AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: sandovalosome

New and Improved Cancer Treatments!

Did you know that new approaches to fighting cancer just use the patient’s own immune system?!                                                                                                                                      In recent years, researching and manipulating the immune system has quickly allowed for new tested and approved treatments that are becoming increasingly popular. This treatment is called Immunotherapy.

Although the immune system can fight cancer on its own, cancer cells can bypass the immune system and spread. Immunotherapy allows the immune system to have a stronger attack on the cancer cells in various ways. One type of immunotherapy treatment is Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors. Unlike other treatments, checkpoint inhibitors work with the immune system to target cancer cells rather than attack them directly. The immune system can distinguish between normal cells and foreign cells (cancer cells) while protecting the normal cells from being attacked. However, as previously stated, cancer cells can exploit the checkpoint proteins on immune cells (T cells) to evade the body’s immune response. In this process, there are two very important proteins involved: PD-1 and PD-L1. PD-1 is a checkpoint protein on the surface of T cells that functions as a regulator, helping to control and restrain the T cells (from attacking healthy cells in the body) when bound to PD-L1, a protein on both normal and cancer cells. So basically, the PD-1 checkpoints act
like a traffic light: green means go, and red means stop! Diagram showing cancer cells spreading into the blood stream CRUK 448

The most common immune checkpoint inhibitor is Pembrolizumab, more commonly recognized by KeytrudaPembrolizumab targets and blocks the PD-1 protein, which triggers the T-cells to find and kill cancer cells. This drug is received intravenously (IV) and is used for multiple cancers, sometimes independently, but it can also be combined with other types of treatment. Pembrolizumab is approved to treat breast cancer, lung cancer, melanoma, kidney cancer, liver cancer, and cervical cancer, among many other types.


In our AP Biology class, we discussed what causes cells to become cancerous, how those are then different from healthy cells, and how they metastasize. From learning how cancers develop, I wanted to do more research and found it very interesting how this complex matter is treated. Learning that there are various approaches to treating cancer leaves me wanting to research more. I find it so cool how this newer treatment, Keytruda, supports the body’s immune system because it proves how smart our bodies are, and since immune checkpoint inhibitors continue to be tested and approved, is very encouraging and hopeful as it is an example of science advancing.

What do you think about immune checkpoint inhibitors? Would you expect this kind of treatment to be more or less efficient than treatments you may be familiar with already?

Astronomy tools used to detect COVID-19 !?

Would you ever expect a laser designed for outer space to analyze your health? If you answered yes, get ready to learn why! If not, pay close attention because what you’re about to learn is incredible! This laser is called an “optical frequency comb.” These lasers emit light waves, initially for researching outer space and accurate timekeeping. Because of the COVID outbreak, researchers have found a more promising use of this frequency mechanism. 

The Optical Frequency Comb received its name from the way it functions. These FrequencyComb-measurement
rapid bursts happen in a specific order across different colors of light, ranging from infrared to ultraviolet. When these frequencies are on a graph, it creates peaks that are said to look like the “teeth” of a comb. Now, researchers are exploring the possibility of utilizing this tool to identify specific molecules associated with COVID, and the comb can potentially identify these molecules by recognizing the absorbed colors. It would make most sense that the laser seeks out particular proteins on the virus. As evaluated in our AP Biology class, we know proteins are extremely important in terms of viruses. Proteins in viruses play a vital role by building the virus’s structure and helping it interact with the host’s cells. They enable the virus to enter cells, replicate, and avoid the host’s immune response. Viral proteins also manipulate the host’s cellular functions/processes, ensuring the virus’s survival and spread in the host organism.

Because specific molecules absorb distinct colors of light. The comb can recognize certain molecules in an air sample by identifying the absorbed colors. Because of the severe global pandemic, scientists have found a way to utilize this tool to diagnose patients with COVID in a less “nosy” technique (literally)! Rather than sticking a swab up your nose, all you have to do is exhale. Easy!

Researcher Qizhong Liang mentions that it is best to take the typical PCR test for a more precise result. Because this new COVID testing method is new and still under evaluation, it is best to double-check the test results. Nevertheless, this researchSARS-CoV-2 without background offers a promising future for detecting diseases, such as COVID-19, in a quicker, less effortless way! I find it incredibly fascinating how a group of scientists could take an astronomy tool and use it medically to help diagnose patients. Would you trust this method to diagnose you?

Unlocking the Mysteries of the Brain: Bridging Neuroscience and AP Biology

In recent years, neuroscience has unveiled exciting breakthroughs in our understanding of the human brain, revealing its intricate nature. Thanks to the National Institutes of Health’s BRAIN Initiative and the work of the BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network, we are now diving deeper into the cellular makeup of the brain. This research aligns with our AP Biology lessons on cell structure. It highlights the highly organized nature of nerve cells, reinforcing the concept that cells are the fundamental building blocks of life.

Neuron Cell Body

One remarkable achievement of this research is the creation of detailed cell maps of human and nonhuman primate brains. This development aligns with our AP Biology class, where we have learned about the fundamental concept of cell structure. Cells are, indeed, the building blocks of life, and this research demonstrates how, even in the complex nervous system, all cells exhibit a specific and organized arrangement.

This exploration also highlights the intriguing similarities in the cellular and molecular properties of human and nonhuman primate brains. These shared features reflect our evolutionary history and the conserved nature of brain structure across different species. The research suggests that slight changes in gene expression during human evolution have led to adaptations in neuronal wiring and synaptic function, contributing to our remarkable ability to adapt, learn, and change.

In our recent studies on neurons, we have learned about the fascinating world of these specialized cells. Our understanding of neuron structure and function provides a foundation for comprehending the significance of the research conducted under the BRAIN Initiative. This supports that the brain’s structure is not fixed but adapts to meet the challenges it faces.
The primary goal of the BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network is to create a comprehensive record of brain cells. This understanding aids in comprehension of the development and progression of brain disorders. By learning the cellular composition of the brain, we can address the challenges that arise when things go wrong, promising a brighter future in the field of brain science.

As we reflect on these intriguing connections between neuroscience and our AP Biology knowledge, it is evident that our class has equipped us with a fundamental understanding of cell structure. This knowledge has proven invaluable in making sense of groundbreaking neuroscience research. I find this as a very intriguing and exciting journey, and scientists are actively committed to understanding the brain’s remarkable adaptability, the key to its functioning and evolution. As we explore the fascinating connections between neuroscience and our AP Biology knowledge, how could this deeper understanding of the brain’s adaptability and structure impact the future of healthcare and treatments for neurological conditions? Feel free to share your views and insights!

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