AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: biosasha11

Bees and HIV


By PaulSteinJC. Photo from Flickr.


30 million people have died due to AIDS.

However, a cure is yet to be found.

HIV is a retrovirus that manages to evade detection from the immune system because the virus hides in latency, incorporated into your DNA.

Instead, doctors give patients a “drug cocktail” that slows the replication and action of HIV enzymes. However, this treatment does not stop the initial infection.

A recent study had found that nanoparticles carrying a toxin found in bee venom can destroy HIV.

Bee venom contains melittin, which can “poke holes in the protective envelope that surrounds HIV,” thereby destroying the virus.

The researchers believe that this discovery can help them develop a vaginal gel that may prevent the spread of HIV.

A researcher Joshua Hood hopes “that in places where HIV is running rampant, people could use this gel as a preventive measure to stop the initial infection.”

Hood also thinks that these nanoparticles could be used to treat existing HIV infections. The nanoparticles could be injected into the blood, clearing HIV from the blood stream.

This is truly a wonderful discovery. Hopefully, this is the first step towards ending the AIDS epidemic.

To read more about HIV visit these sites:


Epigenetics, Dads, and Obesity


By Ynse. Photo from Flickr


It turns out that kids with obese fathers have unique epigenetic changes that can affect their health… for the worse.

According to a recent study, “children with obese fathers have different epigenetic markings on the gene for insulin-type growth factor 2 (IGF2) than children with fathers of normal weight.”

Children with obese fathers have less methylation on a specific region of the IGF2 gene. Sadly, this occurrence is linked with many types of cancers such as ovarian cancer.

However, it is too soon to tell if these epigenetic changes are directly linked to the children’s’ health.

According to the biologist Gudrun Moore, “it is tempting to over-emphasize the role of a small number of parent-of-origin expressing genes and to speculate about the effects of modest variation in methylation, but we must not be too hasty to blame either parent for their offspring’s health outcomes.”

However, other researchers are sure that that your parent’s environment and habits affect children’s health.

According to Michael Skinner, this research “suggests that environmental epigenetics might be the mechanism for these effects.”

Maybe now both the mother and father have to be careful about what they eat during the pregnancy. Sorry Dads-to-be, you are going to have to eat healthy now!

For more information on epigenetics and health, you can visit these links.

Photo credit:

Cancer and Fruit Flies



Photo by Malcolm NQ from Flickr

A recent study has found a way to track each step of a healthy cell as it becomes cancerous. Researchers were able to study the “genes and molecules involved in each step.”

The researchers provoked genomic instability in the cells of the fruit fly’s wing, or the Drosophila melanogaster, and allowed these cells to withstand the organism’s natural defenses. The scientists were able to see the cancer spreading throughout the cell and invading nearby organelles and cell structures. According to one scientist, Andres Dekanty, “for the first time we have a genetic model that allows us to understand the events that take place, starting from when cells begin to accumulate genomic errors until the development of a tumor.”

Furthermore, the researchers at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine believe that their research will be important for determining if cancer is caused by genomic instability. If this proves to be true, scientists and doctors will have a specific target to study, and to treat.

Researchers believe that the key to curing caner is identifying the difference between normal, healthy cells and a cell with genomic instability. Dekanty hopes that since “there isn’t a treatment available that attacks only the cells with genomic instability, if we can clearly differentiate one from the other, we’ll hopefully be able to find drugs that target them specifically.”

This study is of major importance because today, cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy have many side effects because they aim to stop cell division in both infected and healthy cells.  New, more precise treatments could stem out of this study.

Predict PTSD?


Brain Scan by Reigh LeBlanc. Found on Flickr

Researchers at the Tohoku University have recently discovered that weak connections in specific parts of the brain are connected to the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder. The study will be able to help predict if a person is susceptible to PTSD just by looking at scans of a brain.

The scientists compared information from men and women who experienced the Japanese earthquake of 2011. Before the earthquake, the researchers had already scanned the students’ brains. This way, the researchers could compare the brain’s white matter before and after the traumatic event. The white matter is responsible for the connections and communication between various regions of the brain.

According to the researchers, “participants who had weak connections in the front, right section of the brain before the disaster were more likely to have high levels of anxiety after the earthquake hit.”

The new discovery will be able to help predict PTSD. Dr. Atsushi Sekiguchi, a researcher at the university, believes that the study will help the military predict “PTSD vulnerabilities” before the deployment of troops.

More research is needed before scans of the brain can predict PTSD. According to Sekiguchi, scientists now have to figure out the “threshold” that would mark a person as susceptible to PTSD. The study’s results can help prevent PTSD in the future by identifying people with PTSD vulnerabilities.

What do you think about this discovery?

Blame your Brain for Gluttony


Everyone knows that chocolate is delicious, but usually, humans don’t eat 5 percent of their weight in M&Ms.

Source: flickr
Photo taken by silkegb

According to a recent study, researchers at the University of Michigan have recently discovered that neostriatum, a part of the brain, is directly linked to the desire to overeat. After a series of experiments and tests, the scientists concluded that a rise of chemical compounds in the neostriatum causes the human or rat to consume food without restraint.

During the first study, the researchers concluded that a rise in enkephalin occurred when the rats began to feed on M&Ms. The scientists studied changes in the neostriatum of rats when they were “at rest, hungry, offered food, feeding and after eating.” The scientists observed that when the enkephalin rose, the rats ran to eat. When they were “full” the rats immediately stopped eating. When the enkephalin rush ceased, the rats’ compulsion to eat also stopped.

During the second study, the researchers stimulated neostriatum by injecting an opioid into it. The result was equivalent to a “68-kilogram human eating three kilograms of chocolate within an hour.” The rats nearly ate 5 percent of their body weight! The rats had to be removed from the M&Ms because they showed no signs of ending their eating spree.

The researchers concluded that the stimulation of the neostriatum’s receptors with opioids led to “extreme overeating.” According to Gary Wenk, a researcher at The Ohio State University, “the study is adding another piece to the puzzle of how the reward system works.” The neostriatum activates the opiate system, which “counteracts the discomfort of a swelling waist and encouraging us to have one more bite.” When the neostriatum is stimulated the subject reacts by overeating.

Even overeating comes from the brain and not the stomach!

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar