Friday, April 24, 2015

Developing Better Treatments for Depression through the Molecular Level

 Everyone gets sad, you may have just gotten dumped, or just watched the beginning of UP, or you may have reached the bottom your box of ice cream and still crave more. This sadness is usually fleeting though, and doesn’t change your psychology long term. However, some people struggle with depression, a serious long term psychological illness that negatively affects a person’s mood, thoughts, feelings, or sense of self-worth. Depression is a debilitating psychological illness that affects a large portion of the United States.

The Long Term Effects of Obesity

If you are like me, then we'd probably agree that there are five major food groups: Hamburgers, French fries, pizza, ice cream, and Chipotle. Unfortunately, this kind of lifestyle is generally frowned upon, as it’s prevalence and has led to the widespread epidemic of obesity. Obesity is described as a disorder with an excessive and unhealthy amount of body fat that is usually brought on by an unhealthy diet and a lack of physical activity. America is facing a widespread epidemic of obesity, with increased levels of the disorder within the past few years. Obesity has spiked most noticeably in children, where a third of children in the United States are estimated to be overweight, 15% of which are categorized as obese.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The exciting new treatment: Immune Therapy

Tumor immunotherapy is now a popular strategy that should be considered part of “the clinician’s toolbox of standard therapies for cancer.” Many diseases result from an irregular immune system. It is an obvious connection between the immune system and autoimmune diseases, allergies and complications of transplants, but in recent years the link between immune dysfunction and many non-immune disease, like cancer, have been noticed. Cancer was previously thought only has the malignant growth of cells. Today we also know cancer is fueled by inflammation and localized immune suppression, which triggered the interest in immunotherapy as a treatment for cancer.

The amount of drugs and treatments for cancer, like radiation, is extraordinary. This approach has been very successful in certain settings, where the radiation will “poison” the cancer cells and cause mass destruction of the tumors. Unfortunately, cancers often return because the drugs cause debilitating target toxicities and even new malignancies. However, recently we have seen signs of a decisive victory over certain cancers, which is personalized cancer immunotherapy. “The past decade has witnessed a revolution in our understanding of the immune system and our ability to develop safer and more effective immunotherapies.” “The induction and maintenance of immune tolerance has been the holy grail of immunotherapy because it would translate a short course of immunotherapy into long-term benefit while maintaining immune competency,” something radiation cannot do notes scientists at Harvard University.

Below is a picture that explains how this therapy works.

Northeastern Researchers discover a new Antibiotic in Soil.

Antibiotic resistance is spreading faster than ever before. Scientists have tried multiple tactics to find ways to cure antibiotic resistance, and a team of Northeastern University researchers may have found a definitive answer in a Maine soil sample. The new antibiotic is called Teixobactin, which job is to kill pathogens. So far, in lab tests, there are no signs of resistance to the drug and even more, the properties of this compound also suggest a path towards developing antibiotics that are likely to avoid development of resistance, notes Nature Magazine and the researchers at Northeastern University led by Kim Lewis.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hygiene Hypothesis: Explaining the Increase in Autoimmune Disorders

Modern medicine has proved miraculous in its ability to prevent disease and increase the average life expectancy. However, the decrease in preventable disease has been correlated to an increase in autoimmune disorders. The most probable mechanism for explaining this trend is the hygiene hypothesis. The hygiene hypothesis stipulates that increased standard of living, meaning better hygiene and modern medicine, leads to a decreased exposure to microorganisms which in turn causes autoimmune disorders from diminished natural tolerance. Published online by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, a study by Bach and Chatenoud provides evidence to corroborate the hygiene hypothesis via incidence of diabetes in mice living in varied sanitation conditions. The purpose of the experiment was to understand the protective mechanisms underlying infectious disease and thereby deduce a potential therapy for preventing autoimmune disorders.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Inactivity Changes the Brain

Have you ever wondered if spending a weekend binge-watching tv shows on Netflix is really that bad for your health? Researchers are saying that there could be actual detrimental effects in neurons as a result of leading a sedentary life.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Can Gender and Time Affect your Injury?

 Knee injuries in sports have been known to be very common.  Specifically anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries.  Males and females can suffer from knee injuries whether their sport involves or does not involve contact.  Not only to athletes, but to every human, the knee is a crucial part to the human body.  Obviously, without a knee there would be no way for a human to walk, run, jump or do regular every day things.  Depending on the knee injury, people can be kept out of activity for several months, then has to go through rehab for even longer. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Is Reversal of age possible?

Have you considered the ability Benjamin Buttons has to decrease in age as time goes on? Well although Benjamin’s ability will never be fully possible, new studies in mice have shown that researchers are finding new ways to increase the blood flow and production of neurons in aging mice.

A team of researchers from Harvard University, which included Lida Katsimoardi and Lee L. Rubin, conducted an experiment to test if young systematic factors could reverse the decline in the potential for neural stem cells in aging mice.

Laser Eye Surgery: Is it Worth it?

