BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: health (Page 1 of 3)

Why Cucumbers Are So Cool

Cucumber in the marketJessie Szalay and Callum McKelvie outline in ​livescience why cucumbers actually relate to the phrase, “cool as a cucumber”. Not only are cucumbers a healthy option in the kitchen, but their numerous health benefits on a molecular level also contribute to their greatness.

Cucumbers are 95% water, therefore containing many hydrating benefits and nutrients for our bodies. According to Lemond, “we can get 20-30 percent of our fluid needs through our diet alone”. Cucumbers are a really good way to up our intake of fluids in our daily diet. Cucumbers became categorized as a superfood in 2019, accrediting their nutritional benefit to a higher status. Phytonutrients are health-promoting substances found in plant foods. Cucumbers are a really good source of phytonutrients, containing antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits.

When breaking down the individual benefits of the cucumber, the peel and the seeds offer the most nutrients for our bodies. Containing a good source of fiber and beta-carotene, which is “an antioxidant that helps with immunity, skin, eye, and prevention of cancer”. The seeds also contain a good source of minerals and calcium. 

Cucumbers aid in cancer prevention. They contain two phytonutrients compounds that are associated with anti-cancer benefits called lignans and cucurbitacins. Pharmaceutical companies have been looking into cucurbitacins as they think they can aid in new cancer-fighting drugs. They have found that the cucurbitacins “can help block the signaling pathways that are important for cancer cell proliferation and survival”. They can also inhibit the growth of pancreatic cancer cells. But, overall the current evidence doesn’t suggest that Cucumbers reduce/kill lung cancer cells.

They also can benefit our bone health. Vitamin K is essential to bone health, and one cup of cucumber contains ~19% of the daily intake recommendation of vitamin K. Vitamin K may lead to reduced fracture rates, increase bone density, and can positively affect our bone’s calcium balance. Our body uses vitamin K when building bones, studies have shown that a higher intake of vitamin K leads to a reduced risk of hip fractures in both elderly women and men.

Furthermore, cucumbers also keep our hearts healthy. Ware said “eating a variety of fruits and vegetables of all kinds is associated with a reduced risk for many health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and obesity”. Cucumbers have a pretty high level of potassium which is helpful in this regard. Potassium is essential in maintaining good heart health, so adding a bit more cucumber a day is just one step towards a healthy heart. Studies have been done that prove that those “who consumed 4,069 mg of potassium each day lowered their risk of cardiovascular disease and ischemic heart disease… compared to those who took 1,793 mg per day”. Cucumbers also promote vasodilation which is the widening of the blood vessels, linking it to low blood pressure. As mentioned previously, the vitamin K content in cucumbers also is known to be essential in the blood-clotting process.

Pickling is the process of preserving edible products in an acid solution to prevent spoiling. Pickles are either fermented or non-fermented. Fermented pickles are soaked in brine (water saturated with salt). Different types of pickles are soaked in different solutions, thus the difference in taste. As we learned in AP Biology this year, lactic acid fermentation is done by bacteria and animal muscle cells. Fermentation occurs when there is no oxygen available or an organism didn’t evolve to use oxygen. In bacteria, lactic acid can convert milk products to cheese, yogurt, etc. In pickling fermentation, the cucumbers are soaked in an acidic liquid to achieve a sour flavor. The sour flavor/fermentation process is a result of a chemical reaction between the food’s sugars and naturally present bacteria. “Commonly planted varieties of pickling cucumber include Royal, Calypso, Pioneer, Bounty, Regal, Duke, and Blitz” according to Szalay and McKelvie. My dad and I have made pickles before and they were delicious, like cucumbers, pickles also have several health benefits. Fermented food in general is really good for our body and acts as a natural probiotic. ​​This means that they can restore the balance of the bacteria in our gut, support our digestive health, and can even alleviate any digestive issues.

Let me know in the comments your favorite ways that you include cucumbers/pickles into your diet, I am always looking for new ideas. Hopefully, after reading this you will add some more cucumbers into your daily diet, because I know I will!

The Multi-Talented Algae

Many of our natural resources that our planet has gifted us are useful for alternative purposes, including scientific ones. Although some go overlooked, like algae, we continue to appreciate and learn how to use the resources we have. All algas, as plant cells, are proficient photosynthesizers. Algae is found all over the world, and is able to grow at incredible speeds, if placed in the right environment of light, water, and the required nutrients. A professor by the name of Pierre Crozet, who works at Sorbonne University in Paris, is steadily trying to place algae back on the biotechnology map. His research is mainly focused on microalgae, as it is easy to engineer and take care of. It requires less room and nutrients than that of land plants. As our world is struggling with sustainability, the science community is quickly coming up with solutions to aid our planet. Algae is one of the perfect candidates, as it can gain biomass only needing water, carbon dioxide, and nutrients. Crozet says he will soon be able to replace bacteria and yeast with algae, creating a more sustainable and reusable system. Unfortunately, algae’s track record as an alternative to both yeast and bacteria is relatively poor due to their slower growth rate. 

