AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: polkaryotic

Can We Genetically Modify Humans to Live on Mars?

CRISPR is a gene-editing technique that modifies the genomes of living organisms. They do this by searching for a strand of DNA and “when the target DNA is found, Cas9 – one of the enzymes produced by the CRISPR system – binds to the DNA and cuts it, shutting the targeted gene off.” CRISPR has been used to cure people of genetic diseases. Crispr

Humans have always dreamed of being able to live freely on another planet other than earth. It has been the topic of many pop culture movies throughout history. However with the use of gene editing theoretically this is possible. In a research paper written in 2016, they state that the main problems of living in other worlds would be radiation. With the use of gene-editing they’ve found that the protein named “Dsup prevented the animal’s DNA from breaking under the stress of radiation and desiccation“. It was also able to block X-ray damage by almost 40%. Lisa Nip a scientist at MIT state that “using genetic editing tools like CRISPR to actually transform our own DNA and make ourselves more able to survive in space.” This relates to our AP Bio class as we learned about genes as well as how the genes shape our traits as human. The idea of changing our genes is incredible as we always believed that it’s just how we were born and our parent’s chromosomes determined how we are, but now with CRISPR gene-editing, they can alter our DNA structure. Then through Mitosis, we are able to multiply our DNA, and eventually, all our genes are the edited version.DNA replication cy

CRISPR is rapidly advancing our research of gene-editing as it is the easiest and most reliable way to review gene-editing meaning that people are able to study it easily. This also means that scientist have easy access to it and are able to run many trials on DNA editing. Finally, there is a moral question to ask. Is it ethical to edit a person’s genes even if it helps them? Should we tamper with our human genetics? These questions aren’t very pressing as of now because we are still in the primary stages of gene-editing, however, some day these are going to be upon us. Thank You For reading let me know what you think about gene-editing down below.

Cancer In Humans VS. Plants

Cancer is a disease that has ranked 2nd in the deaths of the US only falling behind to heart disease. In our AP Biology class, we learned that cancer in humans is caused by a cell that has a genetic defect that is multiplying too quickly causing clumps and tumors. Whilst this has been devastating to humans and other animals for years, how does it affect plants that are another kind of multi-cellular organism?

An article that highlights the effects of cancer on plants states that cancer in plants acts differently than cancer in humans. Within plants, the cells aren’t moving so it can’t affect many other tissues like in animal cells. Furthermore, plants, specifically trees, don’t have any vital organs whereas with humans if cancer reaches an organ such as the Brain or the Liver we will die, however, if cancer reaches a branch the tree can simply grow a new one. In a New York Times article, C. Claiborne Ray states that “Excess plant cell production in the form of galls sometimes benefits future generations of insects” This relationship is not seen in Animals and can really help the wasps as they lay their eggs in the fast-growing tissue. Cancer in plants can almost be seen as helpful to the environment.

Cancer stem cells model

Cancer in humans is vastly different because there is no upside to having cancer as an animal. Cancer in animals is caused by an old cell not dying but instead rapidly multiplying and thus creating an abundance of defective cells that cause things such as tumors and if it were to reach your vital organs you would most likely die. In humans, the only real way to treat cancer so far is to use Chemotherapy. This method of treatment is very basic as it doesn’t distinguish between what fast-growing cells are which and kills any cell that is growing too fast. It is not 100% effective nor is it side effect free. The patient’s hair falls off as hair is very fast-growing and the therapy believes that it is cancer cells so they kill it off.

In conclusion cancer in Humans and Plants are similar at the beginning with things such as how they contract cancer and what exactly happens. However, the effects for plants are severely less than the effects on humans. While plants cancer gives a nice home for wasps to lay eggs as well as simply give the plant a minor bump. Human cancer is a devastating disease that caused the death of millions. Let me know what you think down below!


Omicron’s Effect on the Vaccinated by Vaccination Status

As the world continues to be stricken by the seemingly everlasting wave of strains of Sars-Cov-2, the vaccine began to give people hope as it was extremely effective against the original disease as well as all the other strains up until now. With sudden jump in corona cases, researchers have discovered that there is a new virus that is soon to take over as the most prevalent virus in the world. It’s been named Omicron but the question that is on a lot of people’s mind is if this new strain will be hindered by the vaccine or will it continue on its rampage across the world.

