BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: emdaniels

Ballerinas Got the Brains!

A 2013 research article conducted by scientists at the Imperial College of London has dived into the ballet world and researched the brains of ballerinas. Their research led to the discovery that dancers can suppress signals of dizziness using the balance organs of the inner ear. The vestibular system, found in the inner ear, consists mainly of smaller circular canals. Each canal recognizes different motions: Up and Down, Side to side, and tilting. These canals are filled with hair and liquid which move with your body to send signals to the brain using the acoustic nerve. With this information, your brain can process balance, dizziness, and vertigo. These researchers became curious about how ballet dancers can perform multiple balanced pirouettes without feelings of dizziness. And as a dancer, I would say this is because of the technique of spotting which involves rapidly moving the head to keep one’s eyes on a fixed spot.

However, this study has proved that wrong. So, with the help of 29 ballet dancers and 20 rowers, the researchers put it to the test. Their method of testing involved putting the volunteers in a dark room and spinning them on a rotating chair. They then timed how long it took for the dizziness to stop. In addition, the researchers measure eye reflexes triggered by the vestibular organs and later completed MRI scans of the patient’s brain structure. The data they collected showed that the eye reflexes and perception of spinning lasted a shorter time with the dancers than with the rowers.

From this point, doctors wondered how they could transfer this ability to their patients. After taking an in-depth look at the dancer’s brains it was concluded that the cerebral cortex and cerebellum were the most affected. The cerebral cortex is found in the largest part of the brain and is responsible for speech, judgment, thinking and reasoning, problem-solving, emotions, learning, and the senses. While the cerebellumMajor parts of the brain, a fist-sized portion found in the back of the brain, uses neurons to coordinate voluntary muscle movements and to maintain posture, balance ,and equilibrium. In the AP Biology curriculum, learning the nervous system helps in one’s understanding of transport and membranes. The nervous system sends signals across the plasma membrane of a cell to the brain. With this signal, the cerebellum and cerebral cortex can process information and signal parts of the body to move. From looking at the MRI scans, scientists discovered that the dancer’s cerebellum was smaller. Scientists believed dancers would be better off not using their vestibular system and solely relying on “highly coordinated pre-programmed movements”. Scientists believe it is not necessary for dancers to feel dizziness so, their brains adapted to suppress that feeling. As a result, the signal that goes to the cerebral cortex is reduced. So, if scientists and doctors monitor the cerebral cortex they could begin to understand how to treat patients affected by chronic dizziness.

 

 