The number of people who have problems with their eyesight has been significantly increasing over the years. As such the extent of research in this area has been on the rise and recently there have been significant advancements made in this field.8 The idea of getting eye surgery to remove all the hassle of continually updating and wearing contacts or glasses seems to be more and more appealing. When the concept of laser eye surgery first started becoming possible scientists had no real proof of what the long-term effects could be. Now that it has become increasingly popular around the world I was wondering to what extent patients thought it was worth it, what the process is like and what, if any, risky side effects there might be. I myself don’t need to wear eyeglasses or contacts but there is a shockingly large amount of my friends and family who do. I know someone personally who has gotten the surgery a total of three times in one eye and two times in the other and yet still uses glasses to read. I also know someone who must continuously put eye drops in to prevent the dry eye symptom that came after the surgery. These two outcomes made me wonder how effective laser eye surgery really is.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

CRISPR/Cas9 System May Provide a Cure for HIV

     What do you think of when you think about human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV? For the majority of people, it is a taboo infection with no survivors and a huge social stigma. Since its discovery in 1981, people have been suffering physically and emotionally from the effects of this virus. In my opinion, it is incredibly difficult to accept that in the world, there are now upwards of 35 million human beings living with and suffering from this disease to which there is no known cure. 3.2 million of these people are only children- under the age of 15, and most of them live in third-world countries with little access to healthcare. It is about time for a viable long-term solution. According to experimental results accepted as of January 2015, there may be hope for a permanent cure for HIV.

Examining Fractal Geometry to Combat Cancer Cells

The first time I heard about fractals was four years ago in my Calculus class. I remembered how fascinated I was by a pattern that is so common yet overlooked. Fractal patterns can be seen everywhere in nature--clouds, lightning, seashells, ferns, broccoli, river systems, blood vessels, and the list continues. This demonstrates how nature has specific designs with which it builds its beings and structures. And this amazes me because it shows that nature can be random and spontaneous (based on thermodynamics), but at the same time, highly systematic and organized. Fractals are simple in terms of their attributes but are varied and complex in the ideas and applications that accompany them. Salient attributes of fractals include: self-similarity, iteration and shape irregularity (Baish & Jain, 2000; Dokukin, Guz, Woodworth, & Sokolov, 2015; Losa, 2014). Self-similarity means that when one fragment of an object is examined on various scales, that fragment is similar to and "reproduce the whole object from which it is derived (Losa, 2014). Recently, fractals and the concepts related to them, which first arose in mathematics, are used to examine cell and tissue morphologies (Baish & Jain, 2000; Dokukin et al., 2015; Losa, 2014). Using fractals as an approach to studying structures in biological systems may provide new perspectives and insights on structures, and thus functions, of cells and tissues.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Herbal Medicine and its Controversies

Across the country, millions of people hold various thoughts on Herbal medicine. Some claim that there are no scientific mechanisms behind herbal medicine, while others used it when they were not satisfied with western medicine. Many might think that only Easterners use herbal medicine as Westerns have their own medicine. However, almost 80% of the people all around the world have used this therapy. There’s no separation between the two, for a combined therapy is most effective. Due to the high percentage, it can be an indication of its beneficial usages. However, there are many individuals who have yet to experience herbal medicine because of its lack of scientific explanations as to how they are helping the body.

Molecular Mimicry: A Maladaptation of Learning

"Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery - it's the sincerest form of learning." - George Bernard Shaw

Generally speaking, knowledge is the pursuit of all living things. As part of the animal kingdom we educate ourselves for our survival, as do birds learning to fly or lions learning to hunt. Learning even has implications on the molecular level, with increasing evidence pointing to long-term potentiation via the regulation of AMPA and NMDA channels in the synapse. The idea here is that post-synaptic neurons in the brain physically change in response to use over time, correlating use with channel up regulation. Perhaps this is why cramming before a test is less effective than reviewing the material on a regular basis leading up to an exam.

Uncovering science’s secret weapon of antibiotic discovery: The iChip

Let’s play a game: do you think more people have died of the Ebola virus in West Africa, or an everyday infection? Although Ebola may be a tempting answer,  bacterial and fungal infections have become exceedingly deadly over the past few years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, fewer than 9,000 people have died of Ebola in the past year, while over 2 million people in the U.S. alone have developed serious infections and at least 23,000 of those people have died as a direct result. Many others have died from other medical conditions that were further complicated by infections. 

Brain-machine interface – Science fiction or essential patient care?

We live in an increasingly technological age. From iPhone apps that allow users to track their pregnancy or menstrual cycles to alarm clocks that sense sleep patterns to wake the user feeling refreshed and invigorated, technology is becoming more and more integrated with our daily lives and health. Technology has allowed the average person to become more in touch with their biological rhythms.

Health Benefits of Sharklet Biomimetic Technology

The field of biomimetics is a growing area of engineering and innovation for health, environmental, and economic improvement. Biomimicry is the modeling and designing of new technologies after processes or physiologies that are present in nature. Currently several investigations of organism toxins, secretions, and physical properties are being done to enhance medicinal technologies. One technology that has been developed and increasingly implemented in hospital and clinical settings is the Sharklet micropattern technology.

