break apart.
Finding a more efficient way to break down the sugars in plants would greatly lower the cost of biofuel production. Trichoderma reesei is a fungus that can “churn out enzymes that chew through molecules like complex sugars”. Thus, the fungus produces many enzymes that can help to procure fuel from plants. New research is being done to find which of these enzymes (called glycoside hydrolase) work most efficiently together and individually at different temperatures, pressures, and pH levels in an effort to reach maximum efficiency in the process. Chemist Aaron Wright said, “Identifying exactly which enzymes are doing most of the work you need done is crucial for making this an economical process.”
This procedure of tracking each enzyme through each stage of a complicated process would normally take months to complete with regular enzyme testing (perhaps like the testing we did in class, but much more complex!). However, Wright’s team created a chemical probe that allows intense testing to be accomplished in only a few days.
As the price and sources of gas are such common concerns today, I am curious to see if this experiment will come to fruition to produce an environmentally friendly, sustainable, efficient, and economical source of fuel.
Student Post: healing wounds lin28a regenerative medicine
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Biologists already know that flaws in metabolic processes in mitochondria (such as cell respiration) cause aging in many cells and tissues. Now, they are exploring the converse situation. Scientists from the Stem Cell Program and Boston Children’s Hospital are doing research to see if the trait that allows young animals to easily repair and regenerate their tissues can be produced in adult animals. A protein called Lin28a (shown in image) is active in embryonic stem cells, and when scientists reactivated this protein (by reactivating the Lin28 gene) in older animals, the animals were able toregrow soft tissues (cartilage, bone, skin). Lin28a promotes this regrowth partially by improving metabolism in mitochondria as it increases the production of enzymes involved in the making of energy. As we learned in class, we need free energy to grow and create new cells. In this way, “Lin28a helps generate the energy needed to stimulate and grow new tissues”. Essentially, the enhancing of the regular energy making process that the mitochondria perform could lead to advanced “regenerative treatments”. (Click here for a graphical abstract of this study that helps to better understand the ideas behind the research.)
Additionally, experiments have been done that show that activity in the mitochondria can be enhanced without the stimulation of Lin28a. This implies that a “healing cocktail” could be created pharmacologically. I find it fascinating to see how cell processes, such as those that we learned about in class, can have such major implications for the future of regenerative medication. Will they create new, more efficient drugs to help heal wounds?
Student Post: biology news legs lower-limb prostheses Michael Goldfarb prosthetics robotics Science Translation Medicine Vanderbilt
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New strides in robotics technology have made it possible to create new types of prosthetics, which can function more naturally than a passive artificial leg. The H. Fort Flowers Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Vanderbilt University, Michael Goldfarb and his colleagues at the Vanderbilt’s Center for Intelligent Mechatronics are the leaders in lower-limb prosthetic research and have expressed their views on robotic prosthetics in an article in Science Translational Medicine‘s November issue. Goldfarb’s team developed the first robotic prosthesis, which included a powered knee and ankle joints. Their design became the first artificial leg controlled by thought after researchers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago added a neural interface to it.
Technological advances, such as lithium-ion batteries, powerful brushless electric motors with rare-Earth magnets, and miniaturized sensors built into semiconductor chips, have allowed for new developments in robotic prosthetics. The electric motors, whose batteries store a single charge with enough power to last a full day, serve as the “muscles” of the prosthetic. The sensors function as its “nerves” like those in the peripheral nervous system by providing information like the angle between the thigh and lower leg and the force exerted on the bottom of the foot. The microprocessor acts as the central nervous system by providing coordination.
In order to recognize a user’s intent to do different activities, there must be and effective control system that provides some type of connection with the central nervous system. There are many different methods available, but it is still undecided which of these is best. The least invasive approach uses physical sensors to differentiate between the user’s intentions and his or her body language. Electromyography interface is a different approach that places electrodes within the user’s leg muscles. The most invasive techniques entail electrode implants inside the user’s peripheral nerves or directly into his or her brain.
Bionic legs seem to provide many possible advantages over passive artificial legs. Lower-limb prostheses with a powered knee and heel joints have demonstrated faster walking speed and decreased hip effort while using less energy. Robotic prosthesis could also decrease the rate of falls leading to hospitalization due to the leg’s natural movement, improved compensation for uneven ground, and ability to help users recover from stumbling. Despite their benefits, robotic legs face some issues before being launched in the United States. These challenges include approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and additional robotics training for clinicians prescribing these types of prostheses.
In spite of these challenges, this new development of robotic legs will surely prove beneficial to amputees across the country. Is there a more efficient way to help the public gain access to this type of technology? What can be learned from these new advances?
Photograph by Andy Polaine
Helpful Links: http://news.discovery.com/tech/robotics/five-major-advances-robotic-prosthetics.htm http://www.afcea.org/content/?q=node/2569
As of November 5, 2013, a new ligament has been discovered in the human knee by two Belgium biologists, Doctor Steven Claes and Doctor Johan Bellemans.
These doctors were curious as to why patients who have had previous ACL surgery continue to experience sensations where their knee will “give out” during certain activities.
Their curiosity led them to research and ultimately, astonishing results. These two doctors are credited with the discovery of an unknown ligament, now recognized as an Anterolateral Ligament (ALL).
This newfound ligament also suggests a connection with ACL injuries. As studies now show, ACL tears are a product of ALL injuries. Did you tear your ACL? Does that mean you also tore your ALL?
This research could signal a breakthrough in ACL tear repairs.
Which is why these two doctors are already one step ahead; Dr. Claes and Dr. Bellemans are now working on creating a surgical procedure to repair ALL injuries.
Being a patient who previously tore my ACL, MCL, and Meniscus, I found this discovery particularly interesting because chances are… I also tore my ALL.
That’s just fantastic.
Learning about this newfound ligament, I now wonder if I will need to get another repair on my knee, later in life, to fix the “giving out” sensation I encounter from time to time.