Do Viruses Make Us Smarter?

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Sanofi Pasteur

A study conducted at the Lund University shows that “inherited viruses” that are millions of years old play an important role in building up the complex networks that characterize the human brain.” It is well known that retroviruses are make up about five percent of our DNA. Research under Johan Jakobsson indicate that retroviruses may play a critical role in the basic functions of the brain, “in the regulation of which genes are to be expressed, and when.”

Studies of neural stem cells show that these cells use a particular molecular mechanism to control the activation processes of the retroviruses. Findings have shown to have increasingly gained control in our cellular machinery. Because tumors are unable to form in nerve cells, different from other teachers, viruses are activated specifically in the brain. The results open up potential for new research paths concerning brain diseases linked to genetic factors.

“I believe that this can lead to new, exciting studies on the diseases of the brain. Currently, when we look for genetic factors linked to various diseases, we usually look for the genes we are familiar with, which make up a mere two per cent of the genome. Now we are opening up the possibility of looking at a much larger part of the genetic material which was previously considered unimportant. The image of the brain becomes more complex, but the area in which to search for errors linked to diseases with a genetic component, such as neurodegenerative diseases, psychiatric illness and brain tumors, also increases”.

Original Article: http://www.biologynews.net/archives/2015/01/12/do_viruses_make_us_smarter.html

For More Info:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150112093129.htm

Human Brain Gene Implant Greatly Effects Mice

A study conducted at MIT tested the effect of human Foxp2 gene on mice and observed their ability to navigate through a maze. Foxp2 is found in both mice and humans, but the human form of the gene is related to  learning and language but it has been hypothesized by neuroscientist Ann Graybiel of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research that perhaps the human gene is related to sub-conscious actions based on environmental cues.

The maze lead to a pile of food, and throughout the maze the scientists placed visual and sensory cues that lead to the end of the maze and to the food. At the end of the study, the results showed that the genetically modified mice would complete the maze 3 days faster than the wild, control mice when visual and sensory cues were both involved.

The significance of the study is the potential connection between specialized learning and the Foxp2 gene. Although the difference between learning how to run a maze and leaning how to speak is massive, tests like this one are the beginnings to analyzing the true significance of Foxp2.

Mice

Using Hair To Fix Nerves

Keratin

Scientists at Wake Forest University have discovered that the hair protein Keratin has been shown to speed up the regeneration of nerves in mice. When nerve function is lost, the best option is to use a nerve graft from another part of the body, however this is an issue because it creates another wound site for the patient, which may not be tolerable due to ones condition. In an attempt to create another means of regenerating nerves, Dr. Mark Van Dyke and his team of researchers began to test the Keratin protein (which is found in hair follicles).

To test Keratin for its regenerative properties, Dr. Van Dyke used human hair collected from a barber shop and removed the Keratin from it. They then purified it and created a gel out of it to fill nerve guidance conduits. In order to study how effective the protein was, they studied the Schwann cells. Schwann cells are important in this experiment because they create signals that begin nerve cell regeneration. The results of this experiment showed their hypothesis to be correct, the use of Keratin greatly increased the activity of the Schwann cells. After this proved to be true, the scientists used a keratin-filled tube to try to repair a large nerve gap in mice (about 4 millimeters). The animals treated with Keratin were compared to animals treated with a nerve graft, and animals treated with a placebo. after 6 weeks, the entire keratin group showed visible regeneration, versus the placebo group who had about 50% show signs of regeneration. In addition, the speed of repair for the keratin group was much faster the other groups. 

The results of all of his tests proved his hypothesis of the uses for keratin. “The results suggest that a conduit filler derived from hair keratins can promote an outcome comparable to a grafted nerve,” said Van Dyke.

Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080110102341.htm

 

Why don’t women see themselves as brilliant?

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Why is the population of women in physics, engineering, music composition, etc. so sparse? It might have to do with current stereotypes.

Up until relatively recently, women were not in the academic work place’ men dominated all of the academic, intelligent, and advanced jobs. However, today, over 50% of molecular biology and 60% of comparative literature degrees go to women. But where are all of the women in political science and philosophy?

