BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: rebesomes

Tardigrades in Space?

Behold the tardigrade: the eight legged microscopic phenomenon sometimes known as the water bear. They have long been known for their fascinating resilience in extreme environments. And now, according to this article, scientists now believe that they have found the reason why they are so indestructible. It has to do with their ability to hibernate.

When under stress or in a dangerous environment, the tardigrades are able to curl up into a ball known as the “tun stage” and enter a dormant state. In these situations, their cells are able to detect when they are producing harmful substances called free radicals. These free radicals then come in contact with cysteines, an amino acid in our bodies. The cysteines oxidize the free radical, which oxidizes the signal that allows the tardigrades to enter their tun stage. The tardigrades can wake up from their tuns when the cysteine is no longer being oxidized, which can be seen when the conditions around them improve. According to this article these findings can provide plenty of insight about how tardigrades are able to withstand the conditions of space travel. If this process allows the tardigrades to survive in environments of extreme temperatures or stress, they would certainly be able to use the same strategies when they are sent to space.

Tardigrade

In addition to these findings about tardigrade space travel, other research has been done about how these tardigrades can help us make advancements in medicine. This article states that they can be used to preserve biological materials such as cells or tissues. We use the information gathered from their resilient hibernation abilities to make this connection to the medical field. This can be very helpful in the healthcare industry because these advancements will allow us to keep these life-saving materials alive for longer periods of time.

In AP Bio, we spent time learning about tardigrades and even got to do our own search for them in class. My lab group was able to find tardigrades in a moss sample from our school’s campus, and it was so interesting to see them in the microscope after much intense searching. Because of this, I was very interested to read about these new findings, and it is so fascinating to see how such a tiny organism can be so powerful. I look forward to seeing what other advancements can be made with tardigrades and I would love to hear your thoughts!

Is COVID-19 Linked to Diabetes?

COVID-19 Virus diabetesToday’s children are being born into a world much different than what we once knew. The new reality of our world involves grappling with the effects of COVID-19. However, it seems that some children are experiencing greater effects than we could have imagined. As it was recently discovered, after a child is infected with COVID, he or she may have a heightened risk of developing Type 1 Diabetes. This adds another complicated layer to the pandemic that we thought we had mostly seen the end of. This article will detail the facts of the research while also providing insight from my AP Biology studies.

Over the past three years, we have become all too familiar with SARS-CoV-2, known as the virus that causes COVID-19. We have seen its effects in many different ways in our own lives and the lives of those around us. Now, as research improves, new discoveries have been made about COVID’s link to Diabetes in children. This article from NewScientist by Chen Ly highlights these studies. The article mentions that inside the pancreas are these structures called islets of Langerhans. These islets are groups of pancreatic cells that are responsible for producing insulin and glucagon, the two hormones that are crucial for the regulation of our blood sugar. The body can develop an autoimmune response to these islet beta cells and then fight against them with autoantibodies. If enough autoantibodies are created, they can trigger the onset of type 1 diabetes after killing too many islets in the pancreas. In a research study conducted by Annette-Gabriele Ziegler at The Technical University of Munich in Germany, it was concluded that children who had COVID antibodies were twice as likely to develop islet antibodies than those who have not been infected. This information provides insight on the relationship between COVID antibodies and diabetes. If children’s bodies can create these autoantibodies that kill the islets, the insulin production in young children can be weakened by COVID infection.

As stated in this article from the University of Minnesota, diagnoses of Type 1 Diabetes increased as a result of documented COVID infections. The incidence rate of T1D was 29.9 from January 2020 to December 2021. This was a jump up from the 19.5 incidence rate recorded in 2018 and 2019. This jump suggests that COVID infection is correlated to an observed increase in T1D. In an article by the CDC, it was reported that people under the age of 18 were more likely to receive a diabetes diagnosis after 30 days from COVID infection. This highlights the importance of COVID prevention strategies in order to additionally prevent other chronic diseases. In addition, this PubMed states that during the pandemic, we observed an increase in cases of hyperglycemia, diabetic ketoacidosis, and new diabetes. Th alludes to the possibility that COVID may trigger or unmask T1D.