In the early 2010’s many startup companies started with the mission that Crozet is now set on. They claimed to be reaching a breakthrough which would offer algal biofuel as a replacement for the fossil fuels we use today. Those companies struggled and either went bankrupt or decided to change their scientific focus to something more plausible and cost effective. As the world becomes more desperate for alternative fuel solutions, algae might be the most realistic of them all. The only setback would be the slow growth rate, but if the world commits to algae as our fuel source, and access all our resources, it shouldn’t be long before we are totally regenerative. A research scientist at the NSW Department of Primary Industries named Hugh Goold said, “Investors have to know that you are going to produce a product cheaper than other people can. It isn’t worthwhile to produce something in algae instead of E. coli ‘just because.’” As we have seen in the past, this world is one that is most often not open to change, and completely relying on algae as our fuel source is a big, yet perfect one. 

Photobioreactor PBR 4000 G IGV Biotech

In addition to algae being used as a fuel source, companies all over the world are using or trying to implement the use of photosynthesizers into the manufacture of vitamins, food, fashion, and other products. Companies like Living Ink are trying to create an eco-friendly alternative to the printer ink we use everyday using cyanobacteria. Unilever, a mass food producer has taken the first step toward the use of algae by partnering with a company based in the UK called Algenuity. A company called Martek Biosciences uses algae to manufacture critical omega-3 fatty acids for dietary supplementation, especially for pregnant moms (like mine did!).  All of these companies are paving the way for changes that have taken a long time to figure out, but ultimately should help with the sustainability of our planet. With all these companies working to better the world with sustainable product manufacturing, hopefully we will be able to alter the fate that our planet is facing. 

Pesticide Homicide

Typically what comes to mind as staples of a healthy diet  for most people is an abundant amount of fruits and vegetables and while I agree with this and there seems to be nothing wrong with them on the surface…there kind of is. In fact the issue is precisely what’s on the surface. Some research done at the University of Queensland in Australia points to pesticide as a lurking contributor to one’s risk of developing chronic kidney disease (referred to in the article as “CKD”).

CKD essentially prevents the kidney’s ability to filter waste and it’s a gradual process. As it gets worse and the person suffering from CKD experiences renal failure, waste builds up to an amount that can simply not be handled by the body, and one can experience a laundry list of complications due to the illness including but not limited to irreversible damage to the kidneys, excessive fluid retention, and damage to the central nervous system.2610 The Kidney

The study was observed among over 41,000 participants (41,847 to be perfectly accurate) and utilized data from the USA National Health and and Nutrition Examination Survey. The results were alarming to say the least. According to the data collected, those exposed to higher amounts of the insecticide Malathion “had 25 percent higher risk of kidney dysfunction”. Dr. Richard Osbourne, an Associate Professor at the School of Public health claims that “Nearly one in 10 people in high income countries show signs of CKD”. As one can imagine, that fraction of the population adds up rather quickly, resulting in millions of people at risk of or suffering from CKD. It seems very plausible that Malathion is the culprit, especially considering that it is quite literally designed to kill other organisms.

Dr. Osbourne also points to “environmental contamination, pesticide residues, and herbal medicines potentially containing heavy metals” as other possible contributors to this correlation between the consumption of Malathion and CKD. It seems as though ultimately the main issue is foreign particles being in our food.

Washing produce has always been important and should be an absolute must if one is to expect to get the best that they possibly can out of their food. If not, they just may have a consequence for an unwanted accessory to their vegetables. Not the most desired dressing, I’d imagine.

Why Our Brain Wants Us to Adopt Routine Exercise in the New Year

In her article titled The Year in Fitness: Shorter Workouts, Greater Clarity, Longer Lives, Gretchen Reynolds outlines the many studies done that prove different ways that physical activity aids in our body’s overall health and well-being, even improving our brain power. 

Fitness news throughout 2021 revolved around the length of our workouts in connection to our health. Research has proven that short workouts are enough to improve strength in both college students and adults. This key evidence proves that in order to maintain your weight and health jAbdominal Exerciseust a few minutes of working out every day should do the trick if you don’t have enough time. On the other hand, we have learned that losing weight may be even harder than we think. Many studies have reinforced the idea that on days that we exercise we are actually burning fewer calories than when we don’t, making it harder to lose weight. Despite these findings, exercise helps us to maintain our weight and is essential in our overall health. 

Furthermore, exercise can also enhance our brain power and lend a hand to our creativity. From multiple experiments done this year scientists have found that “physical activity fortifying immune cells that help protect us against dementia; prompting the release of a hormone that improves neuron health and the ability to think (in mice); shoring up the fabric of our brains’ white matter, the stuff that connects and protects our working brain cells; and likely even adding to our creativity”. There was even a study done that showed that physically active people thought up more creative and inventive ways to use umbrellas and car tires than those who didn’t partake in as much exercise. In connection to what we have learned in AP Biology this year, the immune system protects our body against pathogens. Since physical activity strengthens our immune cells, it will in turn help our overall health and wellness in the long run, protecting us from various diseases. 

In preparation for the new year, Reynolds discusses a study that reported that those who were active had a much stronger sense of purpose in their lives. Reynolds discussed with the leading scientists of the study and found that “exercise amplified people’s purposefulness over time, while simultaneously, a sturdy sense of purpose fortified people’s willingness to exercise” creating almost a perfect symbiotic mutualism relationship towards one’s health and wellness. For me personally, exercise does just this. I find that on the days I workout I feel more productive, more efficient, and am eager to take on the rest of my day. 

