Archive for March, 2012
Have you ever considered that the one of the most diverse places on earth can be directly under your feet?
When we walk, our shoes pick up various seen and unseen organisms. Many of us walking through a field or park may be stepping on and carrying seeds from various plants. Seeds blow in the wind and also creep into the crevices of our clothes and bags. As carriers, we then transport them to new areas, making each of us essentially a seed planter. At first glance this seems like a nice job description. However, the problem lies in the fact More >
A cheap drug called Minocycline, which is normally prescribed for pneumonia and acne will be tested in a new trial to reduce the symptoms of psychosis in patients suffering from schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes and by poor emotional responsiveness. According to the WHO the disorder affects around 0.3–0.7% of people at some point in their life, or 24 million people worldwide as of 2011. There is no general cure and the pharmacologic treatment of schizophrenia leaves much to be desired.
Now the National Institute for Health Research in the U.K. is funding a large research trial on More >
For a very long time I have been using Diabetes as an example of a disorder that is caused by a mutation in the insulin gene. This mutation would stop the cells from making insulin, and a diabetic might need daily insulin injections to regulate their sugar levels properly. I don’t know what took me so long to realize that this was completely wrong. That while some diabetics are insulin dependent, it is because their insulin-producing cells of the pancreas are being completely destroyed by the immune system. And while they still aren’t sure about why these cells are being More >
“Neurons that fire together, wire together.” This adage is a helpful reminder to students who take a course on memory and the brain. This rhyme captures our understanding that neurons have a self-reinforcing capability that links them, and that this capacity has some relation with how memory in the brain works. It makes sense that if the same groups of neurons are involved in processing some stimulus, strong and stable connections rather than weak and transient would be preferable. We use similar optimizations when we place people on a speed-dial list, bookmark a website, or create a playlist of songs.
In More >
What did you do for your science fair this year? Or last year? Or 20 years ago?
Recently three high school students took out top honors in science fairs for their projects involving cancer research:
- Angela Zhang from California developed nanotechnology to destroy cancer stem cells and win the 2011 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology;
- Shree Bose from Texas discovered a protein that could help prevent resistance to chemotherapy to take out first prize in the first International Google Science Fair; and
- Michigan native Nithin Tumma won the 2012 Intel Science Talent Search with his investigation of molecular pathways to compare breast cancer More >
I have often wondered what impact the diesel fumes from yellow school buses might have on students. I know that I don’t like driving behind those buses because the fumes don’t smell good, so it seemed to me that there might be some health consequences. Others have wondered, too, and there is evidence that exhaust levels in buses can have health effects. However, it is hard to study this sort of thing, because finding people that are exposed to high levels of diesel in a controlled environment over long enough periods to measure the effects is challenging. Now, a study More >
When people hear the name E. coli, even a passing familiarity brings about reactions of disgust and fear of food poisoning. This outright hatred of the common bacteria is, perhaps, a bit unwarranted, considering there are many different types of Escherichia coli. Not only are there harmful strains, but there are also many that are harmless to humans and some that are even helpful as well. We actually have our own E. coli that live in our intestines, take some of our nutrients and make essential vitamin K2 for us, which we cannot make for ourselves. Vitamin K is More >