Why Climate Change shouldn’t Always be the Scapegoat

Seychelles,

A certain purplish-blue banded snail was rediscovered after initially deemed extinct by the general scientific community, stirring up the minds of the many who continue to debate the effects of climate change and what living things directly suffer its consequences. Firstly declared extinct by a highly regarded Seychelles mollusk expert, Dr. Justin Gerlach, the snail’s reclassification has caused backlash in the scientific community. With such a confident course of action in not only the declaration of extinction, but also the citing climate change as the primary reason, it is understandable and necessary that scientists should view this case with scrutiny and care. Gerlach attributed an insufficient amount of rainfall to the snail’s extinction, which he suggested was in direct association with climate change. Not alone, other scientists also backed his claims, agreeing that climate change caused immediate ramifications for this banded snail.

However, with the rediscovery of this snail, it is now essential not to overestimate the weight of climate change when discussing extinction and habitat loss, although we know climate change is a very real and growing concern. According to the UN’s panel on climate change there are more than a few other factors that can impact a species that can also sit in the shadow of climate change in inappropriate manners. It is irresponsible to use climate change as a scapegoat in certain situations, as it can prove to be detrimental in the future when in hindsight it may not have been the primary causation of a species decline. The UN panel provides us with data that reinforces the notion that mollusks suffer from extinction based on factors like pollution or invasive species. As Bjorm Lomberg suggests “climate change is a real problem, but the way it is increasingly blocking sensible thinking is depressing.”

As for the future, the rediscovery of this species can hopefully serve as an example of the disillusionment that can arise from a hyped phenomenon. Yes, climate change is one great problem, but it is one of many, and we must hold ourselves accountable to where our conclusions derive from. The only current certainty is that we have to do a better job at limiting these debilitating  factors.

Further Reading/Sources:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/seychelles-snail-believed-extinct-due-to-climate-change-found-alive-and-well-1.1996871

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

http://www.forbes.com/sites/paulrodgers/2014/09/20/extinct-snail-rediscovered/

http://news.mongabay.com/2007/0813-snail.html

http://islandbiodiversity.com/jg.htm

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

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

Invasive Rabbitfish

A team of researchers, lead by Dr. Adriana Vergés and Dr. Fiona Tomas, has recently discovered a species of tropical fish that “poses a major threat to the entire Mediterranean basin.” The species, called a rabbitfish has greatly harmed the algal forests in the Mediterranean Sea, primarily the eastern portion. The rabbitfish arrived in the waters of the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal. The rabbitfish are not indigenous to the Mediterranean waters, which makes them so dangerous to the ecosystem. This phenomenon has also been observed in lionfish, snakehead fish, and other organisms that are not indigenous to the location that they are harming. The rabbitfish have been eating seaweed and other ocean plants, which provide shelter and food for other species.

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The scientists conducted their study by examining 1000 kilometers of coastline in the eastern Mediterranean specifically Turkey and Greece. Both places two separate species of rabbitfish have come to inhabit. The two areas focused upon were warm and cold regions. In the warmer regions the rabbitfish were present while in the colder regions they were not. The warmer regions filled with rabbitfish had a much lower abundance of seaweeds, and were mostly barren rocky bottoms. On the other hand the colder climates had a thriving ecosystem. There was a 60% reduction in algae and invertebrates and 40% reduction in overall species present in the warm rabbitfish filled environment. After filming rabbitfish as well as indigenous species scientists realized that rabbitfish didn’t actually eat more algae than other fish. However, the distinction was that rabbitfish ate both young and adult algae while indigenous species only ate adults. Eating the young and growing algae before it has a chance for reproduction quickly reduces the overall population.

This topic interested me not only because of my love for marine biology, but also because marine sustainability is extremely important to humans. Without oceans there would be no human life on Earth. The abundance of water is what separates a lush green planet like Earth from the rest of the planets in our solar system. In addition the marine ecosystems are very important, and there have become more and more invasive species due to changes in the environment. Fish such as the rabbitfish threaten whole ecosystems as well as hundreds or even thousands of species that rely on those ecosystems.

Should humans attempt to stop this infestation of rabbitfish? If so, what should be done?

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140918101635.htm

http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/tropical-rabbitfish-denuding-the-mediterranean-sea/article/404034

http://www.liveaquaria.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=15+1926+1449&pcatid=1449

 

 

Study Shows Link Between Enzyme and Spread of Breast Cancer

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 ”40,000 women in America will die of breast cancer in 2014.” This is a truly terrifying projection. Breast Cancer is an extremely deadly, and extremely prevalent cancer that affects the lives of millions each year. In my personal experience, I have many friends and family members that have battled against this cancer. So many are affected, and there is still no concrete cure. There is no cure, however, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified an enzyme that is closely related to the metastasis of breast cancer cells. This is great news, for it suggests the possibility of further research using this finding to end breast cancer for good. Xuefeng Wu, a lead scientist involved with this research, has stated that the team has been able to “target breast cancer metastasis through a pathway regulated by an enzyme“. This enzyme is called UBC13 and it regulates the activity of a protein called p38.

