AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: masks

The Revolutionary Face Mask

Since the start of the pandemic, society has struggled to develop an efficient way to detect the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the atmosphere around you. Well, this is no longer the case thanks to young inventor Yin Fang. The intelligent Yin Fang has developed a complicated face mask that can detect the virus in the atmosphere, and on the mask. Though this does seem extreme, it is ultimately revolutionary as it will allow the us to detect COVID-19 everywhere, which will help stop the spread of it. 

3M N95 Particulate Respirator

How the virus spreads 

SARS-CoV-2 is an airborne virus that hitches a ride between hosts when we breathe in and out. The virus can spread from an infected person’s mouth or nose in small liquid particles when they cough, sneeze, speak, breathe, ect…

Coughing icon

How the mask works 

The mask uses special sensors that react when the viral proteins connect to the face mask. It uses an extremely thin chamber that is filled with the virus proteins so that they bind together and cause the sensor to activate. When the connection is active, the sensor communicates with an app on your phone, to tell it the virus is present. 

How the face mask works is quite similar to what we have learned in our AP Biology. The protein spikes on the virus bind to the mask, almost like how the COVID-19 virus enters the cell. COVID-19 enters a cell when it binds to a receptor and when it does, it enters the cell through phagocytosis and forms a vesicle around it. Though the virus does not get engulfed on the mask, it binds to the receptor, which activates the alarm on your phone, similar to how a virus binds to a cell. 


Physical features on the face mask 

According to Fang, the mask is extremely lightweight and portable. It has a similar design to your N95 Which allows for a mixture of protection and comfort while wearing the mask. 


The Future of the Mask

The new face mask will ultimately allow us to be in indoor spaces while staying safe during a viral breakout. It will enable us to be cautious of our surroundings if the virus is detected. But most importantly, Fang says “The system on the mask could also be updated with aptamers that recognize different pathogens”

What face mask should you go buy?

When you are leaving your house, how do you decide what mask to wear that day? Have you tried different kinds? Masks have become a new part of our daily life. We all have to wear masks in social situations or anywhere out in public in order to prevent ourselves and others from contracting coronavirus. In the past few months, there have been many different types of masks that are being sold. Some even have super cool designs, and some are more comfortable than others. So, when you are picking a mask, do you stop and think about which one is the most effective at doing its job of protecting you?

Overview on Masks and the protection

The article from Healthline explores the variety of masks, and discusses the usefulness. In general, masks are an essential preventative measure to take as it reduces the risk of transmission of Covid-19, along with the other protective measures, such as distancing and proper hygiene. The purpose of masks are to protect oneself from the respiratory droplets from traveling into the air. It is especially important to protect yourself in public because around 80% of the coronavirus transmission has been rooted from asymptomatic carriers. An asymptomatic carrier is someone who has contracted the Coronavirus, but has no symptoms of the virus. However, asymptomatic people can still spread the virus.  By wearing a mask, one is able to prevent the airborne transmission of the coronavirus pathogens through our bodies primary defenses such as the mouth, nose and the eyes. Since the coronavirus pathogens are able to get past the barrier defenses if you do not wear a mask and take other preventative measures, this triggers innate cellular defenses, which lead to the inflammatory response in our body, such as fevers, colds and more. Inner surface is lined with tiny hairs cilia or mucus membranes which trap pathogens and can be removed by sneezing or coughing or swallowed to be broken down by stomach acids.

Surgical Masks and Valve Masks

Surgical masks are disposable, single use masks that cover your mouth and nose. They are made out of a breathable synthetic fabric. There is not a airtight seal around the area it covers, and there has been a large range on how the surgical masks filter pathogens. Respirators have intense filters that filter the pathogens in the air. These are also airtight, unlike the surgical masks. Some of the respirator masks have valves which lets some exhaled air to escape. The downside to this is that it does not protect others from pathogens exhaled through the valves. This is because the valves in the mask allow respiratory droplets from the person wearing the mask out into the air and get to other people.