Research shows that careers that focus on brilliance tend to have fewer women in it. In other words, jobs that emphasize knowledge you “can’t be taught” are typically filled with men. Sarah-Jane Leslie and Andrei Cimpian became interested in gender representation in fields that focused on talent versus fields that focused on hard work. They surveyed other potential explanations, gender differences at the upper end of the intelligence scale, and how men and women differ in how they think. They hypothesized that women might not be able to work a certain schedule and therefore not have enough time required for certain academic fields, fields which are extremely selective should have more men than women, and men are better at abstract thinking and women are better at emotional understanding. They tested these hypotheses with surveys that ranked reactions to a statement from strongly agree to strongly disagree (Likert scale), collected and compared GRE scores, and included statements that assessed how much participants though thinking abstractly or emotionally was important in their academic field.

Leslie and Cimpian concluded that stereotypes about women (and also African-Americans) undermine their representation in certain jobs because they subconsciously do not feel fit to be in that field. Other factors include schedule flexibility or harassment in the work environment, but above all, it’s all about attitude, not aptitude.

Why do you think women don’t see themselves as brilliant, even though they may be well aware of their intellectual abilities?

https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/scicurious/attitude-not-aptitude-may-contribute-gender-gap?tgt=nr

The Buzzing Battle of the Bees

Bee

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bees_on_sunflower.JPG

 

There is a species of bees called “commercial” bees. These bees are kept by beekeepers to pollinate crops such as tomatoes, sweet peppers, and oilseed. This population of managed bees is coming down with “fast evolving viruses”, according to the University of Exeter in Science Daily News.

Then there are “wild” bees, free to fly around, not employed by beekeepers. The viruses that the commercial bees have are starting to spread to the wild bee population. Currently, researchers are “calling for new measures” to protect the wild pollinators, and confine the commercial, diseased population. In the article, Dr. Lena Wilfert said this can be controlled by beekeepers keeping a vigil eye and monitoring the commercial bees they own. It is their “responsibility” to do so. Also, interesingly enough, the international transport of these commercial bees must have more checks and security. They must be screened better, in order to get a better sense of how many have a disease, so they know not to set any of the commercial bees free into the wild.

The major cause of the spread is the Varroa mite. This spreads viruses, such as the Deformed Wing Virus, and may increase the power of the viral spread. It significantly weakens bees, causing their RNA to deteriorate. The article says that it has been “identified as an emerging disease in pollinators,” and there is a connection between wild bumblebees who have it, and commercial honeybees.

The poor management of the commercial bee community is the cause of this horrible break out of diseases among innocent wild bees. In the future, researchers plan to investigate which species of commercial bees are the major cause of the breakout and spread. The wild bee population is extremely important for our environment, and beekeepers need to realize that, and make sure their bee farm does not spread disastrous diseases.

 

*Additional information is found through the last two hyperlinks.*

*Original article is the first hyperlink.*

How to stick with your New Years Resolutions

 

bicycling  In Tracy Cutchlow’s article “How to Trick Yourself into Exercising” she talks about the difficulty of sticking to your new years resolutions.  Year after year peoplecreate resolutionsthat involve things such as consistent exercise, but they struggle to actually act on their resolution.  So Tracy spoke with a psychologist about possible techniques that would enable her to “trick herself into exercising.”  The psychologist’s technique involved a relatively simple three step procedure.  The first step is to create a “ridiculously realistic goal.”  For example, rather than say you are going to exercise everyday, start off with three days a week.  The next step involves accountability.  This could mean writing notes in your phone or putting a calendar up on the fridge to remind you about your resolution and to help you keep track of your progress.  The final, and most important step, is to create a “painful consequence.”  For Tracy this meant that if she ever failed to maintain her three days a week resolution, she would have to give $500 dollars to an organization that she “hates” (Comcast).  The purpose of the painful consequence is to essentially make breaking your resolution so unappealing that it eventually becomes a rule.  In his book How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, author Paul Tough describes thegeneral science behind how creating rules for yourself is an effective method for maintaining discipline. He writes, “When you’re making rules for yourself, you’re enlisting the prefrontal cortex as your partner against the more reflexive parts of your brain. … Rules are a metacognitive substitute for willpower. By making yourself a rule (“I never eat fried dumplings”), you can sidestep the painful internal conflict between your desire for fried foods and your willful determination to resist them.”  So Tracy Cutchlow’s article provides a means through which we can create rules for ourselves and in turn, successfully adhere to our resolutions.