Neck damage and its root from tablet computer usage

Over the last few years, technology has advanced greatly. Computers and smartphones now play a significant role in our everyday life. In 2014, it was estimated that 42% of US population 18 years or older possess a tablet computer. We think of these portable devices as a convenient way to stay connected with our work wherever we go. However, the potential for its use-related injury has not been evaluated until recently. While desktop manufacturers provide a guideline to set up the desktop correctly, there seems to be no manual for what the correct posture for using a tablet computer is. By investigating the head-neck postures during tablet computer usage, researchers were able to explain the correlation between owning a tablet computer and having neck/shoulder discomfort. The extensors of the neck are vulnerable to fatigue, often due to the gravitational moment of head mass during flexed postures. There were some studies that back up the relationship between flexed posture and neck pain. Most of the time, tablet computer users seem to put them in lap, which puts a lot of gravitational of head mass on their neck.

Nature vs. Nurture: Potential Physiological Differences in Adoptees

Theories of ‘nature vs. nurture’ have been debated since before the turn of the nineteenth century, but professionals have yet to come to a consensus regarding the matter.  Perhaps one of the best ways to study this phenomenon is by assessing and analyzing adoptees.  If either nature or nurture were to have a distinguishably significant impact on character development, the changes would be most evident in individuals who were raised by people other than their biological parents, allowing for the separation of genetic and environmental factors in the evaluation of their impact.

Tradition Meets Innovation: ACMOS Energy Balance

For over 2,000 years acupuncture, which was developed in ancient China, has been practiced. Now it is possible that a variation of this ancient technique could be the future of personalized medicine. Acupuncture uses small pins to pierce the skin at various nerve points. These nerve points are connected to the autonomic nervous system, and when stimulated, autonomic reflexes are triggered which can have therapeutic benefits. Historically, the Chinese believed that people had a life energy, or Qi, which was the basis of all life. While this may sound like unscientific hocus-pocus, today we recognize this Qi as being measureable and quantifiable electromagnetic fields. While the ancient Chinese were concerned with establishing an uninhibited flow of Qi, today the focus is on restoring and maintaining properly aligned electromagnetic fields. This is the foundation of ACMOS.

Hemophilia: Working Towards a Cure?

Hemophilia is a fairly well documented illness dating back to ancient times. In recent years, there have been enormous leaps forward in hemophilia treatment. Indeed, the hope is that with new advances in gene therapy, hemophilia will able to be completely cured within the next decade. Until that time though, researchers will continue to work towards more effective therapies for this disease.

Hemophilia is often caused by a single point mutation that stops the production of either clotting factor XIII (hemophilia A) or factor IX (hemophilia B). With hemophilia patients, it is often a race against the clock to ensure that they have sufficient levels of clotting factors at all times. Otherwise, spontaneous bleeding ensue which can be fatal if left untreated. Additionally, spontaneous bleeding can lead to serious joint degradation over time. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way in the treatment of hemophilia since the whole blood transfusions of the 1840’s. Unfortunately, we still have quite a ways to go. A parent of a child with hemophilia still must intravenous inject their child with clotting factor at least once a day in order to maintain healthy levels of factor in their blood. After 8-12 hours half of the factor VIII has been removed from the body. The half-life of factor IX is a little bit longer, about 18-24 hours. Unfortunately, hemophilia A (which lacks factor VIII) is four times as common as hemophilia B. This often spells disaster for compliance with the strict regimen of injections necessary.

A New Option For Lung Cancer Patients

 Lung Cancer is the second highest cause of cancer-related mortality in the United States, the third deadliest Cancer in the United Kingdom, and the leading cause of death out of all cancers worldwide.1 Those that are diagnosed with lung cancer generally have limited healthcare options, their best chances being chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery. However, those diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer have even fewer options in terms of treatment, as after multiple doses of chemotherapy alongside drugs like cisplatin and pemetrexed, patients showing no improvement are usually are directed down the path of palliative care, and are generally and in most cases can only hope to have their time left to increase by a few months if they are lucky2. Recently in the United Kingdom, fifty-six of these patients with the odds completely against them have been given a chance at remission.

The image above shows how MSC’s with overexpressed TRAIL proteins can cause tumor suppression in cancerous cells.

Alzheimer’s Disease: Can it be prevented?

Alzheimer’s disease is an age-related brain disease that over time diminishes a person’s memory and cognitive thinking skills. Alzheimer’s disease can eventually lead to Dementia, which entails a loss of memory and cognitive thinking skills so great that daily life and activities become almost impossible. Age, genetics, environment and lifestyle are the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and though Alzheimer’s disease seems untreatable and unpreventable, there are lifestyle changes that can help as well as modern medicine and therapy that slow the deterioration of the brain.

Looking into the Future: My Spine Surgery

I have moderate scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. Fortunately for me, my curve is S-shaped and both curves are balanced. This means that I stand upright, my movement and everyday life is not affected (aside from back pain) and you wouldn’t be able to tell that I have the condition if you saw me out buying a coffee. However others with scoliosis are not so lucky and surgery is an unavoidable path that they must trudge, in order to improve their quality of life.

But what does spine surgery look like? Many surgeries involve fusing the vertebrae of the spine around the area affected, or inserting rods and screws, as seen in Figure 1. Surgeries are highly invasive and can require extensive recovery periods, with original flexibility near impossible to regain in some cases.

