BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: diseases

Does Your Race Affect Your Health?

Over the years, people of color have been fighting for equality in human rights. You see all over the news of people such as Black Americans fighting for justice over potential acts of racism in areas such as police brutality. As well as hearing these types of stories on the news, you hear Black Americans talk about their experience in job interviews, claiming that they were fully qualified, if not even more qualified than the other candidates, but were not selected for the position because of their race. Now, who would have ever thought that your race would have an impact on your health? According to a recent study from the University of Michigan health team, Black Americans are more likely to have worse health and are more likely to contract diseases than White Americans.

In this Michigan University study, it covers multiple factors as to how Black Americans experience health inequality. To start, Black Americans have a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 because of their higher rates of hypertension, diabetes and obesity, which can make COVID-19 more harmful to you if you have one of these things. Although the argument is made that anyone can have these types of diseases, however, there are a significantly more Black Americans who have diseases like this, giving them a higher risk of dying from COVID-19. As well as being able to get COVID-19 easier, Black men also have a higher mortality rate from prostate cancer. This is because Black men generally do not have health insurance, generally get fewer PSA (Prostate-specific antigen) screenings, have less access to high-quality care, which overall can be linked to having a low socioeconomic status. After doing some research on the different incomes of Black and White Americans, I found that the mean household income for a white person in America is a little over $30,000 more than a Black person living in America. After examining these numbers, health insurance would most likely be much more difficult to obtain in a Black American household compared to a White American household. If the United States is able to find a way to provide affordable and equal health insurance for all races, it would likely benefit the majority of the population of the United States.

 

White Nose Syndrome

White Nose Bats

What causes the disease?

Exposure to UV light is the cause of a devastating disease found in North America. According to USDA Forest Service, the disease”can only infect bats during hibernation because it has a strict temperature growth range of about 39-68 degrees Fahrenheit”. Bats are very sensitive to the ultra-violet light which causes the P. destructans fungal pathogen(any disease-producing agent) to trigger the disease.

A bat affected by White Nose Syndrome.

When is a bat most at risk?

During hibernation, bats face a high risk of the white nose syndrome. WNS officials claim that the bats act strangely during cold winter months, including flying outside in the day and clustering near the entrances of hibernacula (winter quarters for a hibernating animal).

Effects of WNS

Bats have been found sick and dying in unprecedented numbers in and around caves and mines. WNS has killed more than 5.7 million bats in eastern North America.

This bat is in hibernation and at risk of WNS.

What is being done?

A research team has identified in the pathogen an enzyme that repairs DNA causing the team to expose the fungi to DNA damaging agents, including different wavelengths and intensities of UV light. Consequently, they found that a low dose exposure of UV-C light resulted in about 15 percent survival of P. destructans.

What a Smelly Solution to a Smelly Predicament!!!!

The newest developments in scientific and medical research have been focused around a rather smelly purpose.

Fecal transplants are all the rage… and yes, it is what is sounds like. A fecal transplant occurs when the feces of a healthy donor are surgically transplanted into the colon of an individual who has various imbalances in the bacterial assortment of their gut. The feces with a healthy bacteria levels pass through the colon of the sick individual, replacing their “bad bacteria” with “good bacteria”, restoring the bacterial balances back to the way they should be.

Poop

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Poop.jpeg

You may ask yourself, why can’t you just take some antibiotics to kill the dominating bacteria and even things out?

Well the problem is just that. Bacterial imbalances are usually caused by antibiotic use that kill one type of bacteria and not another, so taking more antibiotics on top of that would just add to the problem.

The transplant of fecal matter is an icky procedure but has shown to cure many more ailments other than JUST bacterial imbalances. Fecal transplants have showed to help various metabolic diseases, neuropsychiatric disorders, autoimmune diseases, allergic disorders, and even tumors.

E coli Ag Res Mag

E. Coli. – one of the most common bacterias in not only your colon, but also your whole body, is a key player in the Fecal Microbiota Transplantation

One specific study of Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) in metabolic syndromes, mixed microbiota from the feces of a lean donor with a sample of unhealthy, self-collected feces. After the mixed feces were then reinserted into the gut, the resultant excrement of the patient displayed increased insulin sensitivity and increased number of healthy butyrate-producing intestinal bacteria. In a sense, the resultant doo doo showed signs of improved health for the patient. Another report of FMT displayed favorable outcomes in abating the effects of:

  • Parkinson’s disease – a progressive disorder of the nervous system that negatively affects movement
  • Multiple Sclerosis – an autoimmune nervous system disease in which the human immune system attacks the central nervous system
  • Myoclonus Dystonia – a nervous and musculoskeletal disorder that results in involuntary and spontaneous muscle twitching and jerking
  • Chronic fatigue Syndrome – a cerebral disorder in which the brain excretes neurotransmitters that transmit the information to feel tired and fatigued. Can be extremely dangerous when mixed with everyday activities such as cooking and driving.
  • Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura – a vascular disorder that results in excessive bleeding, internal hemorrhaging, and bruising from low levels of blood platelets.

