AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Nature

Preserve Biodiversity & Save Lives

How elephants are crucial to cancer research

Over the course of the past few years intensive research has been done on elephants specifically on studying their cells. Elephant’s cells can play an extensive role in advancing cancer research for humans. You may be wondering why is this? How is an elephant’s cell so unique? Well elephants rarely get cancer. This may seem impossible since they weigh tons which means their cells are significantly bigger than a human sized cell, and they should be more prone to getting cancer. In addition, elephants have “hundreds of times the number of cells — and have similarly long natural lifespans — but their cells mutate, become cancerous, and kill them less frequently”. This peculiar trait is being studied by the ACE team, they have given it the name ‘Peto’s Paradox’ named for Richard Peto, a British epidemiologist.” Elephants make multiple copies of their genes, so if a mutation does occur in an elephant’s cell thus becoming cancerous “..instead of reproducing, just kill themselves.”

Researchers now are trying to work with human cells and see if this “cancer-fighting technique” used by elephants could lead to new medical treatments. Peto’s Paradox seems to work on every type of cancer that it was tried on. Which would really cut down on the time and money needed to study every form/type of cancer. If  Peto’s Paradox were to work on human cells on a bigger scale than just the “petri dish” used in this study more time could be devoted to just perfecting this technique in human cells and would for the first time ever be a revolutionary cure for every cancer known to man.  

Protecting Elephants

According to research African forest elephants help fight against climate change. There is a direct correlation between African forest elephant eating patterns and a reduction in carbon emissions released in their ecosystem. “African forest elephants need to eat 5-10 percent of their body weight (about 200-600 pounds) every day. They mostly feed on trees with lower wood density — leaving more room in the forest for the growth of high-wood-density trees that more efficiently absorb carbon in the environment, reported Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz from University of Nottingham.” Sadly, this species faces constant threats from poachers and the ever rising issue of deforestation. It’s essential to protect elephants and their habitats so they don’t go extinct. “[I]f African forest elephants go extinct, above-ground biomass — the organic materials such as trees that live above soil, essential to storing carbon — would decrease by 7 percent in Central Africa’s rainforests. Tropical forests can provide at least 30 percent of the mitigation needed to limit global warming, making their protection vital not only for the elephants’ diets and habitats, but for the planet.”

As mentioned earlier elephants rarely get cancer so if their species die off, so would the key to finding a cure for cancer in humans as many leading scientists believe. Elephants are virtually on the edge of extinction, their disappearance could have far-reaching effects for both public health and cancer research. As a result, scientists are trying to quickly gather as much data as they can while elephants are still here. However not all hope is lost. Conservation International is working hard to protect species such as elephants, the habitat they live in, and to help stabilize climates all around the world.

Click Here to Learn About the Tomato’s Fancy New Makeover

The sun rose on a dimly light Monday morning when Adriano Nunes-Nesi, Lázaro E.P. Peres, Agustin Zsögön, Lucas de Ávila Silva, Ronan Sulpice, and Emmanuel Rezende Naves published their groundbreaking discovery that could revolutionize the cultivation of chili’s forever.   These insanely talented and well established scientists figured out how to use the CRISPR-Cas9 editing tool to turn a tomato into    a chili.

Capsaicinoids are what give peppers their heat and when these scholars of science mapped the tomato’s and chili’s genomes, they saw that the tomato has genes that, when transcribed, produce these spicy and hot capsaicinoids.

The reason why this is important is because the chili’s cultivation process is extremely tedious and requires many specific conditions, not to mention it having a small yield.  Since the yield of tomatoes is 30x that of the chili, using the CRISPR-Cas9 tool, they could change the shape and taste of the tomato to that of a chili. The price of a chili peppers, per kg, compared to tomatoes is roughly 60 cents higher. It may not seem a ton, but in bulk orders, it quickly adds up.

Lázaro E.P. Peres, who is aProfessor of Plant Physiology at the University of São Paulo and one of the scientists on the team, says, “The proof of concept here is that we can transfer the unique thing endemic to a less-produced plant into another plant that is more widely produced”.  The paper states the tomato “is highly amenable to biotechnological manipulation”. This would drive the price of the chili down which would help markets, restaurants, and Gardners worldwide.

