AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Current Biology

Joint Pain? Blame it on the Gut.

That sharp pain we feel in our knees after jumping rope, the pains we feel in our elbows after shooting all of those foul shots, even the pain we feel in our fingers while typing AP Bio Blog Posts.  You all know this feeling of joint pain I’m talking about, and if you don’t right now, you will in 15-20 years… trust me.  Professionals aren’t entirely sure of the real causes regarding joint pain leading to rheumatoid arthritis, but an emerging body of research is focusing on a potential culprit: the bacteria that live in our gut.

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Many recent studies have found intriguing links between our gut microbes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other diseases in which the body’s immune system goes wrong and attacks its own tissue. Microbes are especially influential in the gut and as the pathway for digestion, the gastrointestinal tract must deal with a constant stream of food-related foreign microbes, which must be monitored and, if they are harmful, destroyed. To do this, our intestines have developed an extensive immune system, whose effects reach far beyond the gut. Immune cells in the gut seem to be able to activate inflammatory cells throughout the body, including in joints.  A study published in 2013 by Jose Scher, a rheumatologist at New York University, found that people with rheumatoid arthritis were much more likely to have a bug called Prevotella copri in their intestines than people that did not have the disease. In another study published in October, Scher found that patients with psoriatic arthritis, another kind of autoimmune joint disease, had significantly lower levels of other types of intestinal bacteria.

Over the past several years, scientists have collected a growing collection of evidence stating that many of these bugs may have a major effect on our well-being. Some trigger chronic, non-infectious ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis while others actually prevent against such diseases. But while many scientists are confident of the link between the microbiome and arthritis, they haven’t pinned down what particular role bacteria play in triggering the disease. Scher says Prevotella copri may stimulate an immune reaction that then targets joint tissue. Or it may crowd out beneficial microbes that keep immune-system attack cells being too aggressive.

Venna Taneja, an immunologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who has found clear differences in the bacterial populations of mice bred to be genetically prone to rheumatoid arthritis stats “It’s become more and more clear that these microbes can affect the immune system, even in diseases that are not in the gut.”  She has found clear differences in the bacterial populations of mice bred to be genetically prone to rheumatoid arthritis. In those more susceptible to the disease, a species of bacteria from the Clostridium family dominates. In mice without arthritis, other strains flourish, and the Clostridium strains are scarce.

As the years ago on, the study of joint pain and arthritis in correlation with the Gut Microbes will grow and one day these many scientists will figure out a way to work out the negatives of this bacteria and use it solely to a person’s benefit.

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Printing More Than Just Pictures

3-D printing is an increasingly accessible technology that is bringing manufacturing into the home. Now these marvels of technology are being used in medicine. With children growing rapidly, expensive prosthetics are not an option for most families. Customized 3-D printed prosthetics are becoming more common and are helping out these families by making prosthetics less expensive.



3-D Printed Prosthetic Hand

Usually, 3-D printers only print hard material such as plastic and metal. This is very useful while creating bone replacements and customizable prosthetics, but is not ideal for printing organic tissue.

Bioprinting, or the printing of organic tissues, is a rising and feasible option in medical treatments. This advance would be a huge improvement to many practices such as medical testing and organ transplants. The ability to print organic tissue would eliminate the need for long donor list that many people wait on, but never receive an organ. With bioprinting doctors would be able to test their medicine on organic human tissue rather than animals. This all may sound like science fiction, however it is happening right now.

Carnegie Mellon recently bought a commercial 3-D printer for around 1,000 dollar and after some modifications began to print soft materials. Associate professor at Carnegie Mellon Adam Feinberg and others have developed a way to print soft materials in-expensively. The main problem with printing soft materials is the prints would collapse on the weight of itself. To prevent this the researchers at Carnegie Mellon created a process they now call FRESH (Freeform Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels). In this process the nozzle prints with a gel inside a petri dish filled with a supportive gel. Then they heat up the petri dish and the supportive gel melts away leaving the print.

As this technology is open source and inexpensive, hopefully many patients will be receiving their very own custom printed organs soon.


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Understanding Communication between Dogs

If you like dogs or happen to be a dog owner, you may have heard that when a dog wags its tail, it’s showing signs of happiness and friendliness. Well, a research on the communication between dogs in 2007 indicates that the direction to which the dog wags its tail is also significant in indicating a dog’s mood. The Italian researchers discovered that a wag of the tail to the left demonstrates negative emotions, while a wag to the right conveys more positive emotions.


Photo taken by author

Photo taken by author

Recently, another study published by Current Biology furthered this case. It is reported that when dogs watch videos or other dogs wagging its tails, when the video shows a wag tail to the left, the dog reacts with anxiety with a higher heartbeat; when the video shows a wag to the right, however, the dog reacts more calmly.

This is because emotions are related to either the left or right side of the brain, and a left-brain activation leads to a wag to the right, while a right-brain activation leads to a wag to the left.

This is significant because it is one way that dogs may communicate to one another. So next time when you see a dog wagging its tails, you know that it’s showing more emotion than just happiness.

Original Article: A Dog’s Tail Wag Says a Lot, to Other Dogs

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