N95 Respirator Masks

N95 masks can protect one from particles as small as 0.3 microns. N95 masks are extremely effective in preventing airborne particles from entering through the areas of the nose and mouth. The name “N95” comes from the fact that the respirator blocks 95% of small and large particles out. The ‘N’ is the respirator rating class. The ‘N’ stands for “non oil”, so basically no oil based particulates are present. The filtering and protection is much higher than a surgical or a cloth mask.

Homemade and store bought Cloth Masks

Masks that many people make at home are considered to be the least effective as the fabric is less secure and allows for small droplets to enter inside the mask. Also, many of these cloth masks have gaps near the nose, jaw or mouth area that also be areas where the droplets can be inhaled by the person wearing the mask. If you do wear a mask made at home, use 100% cotton fabric, which is the most effective material for cloth masks. Now, most stores are selling all different kinds of cloth masks. In general, all cloth masks vary with effectiveness as they are constructed with different fits, materials, and layers which all effect filtration. But, overall, store bought masks have had better securely fitting masks, which is very important in wearing a face mask for protection to properly cover the nose and mouth. If you are buying a cloth mask from a store, look for cloth masks that come with a nose wire and a filter insert which upgrade the masks. Overall though, whether it is homemade or store bought, surgical and n95 masks are more effective than both in protecting the wearer.

Overall, a key factor in any mask usage is how you wear the mask. Have you caught yourself accidentally letting the mask slip off your nose, and not doing anything about it? The proper usage is extremely important in having the masks be effective and prevent ourselves from getting the virus. We are in a very critical time, and the least we can all do is wear a mask to protect ourselves, others and lower the spread of the virus. We can all help reduce transmission! Be sure to wear a mask and be safe!

Post-Covid Culture: A Paradigm Shift

Many people are counting down the days until we are vaccinated and this whole catastrophe is “over”. However, many people do not stop to think about just how different life will be for those who have lived through the now infamous years of 2019 and 2020. Even if the entire population was vaccinated and COVID-19 could suddenly disappear, there will be drastic shifts in our way of life in categories ranging from socializing to our own government.

Before diving into the broader scheme of how COVID-19 will affect our culture, let’s focus on something that affects our daily lives: Community. The knowledge of touching things, being with other people or even breathing the same air as others is a risk will not just recede quickly in all people. Awareness “can never vanish completely for anyone who lived through this year”. It may be common for us to be hesitant to shake hands or touch our faces. People may find that they cannot stop washing their hands. Instead of finding comfort in being around others, we may find more comfort in isolation. “Instead of asking, “Is there a reason to do this online?” we’ll be asking, “Is there any good reason to do this in person?”—and might need to be reminded and convinced that there is”. COVID-19 is ironic in the sense that while it creates more distance, it is simultaneously creating more connections. As people communicate more often with people who are physically father away, we may develop ideas that these people are safer to us because of that distance. However, as COVID-19 has the advantage of potentially fostering new relationships with people potentially across the world, it puts others who do not have tech access at a major disadvantage. In a sense, a person must be online to be a part of this new found community. Moving our relationships online may further alter connections to people past the physical aspect. Small things like introducing yourself or even going on a first date can likely shift with this online format.

Now, let’s take a look at the broader picture. The first thing that we will examine is our beliefs:

American is a highly patriotic country. COVID-19 may unsuspectedly bring a new sense of Patriotism to the table. You may be wondering, how so? As a country we build statues and salute those who risk their lives for our citizens. With COVID-19, the title of hero may extend from soldiers to doctors who, without a choice, risk their lives everyday to support the ill. Saluting or saying “Thank you for your service”, as we do now with the military, does not seem so far fetched.