Overall, taking in all of this year’s exercise research, we should prioritize exercise in the coming new year if we want to use our brains with continuing clarity and for optimSquatsal creativity in the coming years. I know that I will be continuing to prioritize working out every day, even if it is just a quick walk to start my day. My favorite workouts are strength training and walking outside. Comment below the workouts you’re going to carry into the New Year and if they have had any significant effect on your daily life, health, and brain power. 

 

 

The Importance of Gut Health: How to Live Long and Be Happy

Gut health – why is it so important? I had always thought that the concept of good gut health was a myth and only lived on the side of a bottle of Kombucha. I could not have been more incorrect!Kombucha, Health-Ade,

It turns out that a happy gut is critical to live a long, happy, and healthy life! The gut, also known as the digestive tract or gastrointestinal track, includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, colon, and rectum. Therefore, it processes all of the nutrients you take in, fights diseases, serves as a center for communication, and produces hormones. These are all critical tasks that affect your everyday well-being!

202004 Gut microbiota

When thinking about gut health, scientists are usually referring to the gut microbiome. In short, the gut microbiome is all of the microbiomes in your intestines. Humans would have a very hard time surviving without the gut microbiome. It digests breast milk when babies are first born, controls the immune system, digests fiber, and even helps control brain health. In fact, a recent study done with mice suggests that gut health affects social interaction/behaviors, stress, anxiety, and autism spectrum disorder. Additionally, in 2011 another study was done with mice, which involved antibiotics killing “bad” gut bacteria, also known as, gut flora. These mice became scientifically less anxious after killing the gut flora and “showed [positive] changes in their brain chemistry that have been linked to depression”  according to Live Science.

Gut flora is not the same for everyone. Another study done with gut flora showed that obese individuals tend to have less diversity in their gut flora when compared to lean individuals. This difference is because of an increase in Firmicutes and decrease of Bacteroidetes in obese individuals. Gut flora also affects an individual’s metabolism because of its affects on the breakdown of a key organic compound we have learned about in biology, carbohydrates. As we know, carbohydrates provide energy for the body which is imperative for all individuals. Another subject we have discussed in our class, amino acids, can have an increase in production because of gut flora (Live Science).

Now, you may be wondering, “how can I keep my gut happy?” The key to a healthy gut comes from diet. After an extensive amount of research, here are some tips I have gathered and why they work:

  1. Eat a variety of foods – to keep your microbiome diverse (recommended to eat specifically a variety of fruits and vegetables for fiber, vitamins, and minerals)
    Fresh fruits and vegetables in 2020 06
  2. Eat fermented foods (ex. yogurt, kefir, kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut) – it “can reduce the amount of disease-causing species in the gut” (Healthline)Vegan yogurt, March 2012
  3. Eat nuts, seeds, and legumes for fiber and proteinNuts on Spice Bazaar in Istanbul 01
  4. Eat whole grains for dietary fiberHome made whole grain bread
  5. Eat prebiotic foods (ex. bananas, artichokes, apples, asparagus, oats, flax seeds, garlic, onions, broccoli) – to “help boost the population and diversity of good bacteria” (Orlando Health)29 Nov 2011 - Apples and BananasThree Onion in Peng Chau
  6. Limit antibiotics – they kill both good and bad bacteria in the gut, which decreases necessary varietyAntibiotic pills
  7. Take a probiotic supplement – it “can help restore the gut to a healthy state after dysbiosis” (Healthline)Red and blue pill

These are all relatively small changes for the huge benefits that they reap. Start incorporating them today to improve your gut health and live a longer, happier, and overall healthier life!

 

Fermented and Fabulous: The Key to Gut Health

Fermented foods are truly underestimated. Yes, I’m talking kombucha, kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc. You might be thinking, how much can consuming a bitter tasting food really do for me? The truth is, a lot. Fermented foods may just be the answer to combating the rise in chronic inflammatory diseases. This is due to the fact that a diet with an abundance of fermented foods enhances gut microbe diversity. Gut microbiota, the human body’s largest population of microorganisms set in the intestine, are essential to the multifaceted nature of human health because they have impacts on immune, metabolic, and neurobehavioral traits.

Improving Human Intestinal Health

 In a trial run by Stanford School of Medicine, 36 healthy adults were assigned to a 10 week diet of either fermented or high-fiber foods to test the effects on gut microbiome and the immune system as a whole. The study discovered that those who consumed a diet rich in fermented foods had an increase in microbial diversity, four types of immune cells showed less activation, and the levels of 19 inflammatory proteins measured in blood samples decreased. Proteins, as we learned in AP Bio, have many different functions and structures and just one changed amino acid in the structure can cause diseases or viruses because its characteristics (hydrophobic vs. hydrophilic, non-polar vs. polar) are altered. One of these inflammatory proteins decreased by fermented food consumption, interleukin 6, has been linked to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Type 2 diabetes and chronic stress. The success and promise that these results provided were immeasurable, for gut microbes have the potential to defend against harmful microorganisms, digest certain foods, produce important molecules like short-chain fatty acids, facilitate the absorption of dietary minerals, synthesize essential vitamins and amino acids, and even shape mood/behavior. Along with that, research suggests that low microbiome diversity has been linked to obesity, diabetes, arthritis, eczema, and even types of cancer, so any chance to increase microbial diversity is an opportunity to leap to. 

