AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: sarahturatedfat

Race is a Social Construct. Science cannot be Misused to Justify Racism.

This blog post from Montclair HS in NJ, co-written by a teacher and a student is very insightful through its thorough exploration of the biology of melanin as well as some helpful links in its introduction of genetics and race. 

Melanin is a pigment found in our skin whose job is to protect us from harsh conditions such as sunlight (specifically the radiation from rays that can damage DNA and increase risk of skin cancer). Those with higher levels of melanin tend to have darker eyes and those with lower levels have lighter eyes. In addition, there are two types of melanin called eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin (in higher concentration) is responsible for darker shades in eyes, hair, and skin while pheomelanin (in higher concentration) is responsible for lighter shades.

The topic then shifts to the idea of skin color losing its biological importance. It contributes to the creation of race and its value. When science mixes with societal constructs, things can get complicated. Through science, we obtain knowledge backed by evidence. What happens if bias interferes? I’d question the accuracy of the information I consume. Science should not be utilized to push forward personal agendas nor should it be used to justify things like racism. The blog links an article covering misrepresentative genetic data and how it can be used to support one’s view. The article references a 2017 gathering of white nationalists chugging milk, because digesting lactose as an adult is a genetic trait more frequent in white people. However, this stems from a racially charged past. Other minorities were excluded from this evolution, yet this trait is commonly used to tell those of African descent to leave America. While certain findings appear to have one meaning, we must be careful to not fixate on how we want to use information to support our own opinions. Part of this responsibility belongs to scientists and how they present their data. Many doubt their ability to communicate to the public about controversial topics. All humans are 99.6-99.8% identical. That as a fact is the basis of why I believe there aren’t superior or inferior people.


This glass of milk may be cool, but white supremacy isn’t. The genetic trait to be able to digest lactose after childhood is far more common in white adults. However, this is not due to racial superiority in any way. There was a chance mutation that not everyone experienced because of discriminatory conditions during the time period.

The American Medical Association implemented two policies as of November 16, 2020. The policies acknowledge race as a social construct. Racial essentialism – when race is considered a biological construct – worsens health disparities for marginalized groups. Therefore the AMA desires medical education that can explain how racism is able to grow when race is presented as biology. It is their hope that race can one day no longer be a determinant of health.

This blog piqued my interest, because I often forget that identifiers such as race and gender are social constructs. These articles were a perfect combination of what some of my Diversity Committee work is but also what we have been learning in AP Bio about genetics. I think it is so important to address these areas of bias within our systems in this country. Racial inequality has been prevalent for far too long. We must use science for the greater good and not to support each personal opinion we have.

Antibody Concoctions: Possible COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment?

We all have heard the exciting news about Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine: a possible savior and source of hope for years to come. According to a LiveScience article by Nicoletta Lanese, “an antibody cocktail designed to prevent and treat COVID-19” entered late-stage trials over the summer. Scientists have been working to find an effective treatment that doesn’t have as many limitations as current findings. A treatment known as convalescent plasma therapy has been circulating clinical trials. It is not FDA-approved and therefore not available to the public. Antibodies are extracted from recovered COVID-19 patients and injected into sick patients in order to boost their immune systems. This method is too unreliable and unpredictable.  The plasma donors all have a variety of antibodies. Some have proven to be effective against the virus by not letting it enter cells in the first place. On the other hand, nothing is guaranteed and a patient could be injected with antibodies that have no effect against the virus. To reduce this risk, drug developers have noted the effective antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 and mass produced them in a lab.

This is a representation of what a spike protein would be under a microscope. The clinical trials are testing to see which antibodies can bind to the spike proteins and prevent them from entering/infecting healthy cells.

Another possible therapy called REGN-COV2 has also entered a late phase in its clinical trial. It supposedly has two antibodies that can prevent the virus from infecting healthy cells by binding to the spike protein. Hopefully the FDA approves the drug at the end of its current phase (phase 3), so short and long-term effects can be monitored. The Co-Founder, President, and Chief Scientific Officer of Regeneron, Dr. George Yancopoulos, released this statement: “We are running simultaneous adaptive trials in order to move as quickly as possible to provide a potential solution to prevent and treat COVID-19 infections, even in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic.” Many other pharmaceutical companies continue with their trials to search for antibody treatments against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The universal goal is to find a longer-term solution and stop the rising mortality count.