Image URL: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Exercise_motivation#mediaviewer/File:Cycling_Time_Trial_effort.jpg

Related Reading:

http://www.paultough.com/the-books/how-children-succeed/

http://www.ballyfitness.com/trick-yourself-into-exercising.aspx

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resolution.aspx

Put it all in focus

We’ve all had that moment where we squeeze our eyelids into tiny slits in hoping the blurry paper or board in front of us will clear up and wonder, Why am I making my eyes smaller to see better? That doesn’t seem to make sense! The key is to start thinking of your eyes like a camera, a camera with aperture. When we look at something, photons are passing through our corneas and blending light rays together, which then pass through the crystalline lens and vitreous on their way to the retina. The physical building blocks of the eye, rods and cones, turn photons into electromagnetic impulses that are sent to the brain to be interpreted.

So to get to the point, why do we squint? The truth is our lenses try to focus to the best of their ability but they are not entirely flexible. So blurriness is usually indicative of a lens malfunction, missing the target in the back of the retina. When you focus your eyes on something, there are massive amounts of competing light sources and surrounding stimuli in your peripheral vision which can cloud your eyes focus. Heres where the camera reference comes in: squinting your eyes is comparable to tightening the aperture of a camera, allowing less conflicting light to interfere with the image its focusing on. So in fact, squinting your eyes does not work because it is changing the shape of your lenses, but rather because it is allowing less competing stimuli to interfere with its true focus.
If vision is continually blurry, it may not be a simple malfunctioning of your lens but rather due to physical eye damage, in which case glasses might be a good investment. Maybe we should start to think of the aperture of our personal lives a little more as well, theoretically squinting to focus on important tasks and present moments rather than being distracted by the ever-present stimuli around us. Just a thought…
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Head Start is the way to “Start”

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Eat healthily, sleep well, breathe deeply, move harmoniously,” said Jean-Pierre Barral*

The good health and well-being of Americans is something that matters to me.

Head Start is a United States Department of Health and Human Services program that helps low income families achieve the goal of living a healthy lifestyle. This program occurs during the transition from preschool to elementary school. Its mission is to foster stable family relationships, enhance children’s physical and emotional well-being, and establish an environment to develop strong cognitive skills.

According to an article by Kathryn Doyle, “Obese kids in Head Start get healthier during the year.” This conclusion was determined through a study by Reuters Health on pre-schoolers in Michigan. From the study, they concluded that the kids who were underweight or overweight at the start of the program were healthier than the other kids in their community when they all entered kindergarten.

In the article, Dr. Julie C. Lumeng of the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor states that she was “watching their weight get better.”  The researchers involved in the study used children’s height and weight data, which was provided by Michigan Head Start programs for 19,000 kids to calculate their BMIs. They compared these BMIs to what would be considered the average for other children of the same age in Michigan. It was found that within the first academic year, the overweight kids who started Head Start lost weight and the underweight kids gained weight.

Mary Cunningham Deluca, director of children services at Community Action Agency in Jackson, Michigan, believes nutrition is the most important part and I could not agree more. I chose this article because I like to be extremely health conscious. I try to fuel my body with the best food for me and maintain an active lifestyle. Personally, I have found that  living a healthy lifestyle builds confidence, opens your mind, and teaches you to break through boundaries and overcome obstacles you never thought possible. It opens up opportunities and that is exactly what we need to do for children; It’s time to give them a “head start!”

 

*”Jean-Pierre Barral is an Osteopath and Registered Physical Therapist, who serves as Director and Faculty of the Department of Osteopathic Manipulation at the University of Paris School of Medicine in Paris, France. He earned his diploma in Osteopathic Medicine in 1974 from the European School of Osteopathy in Maidstone, England, and went on to teach spinal biomechanics at the institution from 1975-1982.”

 

New Breast Cancer Gene Discovered

 

 

 

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Today, one of the most talked about cancers is breast cancer. Breast cancer is defined as cancer that forms in the tissues of the breast. There are two types of breast cancer: ductal carcinoma, which is most common and begins in the lining of the milk ducts (thin tubes that carry milk from the lobules of the breast to the nipple) and lobular carcinoma, which begins in the lobules (milk glands) of the breast.

