AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: #phagocytosis

Should EVERYONE Get Boosted? Young Men & COVID Vaccines

COVID-19 is perhaps the most politicized issue in medicine, yet the scientific community is generally in agreement that most, if not all, people should get vaccinated; however, recent studies have shown that for young people (specifically young men) the booster has some cardiac risks. These men are at risk for myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.

Scientists are concerned with the longHeart rotating.gif-term effects this has on young men, and they must weigh the risks of protecting people from COVID, and eliminating harmful long-term effects of the vaccine. Jane Newburger, a pediatric cardiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital has studied patients suffering from post-vaccine myocarditis. She says, “I am a vaccine advocate, I would still vaccinate the children.”

Conversely, Michael Portman, another doctor studying patients with myocarditis, is more skeptical. He said: “I don’t want to cause panic, but I crave more clarity on the risk-benefit ratio.” Although the rates of post-vaccine myocarditis are minimal, they are still concerning. The rate was 1 in 6700 for 12-15-year-old boys and 1 in 8000 for 16 and 17-year-old boys. For the vast majority of patients, short-term myocarditis resulting from the COVID vaccine was treatable. Scientists still don’t know why some people experience myocarditis after taking the vaccine, but they have some theories.

Jeremy Asnes, chief of pediatric cardiology at Yale Medicine and co-director of the Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital Heart Center gives insight on the topic: “Though rare, myocarditis can be caused by an immune response to a vaccine such as smallpox vaccine, which was the most successful vaccine in history.” The general consensus among scientists is that they don’t know the reason it’s happening, but the inflammatory reaction is concerning none the less.

Young boy receiving a vaccine (48545943301).jpgOverall, the medical community continues to recommend the coronavirus vaccine to people of all ages. A new study published in the American Heart Association journal indicates that the risk of myocarditis from COVID-19 is higher than the risk of myocarditis from the vaccine for the vast majority of people. Specifically, the risk from COVID is 11x higher than the risk from the vaccine.The exception in question is young men, but for now, scientists still believe that the safest choice for everyone is to take the vaccine; however, you should be aware of the rare side effects that can result from taking the vaccine so that you can stay vigilant after you take yours!! I encourage you to leave a comment on this post. I would love to read your feedback!

AP Bio side note 🙂

Myocarditis is related to AP Biology. Since Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, to determine the connection between AP Bio and this article, we can examine how myocarditis is resolved in patients. In order to fix inflammation, dying cells are engulfed in the coated by phagocytosis and later transOxford AstraZeneca and Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.jpgported by the vesicle to lysosomes that can digest them. This process is controlled by phagocytic receptors which signal to the cell that the particles can and should be engulfed.

I chose this topic to write about because I was interested in learning about the COVID vaccine. Coronavirus was such an integral part of my life experience, and the vaccine allowed my life to get closer to normal. I feel as if I owe the vaccine that changed my life and kept me safe the courtesy of learning about it.

Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell Therapy: Successful Research to Improve Cancer Treatments

Cancer is when abnormal cells divide without control and spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream and lymph systems to cause illnesses. Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that utilizes a person’s immune system to battle diseases like cancer. Under the branch of immunotherapy, there is a specific therapy that has been recently improved upon.

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is a treatment that stimulates T-cells to fight cancer by editing them in the lab so they can be released into the body to find and destroy cancer cells. This treatment has been successful in treating certain types of hematologic malignancies but unsuccessful on solid tumors. Hematologic malignancies are cancers that begin in blood-forming tissues such as the bone marrow and in the immune system. Examples of cancers that can be treated with the CAR T-cell therapy include leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.CAR T-Cell Therapy 

CAR stimulates macrophage phagocytosis function against tumor cells and its immunomodulation capacity. Scientists have already achieved success with this therapy in B cell leukemia/lymphoma but are still caught up on complications with solid tumors. The main challenge about solid tumors arise from its immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment. There is also a limited effect on infiltration into the dense extracellular matrix of the solid tumors.