This p38 protein, when not in use, prevents metastasis. By identifying the enzyme that prevents the use of p38, researchers have come one step closer to preventing the spread of breast cancer in the body, and therefore defeating it. With the use of a lentivirus injected into the mammary tissues of mice, the scientists were able to suppress the functions of both UBC13 and protein p38. The mice grew primary tumors, as was expected, however the primary tumors did not metastasize and spread breast cancer cells throughout the bodies, which means the cancer was stopped from spreading throughout the body. This prohibition of the cancer cells to spread is a major breakthrough in breast cancer research and will without a doubt contribute greatly to the ending of breast cancer.

Bioengineered Proteins Are Amphibious Adhesives

A group of researchers from MIT recently published their groundbreaking findings on specially engineered proteins that are able to stick to substances both in and out of water. Using naturally occurring adhesives secreted by mussels as a model for their research, the team combined those proteins with biofilms from certain bacteria to create an especially strong and sticky hybrid.

These new adhesives are much more complex than previously engineered proteins. While other scientists used the E. coli bacteria as a template to engineer proteins that resembled the mussel’s protein, leading researcher Timothy Lu described those methods as unable to “capture the complexity of the natural adhesives”. Therefore, the MIT research team uses several types of bacteria to separately manufacture components of different mussel proteins and then combines them with bacterial curli fibers into one complex adhesive.

There are numerous applications of this discovery. Once the team is able to concoct a method of generating the protein in great quantities, it can be used to repair holes in ships as well as to seal wounds after an accident or surgery. One of the team’s subsequent goals is to create “living glues” composed of bacteria that would react to a breach of a material and repair it through secretion of a protein adhesive. The potential of this discovery is demonstrated by the acclaim of the group’s sponsors, which include The Office of Naval Research, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health.

 

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Effect of ocean acidification: Coral growth rate on Great Barrier Reef plummets in 30-year comparison

GreatBarrierReef-EO

A new marine biological study conducted in Australia shows a correlation between rising ocean acidification levels and declining coral growth rates in the Great Barrier Reef. Scientists Ken Caldeira and Jacob Silverman carried out research testing growth rates from samples of current coral on the reef and records from the 1970′s. The findings were astounding. According to the comparison, coral growth rates have declined by almost 40% since the 1970′s and the scientists believe they have an explanation.

Coral produce their exoskeleton by utilizing aragonite, a naturally occurring calcium carbonate (CaCO3). This process is called calcification. However, when acid levels in the water become too high, the environment for producing healthy coral becomes compromised. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution about one third of all CO2 released into the atmosphere has made its way into the oceans. This lowers the Ph, causing the water to become more acidic, and creates an environment ill suited for coral growth. The scientists speculate that this acidification of the water is whats leading to decreased growth rates in not only coral, but also many other species of marine life.

Coral plays a vital role in underwater ecosystems, providing food sources and shelter for nearly 25 percent of all marine life. Some reefs admired and studied by scientists today began growing nearly 50 million years ago. There is no question that coral’s role is vital in the fabric of the ocean. However, recent studies similar to the research done by Caldeira and Silverman are prompting scientists to worry deeply about the future of our oceans. When quoted on the status of reefs today, Caldeira stated, “Coral reefs are getting hammered. Ocean acidification, global warming, coastal pollution, and overfishing are all damaging coral reefs. Coral reefs have been around for millions of years, but are likely to become a thing of the past unless we start running our economy as if the sea and sky matters to us very soon.”

Photo credit: Wikipedia Public Domain Images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Barrier_Reef#mediaviewer/File:GreatBarrierReef-EO.JPG

Article:http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140917121225.htm

Links for further reading:

http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Ocean+Acidification

http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-ocean-acidification/

http://www.greatbarrierreef.org/

 

 

 

Directed evolution: Bioengineered decoy protein may stop cancer from spreading

Biomedical_Engineering_Laboratory

Researchers Jennifer Cochran and Amato Giaccia from Stanford University have recently made a breakthrough in cancer research. The Bioengineers have developed a synthetic form of the protein Axls that binds to the protein Gas6 in our blood. Cancerous cells have Axls proteins lining the cell membrane awaiting connections with Gas6 proteins. Once the two join together, the cancerous cells break away from the central cancer mass and spread through the body during a process known as Metastasis. However, the new synthetic Axls protein binds to Gas6 in the blood and inhibits Metastasis from ever beginning. This stops the original Axls cells on the cancer from receiving the chemical signals to break away and form new cancerous nodules.

