AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: mjb96

The Harm Stress Causes

Recently scientists have begun to discover why stress can have a negative effect on the human body. Although stress is needed when dealing with situations which require hormones to trigger a fight or flight, consistent stress can lead to a multitude of health problems. Chronic stress can lead to mental instability, and an increased risk in heart attacks, strokes, infection, etc. The decrease in health is due to inflammation and warped genetic material caused by epigenetics (chemical interactions that activate and deactivate regions of a genome to carry out specific functions). Recently scientists have discovered that  changes in epigenetics can affect activity levels in genes which directly change responsibilities of certain cells including immune cells. The stress causes a genetic response that deactivates certain areas of a genome which stops an immune cell from working properly, which of course leads to an increase in diseases that cannot be properly taken care of. Hopefully, as we continue to understand epigenetics, we will be able to take appropriate steps that will both further our understanding of the human genome, as well as help increase the longevity and immune system of individuals.

Third-hand Smoke Can Lead to Severe Medical Problems

Recently great attention has been given to the dangers of smoking. We all know the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke, however few know what third-hand smoke is or what it does. Third-hand smoke is the debris from cigarettes that lingers both in the air, and on objects giving off a foul odor. It is now coming to our attention that it is far more dangerous than we originally thought. Studies are showing that the inhalation can lead to health risks associated with routine smoking. In fact third-hand smoke may cause 60% of the damage that regular smoking creates. The toxins left behind by a smoker are even shown to stay in the area for nearly 18 hours. It is important for us to give greater attention to the effects of third-hand smoke in order to protect our health, and the health of those around smokers.

Football may become safer with the use of magnets in helmets

New research is being conducted which shows that magnets might make football safer. The purpose of the magnets would be to repel each other when players heads are colliding with one another, which in turn would lessen the force of the hit. Although it has not been tested yet, any idea that could be used to protect athletes in crucial. As time goes on the football helmet continues to change as new safety precautions are created. Profesional football players are known to travel at speeds of almost 20 miles per hour, coupled with the fact that they generally weight upwards of 200 lbs causing nearly 150 g’s of force when players collide. Many helmet to helmet collisions lead to concussions, which could lead to very severe health problems. It is necessary for us to become aware of these dangers, and take appropriate action to lessen player injuries.

Newly Discovered Exoplanet Has Water


Recently, scientists discovered an exoplanet the size of Neptune that has water. The planet, HAT-P-11b, is roughly four times the size of Earth. It is the smallest known exoplanet to have water, as all the exoplanets outside our solar system that have been found to contain water are the size of jupiter. Scientists were able to discover the presence of water vapor due to its ability to absorb infrared light whenever it passed in front of the star it was orbiting. Currently, the possibility of other worlds containing living conditions similar to our own world is extremely important. We are constantly searching to prove the question “are we alone in the universe”. Only recently, however, have we been able to start finding these exoplanets. With the discovery of each new exoplanet we learn more and more about our universe, and the possibility of other habitable worlds. This newly discovered exoplanet may not be habitable, but the mere presence  of water on it allows us to realize there is a good chance that there are many worlds similar to ours with the possibility of sustaining life.

The Continued Spread of Ebola



The most recent epidemic that is spreading through Africa is Ebola. It has taken the lives of over a thousand people, but it could get much worse. Without proper isolation and treatment of the infection scientists predict the number of infected individuals could increase to more than 20,000 in just six weeks. Some scientists are even predicting more than a million deaths due to Ebola if  treatment and containment is not improved. Ebola is generally transmitted from animals to humans, who then pass the virus t each other by contact. Symptoms generally include fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headaches and a sore throat, which is then followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, and finally impaired kidney and liver function. The fatality rage for this contagion is about 70%. As of right now there is no vaccine for this virus, and the best way to stop the spread of it is to simply isolate those experiencing symptoms. This virus is currently being closely monitored as it is unknown whether the situation in Africa will get worse, and begin to spread to other countries, infecting people by the thousands. Hopefully scientists are able to discover a vaccine that will halt the spread of this deadly virus, saving the lives of thousands of individuals

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