Fig 1. University of Utah Hospital, Radiology Department. X-ray of U.S. girl, age 16 years 10 months, with post-operative scoliosis. Front, standing, clothed. 5 February 2010. X-Ray Image. Wikimedia Commons. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.

Deforestation: Does More Open Area Equal More Malaria?

When you think of “Amazon deforestation,” you probably think of the cute animals that are losing their homes to gold miners and farmers that are stripping the land. What you don’t tend to think of are the not-so-cute infections diseases that can spread from the drastic and devastating ecological changes caused by the deforestation. The reemergence of infectious diseases caused by deforestation has become a main concern of both epidemiologists and ecologists.

Repairing and Regenerating the Intervertebral Disc

  The spine has always been an area of relative mystery for science as a whole, and medical conditions involving the spine are usually perceived as serious. However, the idea of using stem cells has been introduced in the practice of repairing the degenerating intervertebral discs of aging humans. The intervertebral disc is located in the spinal cord and acts as a buffer between different vertebrae and nerves. The degeneration of the disc, which is common in middle-aged people, can lead to a variety of problems including chronic back pain. However the relatively unknown tasks of the cells comprising this structure has lead to difficulties in treating it.

Is Running a Marathon Healthy?

Many people turn to physical exercise, such as running, to increase their cardiovascular and overall health. It seems to be common sense that running must be healthy—in fact, it is beneficial to nearly every biological structure and function in the human body. Running burns calories and builds muscle, helping exercisers maintain healthy body weights. Running releases chemicals in the brain that improve mood. Running even prevents diseases, such as diabetes and heart attacks, and extends life expectancy.  

Age-Related Condition and Disease Therapy With Telomere Extension

     Can modern medicine eventually actually allow people to live forever? This is a question that still has no answer, but maybe is one step closer to being answered. In a recent study published in the FASEB journal, researchers have discovered how to extend telomeres in cells and increase the length of time they remain able to proliferate without mutation.

The ADHD Boom

Figure 1:

ADHD(attention deficit/hyperactive disorder) is a mental disorder that has been widely diagnosed among children in the past thirty years. Defined as abnormal or excessive motor activity, increased inattentiveness compared with peers, and impulsive behavior. Most often observed in boys pre puberty, and girls during and post puberty, ADHD diagnoses have been rapidly increasing. Parents increasingly try to address ADHD in their children through pharmacological treatment to not only mitigate immediate symptoms, but also to improve overall quality of life, especially in social interactions. ADHD is most prevalent in children, and meta-analysis has shown that up to 65% of adults who were diagnosed with ADHD at children still show symptoms of the disorder. ADHD effects approximately 5% of the global population, and about 4% of adults. Studies on the short term effects of treatment for the symptoms of ADHD have been numerous, and show efficacy in symptom reduction, but the long term effects of treatment has not been studied in depth.

What You Don't Know About Underage Drinking

Underage drinking is very common along with binge drinking, especially on college campuses, but for minors consuming alcohol the biggest concern might not be getting caught. Everyone who participates in underage drinking knows the risks that come with it: getting in trouble with the law, with your parents, or with your friends. But we may be ignoring one of the greatest, the long-term detrimental effects of teenage alcohol consumption. During adolescence the human brain is not yet fully developed and particularly susceptible to external influences, in particular drugs and alcohol. A study by Wanette Vargas et al. used rat models to show that adolescence drinking can have serious effects on your brain and subsequent performance.

Cannabis: Is it ok or Not? I Can’t Seem to Remember…

The world of legal recreational cannabis has many people worried about how safe this drug can be. Many claim that since it is natural it cannot be as harmful as other drugs as well as providing other claims as to its safety. However, a new study by a group of researchers at Northwestern University seeks to demonstrate that there are some negative effects of cannabis use in adolescents that mimic changes in the brain that are similar to schizophrenia especially with their effects on memory.

Is it in Your Genes: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. <>
Since October 2001, approximately 1.7 million U.S. troops have deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF; Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF; Iraq). The deployment pace in these recent conflicts is unprecedented, with more service members deployed for longer periods of time. At the same time, advances in both medical science and military technology have dramatically reduced casualty rates of killed or wounded.1 This means more service members are surviving experiences that would have led to death in the earlier prolonged wars, such as Vietnam and Korea War. Casualties of a different kind have emerged, however - invisible wounds such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Understanding Mechanisms of Cancer: Krüppel-Like Factor 4

Recent research brings medical investigators a step closer to unraveling one of the most intractable problems in medicine today, the mechanisms through which DNA damage and uncontrolled cell division leads to the break-down in homeostasis known as cancer. Published online in Molecular Carcinogenesis, a 2014 study by Colgate University and Memorial-Sloan Kettering researchers examined a pathway involving Krüppel-Like Factor 4 (KLF4), a protein in eukaryotic cells that regulates tumorigenesis. Previous research by El-Karim et al. had demonstrated that KLF4-deficient mouse cells are genetically unstable, putting them at increased risk for mutation leading to cancer. So the researcher’s experimental objective was to determine how the KLF4 pathway works to arrest cell growth in pre-cancerous mouse cells.

