AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: yusrna

A New Way to View Pain

Often times when we discuss injuries we have sustained, indelible memories of vivid childhood accidents will rush to the surface of our thoughts perhaps even causing minor physical discomfort in the body part related to the accident. For some of us, when certain graphic images of wounds are shown, we will begin to experience a tingling sensation in those areas of our own bodies. For others, remembering how they broke a bone can seem anticlimactic. So from these observations, the question arises: why do we each remember pain the way that we do? 

In an article regarding mothers’ progressive memory of childbirth, the renowned online mental health resource Psych Central disclosed their groundbreaking research, which suggested a strong correlation between memory of childbirth and how many children these women ultimately had. About 50% of the mothers rated their childbirth as less painful than they did initially. While this data fails to suggest that the majority of women forget the intensity of their labor pains, it shows that a significant amount do. A potential explanation for this habit is that there is a positive correlation between being able to forget the pains of childbirth, and how many children one of the subjects had. This implies that being able to forget specific pains can be useful if the potential gain is more worthwhile than temporary pain. 

However, on the other end of the spectrum, remembering pain can be used to prevent the acquisition of future injuries in the same way. Discovery Magazine released an article about how memories are linked with pain through a protein called PKMzeta. It goes into the synapses between neurons, and strengthens bonds. This creates more connections for vivid memories to arise. The PKMzeta protein forms new connections in the spine after painful experiences, the same way it does when we are forming new memories. Thusly, our pain is a sign of new knowledge.


Arthritic Pain

Why We Should Embrace the Bacteria in our Gut

Surprisingly enough, through research conducted in the California Institute of Technology, it was discovered that EC cells depend on Microbes found in the gut to produce Serotonin. EC Cell stands for Enterochromaffin Cell, and they can typically and easily be found in the small intestine, colon and appendix. They are shaped like polygons or cones. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, with defects related to diseases ranging from Osteoporosis, Cardiovascular Disease, and even depression. According to Merriam Webster, a famous online dictionary, Microbes are microorganisms and “germs”. This oversimplified understanding of the significance of a microbe is representative of the overall population’s ignorance on the matter. Bacterium are forms of Microbes, and thus have very negative connotations. That is why this discovery regarding the correlation between the germs in EC cells and Serotonin (a neurotransmitter we can attribute much of our good mood) levels is so important.

To begin with, the peripheral Serotonin levels in mice with standard EC cells, and peripheral Serotonin levels in mice with microbe/bacteria/germ free cells were tested and compared. Astonishingly, the mice with standard EC cells had 60% higher levels of Serotonin than mice with germ free EC cells. The newly tested levels of Serotonin were affirmed by the side effects typically associated with increased levels of Serotonin. For example, the mouse’s gastrointestinal motility would increase overtime if their EC cells were unaltered, as opposed to if their EC cells were germ-free. Overall, it is safe to conclude that having Bacteria in the gut can actually make someone less depressed, and healthier all in all.

Ethics of Advertising Cosmetic Surgery

Ethics of Advertising Cosmetic Surgery

Cosmetic surgery has transformed over the years from mainly consisting of correctional procedures, to becoming a 16 billion dollar industry as of 2016.

The first true cosmetic surgeon Gaspare Taliagozzi, believed that the purpose of cosmetic surgery was to “restore to wholeness the features which nature gave but chance destroyed, not that they may charm the eye but that they may be an advantage to the living soul….The end for which the physician is working is that the features should fulfill their offices according to nature’s decree.” Especially because of the previously deadly risks of many of the cosmetic procedures we now find commonplace, it was unimaginable that cosmetic surgery would ever become a norm for a society. Now that it cosmetic surgery is so ubiquitous, it leads us to question the many ramifications that come from publicly promoting it.

Ramifications and Roots of Popular Procedures

Many popular cosmetic procedures such as Blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery) and Rhinoplasty (“nose jobs”) are actually deeply rooted in racism and anti-semitism. Blepharoplasty is the most popular cosmetic surgery in Asia, and it consists of adding a crease in the eyelid. This procedure gained popularity during the westernization of Japan, when the first surgeon to implement it, Mikamo, stated that single eyelids were “monotonous and impassive”, while double eyelids were more appealing. On one hand, Blepharoplasty is used to improve problems with vision, but it is also done to “fix” the race-based insecurities caused by the cosmetic surgery industries’ advertisements. 

Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014“.

Rhinoplasty is also a common surgery, which was initially done by most surgeons to “save” the patient from the stigma of resembling Jews, despite the fact that it initially left external scarring. Despite the part of the Hippocratic Oath that states “Do no harm,” many physicians continue to execute purely superficial surgeries despite their many risks that can even include the chance of losing vision as in Blepharoplasty.  


 Oftentimes, advertisers for such surgeries will have to prey on the insecurities of everyone exposed to their very public advertisements to make their procedure seem more desirable, which is why it is no wonder that 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance. Are we really willing to sacrifice the mental wellbeing of millions for the mere sake of capitalism? Do these types of advertisements reinforce eurocentric beauty standards?  

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