On the contrary, in the study, those adults assigned to a high-fiber diet saw no inflammatory protein decrease and the diversity of their gut microbes remained on average the same. Through a final step of analyzing blood and stool samples collected throughout the trial, the scientists confirmed that short term dietary changes involving a diet rich in fermented foods/drinks can rapidly increase microbial diversity, resulting in a series of health benefits that ultimately aid in protection against serious health issues and in general just keep you healthy and happy! 

So next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up that bottle of kombucha. It may look questionable, but tastes pretty good and has so many health benefits!

Do we never have to workoout again?

Could it really be possible to get all the benefits of a rigorous workout without moving a muscle?

Recent Biological findings show promise that protein supplements can cause similar effects as a full body workout. The protein is called Sestrin and as of now it has only showed compelling results in flies and mice. However this new drug could be the key to a more healthy population.

 

What evidence is there?

A Michigan University study set up an elaborate experiment involving flies climbing or flying up the inside of a test tube, only to be shaken back down to the bottom. This practice was repeated for hours on end to test the endurance of the flies. The researchers made use of multiple apparatus in order to effectively test multiple variables. One such variable was the amount of sestrin present in the flies muscles. This could be controlled through the genetic engineering of multiple generations of flies to select for certain traits like high or low amounts of sestrin. Through multiple lengthy trials it was determined that flies with higher amounts of sestrin showed better increases in endurance over time as well as perhaps the most important result, flies that were extremely abundant with sestrin were without exercise better suited to climb or fly for longer amounts of time than flies without it that had been training for longer. This result serves as a great case for why sestrin might be the super drug some speculate.

How does it work?

Sestrin, a part of a highly conserved family of proteins, is hypothesized to work by coordinating metabolic homeostasis by  selectively turning on and off different metabolic pathways as a means to imitate the effects of exercise.

What do you think?

Is sestrin truly the drug of the future? Personally I remain skeptical until  a multitude of studies come to similar conclusions. Are the days of gym memberships and unkept new years resolutions over? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Is Air Pollution Exposure In Childhood Linked To Schizophrenia?

Research has shown that pollution affects physical health, but does air pollution also affect our psychological health? A study, which combines genetic data from iPSYCH with air pollution data from the Department of Environmental Science, reveals that children who are exposed to a high level of air pollution while growing up have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia.

“The study shows that the higher the level of air pollution, the higher the risk of schizophrenia. For each 10 ?g/m3 (concentration of air pollution per cubic metre) increase in the daily average, the risk of schizophrenia increases by approximately twenty per cent. Children who are exposed to an average daily level above 25 ?g/m3 have an approx. sixty per cent greater risk of developing schizophrenia compared to those who are exposed to less than 10 ?g/m3,” explains Senior Researcher Henriette Thisted Horsdal, who is behind the study.

To put this research into perspective, the lifetime risk of developing schizophrenia is approximately two percent, which is equal to two out of a hundred people developing schizophrenia in one’s life. For people exposed to the lowest level of air pollution, the lifetime risk is just under two percent. The lifetime risk for people exposed to the highest level of air pollution is approximately three percent.

“The risk of developing schizophrenia is also higher if you have a higher genetic liability for the disease. Our data shows that these associations are independent of each other. The association between air pollution and schizophrenia cannot be explained by a higher genetic liability in people who grow up in areas with high levels of air pollution,” says Henriette Thisted Horsdal about the study, which is the first of its kind to combine air pollution and genetics in relation to the risk of developing schizophrenia.

The study included 23,355 people in total. Out of those people, 3,531 developed schizophrenia. Through the results of this research one can see that there is an increased risk of schizophrenia when the level of air pollution during childhood increases; however, the researches cannot comment on the cause. Instead, the researched emphasize that further studies are needed before they can identify the cause of this association.

Schizophrenia is thought to mainly be a result of genetics, brain chemistry, substance use, and exposure to viruses or malnutrition before birth. So, I think it is very interesting that exposure to air pollution during childhood may be a cause as well. Additionally, I hope that these findings and further studies become very useful to schizophrenia research and prevention, as schizophrenia is a very serious mental illness and there is no cure.

 

How our day-to-day food intake shapes our gut microbiota

Our diet is a significant modulator of changes in our gut microbiota structure, particularly at an individual level. The concept that what we eat is related to health is not a new idea. With new studies and experiments on the human gut microbiota, scientists are finally beginning to truly understand how exactly food impacts our health. The commonly heard phrase “you are what you eat” has been proven true. If you were to et a strawberry or hamburger, the food enters your digestive system and comes across the intestinal microbes. The way your body processes the food is influenced by the microbes that are living in your gut.

This is an image of food items that would help to create a balanced healthy diet.