Putting the Pieces Together: New Autism Research Development

Recently, researchers at San Diego State University researchers may have decided the winner of an ongoing battle between competing theories of autism spectrum disorder. This disorder, often referred to simply as autism, actually describes a wide range of individuals with social deficits communication problems and repetitive behaviors . Autism has puzzled researchers since Leo Kanner first described it in 19431. Most individuals with autism have normal IQ’s and extremely variable levels of social deficits2. These social deficits can range from the inability to use and understand language at all, to having trouble holding reciprocal conversations with others. While there are countless theories as to what causes the social deficits in autism, two are emerging as frontrunners.

Children with autism often prefer to play alone instead of with other children.
Photo from Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative

Three Parent In Vitro Fertilization

January 27, 2015 marks the date that a formal request was submitted to the FDA to assemble a committee to seek approval for clinical trials; testing egg and zygote modification within in vitro fertilization. The goal of this specific technique is to eradicate the transmission of specific mitochondrial diseases between the mother and child. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Reality and the Imaginary: De novo mutations in Schizophrenia and it's connection to other mental disorders

Distinguishing between the reality and imaginary is something most healthy humans can do without much of an issue. However, schizophrenia is a harmful mental disorder where an individual often has trouble with this distinction. As an example, one schizophrenic was asked to draw a self portrait, and this is what he drew:

Always Remember, Never Forget: Fear Memory Retrieval and Conditioning

 Let’s suppose that you are strolling through a park on a Saturday afternoon. All goes well until a mountain lion pounces out of the bushes and stares you right in the eye as it salivates for some human flesh. What would you do?
            Naturally, when you encounter danger, it’s only natural to feel afraid. In this instance, you are very afraid of the mountain lion standing 8 feet away from you, and in response to this fear, your body induces a “fight or flight” response as it prepares to defend itself against danger or avoid it. When this “fight or flight” response takes effect, you decide to slowly inch for way toward the grocery store just across the street, hoping that the cougar will remain calm. Luckily, a park patrol comes around in his scooter and tranquilizes the animal before it is able to react, and you are able to avoid the danger posed by the presence of this mountain lion in the park.

Eating Disorders: The Method behind the Madness

When faced with stress, especially in college, many students develop different coping mechanisms, both good and bad. While some people release steam by going to the gym, hanging with friends, and napping, others develop unhealthy habits such as binge drinking and eating disorders in the attempt to fight off the stress in their lives. Because of the noticeably strong correlation specifically between stress and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, researchers have begun to look for physiological and psychological explanations as to why people, girls in particular, turn to harmful eating-related behaviors to counteract stressful situations.

3D Printing: Creating Models and Organs

Every year the amount of organ transplants needed increases, but the amount of organs donated has no means of keeping up with this ever increasing number. One solution that has been proposed is bioprinting. Bioprinting is defined as the 3-D printing of biological tissues through layering. For now the goal is to be able to print a few strips at a time to repair organs such as the liver and kidneys. In the future when proper printing methods are devised, the implications of it’s usage knows no bounds.

Non-Invasive Treatment as a 'Breakthrough' for Alzheimer's: Too Good to Be True?

The claim of a 'breakthrough' is sometimes used too liberally in pop culture science – but researchers have recently found a method that can have major future implications for Alzheimer's Disease, and they're serious about it.

These researchers have found a method for improving memory in mouse models of Alzheimer's Disease solely by ultrasound. Dementia, the most common presentation of Alzheimer's, affects almost 50 million people worldwide, a number that is set to reach 135 million by 2050, according to Alzheimer's Disease International. A new approach is needed now more than ever.

Two is Company, but Three’s a Crowd: The Development of “Three-Parent” In Vitro Fertilization

Everyone in the world has two parents that they originated from. It is common knowledge that one’s DNA comes from a combination of copies of their parent’s genomic sequence.  But is it possible to have more than two biological parents? According to recent studies, it is.

The method of creating a “three-parent” baby has gained popularity, especially in the UK, where the House of Commons just recently voted to legalize it. The in-vitro fertilization technique utilizes a combination of DNA from two female and one male donor. The purpose of the technique is to limit the amount of gene defects associated with mutated mtDNA, which could potentially act as a detriment to the human body.

Fluid Replacement Beverages for Athletes: Why rehydration is so crucial and how to do it most efficiently

Fluid replacement beverages can be used in a wide variety of circumstances, but are most commonly associated with their use by athletes to optimize physical performance. Studies have shown that even modest dehydration (2 percent of body weight) can result in as much as a 20 percent decrease in physical performance in normal temperatures, and up to a 40 percent decrease in physical performance in hot temperatures. It is clear that remaining well hydrated is crucial to performance, but simply drinking water may not be the most efficient solution. Progressing knowledge of human physiology has revealed that specific concentrations of additives to water can actually help to improve performance. Most of us are aware of the popular branded fluid replacement beverages such as Gatorade, Powerade, Muscle Milk, etc, but recent studies have revealed that fluid replacement beverages should not be treated equally among athletes. Different compositions are beneficial for different purposes. For example, endurance athletes would benefit from specific concentrations of components, such as water, sodium and carbohydrates, in their drinks that differ from those that would be most beneficial to athletes performing a lot of work in a short amount of time.

