AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: hirshtology

Why COVID-19 Messes With Smell and Taste

Have you ever wondered why only some people lose their smell when they contract covid-19? The answer to this question is more complicated then it seems. The real answer requires a deep dive into genetics and DNA.

Earlier in the pandemic we were told that if you were to lose taste or smell then this is a likely sign you have the virus. Now we are understanding that not all people have this “common” symptom. A study was done to show the true numbers behind this phenomenon. Out of 70,000 adults who contracted the virus, 11% of adults with a certain genetic makeup on chromosome 4 were more likely to lose their smell and taste. I then wondered how can one chromosome have an effect on losing taste?

I found my answer. As it turns out, the two genes: UGT2A1 and UGT2A2 are two genes that help people smell. These genes are located right next to chromosome 4 which is why these people are more prone to losing their smell when they contract the virus. Additionally, the actual pathways that cause our ability to smell and taste are over and under performing depending on the person. Similar to our Biology class, everyone has different sets of genes. Some genes can be closer to others. Therefore, only some people are affected by this lack of smell and taste if their UGT2A1 and UGT2A2 genes are closer to the location of the variant.

COVID-19 Icon


Climate Change’s Toll On Fish

What if I told you that by 2080 almost 80% of the world’s oceans will be suffocating from a lack of oxygen due to climate change. It seems like every year we get yet another grim fact that if we do not act by a certain time it will be too late. This is the reality for all the world’s oceans.

Multiple studies have shown that the mesopelagic zone (from 656 to 3,281 ft below sea level), the area that holds the most fish in the ocean, is the most vulnerable since it is not as enriched with oxygen as are the upper layers of the ocean. This is also because the most algae is decomposed in the mesopelagic zone, which absorbs oxygen.

You may be wondering how climate change actually affects oceanic wildlife. As the earth warms, its waters warm with it causing there to be less dissolved oxygen in the water. This issue on top of there being less oxygen already in the mesopelagic zone means a lot of death amongst fish. Fish, like us human beings, need oxygen to perform cellular respiration in order to survive. Similar to what we learned in class, fish intake oxygen and release carbon dioxide. However, they do this process in a slightly different way than us humans. Fish have gills which are positioned at the sides of its body. Water passes over the gills, specifically the gill filaments, and is filtered in as oxygen. There are also blood capillaries located very close to the surface of the gills so that the fish can take in as much oxygen as needed and release carbon dioxide smoothly. The overall goal of this process is to make ATP, in order for the fish to stay alive. However, in this time of climate crisis where oceans are undergoing deoxygenation, fish are struggling to stay alive and this can actually have effects on us.

A lot of the fish that are at stake include some essential to our nutrition. Fish is a key source of protein for us and without it our health might be at risk. Additionally, many of the fish who are in the danger zone are commercial fish which we buy and sell, so businesses will be severely hurt from this crisis.

It is clear that climate change is having a tremendous effect not only on marine wildlife, but also on our economy. 58 years might sound like many, but our time is now to make change. What do you think about this crisis?

Group of fish near the beach of Sharm El Naga

PAXLOVID: A Breath of Fresh Air?

Right now, it seems like the only defense against the evasiveness of COVID is the vaccine. However, there has been a new emergence that might help alleviate some worries. This is the PAXLOVID anti-viral drug. This new drug is given to people with high-risk cases of COVID a few days after they are infected. Though, before this pill is approved, it has to run through many trials, and it has to be confirmed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The numbers that are coming out of the trials of the drug are nothing short of astonishing….

Pfizer made the announcement that within 3 days of infection, the PAXLOVID drug reduces the risk of hospitalization or death by 89%. The trials for the drug were over a substantial amount of time. The numbers that have been received as of now are that out of 607 people tested, only 6 were hospitalized and NONE died. These are very promising numbers for the drug, and it is a big step towards approval. To further boost PAXLOVID’s credibility, placebo, a “control” drug was tested alongside PAXLOVID. This control drug is a fake pill to make people believe it is doing good for them. This is called the placebo effect. In the end, the fantastic numbers produced by PAXLOVID against placebo proved that PAXLOVID is the way to go and that it is a successful drug that actually works. Now you may be wondering how does this “anti-viral drug” work to defend against COVID?

