AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: herarst

Epigenomes may hold the key to curing Alzheimer’s and Cancer



Epigenomes are a relatively new discovery in Biology and there is a lot of well deserved excitement about it. Manolis Kellis, an MIT biologist, believes that epigenomes may lead us to the cure of Alzheimer’s and cancer. By understanding epigenomes, we could “reverse the actions of chemical modifications that regulate genes associated with disease”. A study was done on mice to see which genetic mutations were active for certain traits. Surprisingly, the research paired Alzheimer’s to neurons and immune cells. This could potentially mean that the place to look for a cure to Alzheimer’s is in your neurons or immune cells. Since this experiment was done on mice, it isn’t certain that the same will be true for humans, but Kellis believes it is more likely than not.

A second study was done to see which parents passed on which chromosomes. Some chromosomes tend to overpower the other, being dominant. For example, a mother chromosome that is positive for Alzheimer’s might be recessive to a father chromosome that is negative for Alzheimer’s. If scientist can determine the pattern of inheritance, they can predict the likelihood of a child inheriting that gene with greater accuracy.

Research was also done on cancer cells as they tried to figure out the origin of cancers that spread across the body, specifically metastatic cancer. When this cancer spreads it can be tough for doctors to determine the origin cell. If the origin cell can be located using epigenetics, it can increase the accuracy of locating the parent cell to 90%.

Kellis reminds us that it would be years before a cure is found as drug testing and creation are complex. And as we know epigenomes change from environmental factors leading to a vast amount of possibilities making it an even more complex process. However, this is a big step in the right direction.


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Chemical in coffee may help prevent obesity-related disease

Small cup of coffee

Scientist at University of Georgia (UGA) have done a study that suggests that coffee has a chemical that can help decrease the risk of obesity and thus lower the chances for type 2 diabetes and liver diseases. Coffee contains chlorogenic acid, or CGA. CGA is not only found in coffee but in fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears, and blueberries. CGA is an antioxidant that can decrease chronic inflammation in animals. Chronic inflammation is a cause of obesity which can inhibit your body’s ability to receive insulin. The test was done on a group of mice who were given high fat diets and injected with CGA shots over a 15 week period. The mice revived the CGA shots bi-weekly. Without the shots, the mice would’ve gained a substantial amount of weight, but because of CGA, they had little to no weight gain, healthy liver composition and normal blood sugar levels.

While CGA does decrease the chance of obesity, it is not a cure. Yongjie Ma, “a postdoctoral research associate in UGA’s College of Pharmacy and lead author of the paper,” said that this is not a substitute for diet and exercise. The main use for CGA would be as a therapeutic method to help people at risk of obesity and potential diabetes.

Do you think CGA can make a big impact on the obesity and diabetes community?

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Mussel proteins may be the key to a groundbreaking adhesive



Scientists at MIT have created their own adhesive that could revolutionize multiple aspects of life. This adhesive would be used for patching up multiple things ranging from ships to human wounds. The adhesive is made from the proteins found in mussels and the proteins in biofilms. The way mussels stick to ships is because the proteins act as a natural adhesive/glue like material. Biofilm is a group of organisms that stick to each other and other surfaces.

Separate, these both have strong attaching abilities, but when combined, the MIT scientists created the “strongest biologically inspired, protein-based underwater adhesives reported to date”. The new adhesive was created by using the foot proteins in the mussels. More specifically, they used the curli fibers which attach and form larger and stronger fibers, called fibrous meshes. The fibrous meshes can be used both in dry and aqueous solutions making it very versatile.

Timothy Lu, the associate professor of biological engineering and electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, is in charge of the research. Although the adhesive is produced in small amounts, Lu has high hopes as he has plans to make a “living glue” that can tell when there is an opening and secrete the adhesive by itself. This could be very useful if the adhesive is used for human treatment because the adhesive would know exactly when to activate and deactivate itself.

Do you think that this adhesive can make an impact on society?


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