Recently in our AP Biology class, we have been learning about the immune system and cell communication. This can be related to the research mentioned above in that we have covered the topic of blood sugar regulation and studied the pathway of insulin and glucagon throughout our bodies. Insulin regulates our blood sugar by helping to store the excess glucose in the liver when there is too much of it in the bloodstream. Glucagon does the inverse of this by taking the stored glucose from the liver and bringing it to the bloodstream when blood sugar levels are low. Both of these hormones seek to maintain homeostasis. In addition, we have focused on how our bodies react to viruses, and the different kinds of cellular responses that are necessary to fight infections. This is related to my research for this article because it dives deeper into the concepts of immune responses and blood sugar regulation. Getting to read about these topics in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic has further enhanced my understanding of them. 

I chose to write about this topic because of the impact that both COVID-19 and Diabetes has had on my family, which helps me to connect with these topics and heightens my curiosity. I welcome any comments regarding these topics and how they may have affected you or someone you know. What are your thoughts on these findings?

How Do Cells Cope With Stress?

Yeast Cell

As humans, our surroundings can make us naturally prone to stress. Whether it’s an overwhelming situation or a big responsibility, there are a plethora of reason that humans become stressed. But have you ever thought about how our own bodies and cells undergo their own kinds of stress? The environment that we are exposed to has an impact on the way that our cells operate, and recent research has provided information about how they can cope with it.

A source from the University of Chicago recently released this article that dives into the facts about the heat-shock of cells and how their adaptation of stress is one of the fundamental processes of life. In fact, this doesn’t only apply t0 our own cells, it also exists in single-celled organisms. The article cites the example of a yeast cell sitting on a bowl of fruit in the kitchen, but as the sunlight begins to warm up the kitchen, the environment becomes less pleasant for the yeast cell. For years, researchers have concentrated on how various genes react to heat stress as a way to understand this survival strategy. Now, because of the innovative application of sophisticated imaging techniques, scientists are obtaining an unprecedented view of the inner workings of cells to see how they react to heat-stress. Cells use a protective mechanism for their orphan ribosomal proteins by preserving them in liquid-like condensates. These proteins are essential for growth but are particularly susceptible to clustering when regular cell processing stops. The condensates are dispersed by molecular chaperon proteins when the heat-shock has passed. This enables the integration of the orphaned proteins into functional mature ribosomes that can start churning out proteins. The cell can resume its work without losing energy thanks to the rapid restart of ribosome manufacturing. This source from The Journal of Applied Physiology studies the importance of thermotolerance and acclimatization and how they allow an organism to survive what would normally be a lethal heat stress. Thermotolerance is defined as an organism’s ability to survive in high temperatures. Acclimatization is an organism’s ability to complete more work in the heat because of improvements in heat dissipation which is brought on by frequent, small increases in core temperature. These two factors of heat adaptation help us to understand the impact of cellular stress on an organism’s adaptation to its environment. In addition, this PubMed mentions how the effects of mild heat stress are just as important as those of severe heat stress. The cellular response to fever-ranged mild heat stress is very substantial from a physiological standpoint. When an organism’s temperature is displaying a fever, the body temperature only increases about 1-2 degrees Celsius. This is helpful information because it can help researchers determine how our cells are affected by illness when our body temperature rises to a fever.

There is plenty to discover about the inner workings of our cells. Our capabilities improve every day, but one thing stays the same: our cells will continue to adapt to heat stress in order to regulate the temperatures of our environment that surrounds us. As we have studied the contents of the cell in AP Bio, we have learned about the roles that the organelles play in the function of the cell. The specific organelles that are involved in cellular stress response are Endoplasmic Reticulum, Golgi Apparatus, lysosomes, and mitochondria. Their role in this process is to connect changes in metabolite levels to cellular reactions. The lipid membranes of organelles sense the changes in specific metabolites and activate the appropriate signaling and effector molecules. Our studies about cells and membranes have taught us about the roles of these organelles, but this research solidifies what we know about cells and can be helpful to understand how metabolism works in our cells.  That is part of what moved me to research this topic. I had never learned anything about cellular stress and how it is regulated, so it was an interesting opportunity to get to learn about it. This research about cell adaptation only adds to the understanding that we have gained from learning about the cell and how it has evolved from its origins. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the this. How do you think that these recent findings will be helpful for future discoveries in medicine?

 

 

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