The scientists conducted preliminary testing on lab mice with aggressive forms of ovarian and breast cancer. The Bioengineers found that, “Mice in the breast cancer treatment group had 78 percent fewer metastatic nodules than untreated mice. Mice with ovarian cancer had a 90 percent reduction in metastatic nodules when treated with the engineered decoy protein.” Scientists currently treat cancers with chemotherapy and radiation, however these early studies show that the synthetic protein Axls could prove to be a safe and effective alternative.

I believe that this type of Bioengineering, specifically directed evolution, holds the key to discovering cures for many of earth’s deadly diseases. Despite the recent breakthrough researchers have made at Stanford, it will still be years before synthetic Axls is approved for clinical studies and then for use in the medical field.

Original Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140921145112.htm

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/

Photo Credit:

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

Useful Links:

http://engineering.stanford.edu/news/stanford-researchers-create-evolved-protein-may-stop-cancer-spreading

http://bioengineering.stanford.edu/

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1389034405000055

Artificial Sweeteners: Safe or Sweet Misery?

Picture of Splenda

Picture of Splenda

Have you ever drunk a zero-calorie soda or eaten a sugar free dessert as a “healthier” choice or perhaps to even “cut calories”? If you’re like me, you have probably begrudgingly done this numerous times, maybe even at the request of your mom, despite your desire for that sweet snack. Well, new research has been conducted that suggests that the artificial sweeteners used to substitute sugar actually increase blood sugar levels-the exact condition they aim to avoid.

A study conducted by biologists, Segal and Elinav, of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, showed that after 11 weeks of drinking water with the sweetener Saccharin, commonly found in Sweet’N Low, mice had higher glucose levels in their bloodstream, a symptom of diabetes. Additionally, the scientists conducted another experiment with seven volunteers who were given the maximum approved daily dose of saccharin for a week. This time Segal and Elinav found that four out of the seven subjects developed an unbalanced glucose metabolism similar to that of the mice. From this experiment, the scientists hypothesized that artificial sweeteners negatively affect our bodies and may promote disease.

Although these results are preliminary and are largely reflective of mice’s digestive systems rather than humans, the study raises a valuable caution for consumers to reassess their actions. As the science community continues to explore this study, are you going to continue consuming foods with artificial sweeteners.

For more information about the dangers of artificial sweeteners, please check out: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/artificial-sweeteners-may-disrupt-bodys-blood-sugar-controls/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

A Baby’s Immune System Might Be Stronger Than We Think

Lymphocyte_activation_simple

Mothers are often extremely protective of their newborn. Most moms are fearful that everything could potentially make their baby sick. Unfortunately though, there is no absolutely sure way to keep a child from getting sick. The immune system plays a huge role in keeping humans well. Two important parts of the immune system are antibodies and memory cells. Antibodies help kill harmful germs while memory cells help the immune system respond quickly to an infection and prevent disease. In fact, recent studies prove that the Immune system of newborn babies are stronger than people previously believed.

Scientists involved in a study led by King’s College London, are reporting that newborn immune T cells can trigger an inflammatory response to bacteria. Originally, it was believed that babies immune systems were immature and therefore couldn’t trigger the same inflammatory response adults normally demonstrate. The team discovered that whilst T cells in newborn babies manufacture a potent anti-bacterial molecule known as IL8. It activates neutrophils to attack the body’s foreign invaders.

In addition, Dr. Deena Gibbons, Lead author in the Department of Immunobiology at King’s College London believes that this “mechanism by which the baby protects itself in the womb from infections of the mother.” Next, she plans to better understand the reasons that there are many differences between the immune cells in newborns and those in adults.

The T Cell activity demonstrated by newborns could be used for future treatments to boost the immune system or neonates in intensive care (place with major risk of infection).

This article is very interesting and important because it is vital to keep newborn babies as healthy and safe as we possibly can. Sometimes it can be as simple as following common measures such as hand washing, avoiding people who are most likely to be sick, snotty noses or hacking coughs. A mother should try to do anything she can to limit the demands placed and a baby’s immune system in the early months to keep her baby healthy.

I chose this article because I know what it is like to be a patient in a Hospital and the precautions that doctors take to prevent further sickness when the immune system is not fully developed or strong.

Image links: 

Häggström, Mikael. “Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014“. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008ISSN 20018762. - Image:Lymphocyte_activation.png

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

Article: King’s College London. “Immune system of newborn babies stronger than previously thought.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 September 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140921145104.htm>.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140921145104.htm

Other Sources:

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

http://www.wellness.com/reference/allergies/newborn-immune-system

http://www.nobelprize.org/educational/medicine/immunity/immune-detail.html

Mussel proteins may be the key to a groundbreaking adhesive

 

Mussels

Scientists at MIT have created their own adhesive that could revolutionize multiple aspects of life. This adhesive would be used for patching up multiple things ranging from ships to human wounds. The adhesive is made from the proteins found in mussels and the proteins in biofilms. The way mussels stick to ships is because the proteins act as a natural adhesive/glue like material. Biofilm is a group of organisms that stick to each other and other surfaces.