Other than only being related to diet, levels of physical activity and sleep patterns can also affect the human gut microbiota. In a recent study, “for 17 consecutive days, 34 healthy participants were asked to self-record their food consumption using a food report.” From the results, the researches concluded that the variation in the daily microbiome is related to food choices, and not to standard nutrients.

For example, a vegetable such as spinach, which is rich in iron and also contains many other nutrients, such as fiber, minerals, and carbohydrates. All of these nutrients help to strengthen spinach’s relationship with the gut microbiome. Therefore, “nutritional advice should focus more on recommending people combine fruit and vegetables in their daily diet instead of prioritizing specific fibers.”

To conclude, a varied diet helps to maintain a well-balanced microbiome while also at the same time also giving your body the nutrients it needs in order to stay healthy.

Secure Passcodes : Not Just For Your Computer… But For Your Gut

What is the Human Gut Microbiome?

Human gut microbiomes are made up of all the bacteria present in your gut. The Bacteria in your gut outnumbers the cells by a ratio of 10 to 1. While the presence of that much bacteria sounds like a bad thing, it can be confirmed that “the gut microbiome is very important for human health—that much we certainly know”.  The nearly 100 billion Bacteria cells per gram are actually what helps the body digest food and remove the bacteria that is bad for your gut.

 

(Left) Bacteria on vs not on the intestines       (Right) Gut Microbiome Graphic

A Unique Passcode

As said above, the human gut microbiome is essential to digesting food but more importantly keeping our body healthy. The thought of controlling a person’s gut bacteria in order to keep them healthy and fight illness is fascinating to scientists. The key to using the microbiome to fight sickness is in the “passcode” that is essential to unlocking its potential. Each microbe, according to recent research, requires a unique passcode. The research done by scientists according to phys.org says that once there is a way to determine the “passcode” it will unlock a whole new world of probiotic treatment in the future.

Why Else is the Microbiome important

According to other research done within the past few years, it has been found that sleep can also be linked to the human gut and stomach. The quality of sleep a person gets can be linked to their “biological rhythms, immune function, and nutrient metabolism” however it is still unknown to what extent the microbiome is affecting human sleep.

Conclusion

While researchers still have many questions about the human gut microbiome and how it contributes to health, wellness, and overall human biology, once they have come to some more concrete conclusions the impacts of controlling the bacteria in the human gut would exponentially improve the health of many people. It may sound weird that your bacteria have a “passcode” with which to be controlled, but hey, conclusive findings of the microbiome could even help you get a better night’s sleep! And who doesn’t want that?

Can your diet’s effect on gut bacteria play a role in reducing Alzheimer’s risk?

Could following a certain type of diet affect the gut microbiome in ways that decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease? According to researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine, that is a possibility.

In a small study, researchers were able to identify several distinct gut microbiome signatures in study participants with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), but not in the other participants with normal cognition. Researchers found that these bacterial signatures correlated with higher levels of markers of Alzheimer’s disease in the cerebrospinal fluid of the participants with MCI. Additionally, through cross-group dietary intervention, the study also revealed that a modified Mediterranean-ketogenic diet resulted in changes in the gut microbiome and its metabolites that correlated with reduced levels of Alzheimer’s markers in the members of both study groups.

“The relationship of the gut microbiome and diet to neurodegenerative diseases has recently received considerable attention, and this study suggests that Alzheimer’s disease is associated with specific changes in gut bacteria and that a type of ketogenic Mediterranean diet can affect the microbiome in ways that could impact the development of dementia,” said Hariom Yadav, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

The randomized, double-blind, single-site study involved 17 older adults, 11 diagnosed with MCI and six with normal cognition. These participants were randomly assigned to follow either the low-carbohydrate modified Mediterranean-ketogenic diet or a low-fat, higher carbohydrate diet for six weeks then, after a six week “washout” period, to switch to the other diet. Gut microbiome, fecal short chain fatty acids, and markers of Alzheimer’s in the cerebrospinal fluid were measured before and after each dieting period.

The limitations of the study included the subject’s group size, which also accountns for the lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, and age.

“Our findings provide important information that future interventional and clinical studies can be based on,” Yadav said. “Determining the specific role these gut microbiome signatures have in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease could lead to novel nutritional and therapeutic approaches that would be effective against the disease.”

Each human contains trillions of organisms that influence our metabolism, immune function, weight, and even cognitive health. It is so fascinating to examine the role of gut microbiomes in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. I believe diets can be very controversial, and I find it interesting to see researchers in this study show how the Mediterranean-ketogenic diet may be effective against Alzheimer’s. However, I am so intrigued to see where these findings may take us with approaches that may be effective against Alzheimer’s, whether they be nutritional or therapeutic approaches.

Adapted Bacteria vs AI

In a recent article it has been found out by researchers at Washington State University that it is possible to find antibiotic resistant genes in bacteria with machine learning and game theory.

