BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: ghohesion

ARE WE DOOMED? Maybe not

     Well, this year has been a ride. Starting off with a potential WWIII, continuing with the tragic loss of hall of fame athlete Kobe Bryant, 2020 has been one roller coaster of a year. But the most bizarre of it all was the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic swept the nation way back in March and it still has its grasp on us today. At the time it started, there was very little information on this virus. But now, due to our vast intricate technologies, we were able to find out lots of information on this virus. But, specifically, I want to talk about life after contracting the virus. See, normally when you have a virus and successfully heal from it, you develop antibodies so you will not get this type of virus again. The case is a bit different for COVID-19, or it might be the same. Read to find out!

     This topic is very interesting because there have been more than 10 million people who have acquired the virus. The people that have successfully recovered from the virus want to know the main question: Will I be able to get this virus again? The answer isn’t so simple. Early on the data provided to us gave us hope that the immunity to this virus was possible, but numerous cases also suggest that this immunity to the virus is brief (on a larger scale). Nothing is definite as of now, there is more research to be done, but for now we remain hopeful. 

 

So why do we say the immunity to the virus is brief?

     We know there is hope because there is proof that people who have contracted COVID-19 produce antibodies that protect our immune system, but this production of antibodies lasts maybe 3 to 4 months based on the data provided. The length of time still remains unclear. 

 

So how does this actually work?

     Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital tested three types of antibodies in blood samples: immunoglobulin G (IgG), immunoglobulin A (IgA), and immunoglobulin B (IgB). Immunoglobulin is a large Y-shaped protein used in the immune system to detect foreign invaders in the blood such as viruses. These proteins bind to these foreign invaders in order to fight them off. We learned from our unit with proteins that antibodies are a form of proteins that can influence the life of a molecule/virus. The most important of all the immunoglobulins stated above is IgG. The reason is because IgG has the potential to sustain immunity in the body. This is because when all three of these antibodies were found in the blood after being infected by COVID-19, IgA and IgB were obliterated by the spike protein found in COVID-19. But, IgG lasted in the stream for up to four months! Now, the researchers could not test IgG for that long, but the four months that they could observe showed that these IgG antibodies do persist to beat the virus! A more long term study is definitely needed. This study is also confirmed by another research group from the University of Toronto. This group also showed how IgA and IgB levels dropped rapidly about 12 days after infection while IgG levels remained steady. 

 

So can you get COVID more than once?

     Although it is very rare, there have been some cases where people contracted the virus more than once. But, there is no evidence that suggests that immunity is or is not possible. All in all, evidence shows that immunity after acquiring the virus is generally protective and the persistence of the IgG antibody provides hope for immunity to the virus. – Ghohesion

Ever Wonder What It Feels Like to Dance In A Cell? Well, You Might Be Able To Find Out.

The never-ending innovations of technology have hit us again, and this time its something very groundbreaking. Recently, the University of Cambridge had partnered up with a 3D image analysis company known as Lume VR Ltd to make a new software called vLume. What is vLume? It’s the future. This new cutting edge technology was developed for scientists to aid them in studying everything from individual proteins to entire cells. How? Well thanks to Lume VR Ltd, vLume allows super-resolution microscopy data to be envisioned and examined in virtual reality.

So you might be wondering, what in the world is super-resolution microscopy? This is basically the reason why we can see such small things in clear high resolution. Essentially, they are approaches to eliminate light diffraction– the slight bending of light which causes low resolution imaging.

 

Why is this such a big deal?

Numerous reasons! For starters, this breakthrough allows us to mingle with the 3D world of biology as if it were up close and in person. Before, we would try to interact with data through a 2D computer screen. Now, we can see a whole 3D view in virtual reality. This new revolutionary imaging software allows scientists to see, question and play around with 3D biological data, seeming like its real, but its in a virtual environment! This is so important because it allows us to find answers to questions we have about biology immensely quicker. This software allows us to make new discoveries in a blink of an eye. Even a PhD student, Anoushka Handa, said, “It’s incredible — it gives you an entirely different perspective on your work.” This is so cool, she took her own immune cell and was able to virtually stand inside her own cell!

This is so amazing, there has to be a catch?

No, there is no catch! Super-resolution microscopy analysis can be very time consuming, but with the vLume software, it was able to cut the wait times significantly which allows the tests to be quicker and ultimately making analysis quicker. All you will need is a VR!

What does this mean going forward?

With this new technology, who knows what’s next. For now, this software will allow us to further understand the world of biology and it might help develop treatments for diseases that we do not have treatments for now. But, in terms of technology, who knows what’s possible. The thought of being able to stand in a cell seemed like fantasy, but it turns out that it is a reality now. We must be cautious, technology seems like it does good, but there can be some harm involved.

My take:

In my non-expert opinion, I think this is a very good sign. This technology is a positive, we can understand more about our world which is very resourceful. I also have emitted my excitement over the course of this article. This is groundbreaking and new which is something I always love to see. The only problem is that people might become reckless with their inventions now. This can be related to our class because we can have a greater understanding of cells and their structure and their functions along with the key organic compounds. Although this tech is used for good, there will be some that’s bad which may be problematic in the future. All in all, this innovation will help us understand ourselves a lot more and it will ultimately be positive in the long run. -Ghohesion

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