Another big characteristic of Americans is our individualism. While COVID-19 can be thought as creating more individualism, it is in fact doing the exact opposite. Every single person that has lived through this past year has fear of getting sick. Although this is a vice, COVID-19 has become everyone’s common enemy. While in the past people would show up to school and work with fevers and illnesses, COVID-19 has created a social responsibility. It is expected of everyone to stay home when they are sick, and to not expose themselves at the risk of exposing others.   People are now also educating themselves on how viruses work and will be more hesitant to enter the public without a mask on. As we learned in AP Biology, Viral fusion proteins bind to receptor molecules in order to enter a cell. Our greatest defense of beating a virus is if our white blood cells have memory of this virus and know how to kill it. Since most have not yet been exposed to COVID-19, getting this virus is very tough on the immune system. When COVID-19 ends, people will not easily forget how easily sickness is transmitted and will not take being sick so lightly. Things like the common cold will not be overlooked. “Millions of cases of the common cold occur in the United States each year, spreading easily from person to person” . People will be socially obligated to stay home for something as small as cold symptoms, and will easily be able to work from home due to remote work and learning. While this is a benefit because it has the ability to potentially reduce the spread during flu season , having the ability to work remotely will essentially end the divide between work and home life. There will no longer be snow days! Why lose a day of education when you can hop on zoom? Home will no longer be an escape from the sometimes overwhelming work environment.


Something that many people have overlooked is COVID-19’s impact on Religion. Corona may make Religious worship look very different. All faiths have had to deal with the challenge of keeping faith alive during adverse times, but there has never been a time where all faiths have struggles at the same time. “How do an Easter people observe their holiest day if they cannot rejoice together on Easter morning? How do Jews celebrate their deliverance from bondage when Passover Seders must take place on Zoom, with in-laws left to wonder whether Cousin Joey forgot the Four Questions or the internet connection merely froze? Can Muslim families celebrate Ramadan if they cannot visit local mosques for Tarawih prayers or gather with loved ones to break the fast?” . Quarantine will challenge connections of what it means to be a minister or a religious follower. However, religious gatherings moving to Zoom give people who have no local congregation where they live a sample of from afar. It is predicted that during these times contemplative practices will gain a lot of popularity. 


Now, let’s analyze how COVID-19 will affect something that seems to be on everyone’s minds – the government. First off, Congress can finally go virtual! Going virtual can greatly benefit the U.S Congress, as it is essential they continue to work through this crisis. As gatherings are limited to ten or few people, The House of Representatives does not seem like the best option. Congress has already had two members test positive for the virus. This is a great time for members to go virtual and return to their districts permanently. Not only is this necessary for the health of our representatives at the moment, but it also has other great benefits. Having members of the Congress work in their district keep them close and connected to the people they are representing. This can make the lawmakers more “ sensitive to local perspectives and issues” . Party conformity may also loosen when members remember local loyalty over party ties. On the other hand it will be extremely difficult to lobby congress and replicate parties and receptions across the entire country. Also, Big Government may make a comeback during this pandemic. “The battle against the coronavirus already has made the government—federal, state and local—far more visible to Americans than it normally has been”. As we listen for daily health updates, we find ourselves looking at government officials for guidance and our national leaders for hope.  According to Politico, not only will America need big government to get out of this crisis, but we will desperately need it in the aftermath of COVID-19 . But that’s not all! Let’s think about the election we just had, It is very possible that Electronic voting will go mainstream. “We have been gradually moving away from this model since 2010, when Congress passed a law requiring electronic balloting for military and overseas voters, and some states now require accessible at-home voting for blind and disabled voters”. With the old way of voting putting US citizens is a compact, dangerous situation we had to shift. Voting online will become more mainstream in the future. There is proven technology that includes voting on a mobile device that transfers the information to a paper ballot format. This system has been used in more than 1,000 elections in the past decade and will become the new normal. 


Wow, that was a lot ! How can COVID-19 effect so many diverse fields of life? Well, this is not even brushing the surface of the magnitude of change that is to come. We need to brace ourselves for a true paradigm shift, and take this opportunity to make the change a change for good. And, in the process try to stay united in a world of distance.