In the world of health and medicine one of, if not the biggest discovery is antibiotics. They were the most simple way of clearing out or slowing down the reproduction of bacteria in the human body. People a long time ago had been dying left and right to bacterial deseases and antibiotics helped the expectancy of everyone’s lives. However eventually after it started being used bacteria with DNA that has antibiotic resistance survived and reproduced. Eventually it could be problematic as there’s many ways to acquire resistances as said here. With certain bacteria that many people used to be infected with a lot and since people used antibiotics for it certain bacteria had vast resistances as there’s very limited antibiotics to kill one type of disease. If there was a strand of bacteria completely used to antibiotics it could wipe out the human race. If you want to learn more on that it could be found here

 

Although it isn’t too bad and we haven’t run into many bacteria that resist antibiotics, it can also be very dangerous if a person takes an antibiotic that the bacteria in their body is resistant to. The bacteria then wouldn’t die and thy would also expand and live on to reproduce and make the problem worse since it was technically not treated. However with what the people in Washington state university are doing computers would more and more be able to find the bacteria that have genes resistant to certain antibiotics.  The AI would learn more and more what genes are likely to be ones that resist antibiotics and they will be able to apply that to other situations. This method used worldwide would really help people know what type of antibiotics to give sick people. If a strain of bacteria is treated with antibiotics that most of it is resistant to not only could the person die but the existing bacteria in that persons body could be extremely dangerous if it reproduces as said before. So knowing if that bacteria does indeed have a resistance could be pivotal in many peoples lives. This could also happen at new speeds since that is one of the biggest advantages of using AI.

Not only is this new method very fast it is also very efficient. The researches at Washington state had been able to determine this at an accuracy rate ranging from 93% -99%. These constant advancements in health and technology show how the implementation of tech into health has changed life as we know it and will continue to forever.

Dogs Can Help You Live Longer, As If You Needed Another Reason To Get One

In a recent study, it has been proven that dog ownership has been associated with a decrease in cardiovascular risks. For example, high blood pressure, an aneurysm or heart disease in general. The study was performed with no consideration of previous cardiovascular diseases. The methods and results to the study led to the conclusion that “Dog ownership is associated with lower risk of death over the long term, which is possibly driven by a reduction in cardiovascular mortality.”

Many studies took place in order to help come to this conclusion. According to  Sandee LaMotte, “Dog ownership was associated with a 24% reduction in all cause mortality.” In this study, it was also discovered that people had better health outcomes after that had suffered from a heart attack or stroke.

In this photo, there is a golden retriever puppy.

This decrease in cardiovascular risks comes from the fact that when you own a dog you are more likely to play with it or take it on daily walks, constantly getting exercise and engaging in more physical activity. This study is not encouraging everyone to go out and purchase or adopt a dog because there are other conditions that were not taken into account throughout the research. For example, “the review’s authors mentioned in the analysis that some of the studies only featured small sample sizes, so the results are not totally indicative of the larger population. Some of the studies also did not take into account a number of other factors, like body mass index, smoking status and diet.”

All of these studies were based on observations which means that the researchers cannot directly prove that owning a dog causes people to live a healthier and longer life.

Can Too Much Sitting Affect The Shape Of Your Heart?

A new research article shows that the heart, besides humans’ joints and tendons, is also optimized for endurance. But, this depends on how active the person is. To conduct this study, scientist gathered 160 adult males from four different groups: football linemen, long-distance runners, inactive adults, and Native American farmers celebrated for their running ability, known as the Tarahumara. Scientist also looked at the hearts of 43 adult male chimpanzees for comparison. 

To examine the heart of these groups, scientist used an ultrasound. When examining the hearts of the four groups, researchers reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that there were noticeable differences in the left ventricle-the thickest of the heart’s four chambers-where blood is pumped. The long-distance runners and Tarahumara farmers had long ventricles with thin walls. This helps to pump large volumes of blood for a long period of time. The inactive adults and the football linemen, who are trained for short, high-intensity exercise, had wider ventricles with thick walls. The same shape was found in the chimpanzees who participate in short, high-intensity exercises like climbing and fighting. They had the shortest and thickest ventricles. 

The wider ventricles and thick walls are beneficial to the chimps and football linemen because during high-intensity workouts when blood pressure in the arteries surge for a short amount of time, it ensures that enough blood is flowing to the brain to keep consciousness. 

The long-distance runners and the Tarahumara farmers are less likely to experience problems like high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases because of their heart shape.

Fortunately, People’s heart shape is not permanent! Scientists suggest that changes in the heart shape is possible with endurance activities like swimming and running over the course of many years. 

So stop procrastinating and go for that run!

Does Exposure to Toxins In the Environment Affect One’s Offspring’s Immune System?

A study has recently surfaced stating that maternal exposure to industrial pollution may harm the immune system of one’s offspring and that this impairment is then passed from generation to generation, resulting in weak body defenses against viruses.

Paige Lawrence, Ph.D., with the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Department of Environmental Medicine, led the study and conducted research in mice, which have similar immune system functions as humans. Previously, studies have shown that exposure to toxins in the environment can have effects on the respiratory, reproductive, and nervous system function among generations; however, Lawrence’s research is the first study to declare that the immune system is also impacted.

“The old adage ‘you are what you eat’ is a touchstone for many aspects of human health,” said Lawrence. “But in terms of the body’s ability to fights off infections, this study suggests that, to a certain extent, you may also be what your great-grandmother ate.”

“When you are infected or receive a flu vaccine, the immune system ramps up production of specific kinds of white blood cells in response,” said Lawrence. “The larger the response, the larger the army of white blood cells, enhancing the ability of the body to successfully fight off an infection. Having a smaller size army — which we see across multiple generations of mice in this study — means that you’re at risk for not fighting the infection as effectively.”