Study Participant Receives NIAID-GSK Candidate Ebola Vaccine (3)

Studies show that the answer is dependent on vaccination status. Omicron has accounted for “90% of COVID cases in areas like the Midwest” states Doctor Rochelle Walensky. The article later goes on to state that the booster vaccination shot ” increased by 25-fold people’s levels of virus-fighting antibodies.” Ultimately the amount of vulnerability you have to this new strain is directly tied to how many vaccination shot you have. But why do we even need a booster shot if the first two doses should have been enough? Well to answer this question we first need to look at how the initial two doses work. The CDC states that “Vaccines work by stimulating your immune system to produce antibodies, exactly like it would if you were exposed to the disease.”  As we learned in our AP Biology class, by giving you a small amount of sars-cov-2, the dendritic cell is able to enlist the help of plasma B cells and memory B cells by sending out T helper cells. This is known as theHumorale Immunantwort humoral response and is what gives you the ability to fight off breakthrough infections as well as help hinder the symptoms of sars-cov-2. It is able to suppress symptoms as well as prevent reinfections because once your body has fought off a little bit of the virus with the antibodies created by B helper cells your body is able to make a copy of how to deal with it in your B memory cells. The memory B cells are what give you your immunity to the virus. However over time they do run out as you were only given a small amount of the virus so this is where the booster comes into affect. The booster shot is designed so that your body is able to continue to get stimulated by the virus so that you B plasma and helper cells are able to keep memorizing and keep fighting off small (in the case of the vaccine) or big (in the case of an actual infection) Covid cases. There may continue to be more booster that you must take in order to keep your immunity, and no its not because the chip is running out of battery or they want to keep injecting you, but its due to the fact that your body simply can’t remember such a small amount of the virus for very long and if you don’t get the booster you are 25x more likely to contract Omicron than those who have all three. Ultimately the vaccine is still effective against Omicron, however Omicrons ability to be more infectious than any other variant before it is why it was able to take over the world so quickly. That being said there is a very real possibility that there will be a Omicron centered booster shot that will be significantly more effective than the past three shots against this devastating variant. Feel free to let me know how you feel about Omicron, a special new booster, or about how that Vaccine works down below.


Mu Vs. Delta: Which is the Scarier SARS-CoV-2 Variant?

The Mu variant has been a term of interest in a lot of peoples conversations. This is due to the fact that it has been getting a lot of news coverage as one of the latest variants of the world wide virus SARS-CoV-2. It has been portrayed to be the next big virus ready to take over the world, but, does it have the legs to do so and how much more dangerous is it than other mutations such as the Delta variant?

Laboratoire de Physique de la Matière Condensée laboratoire PMC - 46940329992

The Mu variant first popped up on January 2021 in Columbia and has spread to about 39 countries since then. Mu is very similar to the original version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, where it differs is at the two mutations E484K and K417N. These are what cause Mu to be seen as a variant of the original virus. The traditional anti-bodies that would normally be able to stop SARS-CoV-2 are seemingly ineffective against Mu leading the World Health Organization to classify it as a “Variant of Interest”. This classification means that it will continue to be monitored closely to derive the best possible plan on how to contain it. The mutations of Mu give it different properties such as mutation E484K, this mutation caused a drastic change in the structure of the original Covid-19 protein and thus made it so that it is able to by pass the human immune system easier. This is seen as a big problem because studies of how the anti-bodies effect SARS-CoV-2 conducted in US and UK compared to those conducted African countries have shown that African cases seem to be severely less effective against SARS-CoV-2. Researchers believe this is due to Africa being exposed to significantly more cases with the E484K mutation. As discussed in class this sequence of numbers and letters means that in the original amino acid sequence at spot 484 there was a Glutamic Acid amino acid (which is a negatively charged), and then once the mutation occurred it then became Lysine which is positively charged. This change in properties is what causes the protein to fold differently thus causing a severe changes as to how it behaves in humans. The Mu variant seems to have been able to disregard the anti-bodies and still effect the human body. However this seems to be the reach of its dangerous mutations because as of now scientist have no reason to believe that Mu is any more transmissible than the original virus which is a good sign.

The Delta variant has been an extremely worrisome mutation for some time now with the first case being noted back in October of 2020 believing to have originated in India. The Delta variant has been one that has taken over the world recently and it seems as though the former version of Covid-19 is a thing of the past and that Delta is the new pandemic. This is due to Delta’s interesting mutation P681R. The original amino acid at place 681 was Proline which has no charge, however after the mutation occurred it became Arginine which is negatively charges causing the amino acids to behalves differently with each other and the environment. This mutation is the cause of Delta’s incredibly rapid spread throughout the world. This ability to be globally spread in months is just one of the reasons why it has also taken the lives of so many as more people are getting Delta over the initial virus now.

Ultimately, it is clear which variant has been seen as the more dangerous by the media: Delta. However, while the Delta variant is scary in it’s own right, it just seems to be a faster spreading SARS-CoV-2. Meanwhile Mu has a way to almost be a completely different virus as it spreads just as fast as the original virus (it only took 4-5 months to completely shut down the world). It is also able to completely bypass the anti-bodies if you already had Covid-19 or have the vaccine. If this virus reaches levels of spread to the likes of Delta then scientist are going to have to create a new vaccine for Mu as it is simply to dangerous to ignore. Feel free to share how you feel about all of this and let me hear your take on the more menacing variant!

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