While many think that poop is simply waste that ought to be disposed of immediately, the beneficial effects that Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) have spread all over the body. From regulating the bacterial levels in the colon, to helping alleviate the symptoms of various autoimmune, vascular, muscular, nervous, and skeletal diseases.

Who would’ve thought that putting poop BACK into the colon would be a healthy thing to do!?!?!

Original Article: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/22/fmt-film/

Funny, yet extremely informative, animation and additional article: http://www.openbiome.org/about-fmt/

 

Editing the Brain Using Epigenetic Tools

Epigenetics is a huge part of our life and influences us in ways we may not be aware of. Did you know that it is impossible to create and save new memories without epigenetic tags? The brain is heavily reliant on Epigenetics to do its functions, and this makes it a huge topic of research to figure out the ways in which the epigenetics of the brain could affect certain diseases or memory. Recently special epigenetic molecular tools have been created that can erase specific epigenetic markers throughout the genome. The possible effects these tools could have on the curing of diseases of the brain or psychological ailments are tremendous.

These “epigenetic editing” procedure use either CRISPR (clustered, regularly interspaced, short, palindromic repeats) or TALE (Transcription activator-like effector) systems of modification. These systems can carry an Epigenome modifying enzyme and deliver it a specific site they are programmed to go to. This allows researchers to target very specific epigenetic changes and either shut them down or turn them on and possibly determine their correlation with certain ailments of the brain. “We’re going from simply being able to observe changes to being able to manipulate and recapitulate those changes in a controlled way,” Day said. This quote from Day, one of the researchers of this project, shows that we advance from only being able to observe epigenetic influences on the brain, to being able to manipulate and control them to potential aid us in combating diseases.

Researchers can catalog all of the epigenetic changes involved in forming and preserving a new memory. If we are able to track these epigenetic changes, then could we implant memories in to a person’s mind, by copying similar epigenetic changes? These researchers where also able to trigger not only the place where epigenetic change happens, but also the exact time using optogenetics. This form of using light to control neurons allows researchers to use the TALE system and a light switch apply epigenetic change to very specific brain regions or cell types.

One of the final goals of this research is to eventually be able to use epigenetic as a form of therapy to benefit PTSD, depression, schizophrenia, and cognitive function using the ability to alter epigenetic marks. This can also be used in a similar way to silence mutated genes that are damaging the cells or the body as whole. This form of using TALE and CRISPR to alter epigenetic tags creates a lot of hope for PTSD, depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other similar disease treatment options.

Koala Chlamydia

Photo Credit: Jonathon D. Colman

For generations the koala bear has been a cuddly mascot from down under, bringing in approximately $1 billion in tourism to the Australian economy a  year, but the species is being plagued by a heinous disease: Chlamydia. Yes, that’s right, Chlamydia. Studies show that between 50 to 80% of koala bears are infected with the bacterial infection which causes conjunctivitis, incontinence, prostatitis, infertility, and kidney damage.

According to recent reports, the sexually transmitted disease has caused serious population damage over the last decade. In 2003, studies showed that the koala population was at approximately 100,000, but the 2009 survey reported a drop to as few as 43,000 koalas in the wild. Experts fear that if these numbers continue to fall at the current rate, the koala will reach extinction within a mere 30 years.

And, with the disease spreading faster than ever, there is little conservationists can do to treat the infected population due to the absence of a vaccine. Unfortunately, however, a small percent of koalas is being treated with long-term antibiotics and anti-inflammatories in order to provide temporary relief to the suffering animals. But as the disease continues to run rampant, there seems to be little hope for the koala bear’s survival, which raises the question: why now?

Some experts believe for the combination of climate change and human development of koala bear natural habitat have increased the disease’s ability to spread among individuals. Climate change has caused heat waves and drought to sweep across much of the eucalyptus forests where koalas live and has resulted in the overall weakening of many koala populations unable to cope with such temperatures. In recent years, the species has also lost inordinate amounts of their habitat to human development which pushes them into a smaller and smaller region. This encroachment forces koalas into closer quarters, which, along with their already weakened state caused by climate change, results in the extremely rapid spread of Chlamydia among individuals.

But if the extinction is so pressing and the situation is so bad, why hasn’t the Australian government stepped in? Well until recently Australia officials have been avoiding taking action, but just this summer the Australian senate has finally agreed to address the problem and evaluate whether or not the koala bear should be an endangered animal under the protection of national law. Unfortunately, the process is taking longer than anticipated. A decision was supposed to be in by August, but here we are in mid-October and the koala bears are still unprotected by the government. How many more koala’s will have to die before the Australian senate takes action? And if they do take action, will it be too late to save the iconic marsupial from down under?

 

For more information on the current situation go to:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/6537179/Koalas-extinct-within-30-years-after-chlamydia-outbreak.html

http://www.aolnews.com/2010/09/17/koala-population-ravaged-by-chlamydia/

http://www.worldcrunch.com/climate-change-and-chlamydia-may-be-too-much-australia-s-koalas-bear/3267

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/14/koalas-chlamydia-climate-change_n_876937.html

http://home.vicnet.net.au/~koalas/factsprobs.html

http://planetgreen.discovery.com/travel-outdoors/chlamydia-deforestation-australia-koalas.html

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