In the study, researchers exposed pregnant mice to environmentally relevant levels of a chemical called dioxin, which is a common by-product of industrial production and wast incineration, and is also found in some consumer products. These chemicals eventually are consumed by humans as a result of them getting into the food system, mainly found in animal-based food products.

The scientists found the production and function of the mice’s white blood cells was impaired after being infected with the influenza A virus. Researchers observed the immune response in the offspring of the mice whose mothers were exposed to dioxin. Additionally, the immune response was also found in the following generations, as fas as the great-grandchildren (or great- grandmice). It was also found that this immune response was greater in female mice.  This discovery now allows researchers to have more information and evidence to be able to more accurately create a claim about this theory.

As a result of the study, researchers were able to state that the exposure to dioxin alters the transcription of genetic instructions. According to the researchers, the environmental exposure to pollutants does not trigger a genetic mutation. Instead, ones cellular machinery is changed and the immune response is passed down generation to generation. This discovery explains information that was originally unexplainable. It is obviously difficult to just avoid how much toxins you are exposed to in the environment, but it is definitely interesting to see the extent of the immune responses in subsequent generations. We can only hope that this new information, and further discoveries, help people adjust what they release into this world that results in these harmful toxins humans are exposed to, and their offsprings.

 

 

 

First Nanolaser That Can Function in Tissue With No Harm

Researchers in Northwestern and Columbia Universities, created a nanolaser that can be used in the near future for the imaging of living tissue. 

Being very thin, “1/1000th the thickness of a single human hair”, and made mostly of glass, which is biocompatible, the nanolaser is able to fit in the tissue with ease. 

Besides the specificity of the shape, the nanolaser can “effectively deliver visible laser light at penetration depths accessible to longer wavelengths,” said Northwestern’s Teri Odom, who co-led the research. The nanolaser has to not only be able to emit longer wavelengths in order to penetrate deeper into the tissues, but also be able to emit shorter wavelengths that are needed in the tissue.

Other scientists have created small-sized nanolasers before, but they all needed ultraviolet light to power them. “This is bad because the unconventional environments in which people want to use small lasers are highly susceptible to damage from UV light and the excess heat generated by inefficient operation,” says P. James Schuck, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia.

The researchers at Columbia and Northwestern were able to solve the issue using photon upconversion. This process creates a pattern of absorbing two or more photons that leads to a shorter wavelength and higher energy than the original. The researchers were able to generate visible photons from infrared photons. 

Pictured above is photon upconversion

With all these benefits, the nanolaser can be used potentially to create different types of laser therapy in order to help alleviate neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Furthermore, it can also help diagnose diseases. As discovered in University of Arkansas, the laser can be used to heat up tumor cells to be detected through ultrasound. 

 

Advancement in Modern Antiseptics

Before the 1870’s, sanitation was a huge problem in the growing world.  Doctors would clean tools with wine or hard alcohol, people’s teeth were falling out from not cleaning them, and people were getting infections from surgery at an alarming rate, etc.  Since so many surgeries resulted in infections, they then had to amputate that area.  Amputations had a 45-50% success rate.  This all means that if you needed surgery, you probably would die.  It wasn’t until many advances in microbiology that Joseph Lister introduced Carbolic Acid as an antiseptic in medicine.  He discovered that it cleaned surgical instruments extremely well, and prevented many infections from surgery.   This discover made the maternal death rates drop from 18% to 1%.  Later, another antiseptic, Listerine, was made by another scientist for a general sanitation, in which it was named after Lister, the father of antiseptics. 

Joseph Lister, Father of Antiseptics

You might be thinking, “All of this happened in the past, and our antiseptics are so good now, why do should I care?”  As it turns out, modern antiseptics don’t actually sterilize things 100%, and although they do a pretty good job, and there are still new antiseptics being discovered every year.  One of these recent discoveries is an antiseptic for caesarean deliveries.  A new solution of Chlorhexidine and alcohol (2% chlorhexidine gluconate with 70% isopropyl alcohol) cuts cesarean section surgical site infections by half compared with the usual solution of iodine and alcohol (8.3% povidone-iodine with 72.5% isopropyl alcohol). Dr. Methodius G. Tuuli, who is a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, is responsible for this amazing discovery and has spoken at the Annual Pregnancy Meeting sponsored by the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and had his work published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  

The experiment itself consisted of 1,147 patients who delivered a baby through a c-section.  The doctors then randomly used either the new solution or the old alcohol/iodine solution. Besides that, nothing else changed in the procedure for postpartum women; and then 30 days after being discharged from the hospital they were given a call to see if the surgery site had developed an infection. The only downside that is known about Chlorhexidine, is that it supposedly causes more allergic reactions than the iodine solution; however none were observed during the experiment. 

Antiseptics are often overlooked when it comes to the best inventions or discoveries in science because it is so mundane.  People never stop and think what life was like before we had all these amazing soaps and sanitary solutions. To me, it is mind-blowing that less than 150 years ago, if a person needed surgery on any of the limbs,  the odds are they would probably get an infection, then have to get it amputated, which gave them a 50% chance to live.  Do you readers agree that Antiseptics have been our greatest discovery? Let me know in the comment below!