According to a new study done by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and University of Cambridge, a gene has been identified to have a major association in aggressive subtypes of breast cancer. The research suggests that an overactive BCL11A gene causes the development of tripe-negative breast cancer.

The study was conducted in human cells and in mice. The study was important because one in five patients are affected by triple-negative breast cancer. From the conducted research, Dr. Walid Khaled discovered that by adding an active human BCL11A gene to a human or a mouse’s breast cells (in the lab) caused them to behave as cancer cells. Increasingly, Dr. Khaled concluded that “by increasing BCL11A activity we increase cancer-like behaviour; by reducing it, we reduce cancer-like behavior.”

This research and study is extremely important because from the results, the team was able to propose that BCL11A is a strong candidate for development of a possible targeted treatment. Typical treatments of breast cancer include radiation and chemotherapy as well as surgery. The most known surgeries are Lumpectomy/partial mastectomy (large portion of the breast is removed) and a full mastectomy (full removal of breasts)

I chose this article because I know many dear friends that have faced and survived the battle of breast cancer. I believe that spreading awareness and screening early is extremely important. In addition, I am very hopeful that new advances will be made so that others need not endure the excruciating fight of breast cancer.

 

White-Nose Syndrome Threatening Brown Bat Species

In 2006, hibernating bats in upstate New York were identified with white-nose syndrome , a disease that produces a white fungal growth around the wings, mouth and nose of bats. The disease is a huge problem for North American bats, with it killing at least 6 million brown bats and the disease now spreading from New York to Mississippi and Canada. The disease may even threaten the entire bat species and disrupt the ecosystem. Scientific researchers have been studying WNS for over a decade and only recently have they developed a reason for its lethal effect on the North American bat population.

Researchers from the US Geological Survey and the University of Wisconsin learned that the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans kills brown bats by “increasing the amount of energy they use during hibernation”. When bats are hibernating during the winter, they must carefully save up their energy to survive without eating until the winter ends. The fungus drains bats of their energy and forces them to wake early and either starve or freeze to death. The study done by USGS measured how much fat was burned and at what rate during hibernation between non-infected and infected bats. Dr. Michelle Verant, a USGS National Wildlife Health Center scientist, found that bats infected with WNS used twice as much energy as the healthy bats during hibernation and had “potentially life-threatening physiologic imbalances that could inhibit normal body functions”.

The immune system of bats is very tolerant of pathogens and diseases that can be lethal to humans, like ebola and even some cancer cells. Bats are immune to many viruses and rarely show signs of disease so the visible white growth on the bats poses a huge threat to the ecosystem. Dr. David Blehert worked with Dr. Verant at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center and the WNS is scary because “here we have an animal that can survive some of the scariest viruses we know, and it’s undone by a common soil fungus.”

Brown Long-eared Bat

Brown Long-eared Bat

 

Main Article:

http://www.science20.com/news_articles/winter_hibernation_energy_drain_how_whitenose_syndrome_kills_bats-151997

Other Articles of Interest:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-01/usgs-hdw010215.php

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/13/science/no-time-for-bats-to-rest-easy.html?ref=science&_r=0

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6793/14/10

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_nose_syndrome

 

Animal Overdose and Its Effect on Humans

As we all know, antibiotics can be used to cure infections and kill bacteria, but the also often come with the many side effects that the infomercials so quickly warn us of. However, we often overlook aspects of antibiotics and rely on them to heal us in a variety of ways.

This then causes too much reliance on antibiotics, and in fact, humans are becoming immune to these medicines and too much use takes from their ability to have positive results.

This displays the alignment of veal that has been modified and undergone treatment to fight possiblebacteria.

This displays the alignment of veal that has been modified and undergone treatment to fight possible bacteria.

Animals have been receiving harsh treatment and experience weight gain as a result of being given antibiotics for growth promotion in order to sell more meat without disease.  However, animals experience the same resistance over time. The Environmental Working Group is concerned about this, because most of the meat sold in grocery stores is made up of a large amount of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This, too, can easily be passed on to humans by consumption, as the Food and Drug Administration states.

