BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Friends

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!

The Science of the Appeal Behind Dark Personalities

A recent study suggests that many people have a mysterious attraction to dark personalities. Specifically, people with traits like Machiavellian, narcissism, and psychopathy. These three traits are called the “Dark Triad” and people with these traits were found to be more attractive than those who were seen to have less of these characteristics. On this surface, it seems bogus. Who in their right mind finds a psychopath to be sexy? However, a quick examination of society proves otherwise. Dark brooding characters seem to be all the rage right now, it’s why movies like the Twilight series sell out (teenage girls swoon over Edward’s moodiness) and why TV shows with characters forced to make morally ambiguous decisions like The Walking Dead are hits.  In the experiment,

Each student was photographed soon after they arrived.  Then, after taking this initial photograph, each student asked to change out of their own clothes and put on a pair of gray sweatpants and a t-shirt…The students were then photographed in this more natural state. Holtzman and Strube showed both sets of photographs to a group of strangers who rated them in terms of physical attractiveness. By comparing the attractiveness ratings of the dressed-down and dressed-up students, the researchers were able to determine how much each student was able to make themselves more appealing through flashy clothes, makeup, accessories, etc.

The students in the study were then tested for the Dark Triad, and the results were confirmed with the friends and family of the students. While there was a definite correlation between attractiveness in the photos of the dressed up students and a high Dark Triad score,

the dark triad score was not related to ratings of physical attractiveness in the dressed-down photos. In other words, people with dark personality traits are not seen as more physically attractive than others when you take away their freedom to wear their own clothes and makeup.

This suggests that people with darker personalities are simply better at making themselves look nice. Do I believe this? To a large extent, yes. The more narcissistic you are, the more you’re going to care about your appearance.

 

http://pixabay.com/en/view-science-diagram-human-cartoon-40356/
The amygdala is the portion of the brain believed to be responsible for these kinds of personality traits.

The article does add one important point: choose your friends carefully. Social interactions  and the way we perceive others, is a complex mechanism. The amygdala is a small part of the brain that is responsible for much of our social interactions and ability to connect to others. This part of the brain plays a big role in deciding who seems like a potentially good friend and who you may want to avoid. Initially  humans being tend to associate physical attractiveness with goodness and trustworthiness,

a phenomenon known as “the halo effect.” When we perceive someone as physically attractive, we automatically assume they are also kinder, smarter, and more confident. Therefore, creating a physically attractive veneer is a highly effective way of creating an advantageous first impression.

 

As the saying goes: don’t judge a book by its cover.

 

Sources:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=psychology-uncovers-sex-appeal-dark-personalities&page=2

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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amygdala#Social_interaction

Photo: http://pixabay.com/en/view-science-diagram-human-cartoon-40356/

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Just for fun, I took a Dark Triad quiz.  Click on he link to take it yourself. Judging from my score, I should be able to make myself look like Miss Universe. I can’t, in case you were wondering. As with any kind of generalizations such as these, they are never 100%. Leave a comment with your result. Do you agree with it?

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