In this type of therapy, the macrophages are the most important aspect of the success in treatment. Macrophages play a central role in the crosstalk between the adaptive and innate immune system. The immune system defends the body and marks pathogens and cancer cells for macrophages to fight and engulf. The researchers at Zhejiang University partnered with a researcher at the Fujian Medical University and The First Affiliated Hospital and Center for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine to study macrophage specific CARs and the development of EGFRvIII (epidermal growth factor receptor variant III) Targeting CAR-iMACs. The chimeric antigen receptors were further genetically engineered into induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) derived macrophages (iMACs) so that the CAR treatment was more effective toward solid tumors. The firefly luciferase gene (Ffluc) was discovered to promote the research through the bioluminescence signal response from tumor cells.

Macrophages were equipped with receptors called pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) through the discovery of the importance of bioluminescence cell signaling. The chimeric antigen receptor was then reprogrammed to contain Toll/IL-1R (TIR), a domain containing adapter inducing interferon β. The TIR-containing CAR is a novel engineered PRR that recognizes antigen associated molecular patterns and enables macrophages with antigen dependent polarization to be more pro-inflammatory to aid immune cell therapies in cancer.

Connection to AP Biology:

The chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy has a great deal of connections to our AP Biology class.


CAR treats certain types of cancers, usually those in the blood-forming tissues. As we learned in AP Bio, cancers form when a cell does not properly divide and bypasses the checkpoints in the mitosis cycle. These abnormal cells don’t always become cancerous but they no longer follow the signals to stop dividing, causing masses that could one day become cancerous. 

Macrophages & Phagocytosis:

Macrophages and phagocytosis was something that we learned about in the first semester. Macrophages are specialized cells that are involved in pathogen detection so that phagocytosis can occur and destroy bacteria and other harmful substances.

Phagocytosis occurs when a cell engulfs solid things into the cell. We learned about phagocytosis along with pinocytosis and receptor-mediated endocytosis. In CAR therapy, phagocytosis occurs to engulf pathogens and cancer cells.

Bioluminescence:PanellusStipticusAug12 2009

In AP Bio, we did not directly learn about bioluminescence but we learned about cell communication and cell signaling. In bacteria, there is quorum sensing and it allows bacteria to share information about cell density and adjust gene expression. In bioluminescence bacteria, the power to produce light is controlled by quorum sensing. One bioluminescent bacteria cannot light up on its own, but when multiple bioluminescent bacteria gather together, quorum sensing signals for the “light” to shine once it senses enough of the bacteria together.


New Studies Uncover Truth About Vesicle Formation

Eating is one of the most simple tasks humans need to preform to maintain survival, and our bodies have numerous complex mechanisms to gather the nutrients from the diverse foods we eat. Eating starches for glucose to fuel our cells or vegetables to acquire the necessary vitamins and minerals to ensure a smoothly functioning body; eating provides us with the essential nutrients to survive. But what about the building blocks of life, our cells? So far in our biology class, we’ve learned that cells possess the capability to engulf food particles and microorganisms through a process known as phagocytosis, a subcategory of endocytosis. Endocytosis types

This process involves our cell’s plasma membrane, a highly complex cellular component that can undergo shape transformations. For a cell to perform phagocytosis, the cell membrane must alter its shape to create vesicles, tiny structures within a cell that consist of fluids and food particles enclosed by a lipid bilayer, which transfer food particles and microorganisms into the intracellular matrix. 

On the surface, phagocytosis seems like a relatively not intriguing and straightforward process, yet there is much more to uncover. Scientists at the Ohio State University state that “the question of how those pockets formed from membranes that were previously believed to be flat had stymied researchers for nearly 40 years,” which opens up an entirely new idea to be pursued (Ohio State University). To tackle this preliminary issue, the scientists experimented with highly powerful cameras to take a deeper view into the cell membrane’s ability to carry out phagocytosis. Using super-resolution fluorescence imaging, they watched the cell membrane form pockets within itself in live time. Now, the question of how these pockets form is answerable. 

Cell membrane detailed diagram en

According to the scientists, their studies revealed that ‘protein scaffolds’ deform the cellular membrane once designated to the site of vesicle formation. This discovery contrasts with the previous hypothesis, which states that protein scaffolds had to undergo an energy-required reorganization to create membrane curvature. Lead scientist Kural states that “Understanding the origin and dynamics of membrane-bound vesicles is important — they can be utilized for delivering drugs for medicinal purposes but, at the same time, hijacked by pathogens such as viruses to enter and infect cells”(Ohio State University).  Hopefully, with a better understanding of the shape transformation undergone by the cellular membrane, along with the fundamentals of life, we will be able to produce more effective therapeutic strategies.


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