AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: melaria

Photosynthesis and Climate

With the recent wild fires in Australia, climate change has been on everyone’s mind. According to the US Energy Information Administration, climate change is in part due to the excessive greenhouse gas emissions, 76% of which come from the burning of fossil fuels.

The greenhouse effect is when heat is trapped near the earths surface by greenhouse gases. There are natural green house gases like carbon dioxide from humans which raise the average temperature of the earth from around 0 degrees to 50, yet since we have continuously been burning more and more carbon dioxide through things like burning fossil fuels, the temperature of the earth keeps rising. Luckily, a group of researchers found a way to try to reduce that number.

A group of researchers tried to imitate photosynthesis by taking energy from the sun to generate chemical fuels, and were successful. Photosynthesis is the process that plants use in order to create food, and ultimately energy from the sun. In order to complete this conversion, H2O must be broken down and the hydrogen atoms must attach to carbon. Then eight electrons and four protons must be added to one molecule of carbon. Even with all these steps, the newly developed copper-iron based catalyst is what makes this process actually work. The carbon and iron “hold onto by their carbon and oxygen atoms“, which allows for enough time for hydrogen  to attach to the carbon.

The process would create a significant change in the amount of greenhouse gas emission if done on a large scale. For this to happen, a artificial photosynthesis panel would have to connect to a source of CO2. While this strategy would be financially costly, the reward for our earth would far surpass any monetary value.

To read more about this research and how it can help our earth, click here.

The Microbiome and it’s Potential Link to Skin Appearance

Although it is a well-known speculation that dairy has a negative affect on skin appearance, a recent article on the gut microbiome shows it as far more involved in skin health.

Both the skin and gut are key players in maintaining physiologic homeostasis. This is the regulation of blood glucose level and pressure, core body temperature, etc. to keep the body functioning. Researchers believe this connection in physiologic homeostasis is reasoning as to why there is a direct connection between the gut microbiome and skin disorders.


There are many different ways the gut microbiome may affect skin. First, indigestion and buildup of bad bacteria in the gut microbiome may lead to problems in retaining nutrients, therefore discoloring and drying skin. Secondly, the gut microbiome contains mass amounts of  bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa, all of which infiltrate the gastrointestinal system. When intestinal barriers are disturbed, bacteria and microbiota enter the bloodstream, therefore disturbing skin homeostasis. This directly links with Psoriasis – a skin condition in which cells build up on the skin surface, forming scales and red patches. Lastly, fiber fermentation – digestible fiber which is broken down into short chain fatty acids and gases – may determine the severity of acne one experiences.

Although the gut microbiome can negatively affect skin appearance, it is also capable of improving skin health. In a 2013 study, mice were exposed to Lactobacillus reuteri supplements, allowing for an increase in skin thickeness and fur shininess. In a second study performed in 2o14, mice with exposure to Lactobacillus brevis, displayed a decrease in nerve tone and increase in blood flow, ultimately positively influencing water retention and skin appearance. Finally, a human study involving Lactobacillus paracasei supplements showed decrease in skin sensitivity.

Whether positive or negative, it is clear the human gut microbiome has an affect on skin appearance. To learn more click here.

E-cigarettes linked to cancers and other illnesses

New York State just placed the first temporary ban on the distribution of flavored e-cigarettes. Although this motion was repealed last week due to the “state’s executive overreach” (Tony Abound of Vapor Technology Association), the ban will be rediscussed on October 18th. Actions to reduce use of e-cigarettes are gaining momentum. This is in part due to a recent article discussing a study involving mice, which linked e-cigarette smoke to lung adenocarcinoma and bladder urothelial hyperplasia.

Just published two days ago, Moon-shong Tang, PhD of NYU School of Medicine, studied the affect of e-cigarette smoke on forty mice. Over a 54 week period of exposure, the results were both shocking and devastating. Twenty-three of the forty mice (57.5%) developed bladder urothelial hyperplasia (lack of cytologic atypia in thickened urothelium), changes in gene multiplication, and cancerous abnormal tissue growth. In addition, nine of the mice (22.5%) developed lung adenocarcinomas, a divison of lung cancer. Although the study was restricted due to the small trial size and the full-body smoke exposure opposed to inhalation, it is still prevalent to consider this trail in the dangers of e-cigarettes.

Once nicotine enters a cell, nitrosation (addition of a nitrosonium ion) converts nicotine to nitrosamines, a proven carcinogen. Although a 2017 study revealed nitrosamines in e-cigarette smokers was 95% less than in tobacco smokers, a new study proves mammalian cells already contain nitrosonium which react with inhaled nicotine to produce nitrosamines. Nitrosamine is unable to leave the cell, and therefore is undetectable by blood tests.

E-cigarettes have infiltrated todays society, specifically affecting teenagers and young adults. With appealing flavors and attractive packaging, e-cigarettes has swayed away from helping recovering smokers, to targeting young individuals, who generally have never smoked a cigarette before. I was not surprised to hear this trial’s results, as teenagers across the country have been experiencing hospitalization due to collapsed lungs and other illnesses related to e-cigarettes. I urge everyone to consider the consequences of e-cigarettes before using one.

For more details involving the trail, click here.



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