Separate, these both have strong attaching abilities, but when combined, the MIT scientists created the “strongest biologically inspired, protein-based underwater adhesives reported to date”. The new adhesive was created by using the foot proteins in the mussels. More specifically, they used the curli fibers which attach and form larger and stronger fibers, called fibrous meshes. The fibrous meshes can be used both in dry and aqueous solutions making it very versatile.

Timothy Lu, the associate professor of biological engineering and electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, is in charge of the research. Although the adhesive is produced in small amounts, Lu has high hopes as he has plans to make a “living glue” that can tell when there is an opening and secrete the adhesive by itself. This could be very useful if the adhesive is used for human treatment because the adhesive would know exactly when to activate and deactivate itself.

Do you think that this adhesive can make an impact on society?

 

Additional article: http://sciencenordic.com/synthetic-mussel-adhesive-sticks-anything

Dying Brain cells signal new brain cells to grow in songbird

BIRD

 

Original article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140923182051.htm

In a recent paper written by leading author Tracy Larson and co-authors Nivretta Thatra and Brian Lee, they discovered a brain pathway that replaces brain cells lost naturally. This study could further the progress of using replacement cells for the neurons lost during aging, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other natural causes.

These scientists used songbirds, specifically Gambel’s white-crowned sparrows, as a model and observed that the area of their brain that controls song increases during breeding season, and decreases during other times in the year. After breeding season the cells in the area of the bird’s brain that controls songs undergoes programmed cell death. What is noteworthy about these dying cells is that they are also releasing a signal that reaches certain stem cells in the brain that will eventually redevelop the singing part of the brain by the time the next breeding season arrives. This process of developing new neurons from stem cells called neurogenesis normally occurs in the form of “regenerative” neurogenesis post brain trauma in mammals; however, it also occurs in the hippocampus in small amounts.

These songbirds could provide insight on how the human brain can perform natural neurogenesis and help replace neurons lost because of aging and neurodegenerative diseases. These finding may pave the way to alternative treatment for repairing human brains using neurogenesis and replacement cells.

The Smell of Grass: A Cry for Help

http://www.flickr.com/photos/galant/2342220188/

grass

 We all love the smell of freshly cut grass.  However did you know that the delightful aroma given off by newly mowed grass is actually the plant’s cry of distress?  And that being so, does that make us all sadistic?  We may never know.  However, what we do know is that new studies have found that the smell given off by plants not only serves as a signal of harm but also as a summons for helpful insects.  The plants in distress release airborne chemical compounds that call nearby creatures to the rescue.

Dr. Michael Kolomiets,  a plant pathologist in the ARGlife research division of Texas A&M, has been studying these lipid-derived molecular signals that affect not only plants, but also humans and animals, and was recently granted $490,00 to continue his research.  We know a lot about how humans deal with these molecular signals, we get headaches and pains and then take aspirin to repress the symptoms; but we know little to nothing about how these same signals affect plants.  Kolomiets believes that a better understanding of this particular branch of plant biology could aid in many things such as insect resistance and drought tolerance.

Plants respond to all types of danger in the same way, weather the threat be a predator or a lawn mower.  They produce defense proteins that will make the plant either less appetizing to the predator or more appetizing to helpful insects and animals.  Kolomiets studied a mutant corn plant that could not produce one of the most important molecular signals called green leaf volatile.  Green leaf volatile is the combination of chemicals that get released when plants suffer tissue damage  Kolomiets found that not only did the signal make the plant less appealing to the insects that were eating it, but also attracted parasitic wasps that would attack the insect.  These findings may help farmers make plants that are more capable of protecting themselves from insects.

I think its really interesting that something as seemingly insignificant as the smell of grass could be the product of such a complicated biological process.  I also think that it is important to understand how we are affecting other organisms and how they are responding to human actions.  We take a lot of things nature does for granted and I think that this article gives us insight into the complicated biological reactions that go into all forms of life.

Article Link:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140922145805.htm

Related Links:

http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Michael_Kolomiets/publications

http://agrilifeextension.tamu.edu/

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

http://io9.com/5623112/the-smell-of-freshly-cut-grass-is-actually-a-plant-distress-call

Violent Chimpanzees

Chimpanzee

Scientists had wondered whether chimpanzees were naturally violent to one another or if human influence made the animals more aggressive. A recent study disproved the theory that chimpanzee violence was caused by human impact. Researchers analyzed chimpanzees and bonobos (pygmy chimpanzee) in Africa and noticed that the mammals killed other members of their species to provide themselves with more resources and territory, ultimately becoming a more dominant primate.