Protection by Different Face Masks

During the time of the Covid-19 pandemic we know that it is important to wear masks, but which ones? Different masks hold uniqueness, but ultimately are all used to protect you from airborne pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, that your immune system would need help fighting. 

Although, the best way to prevent contracting Covid-19 is to isolation and social distancing, when in public settings it is important to have a face covering. One of the most common face covers that you will see are surgical masks. Surgical masks  are disposable, loose-fitting face covering that provide a separation between the nose and mouth with harmful particles that may be present in the surrounding air. When used properly, as stated by the FDA in an article named N95 Respirators, Surgical Masks, and Face Masks, “a surgical mask is meant to help block large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays, or splatter that may contain germs (viruses and bacteria), keeping it from reaching your mouth and nose. Surgical masks may also help reduce exposure of your saliva and respiratory secretions to others”. However, surgical masks have flaws, very small particles do not get filtered or blocked that you could be exposed by coughing, sneezing, or medical procedures. They are only designed for one use and can become damaged. As for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, Covid-19, they do not completely block the virus from getting through, rather, reduce the magnitude that can pass through. Also, because of its loose-fitting design, there is a higher risk of harmful particles getting past the mask barrier through the open slots. Ultimately, surgical masks are one model of masks used to protect yourself from harmful particles in the air. 


Another type of mask seen throughout the pandemic is an N95 respirator. These face coverings, constructed with many layers of protection, are also used to protect you body from consuming harmful particles, but are designed with a more secure fit and effective filtration system, “that are tested for fluid resistance, filtration efficiency (particulate filtration efficiency and bacterial filtration efficiency, flammability and biocompatibility”.  Many people tend to feel more secure with a N95 respiratory mask because it also accommodates coating technologies to reduce or kill microorganisms. However, people with chronic respiratory, cardiac, or other medical conditions may have a more difficulty breathing with this mask and they are classified as single use to ensure maximum protection.

Lastly, another commonly seen mask are cloth masks. These masks are common due to its easy accessibility and their generally patterned designs. However, as stated by the CDC, these masks do not provide filtration as well as surgical masks or other respirators. Although they provide adequate protection from the virus, they are not permitted to be worn my healthcare workers. Ultimately, in the communal setting cloth face masks allow protection, when worn properly of course, and their protection level can vary depending on material, number of layers, design, etc., but surgical mask and respirators overall considered more protective.


Overall, the surgical mask and N95 respirator are two commonly found face covering that will give you protection against the pandemic. It is important to keep in mind that although our immune system provides us with innate immunity, a defense that is active immediately upon infections, and adaptive immunity, an acquired immunity of typically a slow response. Because adaptive immunity is a slower response, for the Covid-19 virus, it is typical to take around two weeks for your body to develop antigens. That being said, masks are a significant precaution against contracting the virus. Lastly, both of these masks are approved by the CDC and are seen in the medical field and in everyday life and can protect you from unwanted pathogens. 




Our Next Steps To Defeat Covid-19.


Whether it is protection from an angry bear, a criminal on the loose, the simple flu, or for safe sex, the measures we take to ensure our safety is one of the most important steps to continue to stay healthy and safe. We must continue to educate ourselves on what actions we must take in order to keep ourselves and the people around us as safe as possible.

Recently, our society has had a lot of controversy around products like masks and their effectiveness. Although many of our methods may not guarantee complete safety, we must attempt to reduce the amount of spread of serious viruses like SARS-CoV-2.

To quickly clarify, SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that invades our bodies. When SARS-CoV-2 is able to bypass our bodies’ immune system functions and infect cells in our system, our bodies contract the disease Covid-19. If further information is desired, please refer to this study on SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19 conducted by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.

As we approach a whole year with the presence of Covid-19 in the United States of America, we must stop to reflect on our actions and see what we can do to prevent the virus from wreaking more havoc on our society. One of the most important factors for Covid-19’s ability to spread as much as it had, was the lack of proper protection techniques used by citizens of the United States of America.

