AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: kem24

Marriage: GOOD for your Blood Pressure?

wedding rings

The Journal of Hypertension, recently released a study by researchers at Harvard Medical School that being married may actually be good for your blood pressure. Researchers followed 325 individuals over a period of two years and monitored their blood pressure rates. Half of the subjects were married while the other half were single.

According to this study a “healthy” person should follow a cycle of blood pressure throughout the day. A person’s blood pressure should raise during the day and then fall over night. A ten percent drop in  systolic pressure–the number at the top when reading blood pressure– is considered “normal” for an average person. The researchers refer to this pattern as “nocturnal dipping”.

Of the 325 individuals tested those who were married were more likely to follow this pattern of “nocturnal dipping”. Married men especially experienced this throughout the study. Researchers came to this conclusion after taking into account age,  weight, medical history, socio economic status, diet, and body mass index in addition to a person marital status.

It is believed that marriage gives a person an emotional and economic support system, which in turn allows a person to better manage stress and blood pressure.

OUCH! : Why some people may be more sensitive to pain than others.

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 4.10.27 PM

Have you ever noticed that some people are more “sensitive” to pain than others? Many may wonder if a person’s sensitivity pain could be simply psychological or if there is a true genetic disposition to be more prone to pain. New research suggests that it IS a biological disposition that causes people to feel more pain than others!

In the study, researchers asked 116 perfectly healthy people to rate the pain they felt when a small area of their skin was heated to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. After a few days of testing the subjects were placed in MRI machines. The findings of the MRIs, to the surprise of the researchers did indeed show a link between a persons sensitivity to pain and the thickness of a persons brain cortex, an area previously linked to attention control and introspection.  What researchers discovered was that the thinner the cortex of these areas, the more sensitive people were to painful stimuli.

According to Nichole Emerson, a graduate student at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, “Subjects with higher pain intensity ratings had less gray matter in brain regions that contribute to internal thoughts and control of attention”.

These findings can not only explain the cause of pain, but also may lead to breakthrough in how doctors in the near and distant future treat patients suffering from chronic pain.

The areas identified in the new study have been previously associated with resting or daydreaming; often referred to as “default mode”. This may explain why people with less gray matter area are more sensitive to pain. Default mode activity may compete with the brain activity that generates an experience of pain. In simpler terms, People who spend more time daydreaming may be less sensitive to pain.

In addition to the grey matter of the brain, researchers also associated pain with the posterior parietal cortex (PPC). The PPC also plays an important role in how people maintain attention. People who can best keep their attention focused may also be best at keeping pain under control.





New Breakthrough in Cancer Research

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 10.08.15 PM

A metastasized tumor is a group of cancer cells that have spread from a localized area through out the body. Normally once a cancer has metastasized the patient has a more serious prognosis. In some cancers, metastatic disease can be a death sentence. For years scientists have been challenged with understanding how tumors spread beyond their initial boundaries.

Their questions may have finally been answered. Researchers at Yale University have found metastasis in the brain of a cancer patient with melanoma that is a hybrid of Tumor and White Blood Cells. It is hypothesized that these hybrids may explain how cancers travel to distant sites and metastasize. This theory had been proposed before, but it was not until recently that genes from both tumor and White Blood cells were found in tumor cells. Researchers tested their theory on a sixty-eight year old cancer patient who had received a bone marrow transplant from his brother. Bone marrow helps stimulate the production of white blood cells. No one person’s bone marrow is exactly alike, even if they are brothers. Researchers found that the bone marrow the patient had received from his brother fused with the cancer cells to make a hybrid cell almost identical to that of the patient. This implies that the cancer cells are not just targeting the specific, weak white blood cells of the cancer patient, but also the healthier blood cells of his brother. Cancer can metastasize quicker than we had assumed.

So it leaves us with the question: What are we to do with this information? Researchers suggest that when the mechanism of fusion is fully understood, target therapies can be developed to attack the formation of the White Cell- tumor Hybrids.

Article Source:

Decoy Protein Boosts Bone Growth

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 7.09.01 PM

Dwarfism is a condition that affects the growth of an individuals body.   It is caused by a mutation in the FGFR3, the gene that provides instruction for making a protein involved in normal  brain and bone development.  The most common form of Dwarfism is achondroplasia.  Sufferers from this particular type of dwarfish often have small legs and small arms with an abnormally large head, although there are other variations.  The obvious physical  effects of dwarfism, are however only one  aspect of the problem.  The more serious consequence of  achondroplasia is that patients often experience hearing, breathing, and spine problems.  All of these problems result in a very uncomfortable lifestyle, and they frequently lead to premature death.

A team of French researchers have recently discovered a “decoy” protein that helps stimulate bone growth among mice with dwarf-like characteristics.  When the decoy protein was injected it prevented binding with the mutant receptor. In doing so it  allowed for normal bone growth in the mice.  Further, in addition to bone growth, ,the protein was found to diminish  premature mortality amongst the mice.

Scientists now hope to use the knowledge gained in this study of sFGFR3 on mice, and advance the research to human test patients.  Although members of the dwarf community reject the idea that dwarfism is something that needs to be “cured” in the traditional sense, researchers respond that the value in the treatment is not about restoring normal size.  They are equally concerned with correcting the underlying medical issues that often develop in dwarfs, such as spinal compression.   According to head researcher Elvire Gouze “yes they will be taller, but the most important thing is they [people with dwarfism] will avoid costly life or death surgery later in life.”

In addition to the breakthrough of the  decoy sFGFR3 protein, researchers at BioMarin Pharmaceutical in Novato, California have been researching the BMN-111. They too  hope to find similar results for patients suffering from the side effects of achondroplasia.

Photo Resource:

Read more at:

Article Resource:

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar