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I was looking through some of the comments on the blog and thought I would address a few of them, as I imagine others would have similar questions. One reader wanted to know why some cancers are more fatal than others. For example, the five-year survival rate for prostate cancer is nearly 99%, while it is 4% for pancreatic cancer. There are several reasons for this. First, some cancers are by nature slow growing and unlikely to spread through the body, like prostate cancers, while other cancers are very aggressive and often metastasize. Another issue is diagnosis: there are good More >
Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating, ultimately fatal neurological disorder which affects more than 5 million Americans. The disease has no cure, but the recent decade has seen many promising treatments which all depend upon diagnosing Alzheimer’s as early as possible.
Typically, Alzheimer’s is diagnosed through cognitive testing. Family members or health care professionals may realize that a person is experiencing forgetfulness, disorientation, or other symptoms. Unfortunately, by the time these symptoms are apparent and a diagnosis is made, the patient may have already experience a great deal of brain damage.
A new method to test for Alzheimer’s at a much earlier stage More >
Here at the DNALC, we work with a lot of bacteria. One bacteria in particular is a harmless strain of E. coli called MM294. This strain, a strain unable to survive outside of its broth and agar domain, is used commonly in our classrooms. As students visit us each year, many have the opportunity to work with the bacteria. Whenever I tell my students that they will be working with E. coli, I tend to be on the receiving end of much criticism.
E. coli gets a bad reputation and I understand that. My students immediately cringe and I know what goes More >
A recent study from Michigan State University claims to find a link between bipolar depression and hypertension (high blood pressure). Results of the study presented at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting showed that the presence of hypertension may impact the severity of the bipolar patient’s disorder and that a diagnosis of hypertension becomes more prevalent the younger a patient is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depressive disorder) is a mood disorder characterized by the experience of manic episodes (which can entail feelings of high energy, racing thoughts, irritability or even optimism raised to at times More >
Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, signals cells to remove glucose from the blood and store it as glycogen. Glucagon is a protein also produced by cells in the pancreas but it has the opposite effect of insulin. When blood glucose levels are low, glucagon causes the breakdown of glycogen into glucose that is then released into the blood. The insulin is made in beta cells, where as the glucagon is made in alpha cells. In patients with type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the beta cells, eliminating insulin production.
Scientists from the University of Geneva have shown that More >
When we think about all of the living things on Earth, we immediately see how different we all are from each other. Many of these traits that might seem bizarre to us, evolutionarily speaking, have a tremendous amount to do with the survival. Many traits have been selected for by the opposite sex, because it will help the passing on of their design information.
One very amazing example of this is the Widowbirds that live in the grasslands of southern and eastern Africa. During the non-mating season, the males and females look very similar to one another. Once breeding season begins, More >
Most of us know that smoking cigarettes and excess exposure to the sun can increase the risk of getting cancer. In fact, much of cancer can be avoided by changing behavior. For examples of some causes of cancer, check out Inside Cancer. Some of the causes of cancer are less obvious. An example is maintaining a healthy weight. Did you know that overweight people are 50% more likely to die of cancer than those with normal body weight? In the United States, this means each year about 90,000 people die of cancer that could be prevented if we could all More >
If you’re a geneticist, it’s likely that your experiments are not on humans, even if you’re studying human diseases. This is a concept we spend a great deal of time discussing with the 5th-8th graders who visit the DNA Learning Center. It’s hard for a youngster, and many adults for that matter, to understand how a worm or a bug might have anything in common with a human, nonetheless anything worth studying!
The most mystifying of the model organisms is the plant. How could a scientist possibly learn anything about human genetics from a plant? One popular model from the plant More >
For all the cat lovers out there, cats come in many colors. Two basic pigments to be discussed here are orange and black. There is one curious, rule for cats with patches of orange and black; they are all supposed to be female. The genetics behind this fact is as interesting as the phenomenon itself.
Chromosomes are passed from parent to child. For many animals, including us, the X and Y chromosomes determine gender. For most mammals, the presence of two X chromosomes indicates a female, while the presence of one X and one Y chromosome indicates a male. For a More >