Does Gut Microbiota Exacerbate HIV?

The human gastrointestinal (GI) tract is home to trillions of symbiotic microbes that benefit our body by aiding in digestion and outcompeting pathogenic microbes. The delicate balance between gut flora and the immune system is disrupted by chronic viral infections such as HIV. Chronic HIV infection is characterized by persistent immune activation and the continuous depletion of CD4+ helper T-cells. Recent studies have been exploring the gut microbiome’s role in HIV infection and have found that alterations to gut flora caused by HIV may have a role in exacerbating the disease. Namely, HIV causes damage to intestinal epithelia, allowing gut flora to enter the bloodstream and contribute to chronic immune activation. HIV may also be correlated with shifts in the gut floral community towards pathogenic microbes that could increase risks for disease and perpetuate HIV progression.

Save My Hair: Cold cap therapy

As a woman I understand just how important our hair can be for our overall appearance and feeling of femininity. Personally, I could not imagine the feeling one would get if it were all gone, not by choice. Sadly, many cancer patients have this feature stolen from them due to chemotherapy everyday. As if having one of our most deadly diseases wasn’t enough to deal with, one also could have their sense of self and beauty disturbed as well. Although all may not feel this way about their identification with their hair, many other women do. And for this population researchers have possibly come up with a solution.

Cancer: Equal Opportunity for All

Knowing the origins of cancer help to understand how it can be treated, and in some cases, how it can be prevented.  We know cancer can be caused by exposure to harmful environments or by genes gone haywire.  However, only an estimated 5-10% of cancers have been found to have genetic components.  This would leave the other 90% of cancer risk to be attributed to the outside world.  But, cancer seems to develop in places that we do not expect, where there is less exposure to the environment, or where there is not a direct genetic link to a greater risk of developing cancer.  Why is this?

Super Element: Increased levels of oxygen helping to combat cancer

Just as oxygen allows us all to live, can this super element also help to combat one of our worst medical enemies, cancer? When first hearing about how increased levels of oxygen can help to combat cancer, I personally thought, “is there anything this element can’t do?” So I dove further into investigation on just exactly how this super element could possibly help to cure one of our greatest hurdles.

Food Addiction

            You open a bag of chips and plan on only eating a few from the bag.  Before you know it, the entire bag is gone.  Perhaps you decide to eat a scoop of ice cream, but somehow, you ended up finishing the entire tub instead.  Everyone has encountered situations like these before.  However, there are some people who have a lack of self-control, and it leads to them compulsively overeating, which poses a threat on their health and put them at a high risk for obesity.

The Search for a Regenerative Treatment for Damaged Salivary Glands

Most people have a friend or family member who has had cancer. The fight against cancer has been difficult because it has a multitude of causes, some of which are unknown and others of which are not well understood. And even though cancer researchers do most of the work towards creating cancer therapies and treatments, other labs are focusing on finding cancer treatments as well. For instance, the Hoffman lab at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research seeks to regenerate the salivary glands of head and neck cancer patients. There are thousands of new cases of head and neck cancer each year, and one of the common treatments for these cancers is radiotherapy. This method is often successful in killing tumor cells, but it also kills salivary gland cells, which are particularly susceptible to being damaged by radiation. So even after a cancer patient is diagnosed and gets successfully treated, there are more health problems to deal with. In mild cases, this can cause a slight but chronic dry mouth and throat; some are lucky and have so little salivary damage that they can live normal lives. But many have a moderately to severely dry throat for the rest of their lives. This is caused by a lack of saliva. Unfortunately, a lack of saliva also reduces one’s resistance to infection and increases the risk of developing dental and oral health maladies.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Food for Thought: The Current State of Genetically Modified Foods

Though some may consider genetic engineering a recent development, humanity has  been altering the DNA of our crops for millennia. As farmers historically chose plants with the highest yields and the largest fruits, those phenotypes were propagated during the next planting season. Over time, this has led to the drastically domesticated crops we rely on today.

However, the recent introduction of new technologies has allowed scientists to replicate this selection much more quickly than before, creating favorable hybrids and crops with specific traits. We call these offshoots Genetically Modified Crops, or GMCs, and they have distinct advantages and drawbacks.

The Search for an HIV Vaccine: Utilizing Non-human Primates and SIV

On June 5, 1981, the U.S. CDC published a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. In this report detailed five different cases of a rare lung infection, Pneumocystis carinii, in previously healthy young males, indicating severe immune deficiency. By the end of the year, there are over 270 reported cases of similar immune deficiency among young men. This immune deficiency would quickly be identified as the ultimately fatal  Human Immunodeficiency virus.

Put Away Electronics for a Better Night's Sleep

We live in a technological era where almost every person in America owns some kind of electronic device. These devices are being used constantly and at all hours of the day and night. A recent study found that 90% of Americans use some type of electronic device a few nights a week in the one hour before they go to bed. How would you feel if you were told that this activity can have negative implications for your sleep, performance, health and safety?

