BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: evansymes

Metagenomics will stare into your soul… and beyond?

If you ever feel lonely, take solace in the fact that at any given time there are thousands of bacteria cells living in your gut, (inside your skin!).

As it turns out, there’s a whole lot of ‘not you‘, living in you.

Admittedly, they don’t make the best company as they tend to be on the quieter side.

They make up for it by being fantastic listeners.

Improving Human Intestinal Health

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pnnl/8146322408

Courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

They also serve as an essential part of our bodily systems, referred to by Valeria D’argenio in her essay The role of the gut microbiome in the healthy adult statusas “our forgotten organ”.

One great measure of how important something is is how wrong things go when the original thing isn’t doing it’s thing properly. Put eloquently by D’argenio “Quantitative and qualitative alterations in the composition of the gut microbiome could lead to pathological dysbiosis, and have been related to an increasing number of intestinal and extra-intestinal diseases”. The Human Gut micro biome is important to maintaining good health. Interestingly though (and somewhat alarmingly), the human gut micro biome has historically been fairly hard to study. as D’argenio puts it “microbial studies were based on the direct cultivation and isolation of microbes” and then later states that “it is estimated that up to 99% of microbes are currently uncultivable”. These facts make it clear that with old methods, the human gut micro biome has been extremely hard to study effectively. Which is crazy because the human gut micro biome is so important. Metagenomics are changing the game.

Recently new strategies  known as Metagenomics have been discovered that avoid the inefficient and ineffective cultivation step. Using the “Shotgun Sequencing” strategy, scientists have become able to sequence the DNA directly and have gained the ability to sequence entire microbial communities. This new method represents a significant step in understanding the human but microbiome but it is not perfect. D’argenio references limitations to current DNA sequence databases and difficulty in deciphering DNA function as obstacles that have yet to be totally overcome.

16s rRNA Sequencing is another form of metagenomics helping to illuminate the mysteries of the human gut micro biome. All bacteria contain the 16s rRNA. The 16s rRNA Sequencing gene takes advantage of this fact by identifying this gene in a large sequence and gaining a clearer view of which bacteria species are present in certain environments. This strategy is cost effective and can be performed rapidly but offers no insight as to bacterial function.

Metatranscriptomics succeeds where 16s rRNA Sequencing fails. In the words of D’argenio “Metatranscriptomics serves to analyze the entire transcriptome of an environmental site to obtain a comprehensive view of gene expression profiles and functional data”. Put simply metatranscriptomics, a form of metagenomics, is able to attain data on gene expression, not just sequencing. This is a major step in the analysis of the human gut microbiome as with this advancement we move closer to finding out exactly which aspects of the micro biome lead to which effects on the human body.

I’m personally excited about advancements in this field, because it seems like the human gut micro biome is important to our health and well being. The more we know about it the more we’ll be able to treat our bodies healthily. Which would be great!

Brand New INSANE Trick To Maintain HUGE TELOMERES!!!

Do YOU want to learn the secret to having BIG, LONG telomeres?

OF COURSE YOU DO!

Do you know what Telomeres are?

Umm….

you might not know what they are, but I’m pretty sure you’re gonna want long ones,

and a few scientists lead by Eli Puterman, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, just made a huge breakthrough regarding telomeres.

let me explain.

New research done on Data collected in University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement study and reported on by TheScientist, has found that A.) accumulation of stressful events over the course of a lifetime are associated strongly with shorter telomeres later in life and B.) stressful experiences during childhood have a far greater effect on the shortening of Telomeres in adults than those that occur later in life.

First of all back up. What are Telomeres? And when it comes to Telomeres, does length really matter?

I’ll tell you.

(spoiler alert: length always matters)

Telomeres are caps that go on the end of our DNA. You can think of them like aglets on the end of shoelaces. Telomeres work to protect DNA from becoming damaged, and with that preventing the functionality of DNA from becoming compromised. They’re exactly like that little plastic bit on your shoelaces prevents your lace from becoming frayed, and ruining your shoelace, and your day, and your life.

10085714333_5d4f4d06b2

(the pinks parts are the telomeres)

And a moment of thanks, to the great man who invented aglets.

Harvey Kennnedy,

Thank you.

Back to your telomeres. As we know cells are constantly copying themselves, creating new cells, and every time this happens the telomeres on the end of our DNA become shorter and shorter, before eventually they fail to adequately protect the DNA, causing our cells to lose functionality, and on a larger scale, causing you to age faster. Essentially throughout our lives our telomeres get shorter and shorter, like a candle thats burning lower and lower, it’s a marker for our aging process. A constant reminder of our mortality as humans. A literal ticking clock. We’re all gonna die. Life is meaningless.

You know what’s not meaningless though… BIOLOGY! So while we can never escape the grim reality that our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye on a fleck of dust that’s drifting through an empty abyss of nothingness, why not try to extend that blink of an eye for as long as we can, so that we can read about research findings in the world of biology! speaking of which…

In the study, a group of 4,598 Americans that had an average age of 69 were asked to identify stressful incidents that occurred in both their youth and later adulthood. They then had their telomere lengths measured from cells from saliva samples. In the study, Part of the study’s findings were that “Each additional adverse event during childhood was associated with an 11 percent-increased odd of shorter telomeres”. These results are staggering to be sure, but are not totally out of the blue. One Judith Carroll who researches the links between behavior and health at UCLA said after the study had been completed “The findings are consistent with other reports suggesting that early life is a particularly vulnerable time when the body is rapidly growing and adapting to its surroundings”.

These results were very strong, however some have taken issue with extrapolating stressful incidents to higher mortality. While it is acknowledged that the shortening of telomeres is associated with aging, some wished the study had gone a step further, and examined whether these shorter telomeres really do result in earlier death. As it is said by Iris Hovatta, a scientist at the University of Helsinki (in Finland)(a country I have never been to, so I can’t confirm whether or not it actually exists)(which is neither here nor there)(whether or not ‘there’ really does exist) “this study did not address the effect of stress on health or lifespan and whether individuals with shorter telomeres have an increased mortality” It’s a fair criticism, but as far as we know now, shortening of telomeres causes aging, and this study puts forth strong evidence of an association between stressful events over the course of a lifetime, especially during youth, and shortening of telomeres.

So what does this mean?

if you don’t want to age, avoid stressful events during your youth.

avoid stuff like forgetting when your blog post was due, then staying up until 3 in the morning to finish it.

Then again biology its pretty much all I have to live for.

give and take I guess, we all have to find a balance that works.

 

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