The only issue to this is the publics opinion. For years, the already established “organic” companies having been labelling genetically modified food as unhealthy compared to non-GMO foods.  This claim is simply outright false.  “Any plant or animal product is full of DNA that our body readily digests, messing with one or two genes isn’t going to impact human health. The only way GM food could affect human health is if the modification somehow produce a protein product that was actively toxic to humans.”  This quote is from an article by the Genetic Literacy Project, which could be seen as having bias towards GMO foods, however their mission says,”is to aid the public, media and policymakers in understanding the science and societal implications of human and agricultural genetic and biotechnology research and to promote science literacy.”  All they are interested in doing is educating the public because so many people have been lied to by big organic corporations and the media to prevent customers from eating GMO products.  What would they have to gain by saying they are safe when they are not?    If the public can get passed the idea of genetically modifying foods, I believe turning a tomato into a chili pepper would save much money from hundreds of thousands of businesses– big or small.

What do you guys and gals think of GMO products?

For more information, please go check out the primary source of this article and the researchers report



What does the future hold for CRISPR-Cas9?

Genome editing, or the technologies in which scientists can change the DNA of an organism, is on the rise, especially with its latest development, CRISPR-Cas9, the most efficient method of all of the methods to edit DNA.

Like many other discoveries in science, CRISPR-Cas9 was discovered through nature. Scientists learned that certain bacteria capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses, making DNA segments called CRISPR arrays, helping them remember the virus to prepare for future invasions of that virus. When they are confronted with that virus again, RNA segments from the CRISPR arrays are created which target the DNA of the virus, causing the enzyme Cas9 to cut the virus’ DNA apart, which would destroy the virus.


We use the same method in genome editing with CRISPR-Cas9 by creating RNA that binds to a specific sequence in a DNA strand and the Cas9, causing the Cas9 to cut the DNA at that specific sequence. Once this is done, the scientists create a sequence to replace the one that was cut to get the desired genome.

This technology is most prominently used to attempt to treat diseases, where the somatic cells’ genomes are altered which affect tissues, as well as prevent genetic diseases where the sperm or egg’s genome is changed. However, the latter causes some serious ethical concerns of whether we should use this technology to enhance human traits. But this begs the question that if we start using it more and more to prevent genetic diseases, will this open the door for it to be used in new ways?

Another reason to not cut down old trees

Imagine if human growth accelerates, instead of slowing down after adolescence. This way, humans would weigh less than half as much at their middle age than at when they are at their old age.

In a study published in the journal Nature, scientists found out that the growth of the tree accelerates with the tree size. This means that the bigger the tree, the faster it will grow to become even larger.

This discovery is important, as it tells us another reason to save old trees to help protect our planet. The bigger the tree size, the higher the rate of carbon accumulation of the tree. Therefore, one old tree helps lessen the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere much more than a tree that is much younger. Bigger and older trees are important carbon sinks to our environment.

Photo by Author

Photo by Author

Here is a link to a video which showcases a giant tree — the extreme end of the spectrum.

Original article:

Fish Schooling Not Nurture, But Nature

Recent research done by by biologist’s Catherine Peichel and Clifford Tabin show that the complex actions that are required by fish that travel in Schools. Fish that travel in schools do so to better protect themselves from predators, but swimming in a school requires an enormous amount of synchronization in body patterns and the ability to the change with water currents and other environmental changes. The first study conducted by Peichel in which she gathered Sticklebacks that were prone to joining schools and those that were not, showed differences in certain genetic regions. This suggests that the act of traveling in a school is not stored in memory, but is stored in their genetic make up. Research done by Tabin suggests that the eyes are  a huge part of Schooling. He found that blind Sticklebacks dwell deep underwater in solitude while the others travel in their schools. This research relates to whether Humans are driven to stay in packs and be around each other because of these certain genetic regions, or whether we as people were brought up this way.




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