The argument was supported by Dr. Michael L. Wilson, an anthropologist at the University of Minnesota and the study organizer for the research. Wilson led the 54-year study with 29 other authors and collected data on 18 chimpanzee groups in Africa. According to the researchers, there were 152 chimpanzee killings, the scientists observed 58, they inferred 41, and suspected 53 killings in 15 communities. Wilson contributed data from the Ngogo group of chimpanzees in Uganda and found that they were “the most violent group of chimpanzees there is,” even though their habitat is little disturbed by humans. The chimps just “go around and kill their neighbors.”

Other anthropologists from different universities wanted more data on the subject. Robert Sussman at Washington University continues to support the idea that humans pressure chimpanzees to act in violent ways because the statistics from Wilson’s paper did not tell him enough. “They haven’t established lack of human interference.” Humans are too involved in chimpanzee societies and the animals then reflect that human behavior. Brian Fergusan at Rutgers University held a similar view to Sussman and claimed that the impact humans have on the chimps “can’t be assessed by simple factors” organized by Wilson.

The new data changed this solid theory that human interference in chimpanzee society made the primates more violent. While some scientists remain dismissive on the paper, the data offers a new view on the argument.

 

 

 

 

Original Article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/18/science/lethal-violence-in-chimps-occurs-naturally-study-suggests.html

Related Articles

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140917131816.htm

http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/museums/chi-chimpanzee-aggression-not-linked-to-mans-presence-study-20140917-column.html

http://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/chimps-are-naturally-violent-study-suggests-n205651

http://www.livescience.com/47885-chimpanzee-aggression-evolution.html

Can Cats Help Fight AIDS?

Cat

Cats can in fact, unfortunately, get AIDS as well.  Their version of the HIV virus, FIV, is quite similar to the HIV virus. FIV and HIV are the same shape and have the same contents. This new discovery in cats may lead to new discoveries with anti-HIV drugs.

In an article titled “Cats lend a helping paw in search for anti-HIV drugs”, the American Technion Society explains how studying FIV can help scientists discover anti-HIV drugs. FIV and HIV use a protein, integrase, which puts the virus’ DNA into an infected cell’s DNA. Scientists and Professors can now study the Feline FIV virus and its interactions with integrase within cats to figure out important reasons how this deadly protein works. Through studying FIV and integrase, an amino acid change was found that tells us how integrase builds in its primary stages. Now those scientists know about this early assembly process, and can further learn how to terminate this process all together. About 40-45% of the proteins on the amino acid level are the same between FIV and HIV, allowing them to use this discovery on the human counterpart.

The feline virus, FIV, is a lot easier to study and researchers have already found a simpler form (than its HIV counterpart). By studying their 3-D model, they found that integrase’s simple and complex backbones are almost identical. These near identical backbones allow a much easier research path in FIV that will assist similarly with HIV integrase research.

HIV_attachment

 

Image of HIV Virus working

 

FIV and HIV are almost the same in how they work, but the more simple research on the feline version of the virus and integrase will greatly help the fight against AIDS. Who would’ve thought that cats could help fight such a deadly virus?!

 

More Information:

https://www.scripps.edu/newsandviews/e_20030414/elder.html

 

Pics:

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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CCR5_receptor_antagonist#mediaviewer/File:HIV_attachment.gif

The Ebola Epidemic: When Will it End?

Ebola Virus

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa has captivated international audiences the last few weeks.  Ebola Virus Disease is an often fatal disease which is systemic meaning it attacks all organs and tissue in the body. It can be spread through any human to human contact, making this disease highly contagious. The countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have been heavily affected by this disease. On tuesday September 23th the Center for Disease Control (CDC) based in Atlanta Georgia released new projections on the Ebola epidemic in Africa based on computer modeling.  The CDC released a best-case scenario being that if proper measures are taken the disease could be eradicated by January 2nd and a worse-case scenario that if disease is left unmonitored and continues as is, there will be approximately 1.4 million cases by January 2nd.   Doctor Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the Ebola epidemic, has stated that since the data was received in August conditions have improved slightly due to increased aid to the affected regions. Another report was released by the World Health Organization (WHO) which stated more conservative figures but also acknowledged that there could possibly be more due to unreported cases. The WHO report brings about the idea that the epidemic may not end and the Ebola virus will perpetuate in West Africa. It is obvious to health officials, such as Dr. Jack Chow, that even in a medium case scenario the amount of hospital beds and aid are rapidly being surpassed by the number of cases. The CDC does acknowledge this impending lack of bed and isolation unit crisis. One solution to this problem is to educate citizens on home care and send home care packages to support this movement.  Although some are dubious, Frieden states that home care had been effective in the smallpox crisis in the 1960s in Africa.  In addition to homecare, Doctor D. A. Henderson explains that funds and food play a huge roll in the containment and elimination of disease because when you give victims money and food there is no need for them to beg or go out to the market for food where they might encounter other human contact. How should this epidemic be handled? Is homecare an effective solution? Where should money be allocated, homecare or hospital expansion?