Due to this resistance to antibiotics and its misuse, many are concerned that the amount of antibiotics served to both humans and animals needs to be lowered, which is much easier said than done. The ultimate goal would be to continue to fight bacteria as opposed to promoting its resistance, as one would assume. However, it is interesting to know how large of an affect antibiotics have on both the human and animal reactions in their bodily systems, and how misuse can alter the bacteria as well as the reason for their need.

Article Link:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-are-the-consequences-of-antibiotic-overuse/

Additional Links:

http://www.cdc.gov/narms/animals.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/meat/safe/overview.html

http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm378100.htm

Image Link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veal#mediaviewer/File:MIN_Rungis_viandes_de_boucherie_veau.jpg

 

The Rise of NFL Brain Injuries and Possible Solutions

tackling leading to brain injuries

tackling leading to brain injuries

Brain-injury treatment program that was created for military veterans hurt on the battlefield has now been updated to include professional athletes. Eisenhower Center’s representatives announced that it will be the main facility used by the NFL Players Association to treat brain and neurological issues. This will be facilitated through the After the Impact program.

Residential neuro-rehab facility is located in Ann Arbor. The program has intense treatment for athletes recovering from concussions, mild traumatic brain injury, or PTSD. It came from Eisenhower Center’s transitional treatment program to serve military soldiers dealing with brain injuries.

The NFL expects 28% of retired players to suffer Alzheimer’s or moderate dementia; this has caused former players to sue. About a third of all retired NFL players will suffer long-term cognitive problems and the After the Impact program has helped some reach the path to recovery.

NFL provoked a judge to approve a $1 billion settlement of concussion lawsuits ignoring concerns raised by former players. The 65-year fund will resolve thousands of lawsuits on the NFL, accusing them of hiding their knowledge of concussions and brain injuries in an attempt to keep players.

I picked this topic because I watch football every weekend and have wondered about the impact of the hitting on the players. It is nice to see that there have been efforts made to fix this.

Sources: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/16/braininjury-program-worki_n_6337018.html?utm_hp_ref=brain

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/11905362/nfl-urges-judge-approve-estimated-1-billion-settlement-concussion-lawsuits

http://www.eisenhowercenter.com/neurobehavioral

 

Smallest Komodo Dragon Out There.

Most everyone knows that Komodo Dragons are the largest lizards on the planet. Surprisingly, humans have only known about these lizards for about 100 years. But thats nothing compared to the newest discovery of a very very small relative of the Komodo dragon. (original article)

These lizards, about the length of a human hand and very skinny, are about as small as the Komodo’s are big. They are even smaller than the pygmy goanna (the short-tailed monitor, V. brevicauda), which, until now, was believed to be the smallest relative of the Komodo Dragon. These new tiny dragons are shorter, thinner, and more boldly colored than the pygmy goanna. It is believed that around the same time chimpanzees and humans begun to separately evolve (between six million and seven million years ago) the pygmy and the newest lizard edition began to evolve separately. Gillenibaumann_01

These little lizards were discovered in Australia, the home of their slightly pygmy goanna larger relatives. Some females can now be seen in the Western Australian Museum in Welshpool. These lizards have yet to be named, but have been nicknamed “Pokey”.

It’s the little discoveries like these that make us realize how much more we still have to learn and discover about our planet. The planet is so vast that in our relatively short period of time here, there is no way we have a full understanding of the creatures we share the earth with!

Forests and their Carbon Dioxide Intake

According to a study conducted by NASA, different types of forests have different intakes of carbon dioxide. The study concludes that of the 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide absorbed annually, tropical forests absorb around 1.4 billion metric tons of that amount. This is a greater amount absorbed than the boreal forests of the northern hemisphere. NASA scientist David Schimel characterized these findings as “good news” because the boreal forest absorption rate of carbon dioxide has been declining. However, scientists believe that tropical forests can continue to intake large amounts of carbon dioxide for many more years. Therefore, the fact that tropical forests play a large role in the absorption of carbon dioxide provides hope that nature will continue to limit the net carbon dioxide emissions that humans pour into the atmosphere.

