BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: cottoneaster

The Grey Area of Human Gene Editing

The process of Human Gene Editing developed with the goal to prevent future generations from suffering from genetic diseases present in past generations, like our own. Human gene editing, provided it is done only to the correct disease, alters the DNA in embryos, eggs, and sperm to the when reproduction occurs, the gene for the disease or disability is not inherited. However, two weeks ago the National Academies of Sciences and Medicine issued a report stating that human gene editing is being used to enhance people’s health or abilities. This is considered unethical according to organizers of a Global Summit on human gene editing.

Human gene editing has been given a “yellow light” because the process is not yet approved to be done on people. There are high hopes that diseases caused by only 1 genetic mutation such cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s disease will be eliminated due to this process. Unfortunately diseases that are caused by more than one genetic mutation, such as autism or schizophrenia, are not curable by this process.

National Cancer Institute

Gene Editing on humans is such a controversial topic right now: is it ethical to change genes? should the practice be used to change physical appearances? Ultimately, if Human Gene Editing is approves, who decides when it becomes too much, or unethical. This grey area is presented to be somewhere between when it is appropriate to help aid the life of a human, ridding them of a disease, and when enhancements are made.

 

Eat Healthy! Your Food Can Cause Depression!

Think of it this way, the bacteria from your food intake remains in your gut for some time. This micro-gut biome is what produces an array of neurochemicals that the brain registers. At this point, the brain regulates some cognitive process with those neurochemicals. The processes include, memory, mood, and learning. Actually, a majority of the supply of serotonin in your body is produced and released by the bacteria in your body. Serotonin is a neurochemical that regulates mood. Thus, a deficiency in serotonin levels can cause depression.  Because of this, the gut is starting to be examined more closely to hopefully help find an easier, less invasive form for depression medication.  

Sander van der Wel, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Genericlicense.

Current depression medication has harsh side effects on the body. As Professor Julio Licinio of Flinders University states, “Antidepressant drugs not only have side-effects which cause other health problems, but they also might not be the best solution for the mental health conditions they’re prescribed to treat,” it becomes evident that there is a void in the medical field. Professor Licinio and his team has high hopes that their gut biome research will serve as a way to fill that void and help millions of with their depression. Because there are 350 million people in the world that suffer from major depressive disorder, MDD, they believe that a simple test can improve the stand of living for the masses.  

Julio Licinio, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Professor Licinio is also the head of the Mind and Brain Theme at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, also known as SAHMRI. In conjunction with Ma-Li Wong–Head of Pharmacogenomics Research Program within the SAHMRI’s Mind and Brain Theme–, Geraint Rogers–Director of Microbiome Research within SAHMRI’s Infection and Immunity Theme–, and Steve Wesselingh–SAHMRI’s Executive Director, and the Infection and Immunity Theme Leader–, Julio Licinio are facing tribulations to inform the international community of the correlations between Obesity and Depression because, as Professor Wong states it, “we are in the midst of an obesity and depression epidemic.”

Are Rats Ticklish?

Up until now, ticklishness has been a mysterious physical sensation.  Michael Brecht, professor at the Humboldt University of Berlin and Animal Physiologist, headed a research project along with Shimpei Ishiyama to help understand the sensation of tickling. Many questions have been asked about this mysterious physical sensation for many years without sparking answers. Even Aristotle and Charles Darwin were curious about tickling. Why are certain body part more ticklish than other? Why does the body react with smiles and laughter? Why can you not tickle yourself? Can other animals be ticklish as well?

Tickle Tickle

This image was originally posted to Flickr by Yogi at http://flickr.com/photos/34427468531@N01/113215143

Turns out, rats are ticklish too! (Click HERE for video!) In the Study, Brecht and Ishiyama, tickled the rats.  The subjects responded really well to the researchers tickling them, emitting “laughter-calls” and playfully chasing the the researcher’s hand.  The calls are ultrasonic and can not be heard by the naked human ear.  According to their laughter calls and the “unsolicited joy jumps” after being tickled, the rats are most ticklish on their bellies and on the bottom of their feet.  Brecht observes, “It’s remarkable the similarities between rats and humans – the fact they vocalise and clearly enjoy tickling so much.”  

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British Pest Control Association

To further the research, Brecht and Ishiyama studied the brain to see what area of the brain reacts to tickling.  Cells are activated in the somatosensory cortex of the brain causing the rats to giggle.  The somatosensory cortex is part of the brain that registers touch and Brecht remarks that “we managed to pinpoint the ticklish spot in the brain.” During this study, they were able to discover that rats ticklishness is dependent on their mood.  Rats response to being tickled was far less measurable when the rats were stressed  This finding could lead to very important future research on the brain because there has been little research about how moods affects the brain.  

brain

Jkwchui

New Dinosaurs Identified from the Jurassic Period

  Just a few days ago, a new species of British Ichthyosaur was identified from a complete set of skeletal remains.  After years of of being on display at the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences in Bristol, England, the fossil remains were finally studied in an advanced research project. The six year long research project was led by the University of Manchester and geared to identify the large British Ichthyosaurs skeletal structure as a new species because of sudden differences in the bone structure. The group was able to solidify the differences and announced this specimen as a new species.   The group examined the differences in the endoskeleton skull and the fins in the species.  

ichthyosaurus_sp_2Another species of Ichthosaurus Photographer: User:Ballista from Dinosaurland, Lyme Regis, England

  Honorary Scientist, Dean Lomax, and Professor Judy Massare, from a college in New York led this study.  Lomax said: “It’s quite amazing – hundreds of people must walk past this skeleton every day, yet its secrets have only just been uncovered.”  The two scientists named the new species Ichthyosaurs Larkini after a paleontologist Nigel Larkin.  Incidentally, Larkin literally translates to ‘fierce’, a word used to describe the habits of the dinosaur.  

unknownTemnodontosaurus burgundiae attack Stenopterygius hauffianus. Lias of Germany

The reptile lived nearly 195 million years ago in the early Jurassic Period and was an ocean dwelling specimen. Research shows that Britain was a small chain of islands at that point in time.  Today it would most resemble dolphins and sharks.  The species could grow up to 15 meters long and were fierce predators and could move very quickly.

ichthyosaur_vs_dolphin-svgExamples of distinct features shared both by dolphins and derived ichthyopterygians 

The specimen fossil was given the University of Bristol in the 1930’s by the City Museum.  It is the complete skeletal remains of a large Ichthyosaurs Larkini, referenced as ‘Specimen 25300’ before its identification.  The fossil of this species is now on display in the Wills Memorial Building, which is part of the University of Bristol School of Earth Sciences Collection.

 

 

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