 

Link to Article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/health/ebola-cases-could-reach-14-million-in-4-months-cdc-estimates.html?ref=health&_r=1

 

To Know or Not to Know: Cancer Risk Gene Testing

Breast Cancer Cells

Genetic mutation testing has been a hotly debated and controversial topic since its initial prevalence in 1990.  Originally genetic testing was used to test females who have cancer in their family history for the BRCA 1 and 2 gene mutations.  Early detection of these mutations allowed for precautionary measure sure to be exercised prior to cancer even being diagnosed. The hereditary breast cancer risk testing was done mainly by Myraid Genetics but just last year the Supreme Court invalidated Myraid’s patents on the testing of the BRCA genes.  This ruling opened up many windows for the competition of Myraid in the field of genetic testing.  Many other companies and Myraid itself began not only offering BRCA testing but also more elaborate multi gene testing for the same price (apron $4000) as it would have been to test just the two BRCA genes.  This “bargain” influenced many patients to have more genes (up to 25) tested for mutations despite the fact that they may not have a family history to tendency towards certain cancers.  This multiplex testing has raised many eyebrows in the medical field because patients and doctors are getting information that sometimes they are unsure as to what they should do.  Doctor Kenneth Offit of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center stated when referring to multiple gene mutation testing, “because they could be tested,not necessarily because they should be…individuals are getting results we’re not fully educated to council them on. ” However Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is working on setting up a database for more knowledge on genetic testing.  This online forum, the Prospective Registry of Multiplex Testing (PROMPT) will allow for more research to be done and for patients to learn more.   Often genetic mutations are found and doctors are unsure how to react to the information due to lack of knowledge in that specific field of mutation leading to a specific type of cancer with out any family history.   Professor Mary-Claire King of the University of Washington voiced her opinion that, “We need to report back only what is devastating and clearly devastating.”  Meaning she felt that patients and physicians should only receive specific information as opposed to a full list of all the genetic mutations that tested position or inconclusive.  When do we know when to much information become frivolous? When it come to human health, the more we know the better the outcomes.  How will doctors be able to sift through extraneous data to find what truly are indications for higher risk of cancer?  Is this “extra” testing and information skewing the data and prognosis of many patients?

 

Main Article Used:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/23/health/finding-risks-not-answers-in-gene-tests.html?ref=health&_r=0

 

Sit less, Live longer

Many jobs involve sitting all day

Many jobs involve sitting all day

People tend to spend most of their days sitting. Despite maybe an hour or two spent at the gym, people are sedentary for a majority of their day.  Two studies were performed, one showing that sitting less can slow cells from aging. The other found that standing up, even if your not moving, can be beneficial.

Past studies show that sitting for hours makes a person more likely to develop diabetes, have heart disease, and even die prematurely.

Scientists in Sweden wanted to find out why sitting and illness were linked so they created an experiment altering the time people were sitting or exercising and tracked their physiological results. They focused on the people’s telomere changes. They then compared these telomere lengths to the length of obese, sedentary men and women telomeres. These volunteers then were instructed to exercise and sit less. After six months, the researchers found that their telomeres had lengthened; this means that the cells were getting physiologically younger.

In conclusion, the telomeres shortened much more in response to reduction of sedentary time than to exercising. This means that just be sitting less, one can avoid aging, and other illnesses. Another experiment preformed by Dr. Katzmarzyk found that standing, not even moving, dropped mortality rates. This suggests that standing is not inactive or dangerous, but rather beneficial.

I found this article very interesting to me because I am very active in sports, but I also am sitting a lot in school. I want to know whether the amount of sitting I am doing is greater than my exercise, causing me to age more in the long run. I think it is more important that we are active in school, despite the fact that most of us do after school sports.

image source:

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

article source:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/sit-less-live-longer/

other sources:

http://www4.utsouthwestern.edu/cellbio/shay-wright/intro/facts/sw_facts.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24152707

Sensing neuronal activity with light

neurons

Researches have recently developed a tool that may help in mapping the neural networks of living organisms using light. Observing these electrical signals of neurons can lead to numerous advancements in our understanding of neural circuitry.