I originally chose the topic of prevention, because I thought it was only going to include mask-wearing and social distancing. It’s incredibly interesting that this article is another scientific take on preventative measures. The article shows how hard scientists and companies are working on developing a treatment. My main intention for this topic was to show how important it is for everyone to partake in the effort to stunt the spread of the pandemic. With recommended safety procedures as well as current trials, I’m optimistic that there will be great progress in our near future. I was able to link this to our AP Biology class, because we recently covered the immune system! The article refers to antibodies, and I know that they are the humoral defenses that go for pathogens. These antibodies are originally secreted from B-Plasma cells in order to bind to and neutralize the pathogens. By using plasma from recovered patients, I assume they are relying on the B-Memory cells to prevent infection/re-infection in other patients.

Please let me know what your thoughts are in the comments! How much longer do you think we’ll have to wait? Do these new updates give you hope about returning to a state of normalcy? I’d love to know.


Since the summer of 2020 (when this article was released), a lot has changed. Regeneron’s antibody cocktail was granted an Emergency Use Authorization in November. While this seemed to be heading the trials towards an optimistic future, that was not the case. Presently, only the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines are FDA-approved for public use. What happened to REGN-COV2? According to this Washington Post article, 80% of the allocated dosage supply is remaining unused in overcrowded hospitals. There is a common sentiment that resources should not be going towards an “unproven treatment”. The only FDA-approved antibody in the Regeneron cocktail is bamlanivimab. Although we are all eager to return to normalcy, we must be conscious of what is the best for our health.

Unknown Slew of Toxic Chemicals Leads to Underwater Massacre..

According to an article by Yasemin Saplakoglu on LiveScience, there was a recent ecological disaster in the waters surrounding Kamchatka Peninsula’s Avacha bay in Russia. Some mystery pollutant infiltrated the water, causing 95% of the creatures on the seafloor to die and float ashore. Locals have observed a change in the once clear waters. The chemical odor, odd discoloration, and new burning sensation have left people deeply concerned and dumbfounded. A recent circulation of dead squid, octopus, and starfish pictures have invited local news outlets and social media users to comment as to what they believe the possible causes are. A current leading theory points to nearby rocket fuel-filled containers located within a 6-mile radius of the affected part of the sea. This spillage has not yet been confirmed as the source.

This is an octopus– an example of one of the sea creatures impacted by the unknown chemical pollutant in Russia. Now imagine this image, but thousands instead of just one.

Officials attempted to blame the mass die-off on a week of stormy weather; however, this was disproved when Aleksei Kumarkov, the region’s Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology, reported that the collected water samples contained four times the normal level of petroleum. Oceans usually contain some levels of petroleum due to common oil spills, but the scenario in Russia also has many more potentially dangerous chemicals. In addition to the abnormal findings of excess petroleum, there was also a double amount of phenols . According to the CDC, “At high enough doses, phenols can cause liver or kidney damage, skin burns, tremors, convulsions and twitching”. Many groups are continuing to investigate this high-stakes situation; one being a researcher by the name of Vladimir Solodov who has announced for a “‘transparent’ investigation”. He claims he will fire any officials who attempt to sweep this incident under the rug.

This article attracted my attention because of the recent urgency surrounding alarming environmental concerns. Water pollution is the second greatest contributor to Earth’s degradation. We’ve seen a lot of trending topics that have gone viral in an attempt to shed light on our environmental issues such as “Save the Turtles”. That ended up becoming a meme; however, it was also successful at getting a lot of people to convert from plastic straws to metal straws. The statistic from this article was truly shocking and disheartening. 95% of the sea creatures in the area were wiped out. Luckily, none of the marine mammals or birds were hurt. There were few large fish, crabs and shrimps that survived. This made me think of when we briefly touched upon Darwinism in our AP Biology class. We spoke about “survival of the fittest” and relating to the article, only a select amount of certain species survived. Whether or not they were the strongest, they happened to survive, but they also need to survive to reproduce and preserve their species.

Please feel free to drop a reaction or any findings in the comments!


Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Skip to toolbar