Firstly, it is very important to understand how SARS-CoV-2 is able to transfer from person to person so easily. According to the CDC, The most common way for SARS-CoV-2 to spread is through people inhaling respiratory droplets, released through other people’s coughing, sneezing, talking, etc. into their own nose and mouth. Although much rarer, SARS-CoV-2 can sometimes be spread through airborne transmission and contact with contaminated surfaces.

Since breathing is a necessity to continue living, we obviously can’t perfectly avoid inhaling these respiratory droplets, but in what ways can we try to reduce the damage of possible Covid-19 cases in the United States of America…

Forms of Protection

According to the CDC, we can take very specific steps in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

To further elaborate on a few of these methods, we as a society must educate ourselves on the best and most efficient way to carry out these actions. One main example at the moment is mask usage in the United States of America. Despite constantly being told, I often see many citizens wearing their masks in ways that are strongly discouraged: some under the nose, some dangling from their ears, and some not on at all. Not only does this put their own bodies at risk of contracting Covid-19, but it also risks the health of others as well.

According to the articleStill Confused About Masks? Here’s the Science Behind How Face Masks Prevent Coronavirus” by Nina Bai, a study conducted by health affairs, compared the Covid-19 growth rate before and after a mask mandate. Nina  states that “the first five days after a mandate, the daily growth rate slowed by 0.9 percentage-points compared to the five days prior to the mandate; at three weeks, the daily growth rate had slowed by 2 percentage-points.” Another study conducted by Christopher Leffler, Edsel Ing and many more professionals also found that out of the 198 countries that they had observed the Covid-19 death rate of “those with cultural norms or government policies favoring mask-wearing had lower death rates.”  Through studies, we can observe the effectiveness of such resources and use these materials such as masks to the best of our abilities to help each other stay safe.

If you are in need of instruction on how to properly use a mask and other small important pieces of information. Please refer to the CDC’s article “How to Select, Wear, and Clean Your Mask”

Another term that many have learned this year, is the term “Social Distancing.” Although staying 6 feet apart from one another like the CDC has told us, it becomes very difficult for every day citizens to abide to this rule as we have a natural tendency to gravitate towards our peers, family and other people in our communities. In order to reduce spreading the virus to other people we must stay socially-distant from others to allow people to live their lives much more comfortably, especially considering that most cases of SARS-CoV-2 transfer are caused through inhaling respiratory droplets.

Another luxury many people don’t use properly is the sinks that are in our homes and bathrooms. I’ve seen way too many people use hand sanitizer instead of going to wash their hands for the recommended 20 seconds with soap and water. For many reasons, this practice can be extremely harmful if someone is trying to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2. According to the CDC, there are many cases where using regular hand sanitizer won’t be as efficient as a simple washing of hands with soap and water. For example, hand sanitizer is not as efficient on greasy and dirty hands: hands after handling food, playing sports, going fishing and many other activities that may lead to dirty hands. In cases as such, the CDC recommends using soap and water for 20 seconds. However, we must truly wash our hands by properly scrubbing our hands and not simply allow the water from the sink to run through our fingers and palms. The friction caused by scrubbing allows for the lifting of dirt, grease and microbes on your skin. Microbes are also extremely present under your nails which is why your parents always tell you to make sure to get your nails when you wash your hands. Without properly cleaning our hands and other parts of our bodies, we may accidentally bring harmful substances towards our face, where the virus may be able to easily enter our bodies. By cleaning our hands thoroughly and carefully, we significantly reduce the chances of spreading the virus to others and ourselves.