In a collaborative study between Viviana Gradinaru, Frances Arnold and Barbara Dickinson, they developed a method to sense neuronal activity with light. These researchers used a protein named Archaerhodopsin (Arch) and exploited its light responsive qualities. They were able to optimize Arch through a process known as directed evolution. Using this method they created a variant of the Arch protein, called archer1 that acted as a voltage sensor under a red light and an inhibitor under a green light, while generating a light intensive enough to detect. When this protein acts as a voltage sensor it can show which neurons are active and synaptically connected and which aren’t under certain stimuli.

These researchers were able to test Archer1 in the worm C. elegans, which was chosen for its near transparent tissue that made it ideal for observing the luminescent protein. This was the first place they were able to observe the circuits of the neurons light up if they were expressed and dim down if they were repressed. For future studies they hope to make Archer1 bright enough to be detected through opaque tissue and accurate enough to detect voltage changed in more complex, behaving mammals. This study can prove to help us in our understanding of neural networks.

Original papers:

http://www.pnas.org/content/111/36/13034

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140915/ncomms5894/full/ncomms5894.html  (You can only read abstracts; you have to pay to read the full text)

Are Antibiotics Killing More Than Just Infections?

What are in your antibiotics?

We all take antibiotics. Staph infections, Strep throat, etc. and they get the job done. Within two or three days, sometimes a week, you’re cured and infection-free. But is that really best for us?

Microbiomes are what make us so unique and individual. In fact, we have more bacteria cells that human cells in a 10 to 1 ratio. We have different microbiomes for different parts of the body; our mouth has a different microbiome than our skin microbiome which has a different microbiome than our gut microbiome. We can influence our microbiomes by what we eat, or rather they influence us based on what we eat. As part of an evolutionary benefit, our microbiomes adapt to newly introduced food within days, which we previously thought took years to change. In other words, if you didn’t eat carrots for three years and sporadically ate carrots one day, your microbiome would activate bacteria that was previously dormant to digest the carrots within days. Think for a moment: a bacteria your body hadn’t made in three years is suddenly recolonized and active in helping you digest within a few days. It’s truly amazing! However, the rest depends on how you were born.

If you were vaginally born, your first encounter with bacteria (bacteria from the placenta is still controversial as to whether babies acquire some of their intestinal bacteria before birth) was in the birth canal, which is exactly where you get your microbiota colonies from. If you were Cesarean born, you might find that you have a higher chance of chronic conditions like asthma or Celiac’s disease simply because you received your mother’s skin microbiome instead of her vaginal microbiome. If you were not breast fed, you are more likely to contract similar conditions because breast milk contains nutrients that cannot be broken down by your digestive track. Rather, they surpass your digestive track and nourish microbiota. Formulas were unaware of this and therefore did not contain everything necessary for your microbiota health, but formulas have been making adaptions to fully mimic these qualities of breast milk.

Say you did all of the right things: you eat whole, unprocessed foods that can nourish your microbiome, you were vaginally born and you were breastfed. It’s completely possible that you have a wonderful, flourishing microbiome. However, you likely do not.  Processed foods do not contain enough prebiotic nutrients (food for microbes). Although one associates Western civilization with nutrition and health, we are actually considered “impoverished” in the world of microbiomes.

The big problem with the Western diet is that it doesn’t feed the gut, only the upper G I. All the food has been processed to be readily absorbed, leaving nothing for the lower G I. But it turns out that one of the keys to health is fermentation in the large intestine. Stephen O’Keefe

Those with no contact to the Western world and its medicine, pesticides, sterility and processed foods have a rich and diverse microbiome. Not to mention the growth hormone in cows, which changes the microbiota for a hastened growth as well as the metabolism of the liver. They even stimulate an increase in body fat. Western medicine, however, affects us in less visible manner. Our antibiotics are too strong for our own good; they destroy the pathogenic bacteria, yes, but they also destroy the health-promoting ones. Therefore, some argue that we should improve our diagnostics to prescribe fewer and narrow-spectrum antibiotics to kill the harmful bacteria while reducing the collateral damage. (Dr. Blaser) These heavy duty antibiotics not only destroy the healthy, diverse microbiota, but have a permanent effect if used for a second course; the microbiome will bounce back but it will not be able to return to its original state. In addition to this, antibiotics have been trying to eliminate H. pylori since 1983 when they found it could lead to stomach cancer or peptic ulcers, when in fact its disappearance could be contributing to acid reflux and obesity. Due to our continual efforts to eliminate H. pylori from the microbiome, it is unlikely that we will see it in upcoming microbiomes due to antibiotics, and “each generation is [already] passing on fewer of this microbes.” Prevotella, for example, is a gut bacteria extremely difficult to find in Western society but relatively common in underdeveloped countries. One woman had unusually high levels of this bacteria in her microbiome, but after one course of antibiotics for oral surgery, her wonderful microbiome was reduced to the average American bacterial standards. 

