AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: maryapoppins

A New Breakthrough in Eating Disorder Treatment

Currently, we are in the midst of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.  Eating disorders are a rising problem in the United States.  About 30 million men and women suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetimes, including Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and EDNOS.  Although treatment options are improving, it is quite difficult to recover from an eating disorder, which I now as someone currently in recovery from Anorexia Nervosa, and many people stay ensconced in the disorder for years.  Luckily, a new therapy has been found to be useful in the treatment of chronic eating disorders.  This new treatment method is called cognitive remediation therapy (CRT).  People in the depth of an eating disorder often show a deficit in neuropsychological functioning, which might be a reason for the development of an eating disorder and also could be the reason for a relapse.  Deficits in cognitive flexibility, for example set-shifting and central coherence, seem to perpetuate the symptoms of an eating disorder.  In CRT, patients focus on how they think rather than the exact thoughts that they are thinking.  In a study, patients who received CRT in addition to traditional treatment showed a much more favorable outcome in terms of recovery.  Patients who participated in CRT were able to improve their cognitive flexibility and keep in mind two ideas at once.  An example of this would be having the belief that a certain food will immediately cause one to gain ten pounds but also keeping in mind that that is a disordered thought and that no food itself (in moderation) will ever make anyone fat.  The ability to entertain both of these thoughts would allow the patient to think more rationally and recognize the disordered side of his or her thinking.  I never had the opportunity to experience CRT, but I’m sure it would have been helpful in allowing me to more clearly distinguish the eating disorder thoughts from the rational thoughts.  Hopefully, CRT will be useful in bringing the 20% mortality rate of eating disorders down.

My Recovery Picture

Photo by Project Heal (and Mary)

Doctors Discover New Ligament in Knee

Many already know about the four ligaments in the knee- medial collateral, anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate, and lateral collateral.  However, according to a New York Times article, doctors in Belgium have identified a fifth ligament in the knee called the anterolateral ligament (A.L.L.).  This ligament was originally speculated about in the 19th century by a French surgeon named Paul Segond.  While Segond did note evidence of its presence and function, he failed to name it, and its presence was forgotten.

File:PaulSegond.jpg; (US Public Domain Tag)


However, it has been discovered again and given a proper name.  The A.L.L. on the outside, front portion of the thighbone and continues down to the beginning of the shinbone.  This placement allows it to stabilize the knee and prevent it from collapsing inward.  Previously, doctors thought that the A.L.L. was just a continuation of the illiotibial band, but it is clear now that it is a completely different entity.

A few years ago, Dr. Claes and his colleagues noticed that some patients that had underwent and recovered from A.C.L. surgery had problems with their knees collapsing.  He guessed at the existence of a new ligament and searched for the ligament in donated knees; he easily found it.  Now doctors are beginning to practice procedures for torn and sprained A.L.L.s.  Thanks to Dr. Claes’ rediscovery of Segond’s original hypothesis, doctors will now be able to fully treat all ligaments in the knee.

Is it Really in Your Genes?

Over and over again, we have been told that our personality traits, our idiosyncrasies, our weaknesses, and our merits are all because of our genome.  Supposedly, if someone studies our DNA, they will know exactly the type of person we are, but is that really true?  According to new research, it’s not.  Researchers have discovered that is extremely common for a person to have mosaicism, or multiple genomes.  In other words, chimeras make up a higher fraction of people than scientists originally thought.  Some have many variations, or mutations, in certain parts of the body, and some people even have genomes that are from other people.  People can acquire a different set of genes along with their original genes as early as in the womb.  Previously, there were just hints about the idea of multiple genomes, but the hints have turned into definite statements.  The evidence of multiple genomes is changing the way scientists think. Links between rare diseases and multiple genomes are becoming apparent.  After figuring this out, scientists are figuring out links between more common disorders and genome multiplicity.  Although many forms of cancer and other diseases are linked to mosaicism, most instances of multiple genomes are benign.  It is also changing the way that forensic scientists view DNA evidence in crime investigations.  The biggest change of all is perhaps that scientists now have to consider that DNA from a finger prick may not be the same DNA in a muscle cell or brain cell.  This means that scientists can’t tell what is happening in all the organs just from a simple blood test or test from one organ.  They can’t be certain of what is happening in other parts of the body.  However, scientists are hard at work discovering more powerful ways to investigate our multiple genomes.

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