Scientists have concluded that if the rate of absorption of carbon dioxide by forests slows down, then global warming could occur much faster. Previous studies had suggested that boreal forests might absorb more carbon dioxide than their tropical counterparts; however, this study finds that carbon dioxide absorption occurs more frequently at higher temperatures, indicating that tropical forests have the highest intake. The increased human emission of carbon dioxide gives the forests more fuel to grow, a process called carbon fertilization. Conversely, the climate change brought about by increased carbon dioxide emissions has caused water shortages in some areas as well as an increase in temperature, both factors facilitating the spread of wildfires. The burning of wood caused by these fires further increases the carbon dioxide emissions.

Despite the continual problems caused by increased carbon dioxide emissions, this study still provides hope for the near future. Not only can tropical forests continue to absorb high levels of carbon dioxide for many more years, but also this study might serve as a stepping stone for more complex research of emissions on a global scale that could facilitate the discovery a solution to the problem of global warming.

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Mystery Virus Identified

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment stated that the mysterious virus that killed the farmer in Kansas last summer has been identified as Bourbon virus, named after the county were the patient lived. Doctor Dana Hawkinson, infectious disease specialist, treated the patient for 10 days at the University of Kansas Hospital.  Bourbon virus, a microbe, was identified by the scientist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after several months of testing.  Doctor J Erin Staples, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC laboratory in For Collins, CO, stated the virus was a type of thogovirus, part of the larger family called orthomyxovirures.  Hawkinson believe that the virus has been around in milder forms for some time now and people have recovered from it.  The patient entered the hospital with symptoms which included high fever, muscle aches, and loss of appetite.  Upon further testing the patients blood showed elevated liver enzymes and low levels of white blood cells and platelets which indicated tick-borne illnesses.  Hawkinson tested the patient for Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Heartland virus, both came back negative.  Heartland virus is also another recently discovered/named by the CDC tick-borne illness.  There is no treatment for the disease  and the best defense is to wear long garments when working outdoors and wearing bug spray containing DEET.  The risk to the public is low especially because mosquitos and ticks are not active in cold weather.

For more information:

Article from NYTimes

Bourbon virus kills farmer

Virus that killed farmer is identified 

Kansas farmer dead

Could There be Good Gene Mutations?

Is there an epic battle occurring within our bodies right now? The classic battle royale between good and bad? I suppose in the body’s case the fight between good and bad genes.  There is a new field in medical research in which researchers are on the quest to find good gene mutations that fight against the disease causing mutations.  One individual, Doug Whitney, sparked the interest of a few doctors because he has fought his genetic odds to be health at 65 years old.  Whitney has a gene mutation, presenilin, that causes early onset Alzheimer’s disease in those who has inherited it. Whitney’s mother and 9 out of his 13 siblings were killed by this mutation and so Whitney’s fate seemed to be sealed.  However when Whitney reached his 40s and 50s having no symptoms he assumed he did not have the gene.  At 62 years old, Whitney, decided he would get a gene test.  He did have the gene.  This was an anomaly, He was doomed to have early onset Alzheimer’s Disease but had absolutely no symptoms. Although Whitney still have changes of getting Alzhiemers but the effects of his bad gene have been greatly delayed by another gene in Whitney’s DNA.  Whitney joined a study at Washington University in St. Louis led by Doctor Randall Bateman which recruited people with the early onset Alzheimer’s disease gene. This attracted the attention of Doctor Eric E. Schadt and Doctor Stephen H. Friend.  Doctor Schadt said that searching for good genes that protect against bad gene mutations is completely turning genetic research on its head.  Researchers have found gene mutations that partially protect diseases like osteoporosis, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.  These good gene mutation’s partial protect have help to develop drugs to help fight certain diseases. Finding good gene mutations are substantially more difficult to find than bad genes, but the search has gotten a little easier with fast and inexpensive methods of sequencing DNA. Doctor Schadt and Doctor Friend decided to start the Resilience Project and search for good gene mutations that counteract bad gene mutations to help develop new break though treatments and drugs. They have contacted the researchers at Washington University, the research that Whitney is currently participating in.