Scientists developing ways to stop kidney failure?

In case you did not know, before week 34-36, the fetus develops 500,000-1,000,000 nephrons in the kidney. During these weeks, nephron progenitor (NP) cells are fully depleted and the body will no longer undergo nephrogenesis in its lifetime. Hence, if one were to lose a sufficient number of nephrons, the kidney would fail.

However, The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has found ways to isolate NP cells in order to investigate how they become renal cells. If scientists can develop an understanding of these cells, they might be able to figure out how to regenerate renal cells after a kidney failure.

This investigation can lead elsewhere, for example towards bioengineering and ways to regenerate other organs through these concepts. Overall, one can agree that this can lead to a breakthrough in future biology and medicinal studies.

 

 

Is Sleep Important?

Photoshop by Bryce Martin from google images.

The next time you decide to stay up at night to play video games or to watch Netflix, you might want to think twice!

Having enough sleep is essential to living a productive and healthy life. Without it, you will suffer in many ways. Sleep does not only make your body tired, but it also makes your brain cells tired. Sleep deprivation slows down brain function, which can result in mental lapses and loss of memory. Lack of sleep will cause the body’s neurons to slow down and not function as they should.

A study done by Dr. Itzhak Fried, professor of neurosurgery at UCLA, showed just how harmful sleep deprivation is.

To study the effects of deprivation, Fried recruited 12 patients with epilepsy, who already had electrodes implanted in their brains from a surgery unrelated to this study. These electrodes gave researchers access to their individual brain cells.

The people in the study stayed up for an entire night. During this time, the researchers measured the participants’ brain activity as they performed different tasks. For example, the patients were asked to categorize various images of faces, places and animals as fast as possible. Each image created a unique pattern of electrical activity in the brain.  Specifically, the researchers focused on cell activity in the temporal lobe, which regulates visual perception and memory.

The researchers found that as the patients stayed up longer, they became more tired, and it became more challenging for them to categorize the images. Their brain cells were clearly beginning to slow down.

The results also showed that the people staying up all night were going through mental lapses because sleep deprivation affected different parts of the brain. For all of these people, parts of their brains were turned off even though the other parts were fully functional.

Fried’s research, in addition to other studies, proves that sleep deprivation is similar to being drunk. Insufficient sleep exerts a similar influence on our brains as drinking too much. Lack of sleep can prohibit people from doing many things such as driving safely. People who are tired are not as alert and cannot react and adapt to their surrounding environment. Kids cannot focus in school and participate in extracurricular activities without enough sleep. Kids will be putting their education at risk if they do not sleep.

Is the extra hour of Netflix really worth it? Absolutely…NOT.

Sleep is one thing that should never be sacrificed.

MRIs Catch Autism Prior to Symptoms

Mark Lythgoe & Chloe Hutton / Wellcome Images Image Link

Research

By using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers are now able to accurately study and predict which infants, among those with older autistic siblings, will be diagnosed by the age of 2. According to an article on Science daily, in the past couple of years, researchers have correctly predicted 80 percent of these infants who would later meet criteria for autism at 24 months of age.

A study published in Nature, shows how early brain biomarkers can be very beneficial in identifying infants at the highest risk for autism prior to any symptoms. Joseph Piven, professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, explains how typically autism cannot be detected in infants until they ages 2-4, but for infants with autistic siblings, it can be determined at an earlier age.

People diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), experience social deficits and  demonstrate very specific stereotypical behaviors. According to this study, it is estimated that one out of 68 children develop autism in the United States and that  for infants with older siblings with autism, the risk may be as high as 20 out of every 100 births. Despite these high numbers, it remains a difficult task to detect behavioral symptoms prior to 24 months of age.

Piven, along with a couple of other researchers, conducted MRI scans of infants at six, 12, and 24 months of age. They discovered that increased growth rate of surface area in the first year of life was linked to increased growth rate of overall brain volume in the second year of life. This meant that brain overgrowth was tied to the emergence of autistic social deficits in the second year. The researchers then took the information they had and used a computer program that classified babies most likely to meet criteria for autism at 24 months of age, and developed an algorithm that they applied to a separate set of study participants.

The researchers found that there were brain differences at 6 and 12 months of age in infants with older siblings with autism and infants with older ASD siblings who did not meet criteria for autism at 24 months.

Plans for the Future

This research and test would be very beneficial to a family who already has a child with autism and has a second child who may or may not be affected. The ideal goal would be to intervene and provide as much assistance to the infant and family prior to the emergence of symptoms. By intervening at early stages and when the brain is most susceptible, researchers hope to improve the outcomes of treatment.

In the nature study, Piven describes how Parkinson’s and Autism are similar in that when the person is diagnosed, they’ve already lost a substantial portion of the dopamine receptors in their brain, making treatment less effective.

One mother who has benefitted from this discovery and is extremely grateful is Rachel O’Connor. When interviewed by News12, she shared how early intervention “has brought out some language in [her] daughter,” and how her daughter “can now say what she wants and she desires. She makes better eye contact.”

 

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