MicroRNA and Metastasis in Retinoblastoma

Fengmei et al. contributed in a significant way towards the preliminary phases of a potentially novel and effective cancer treatment strategy with their paper titled MicroRNA-21 Down-regulates Rb1 Expression by Targeting PDCD4 in Retinoblastoma. This outcome may not have even been the initial goal of the research project, but a human health application of their findings could lead the way for cancer treatment through modulation of MicroRNA in cancerous retinoblastoma cells.

Better for Everyone: Subunit Vaccines of the Future

Schematic of the HIV Viron Showing the gp120/gp140 Type I Fusion
Glycoprotein Assesmbly

Medicines are only useful to the extent that they can reach at-risk populations. Unfortunately, when it comes to some of the world's most deadly viruses, sending effective vaccines into the developing world has proved difficult. Luckily, a new generation of vaccines, the subunit vaccines, promises improved access for men, women, and children living beyond the reach of the refrigeration "cold-chain" that has traditionally limited distribution. That subunit vaccines are also safer and less expensive than other varieties has made them the focus of intense research efforts that are beginning to bear fruit. Recent work from the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases published in the journal Nature, for example, describes a strategy that could be used to bring subunit vaccines for diseases like HIV, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus into reach.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Can We Surgically Treat Diabetes?

We live in a country where fast food is cheaper than eating healthy and where a McDonald’s is always just around the corner. Obesity and diabetes have become all too common in America. In fact, the number of Americans afflicted by obesity and diabetes has reached epidemic proportions.

The Search for New Treatments for Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

            The discovery of the first antibiotics during the early stages of the 20th century forever changed the world of medicine. Many diseases that plagued mankind for millennia were now curable with a simple course of antibiotic treatment. Despite the discovery of several novel antibiotics over the course of the century, over-prescription as well as misuse of antibiotics has led to the creation of “superbugs” that have gained resistance to most of the drugs used to treat them. This development is particularly terrifying given that fact that current drug development has not been able to keep pace with the development of resistance in many different strains of bacteria. Part of this problem stems from little interest by pharmaceutical companies to invest in R&D for these drugs because antibiotics generally end up not being very lucrative investments. Additionally, the process of moving a drug from the discovery and optimization stages to large phase 3 clinical trials takes several years and several promising drugs are often screened out during this process.

The Truth About Diet Soda: Do Artificial Sweeteners Increase Rates of Obesity?

In modern America, much emphasis has been placed on the issue of rising rates of obesity and type two diabetes. In 2015, more than 2/3 of Americans are overweight (body mass index of 25-29 kg/m2,) and 1/3 are obese (body mass index great than 30 kg/m2.) Because of this obesity epidemic, many Americans are becoming more health-conscious and beginning to shift their dietary tendencies. A decision that generally goes hand in hand with increased focus on obesity prevention is switching to “diet” drinks, usually soda. The popular belief around the non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) used to replace sugar in these drinks is that they lower caloric intake and reduce weight. “Diet” drinks are seen as the perfect beverage by many health-conscious people; they seem to aid in diet and normalize blood sugar while retaining the taste of the original drink containing sugar. Recently however, NAS has come under fire for, in fact, causing weight gain rather than loss. Critics of NAS struggled to find definitive proof of its negative effects, though, because many, if not most, people who drink diet sodas are already overweight, or suffer from metabolic syndrome manifestations. Since using humans for observation of artificial sweeteners' effect usually led to inconclusive conclusions, a group of Israeli researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science conducted a study on mice. The results were, in the words of Cathryn Nagler, a pathology professor at the University of Chicago, “very compelling.”

The Impact of Breast Milk on Development of Infant Gut Microbiota

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both recommend exclusive breastfeeding, meaning the use of breast milk as an infant's sole source of nutrition, for the first six months of life.  The benefits of breast milk, which contains all of the vitamins and nutrients a baby needs for the first months of life, have long been studied by researchers and promoted by physicians.  If new mothers choose to breastfeed their infants, breast milk is the main, or only, source of nutrition during a crucial development period of a baby's immune system.  Recent research has focused on the impact of breast milk on this development, specifically in regard to formation of an infant's gut microbiota and allergic phenotype.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Antibiotic Resistance: Dust from cattle feed yards carries antibiotics, bacteria, and antibiotic resistance genes.

The emergence of drug resistant bacteria is a growing concern for global public health. Antibiotic resistance occurs when an antibiotic has lost its ability to effectively control or kill bacterial growth.  Every time you take an antibiotic prescribed by your doctor, the sensitive bacteria in your body are killed, but resistant strains may be left to grow and multiply.  These resistant bacteria survive, reproduce, and exchange sections of genetic material with other bacteria so that new generations inherit antibiotic resistant genes. Resistance leads to an increasing number of bacterial infections and treatment failure for even the most common pathogens.  For example, some strains of tuberculosis are now resistant to all available microbial drugs. 

Engineering blood: Making Platelets in the Lab

Blood transfusions are of growing importance as every two seconds someone in the United States needs blood.  In just one car accident a victim could need as much as 100 pints of blood. One part of the blood that is often transfused is the platelets. Of the 1.6 million people who were diagnosed with cancer last year, many of them have low platelet counts due to chemotherapy or radiation. These patients rely on platelet transfusions on a regular basis.