For more information:

Article from NYT

Prokaryotic positive genetic influences

Genetics used for intrusion protection

About genetic testing

 

Biologists grow real human muscle

Scientists at Duke University recently announced that they have successfully bioengineered a human muscle that expands and contracts just like the real thing. Scientists see vast opportunities for this new advancement. It could become a powerful tool for studying diseases like muscular dystrophy. Not only could it help understand these diseases, but the engineered muscle could help scientists develop drugs to treat these diseases without the need to test on human beings. Dr. Grace Pavlath, senior vice-president and scientific program director for the Muscular Dystrophy Association,  says that the discovery will most benefit from testing cures to diseases without the risk of human life.

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To create the muscle, the scientists extracted special muscle “precursor” cells from human bodies and then multiplied then up to 1,000 times. Then they mixed the cells with a special gel and placed it in a 3d mold, which stimulated the growth of this muscle. When they stimulated the muscle with electric shocks and a number of different drugs, the scientists were delighted to find that the muscle reacted just like human tissue would, contracting and expanding as the impulses hit the muscle. This breakthrough holds large implications for improving research and testing of cures to many muscular diseases.

 

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/15/lab-grown-muscle-first-contracting_n_6471398.html?utm_hp_ref=science

Lightning Expected to Increase by 50 Percent with Global Warming

Thunderstorm_over_Corfu

University of California Berkley scientist David Romps and his colleagues analyzed 11 different climate studies and concluded that changing climate will include increased lightning strikes. The studies, focusing on cloud buoyancy and precipitation, showed an increased amount of water vapor due to warming air. Water vapor is the fuel for for thunderstorms and explosive deep convection in the atmosphere, and with increased amounts in the atmosphere the frequency and ferocity of these storms will increase. Precipitation-the total amount of water hitting the ground in the form of rain, snow, hail, sleet, etc.- is essentially a measure of how conductive the atmosphere is.  Buoyancy is measured in the form of CAPE, convective available potential energy. This measures how potentially explosive the atmosphere is. Romps found that by analyzing these two factors he could accurately predict strength, frequency, and size of storms.

Article Link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141113142112.htm

Useful Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderstorm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convective_available_potential_energy

Image Link:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thunderstorm_over_Corfu.jpg

Bacteria become ‘genomic tape recorders’, recording chemical exposures in their DNA

EscherichiaColi_NIAID

MIT Engineers have developed a way to create genomic tape recorders out of the Bacteria E. Coli. Timothy Lu, an engineering professor at the university describes the method by which they altered the bacterial DNA in order to allow it to store information. The researchers engineered the cells to produce a recombinase enzyme which can insert a certain sequence of Nucleotides into the genome. However, the trait is useful because the enzyme is activated by specific stimuli. In order to retrieve the information the researchers can either sequence the genome and look for the specific code or look for the trait expressed by the targeted gene by using antibiotics. This process will be useful in the future because of its ability to store long term biological memory. Also, this process transcends previous limitations of genome storage as it is now able to indiscriminately store data as opposed to previous methods that were only able to identify a specific stimulus.

Article Link:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141113142006.htm

Useful Links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escherichia_coli

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whole_genome_sequencing

Image Link:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EscherichiaColi_NIAID.jpg

You Are What You Eat

Mouse

Whenever a person consumes healthier meals and therefore less calories, according to a new study on mice at the NYU Langone Medical Center, they could be lengthening their lives.

Using female mice, scientists fed one group of mice a diet of pellets containing a high amount of calories, while feeding another group of mice a diet of pellets containing 30% less calories. The hippocampus and the region surrounding it in the brains of the mice were then examined for expression of aging-genes throughout various stages of maturity. The results of the study, while not entirely applicable to humans, has shown that the mice that ate the lower calorie diets had less expression of aging genes and had less risk of chronic illnesses such as hypertension and stroke.

“The study does not mean calorie restriction is the ‘fountain of youth,’ but that it does add evidence for the role of diet in delaying the effects of aging and age-related disease.” Stated Stephen D. Ginsberg, a researcher involved with the study. The study examined more than 10,000 genes related to aging, which is a much larger amount than that previously studied by researchers. While the study was performed on mice, the results could be similar in humans, and the researched performed by Dr. Ginsberg and others should serve as a warning for our ever-indulgent world of fast food and high caloric intake.

Article:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141117110650.htm