Archive for December, 2011

Inside Cancer Homepage Feature

Evaluating our DNALC Inside Cancer website

Every multimedia developer is from time‐to‐time faced with the difficult question from a board member, critic or funding body: “This program is all very nice, but can you prove it actually helps students to learn?”

This year, we found the answer.

As part of my job as a producer at the DNA Learning Center, I evaluate our suite of resources, including websites, teacher training workshops and apps. We recently completed the evaluation of our cancer biology website, Inside Cancer, which included conducting experiments in 2010–11 to see if the site improves student learning in genetics and cancer biology.

There is increasing pressure on More >

C. elegans roundworm

Aging Eggs

C. elegans Roundworm

The aging process is, and always will be fascinating to us.  It’s role in an organism’s ability to reproduce is currently being studied in worms at Princeton University. The microscopic roundworm C. elegans lives for about 21 days.  For the first nine of these days, hundreds of eggs are fertilized producing an abundance of offspring!  After day nine, the many remaining eggs won’t be used, as their quality is poor and they cannot produce viable embryos.  A process similar to this takes place in humans.  Women experience a sharp decline in fertility in their late 30’s. In worms and in humans More >

Amazon River Dolphin

Farwell to Baiji, the Yangtze River Dolphin

A few years ago there were four species of dolphins living in freshwater ecosystems or estuaries in the world. Two of them are still distributed in South America – the Amazon River and the Plata River dolphins (Inia gophrensis and Pontoporia blainvillei, respectively) – and two lived in Asia – the Ganges and Indus River dolphin (Platanista gangetica), and the Yangtze River Dolphin, or Baiji (Lipotes vexillifer). These species were highly adapted to live in freshwater ecosystems with distinctive anatomical characteristics that differentiated them from their marine relatives, such as larger snouts (almost four times larger than the snout size of More >

The FDA uses DNA Barcoding in the Identification of Imported Fish

One job of the US Food and Drug Administration is to ensure that all imported seafood is safe to eat and properly labelled. Accurate seafood labels are necessary for the safety of all individuals who consume such products.  In 2007, toxic pufferfish were illegally imported into the United States and bypassed customary US inspection because it was mislabeled as “monkfish”.  Two individuals became seriously ill after ingesting the tetrodotoxin from the pufferfish they were cooking at home.

Not only is the mislabeling of fish considered a violation of Federal law, but it can also pose a serious public health risk. Simple More >

Normal and Sickled Red Blood Cells

Malaria Mystery: SOLVED

Normal and Sickled Red Blood Cells

While scientists have long known that carriers for Sickle Cell Trait are more resistant to Malaria infection, the mechanism by which protection is conferred has not been well understood—until now.  Scientists at Heidelberg University used an electron microscope to observe what happens when the parasite that causes Malaria in humans, Plasmodium falciparum, infects red blood cells containing both healthy and mutant hemoglobin.

Scientists noticed that in red blood cells with healthy hemoglobin, the parasite hijacks the actin cytoskeleton to transport its own “adhesin” protein to the cell membrane.  The adhesin, also called Plasmodium falciparum Erythrocyte Membrane Protein 1 More >

Doctor and Patient

Cancer Overtreatment. When the solution is worse than the problem.

We often focus on cancers that are lethal, and especially those that can’t be treated, and for obvious reasons. This week, the National Institutes of Health addressed a different concern- that sometimes a cancer that isn’t life threatening is best left alone. In this case, it is prostate cancer, which affects about 30 to 40 percent of men over 50. About 240,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer a year, and over 30,000 die of the disease – so it is far from being rare or harmless for many. However, over half of prostate cancers are localized and many will More >