The answer is not so simple. The primary goal for PAXLOVID, and any other anti-viral drug is to prevent the virus from replicating. As we learned in our biology class, the way a virus replicates itself is by entering the dendritic cell or macrophage, then it can actually copy RNA virus and take command of the cell, basically hijacking it. However, the anti-viral drug is made up of two clear components that instead of interfering with RNA copying enzyme, it blocks something else. The drug has the ability to inhibit Protease enzymes. Protease enzymes are mainly responsible for activating long strains of protein by cutting them down.

Altogether, PAXLOVID is a versatile, and very useful drug that we will likely be seeing and hearing more about in the near future. If you contracted COVID, would you be willing to take PAXLOVID?

Prozac pills

Muscle Regeneration: More Than Just “Tearing Muscle Fibers”

Have you ever felt sore after a workout? Maybe your muscles ache and you wonder why this is so? This soreness you are feeling is the result of the tearing of muscles fibers in your body. But the muscle repairing process isn’t as simple as “rebuilding muscles fibers.” It is a part of a chain of reactions and processes that our body triggers in perhaps the most fantastic biological response.

After an intense workout, your muscles are covered in microscopic tears. The easiest and most simple explanation for muscle growth is when you tear these fibers, they grow back stronger leading to stronger muscles. However, a newer study found the presence of scars surrounding the torn muscle fibers. I was totally shocked to learn that after we workout, we get mini scars on our muscles and not just fiber tears. As it turns out, bunches of nuclei go to the scars and begin to heal them. They trigger the release of mRNA which reads the DNA to make new proteins. Who knew that nuclei had something to do with the regeneration of muscles. However, the process of re building a torn muscle fiber is much more extensive than nuclei creating new proteins.

When we dive deeper we can see that there are many different levels to this process. The primary area of rupture after a workout are to the skeletal muscles. Skeletal muscles are laid out in sheets and are connected to bones by tendons. This type of muscle is responsible for a process called protein synthesis. When your body is undergoing an exercise, your muscles are constantly fed protein in order for the cells within your muscles to continue functioning properly and at a proper pace. When your workout concludes, it is vital to consume protein since protein stimulates and accelerates muscle repair and growth. For example, I consume a protein filled meal generally very soon after I workout, making sure I am getting the proper nutrients I need to help my muscles strengthen and prosper. The process of protein synthesis is imperative to muscle recovery and stamina, but if we look even closer into the recovery process we can see a couple of cellular organelles performing some impressive things.

According to the new study, two of the most important organelles in animal cells that is necessary for muscle regeneration is the mitochondria and the nuclei. The mitochondria’s function within a cell is to perform cellular respiration. Cellular respiration is the process where sugars are broken up into useful energy that can be used by the cell and eventually by the body. As we learned in biology class, the mitochondria ultimately converts the sugar glucose into ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). ATP is essential for muscle regeneration post workout and during a workout because it is responsible for muscle contraction and movement. Just recently, we have learned that the nuclei also comes to the rescue for torn muscle fibers. Nuclei will arrive at the tear and then increase production for more myofilaments, the basis of myofibers. Traditionally, myofibers are the building blocks for muscle growth and rejuvenation. These myofilaments are consisted of small proteins that stimulate muscle movements. All in all, the addition of nuclei to the muscle rejuvenation process highlights the amount of energy needed by the body to perform these functions, which comes from the mitochondria and ATP.

Within the skeletal muscles are areas of high activity that consist of two main organelles doing most of the work: nuclei and mitochondria. The traditional forms of muscle rejuvenation with the mitochondria go hand in hand with the newest discovery of nuclei. In order for the muscle to rebuild it needs proteins and ATP. With the help of these two organelles, this accelerated process can successfully go through. The next time you get sore after a workout, take a second and admire that your body is hard at work with a task that is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Muscle Tissue Skeletal Muscle Fibers (41241952644)

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