Biological Implication

The reason the CDC places so much emphasis on thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water, is so that we can make sure to keep our hands clean from any harmful substances. If someone were to only wash their hands with water, they wouldn’t be able to wash off all the non polar substances like grease and oil off of their hands. For this reason, we use soap to and water rather than only water. Due to water’s polar properties, it can only bond with other polar molecules. When one adds soap into their cleansing routine, there are two new parts being tossed into the mix. The hydrophilic heads from the soap attach to the water molecules and the hydrophobic tails of the molecule bond with the non polar substances such as grease and oil. The water then continues to carry the soap and harmful substances away from our hands as other water molecules pull them down with them as gravity takes its course. Soap, being made of lipids, shows versatility as it’s able to bond with both polar and non polar molecules and allows us to fully wash our hands with its polar and non polar qualities.


With proper masks, socially-distant people, clean hands and many other precautions we can make sure that the spread growth is reduced way more than it previously was. Scientists are still trying to figure out all the details themselves. They’re human beings and they’re bound to make mistakes as well, so we must be understanding and flexible when new studies and information prove claims that could help us reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and Covid-19 even more. In these troubling times we must look out for each other and be strong yet malleable as we face hardships that many haven’t ever experienced before.




Equation About Aliens Helps Prove Masks and Social Distancing Are Necessary

Wait, do we really have to wear masks? Short answer: yes. Long answer: Absolutely yes.

It’s the debate that’s been going on since Covid-19 first reached the United States. Are masks and social distancing really necessary? Some people seem to think that it’s not, which is honestly ridiculous. There is so much proof that it is necessary, so I’m going to show it to anyone who doubts it.

According to the American Institute of Physics, the Contagion Airborne Transmission (CAT) inequality model can show how, based on how the virus spreads, masks and social distancing are effective. 

The article starts with researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Mississippi employing basic concepts of fluid dynamics and factors in airborne transmission to propose the CAT inequality model. Not all factors are known, including environment variables and amount of particles needed to trigger an infection. However, it can still be used to assess relative risks. 

Airborne transmitted diseases, like influenza, can spread through the air on dust, fibers, and other microscopic particles. They can also be spread through expiratory droplets. Influenza can also be spread through secondary objects, or fomites, such as door handles or tissues. Little is known about which route is most important, though airborne transmission is harder to protect against.

When a virus like Covid-19 enters the body, the body fights off the virus. It is first fought off with innate immunity, a defense that activates immediately upon infection. It’s nonspecific and rapid. If that proves to be unsuccessful, then adaptive immunity (aka acquired immunity) develops after exposure. It is very specific, though slower. The B-cells of the immune system bind and neutralize the pathogen, while T-cells eliminate any infected cells. There are also B and T memory cells that help recognize the pathogen if a host ever gets reinfected, speeding up the immune response. However, the Covid-19 virus is new. People getting infected do not have these memory cells and the immune system needs more time to react and defend themselves. Time that the virus takes to wreak havoc on the host’s body.

These researchers are able to determine the precautions necessary to prevent transmission. According to their research, increasing physical distance does increase protection. Author Rajat Mittal says doubling your distance generally doubles your protection. The scientists have also found masks to be protective. A simple cloth mask can provide significant protection and reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Physical activity that increases breathing rate and volume of people are still issues when it comes with transmission, which is why reopening schools, malls, and gyms have hard implications.

The CAT inequality model is inspired by the Drake equation in astrobiology. The Drake equation is a formula that gives us an idea about how many alien societies exist and are detectable. The equation estimates the number of transmitting societies in the Milky Way galaxy through a factorization.

Similar to the Drake equation, the model develops a factorization based on the idea that airborne transmission occurs when a person inhales a viral dose. It includes variables added at each of the three stages of airborne transmission, including breathing rates, number of virus-carrying droplets expelled, the environment, and exposure time. This model could also apply to airborne transmission of other respiratory infections like the flu, tuberculosis, and the measles.

Researchers are continuing to look closer at face mask efficiency and transmission details in high-density of outdoor spaces. However, the CAT inequality model shows that a person is less likely to inhale a viral dose if they wear a protective mask and keep their distance.

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