AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: hutcherozygous

Taking care of your gut might be a pain now, but is definitely worth it!

Brain with Alzheimer’s

The contributions of microbes to multiple aspects of human physiology and neurobiology in health and disease have up until now not been fully appreciated.
Many people have said the human gut is like a “second brain.” With trillions of microbes, the digestive tract of the human gut can influence many things such as your metabolism, nutrition, immune function, and even your happiness. New research continues to show links between the brain and the health of the gut.

For example, a study from Lund University found that “unhealthy intestinal flora can accelerate the development of Alzheimer’s disease.” Alzheimer’s disease is an extremely common form of dementia or memory loss. It is caused by the death of many brain cells, which progressively decreases the size of the brain and the number nerve cells and connections. This study showed that mice with Alzheimer’s have a different bacterial profile in their guts than mice without this disease. Dr. Frida Fak Hallenius said that “Alzheimer’s is a preventable disease and in the near future we will likely be able to give advice on what to eat to prevent it. Take care of your gut bacteria, by eating lots of whole-grains, fruits and vegetables.”


After these discoveries, researchers are looking deeper into how bacteria can affect brain pathology. One of their ideas is that the bacteria may affect T-cells in the gut, which controls inflammatory processes both in the gut and brain. Therefore, if we can find a way to increase the health of the gut, we can reduce inflammation and brain damage. Alzheimer’s, while it is one of the most feared diseases, is preventable to in extent and if not preventable, there are several ways to delay it. The human gut microbiome has a huge impact on your health and your brain’s health. If scientists can continue to discover how to make your gut as healthy as possible, Alzheimer’s could soon be a thing of the past.

23 Chromosomes. One Unique You.

This weekend, my parents told me we were trying a new product from a company called 23andme. When I first saw the words ”Welcome to you, DNA Collection Kit” written on the box, I thought it was another one of my Dad’s SkyMall purchases that is thrown away a week after buying it. This one was more intriguing than most, so I decided to investigate on-line. I am amazed that he actually purchased something of use.

23andme is a new company that analyzes your DNA and compares it to millions of others to determine your unique traits. While human DNA is about 99.5% identical between people, there are small differences called variants. These variants come from your parents, your parent’s parents, and so on. Within a month of submitting your DNA, I will get results that will tell me a number of things relating to my genetic make-up including possible health conditions that I have now or will get in the future, traits and my ancestry groups. I can’t wait.

To start the process, 23andme provides a tube with instructions. I had to spit inside the tube and my saliva was mixed with a clear liquid when I sealed the tube.  The tube is then shipped to 23andme, where they will take the saliva sample and extract and process the DNA on a genotyping chip that reads hundreds of thousands of variants in your genome. Genotyping is a method to extract and analyze the DNA found in your saliva. The lab will read the variants in my DNA versus other people’s DNA and generate personalized reports based on well-established scientific and medical research.

I’m pretty nervous about what the DNA test will tell me!

First, I will learn about my ancestry – where did I come from? What percent of my ancestry is European and what percent is Cuban? Who are my relatives? Is Yoenis Cespedes my real father? All of these questions will be answered along with contact information for my DNA relatives around the world- I think this means season tickets too!

Secondly, I will find out if I am a carrier for certain inherited conditions. Being a carrier means I have the variant for a condition which I can pass down, but I don’t have the condition. This is where potential controversies arise because people may or may not want to know if they are carriers  for harmful diseases. I am not sure I want to know! They test for over 35 conditions.

Thirdly, I will get a report that explains how my DNA impacts my health and my traits. Some of these include hair color, my chances of having a unibrow,  if I’m going to go bald (and when!), and if I have a preference for sweet vs. salty foods (I actually like both so good luck with that!).

I’m particularly excited for my results because I was born with a syndrome called Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, which results from the abnormal regulation of genes in a certain region of chromosome 11. I’m very interested to see if they are able to tell me more about this syndrome.

As 23andme gets more popular, there will be more data to compare with, which will expand the limits of what we can find out! I can not wait to meet all of my DNA relatives. Results will be in by the end of November, hopefully just in time for bring your Father to school day!




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