Protect Your Head: New Research Regarding Sports-Related Concussions

The National Institute of Health discovered that more than one million mild traumatic brain injuries occur each year within the United States. Professionals take these cases seriously because the human brain is the command center of the body. Although it is surrounded by a protective, bony shell and fluid that has the ability to absorb impact, the brain is composed of soft, sensitive tissues. Of the one million mild traumatic brain injuries, more than half occur in children participating in organized athletic events.  Common symptoms of concussions, a form of mild traumatic brain injury, include: loss of consciousness, headaches, amnesia, nausea, dizziness, confusion, balance and memory impairment, and light sensitivity, along with many others. With a recent dramatic increase in diagnosed concussions in athletes, researchers have set out to understand the effects of repeated head trauma, while also discovering potential biomarkers to properly detect brain injury.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

What to Buy at GNC: Whey and Blend protein supplements have different physiological affects

With the increasing popularity of fitness competitions and high-intensity sports like CrossFit, the market for nutritional supplements has grown exponentially. Protein supplements such as Whey Casein protein are often consumed post-workout by athletes wishing to increase muscle mass to get the most out of their strength-training or resistance workouts. While most athletes have a preference of what type of protein supplement they prefer to use, it is unlikely that many know the biological mechanisms of how these supplements work, and the physiological differences between the various types. If you are wondering which type of protein you should consume after an intense workout, Paul T. Reidy and his team of researchers may have the answer for you.

Curing the Incurable: Breakthrough Treatment for Metastatic Breast Cancer

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.  Additionally, breast cancer is the most common diagnosed cancer in women and it is the second leading cause of death among women.  Given its prevalence throughout the population, each person is likely impacted by someone who is afflicted with the disease.  For this reason, scientists have put much effort into understanding this breast cancer in order to develop the most effective treatments and save the lives of many.

Unfortunately, cases of breast cancer often differ between patients, which make it difficult to produce effective treatments.  Typically, researchers classify breast cancers by the presence or absence of particular genetic markers.  Unfortunately, even if the therapy is initially effective, cancers can develop resistance to the drug.  Physicians usually resort to chemotherapy for their patients, but it is known to have severe, adverse side effects and minimal success. 

Fish skin Band-Aids: a natural way to speed wound healing

Have a cut on your hand? You’re most likely apt to reach for the box of Band-Aids or roll of gauze in the medicine cabinet. But what about some fish skin protein to cover that wound? It may sound like a remedy straight out of The Little Mermaid, but in fact researchers in China have recently discovered that collagen obtained from Tilapia fish significantly speeds up wound healing in rats.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Just how big of a role does Vitamin D play in your immune system?

Getting your daily dose of sunshine for some good ‘ol vitamin D is common knowledge, but what many people may not know is why getting that daily dose of the sunshine vitamin is so important. In fact, vitamin D has recently been implicated as an important aspect of healthy immune function, for it has been shown to play a role in skeletal health, and more recently, vitamin D has been implicated for its immunosuppressant properties.

A new paper by Skaaby et al. brings to light new research on the relationship between low vitamin D levels as a risk factor for developing an autoimmune disease. Low vitamin D levels occur more frequently in northern latitudes where the sun’s intensity is not sufficient for vitamin D production during winter months. According to recent research, the incidence of autoimmune diseases is also higher in these northern latitudes, suggesting a possible relationship between the two.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Fighting Depression With Depression

Any college experience is not complete without the existence of social stressors. Although one can prove resilient and cope with these pressures while maintaining proper psychological functioning, there are those that cannot. These people are deemed “susceptible” to depressive symptoms and tend to be given antidepressants. 44% of college students in the United States report symptoms of depression, highlighting the increased use of depressive therapy and the importance of this study. Although the neurophysiological processes of the brain’s ability to cope with stress is not well understood, Friedman and her team of scientists investigate depression mechanisms in the midbrain to come to an unexpected conclusion that may offer a new take on therapy.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Stem Cells Champion the Fight Against Brain Tumors

“A stand can be made against invasion by an army; no stand can be made against invasion by an idea." Victor Hugo, 1852.

To make a stand against brain tumors, Karen S. Aboody and her coworkers have enlisted a stem cell army.

While scientists have an unprecedented appreciation of tumor biology and doctors have a fantastic arsenal to treat most other cancers, the treatment of brain tumors is at a standstill. This unfortunate reality has frustrated brain tumor patients and their families for years.

Typically a brain tumor is surgically removed before radiation and perhaps chemotherapy. Understandably, aggressive surgery and radiation can result in damage to fragile brain tissues.  This can lead to a great deal of suffering.  A few added months of life can come with the high price of reduced physical and decision-making ability.

It is impossible for a neurosurgeon to find and remove every microscopic tumor cell from a patient.  And brain cancer cells are notorious for their ability to make their way into healthy tissues - well beyond apparent tumor boundaries. Therefore, brain tumors inevitably grow again, leading to the dismal prospects faced by most brain tumor patients.