AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: ariatom

The Power Of Artificial Photosynthesis

In AP Biology, we learned that photosynthesis has evolved in plants as a means of converting water, sunlight energy, and carbon dioxide into glucose and oxygen, but also into plant biomass and the food we eat. Therefore we also know that the photosynthesis process, especially in C3 plants, is highly inefficient as only about 1% of sunlight energy is actually incorporated into the plant. Researchers at the University of Riverside and the University of Delaware have actually discovered a new way to bypass the reliance on biological photosynthesis and have devised a method of using artificial photosynthesis to produce food independent from sunlight. Isn’t that amazing!

The artificial photosynthesis process involves a two-step electrocatalytic procedure that transforms carbon dioxide, solar panel-generated electricity, and water into acetate, which is a salt and chemical compound (C2H3O2). Sec-Butyl acetate 3D ball(Electrocatalysis is a catalytic process that requires oxidation and reduction reactions through the transfer of electrons). Food-producing organisms consume the acetate in the dark to grow. This method significantly increases the conversion efficiency of sunlight into food, achieving up to 18 times greater efficiency. An integral component of this process is the electrolyzer device, which employs electricity to convert carbon dioxide into essential molecules for the food-producing organisms.

Green algae, yeast, and fungal mycelium were among the various food-producing organisms cultivated in the dark, confirming the efficacy of the artificial photosynthesis process. The production of algae using this technology is about four times more energy-efficient, while yeast production is approximately eighteen times more energy-efficient than growing it with the traditional biological photosynthesis methods.

Artificial photosynthesis offers a potential solution to the challenges posed by climate change in agriculture. By freeing crops from reliance on sunlight, artificial photosynthesis opens the door to possibilities for growing food under difficult conditions such as climate-related issues like drought, floods, and limited land availability. Isn’t the establishment of artificial photosynthesis an amazing feat! Feel free to leave a comment on my post and, if you do, list one fact that you found really interesting about artificial photosynthesis!

What is the difference between the Pfizer, Moderna and Novavax vaccines?

After the COVID-19 outbreak, various vaccines were developed to fortify our immune response against the virus. However, questions have arisen regarding the distinctions among the three prominent vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax. Despite the emergence and spread of new COVID-19 variants, these vaccines continue to be recognized as effective measures in preventing severe disease.

The Pfizer vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, meaning that a small piece of mRNA will instruct the host cell to produce copies of the spike protein

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2from a harmless version of the COVID-19 virus. The immune system will then identify the viral protein and will begin to produce antibodies that will attach to and mark the pathogens for destruction. Isn’t the immune system so amazing! The immune system then deploys B memory cells to prevent reinfection by remembering the antigen so your immune system can quickly fight it in the future. Common side effects of the Pfizer vaccine include pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site, as well as tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, or nausea throughout the body.

Similarly, the Moderna vaccine employs mRNA technology. It instructs host cells to replicate the spike protein, leading to the immune system generating antibodies that identify and target the foreign viral protein. B memory cells are then employed to prevent reinfection by remembering the antigen which allows your immune system to quickly fight it in the future. The side effects of using the Moderna vaccine are also pain, redness, swelling in the area where the shot was administered, and tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, or nausea throughout the body. The key distinction between the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine lies in storage requirement.  Pfizer vaccine needs to be shipped in a special freezer that reaches very cold temperatures compared to Moderna that can survive in less extreme conditions.

In contrast, Novavax is the only non-mRNA vaccine available in the United States. It is a protein adjuvant vaccine. A protein adjuvant vaccine contains pieces of a harmless version of the COVID-19 spike proteins and pieces of an adjuvant. The immune system identifies the spike proteins as foreign bodies and the adjuvant aids in antibody production and activation of other immune cells to combat the spike proteins. The B memory cells are then used to prevent reinfection by remembering the antigen so your immune system can quickly fight it in the future.

Isn’t the way our bodies are able to fight off infection really amazing. Feel free to leave a comment and one fun fact you learned from this blog post!

How Is The Discovery Of Potassium and Sodium Ions in Cell Organelles Important to Health and Disease?

Laboratory scientists Junyi Zou and Palapuravan at the University of Chicago shed light on the crucial role of potassium and sodium ions within the specific compartments inside a cell. The role of ions within a cell was a section of biology many scientists couldn’t conquer and left many scientists questioning if cells regulate ions?

Junyi Zou and Palapuravan collaborated with their professor, Yamuna Krishnan, to develop a miniature device made of DNA that enabled them to peer into the intricate workings of live cells. Thanks to the biological compatibility of DNA with cells, this innovative device seamlessly infiltrated the cell and provided the scientists with a unique window into the cell’s interior. However, Junyi Zou and Palapuravan needed to reach specific compartments of the cell: the lysosome and recycling endosomes. (Recycling endosomes are responsible for facilitating the transit of ion channels to and from the cell membrane). To accomplish this task, Junyi Zou and Palapuravan, who studied the presence of various ions in different organelles, utilized sensors to target the organelles they were researching. Once the sensors reached their designated cellular locations, they lit up whenever they came into contact with an ion. This enabled Junyi Zou and Palapuravan to quantitatively evaluate the presence of ions by measuring the brightness of the sensors.

After completing his research, Palapuravan, who focused on tracking potassium ions within the recycling endosomes, determined there are ion channels in organelles. Ion channels, which are a form of facilitated diffusion withIon-Channel Receptor channel proteins, are protein molecules that span across the cell membrane and allow ions to pass through their channels from high to low concentration without the need for ATP. Ion channels are also involved in Parkinson’s disease; however, current medications for Parkinson’s disease only target ion channels on the plasma membrane and not within the cell. If Parkinson’s medication can be developed to target ion channels within cells as well, does this imply a potential cure for Parkinson’s disease? I don’t know, but it is exciting to learn that ongoing research is aimed at curing the incurable! It gives us hope for future research and discoveries.

Finally, after completing his research, Junyi Zou, who focused on tracking sodium ions in lysosomes, determined that lysosomes regulate cellular sodium. Lysosomes, which are made in the rough ER, are hydrolytic sacs of enzymes that enable animal cells to digest macromolecules. Following Junyi Zou’s completed research, we can now say that lysosomes assist cells in regulating their sodium levels. These lysosomes are known as lysosomal sodium-transporting proteins. Now, we can include additional information in our cell notes packet on lysosomes! Feel free to leave a comment on my post and, if you do, list one fact that you found really interesting!

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