How Bats Turned Themselves and the World Upside Down

In a research article written in early-mid November of 2022, Smriti Mallapaty conducts and evaluates the bat ancestry in SARS CoV-2. Over the few years of COVID research, scientists discovered that COVID shares ancestry with bats more recently than they believed. However, recent findings suggest that finding that ancestor is unlikely.
In a recent presentation at the 7th World One Health Congress in Singapore, scientists compared portions of the coronavirus set of genes, which led to the discovery that COVID and bats shared genes as recently as 2016. In addition, it narrowed down the time between SARS-CoV-2 jumping from bats to humans. According to the Bat Conservation Trust, the reason for the transmission of COVID from bats to humans is due to deforestation and livestock farming on the cleared land brought wildlife into much closer contact with humans providing the opportunity for a spillover event.
Bat 03
This study conducted by Mallapaty highlighted the difficulty of finding the direct ancestor of the coronavirus. However, this led to research efforts in Asia. Many southeastern Asian scientists have come together to test the sequencing of viruses in different tissues to identify the ancestor. But, due to their struggle to find their ancestors’ people began to believe that the virus came from a Wuhan Virology facility. In the Wuhan Virology facility, according to the United States Senate, researchers and their collaborators collected virus expeditions on large scales to Southern China and Southeast Asia, where bats naturally harbor SARS-related viruses, on an annual basis from 2004 onwards. Scientists collected samples of bat blood, urine, and saliva. The bats and or samples from the bats transmitted covid to humans beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This passage relates to the AP Biology Curriculum, specifically the Immune system and Adaptive immunity. In adaptive immunity, the body uses Pathogen Specific Recognition to target infected cells through a cell-mediated response. The MHC protein on macrophages and dendritic cells displays the foreign antigen and releases cytokine. The cytokines activate the T helper cells to recognize the antigen and start the cell-mediated response. The T helper cells stimulate other T cells to divide into Killer T and T memory cells. The T-killer cells kill infected cells, and T-plasma cells block off and remember the antigen to cause a faster immune response if exposed again. In addition, one can be further protected by receiving the mRNA vaccine. The mRNAs vaccine blocks the spike protein surrounding COVID cells so it can bind to the receptor on human cells that would allow it in.
 Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (51240985843)
Overall, from their rigorous research, these scientists were able to find that SARS-CoV-2’s closest known relative is a bat virus found in Laos called BANAL-52, whose genome is 96.8% identical to SARS-CoV-2. In addition, another virus = is called RaTG13, which is 96.1% identical. They did this using a method of isolating viruses from bats and comparing their genomes. All these percentages reveal that the virus has undergone between 40-70 years of evolution. On the other hand, some researchers say that comparing whole-genome sequences ignores the role of recombination in virus evolution. Recombination is a description of DNA made by combining genetic material from 2 different sources. In this process, pieces of RNA could be very different from SARS-CoV-2, suggesting they are more distantly related, whereas other fragments that are much more similar imply a closer relationship. Therefore to account for recombination, researchers compared bat and pangolin genes and split them into segments and smaller nucleotide segments. At that point, each segment was evaluated with a subset to estimate how recently SARS-CoV-2 shared a common ancestor with a bat or animal virus.
This topic grabbed my attention because I was reflecting on my interactions with animals. Besides domesticated animals, the only animals I have had true interactions with are bats and birds. In addition, since the pandemic, I heard about the role bats play in the spread of COVID but never took the time to understand their involvement. In short, I took this opportunity to educate myself on these creatures that hang upside down and turned our world upside down.

SHOULD Beauty be Pain?

Would you ever think that straightening your hair could risk your health? It turns out that the use of chemical hair straighteners, such as relaxers, may lead to an increase in uterine cancer in women. Until recent research, researchers believed that only ovarian and breast cancer could result from the application of chemical hair straighteners. But a recent study conducted by the National Cancer Institute proves otherwise. Many people question how these harmful chemicals are allowed in hair care products and why the FDA does not ban their use. In response to that question, hair care products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Therefore the FDA is not responsible for the safety of customers who become victims of these harmful chemicals found in their products. In addition, these products are mainly bought and used by black women, who permanently want to straighten their hair. In comparison to other women within the study, 60% of women who did use these products identified as black. As a black woman, I believe that information about what is in our hair care products needs to be studied and the research needs to be shared. With the hope that more black women can avoid harmful products such as relaxers to prioritize their health.

Natural Haircare Remedies & Hair Treatments - 50888045466

A study was conducted for a decade on 34,000 women to see if hair straightening products led to uterine cancer. The study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between products and uterine cancer. However, there was 2.41% difference between the risk factor of women who did use chemical straightening products and women who did not use chemical straightening products.

Parabens, bisphenol, formaldehyde, and metals play a key role in the increase of uterine cancer because of their reputation for disrupting the endocrine system. The endocrine system is the organ system responsible for controlling and regulating the body’s hormones. The organ system, compiled of multiple glands placed throughout the body, releases hormones into the bloodstream to control factors such as insulin, the function of reproductive organs, body growth, and energy development.

Endocrine central nervous en

When these hormones are called upon by a cell’s receptors, which send out signals asking for specific hormones, they come in contact with the targeted cells. This process would not be possible without the cell membrane. The cell membrane is a layer that encompasses all the cell’s internal parts called organelles. In addition, the membrane serves as a barrier between what is inside and outside the cell. The importance of the cell membrane and how it transports and brings materials into the cell is emphasized in the AP Biology curriculum. At this point within the cell, the cell takes on the process of receptor-mediated endocytosis. The hormone whose need is triggered by the cell docks with a receptor. The cell membrane then engulfs the needed hormone.

In all, research about the harmful effects of chemicals in hair straightening products is alarming for women everywhere. Specifically, for the black community who’s women depend on these products more often for hair maintenance and care.

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