One of the more striking results from the sequencing of my microbiome was the impact of a single course of antibiotics on my gut community. My dentist had put me on a course of Amoxicillin as a precaution before oral surgery. (Without prophylactic antibiotics, of course, surgery would be considerably more dangerous.) Within a week, my impressively non-Western “alpha diversity” — a measure of the microbial diversity in my gut — had plummeted and come to look very much like the American average. My (possibly) healthy levels of prevotella had also disappeared, to be replaced by a spike in bacteroides (much more common in the West) and an alarming bloom of proteobacteria, a phylum that includes a great many weedy and pathogenic characters, including E. coli and salmonella. What had appeared to be a pretty healthy, diversified gut was now raising expressions of concern among the microbiologists who looked at my data.

Her bacterial composition will return to something that somewhat resembles her original microbiome, but every course after that will decrease potential microbial recovery and also decrease invasion resistance (keeps pathogens from gaining a toehold by occupying potential niches or otherwise rendering the environment inhospitable to foreigners e.g. H. pylori regulates stomach acid to make the environment unfavorable to other bacteria that wants to colonize; vaginal pH is kept low so the environment is too acidic for foreign bacteria to colonize, etc.) So the next time you take an antibiotic, ask yourself: what am I doing to my microbiome?

Antidepressants Change Brain Connectivity After One Dose

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Lloyd Morgan- “Despair”

The prescribing of anti-depressants is a controversial topic in that most scientists are unaware how these medications work. Previously, SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) were thought to have taken effect after a few weeks. Recent studies show, rather, that these medications take effect in a matter of hours.

SSRIs are very widely prescribed and frequently studied as antidepressants. They work by fundamentally changing brain connectivity and the way in which the brain undergoes simple processes. New studies are showing that this rewiring of the brain occurs after only one dose of this medication, producing dramatic changes.

The Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences conducted this study by conducting extensive brain scans, allowing participants to let their minds wander so that the lab technicians could accurately measure the oxygenation of the blood flow in the brain as well as the number of connections between voxels in the brain.

This lab yielded interesting results. Scientists discovered that one single dose of SSRI reduced the level of intrinsic connectivity in most parts of the brain, but increased connectivity within the cerebellum and the thalamus.

This study opens up a lot of opportunities for deeper investigation into antidepressants. It can help researchers to understand why some people do not respond well to this form of treatment, and how to better individualize treatments for depression patients. Depression is a serious and life-altering illness that effects every sector of a person’s life. With added research and understanding of treatment methods, there can be hope for the many that struggle with this mental illness everyday.

Article Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140918121436.htm

Artificial Sugars Causing Health Problems

Examples of Artificial Sugar

Examples of Artificial Sugars

When people consume artificial sugars, they are usually doing so instead of consuming regular sugar.  Scientists have studied the artificial sugar Saccharin in mice and some humans, and have recorded that intaking the sugar leads to obesity and Diabetes. Although the research is relatively recent, scientists recorded that 4 of  7 people with high Saccharine intakes have experienced impaired glucose metabolism, which is a symptom for Type II Diabetes.

Until recently, artificial sugars have been seen as viable alternatives to real sugar. Unlike natural sugar, artificial sugars such as Saccharine have no calories and are in beverages such as Diet Coke. Recently, however, scientists have begun to realize that artificial sugar may not be as harmless as expected, and may even be more damaging than natural sugars.

Scientists studied the intake of artificial sugars with mice. They noticed that over the course of 11 weeks, both skinny and fat mice had abnormally high glucose levels in their blood. Although scientists tested the mice for various types of artificial sugars, they noticed that one kind in particular affected the mice, Saccharin. They then tested mice again, while only feeding them high levels of Saccharin in their diet, and in only 5 weeks were able to see a difference in the glucose levels in the mice.

Next, the scientists studied microbes in mice’s intestines. The scientists noticed that the microbes in mice without Saccharin in their diets and mice with Saccharin in their diets varied greatly.

Although it is not known why Saccharin has such an effect on mice, scientists continued the study on to humans and found similar results. They studied 40 people with high Saccharin intakes and compared them to 236 people who do not intake Saccharin noticed that people who intake Saccharin have more of a tendency to have “impaired glucose metabolism.” Even healthy people who begin to intake Saccharine almost immediately begin to experience different glucose metabolism.

The reason why I chose this article is because the use of Artificial Sugars has always fascinated me. I have always been skeptical about drinking Diet Coke and other zero-calorie drinks because they seemed too good to be true. This article answered those questions for me. How do you feel about Artificial Sugars, such as Saccharin, after reading this?

Scientist Cathryn Nagler stated:”We have to respect the power of the microbiota. We need to step back and see what we are doing.”

Article Link: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/artificial-sweeteners-may-tip-scales-toward-metabolic-problems

Other Related Links:

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

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

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/artificial-sweeteners-may-tip-scales-toward-metabolic-problems

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