Monthly Archives: October 2011

On The Road to Perfect Skin

Scientists in Mexico are actually working on a way to bio-engineer perfect skin! A post just in Monday shows that a study done on mice actually can lead into a whole new world of skin technology, making humans able to bio-engineer their skin to appear healthier. Because skin grows back, scientists have been preserving those cells that renew themselves in order to regenerate patients’ skin. “We have found that this regenerative potential can be preserved in vitro (in the laboratory) if the cells are joined and become part of generated skin using tissue bioengineering techniques,” explains Marcela del Río, of UC3M’s Bioengineering. They are now realizing that they can actually regenerate a patient’s entire facial skin structure in the lab. This may help greatly in the future of facial technology. Would you get this surgery for your skin? I’m not sure I would, sounds a little strange.

However, serving the rich isn’t the only purpose of this new experiment. Those less fortunate with skin diseases, such as Netherton syndrome (a genetic illness characterized by an excessive peeling of the skin) can finally experience skin that doesn’t have problems. This is done by the scientists when they alter the patient’s skin in the lab. Maybe this is a good thing after all!

Training the immune system may turn off peanut allergies

Many people have peanut allergies may they be servere or just mild. Some people with major peanut allergies may have their immune system go into overdrive with just the tiniest taste of a peanut or peanut substance. There has been a new study in mice where they tack peanut protiens onto certain immune cells in your body. This teaches your whole immune system that peanuts are not a threat to your body. ‘

This was done with rats by drawing blood out of rats to have a condition much to a severe peanut allergy of humans. The researchers got just the white blood cells that protect against invaders and added the peanut protein to the cell’s surface. This made the cells be able to not think of the peanut protein as a threat. They then tested this out by giving the rats peanut extract. The studies showed that the rat’s had no negative reaction to this.

This could potentially be a new break through in letting people be able to not worry about what they can and can’t eat. Although this was only tested in rats and there has to be much more research before we know this is going to work for humans, we can only hope for the best!

I thought the plague was over…

Everybody has learned about the “Black Death” (otherwise known as the bubonic plague) in one of their history or science classes. We have all been taught that the plague occurred back in the 1300’s, and that there isn’t a chance that we could all catch the virus today. Our teachers have been wrong.

In London, after excavating a plague grave, two college students discovered that the Yersinia Pestis (Y. Pestis for short) pathogen that caused the plague over six-hundred years ago, is almost the same as the current Y. Pestis pathogen. Not only are they almost similar, but the new Y. Pestis is still in full circulation.

Can you believe that 3,000 people a year get the Black Death? Of course, with new technology and medicine, it’s much easier to survive the plague, and it is much less likely to spread. There is only one strain of the plague, so it cannot evolve quickly. If it were to evolve into a deadly pathogen again, how would people  survive? What would you do?

Watch Your Food Walk Off Your Plate!

You might not want to read this you you’re a fan a Squidward from SpongeBob Squarepants. Click on the link to see how Squidward comes to life.

People find it cruel, outrageous, and some even find it awesome when watching this clip.  The reasoning behind the dancing squid is a lot simpler than it seems. Most of the tissues in a recently killed animal are still alive. Even thought the brain is missing, the tissues will still respond to the stimuli, in this case, the soy sauce. The soy sauce has sodium chloride. When it hits the suckers on the squid, chemical receptors pick up the sodium chloride. As soon as that happens, there is a change of voltage across the membrane, causing it to “dance.”

Some may say that this is unethical, and that squids are being tortured in the process. So the question is…is it ethical or unethical? The squids were not being tortured when the hot soy sauce was being poured on it. The brain was removed prior to it being served. Without the brain, it cannot process the sensory signals; therefore, it can’t feel anything. So it’s okay to eat it!

Real-Life Sea Monsters

Remember the cute little pill bugs we observed at the start of this year?

It turns out they have some relatives in the ocean who can grow up to 14.5 inches long. These giant isopods are an example of something called deep-sea gigantism, or abyssal gigantism. Animals in the depths of the sea sometimes grow to abnormally large sizes compared to their shallow water- or land-dwelling relatives.

There are several other examples of this: most people have heard about the mysterious Colossal Squid; but there is also a type of crab called the Japanese Spider Crab, which can grow to have a leg span of almost 13 feet.

There exist also giant worms, eels, and octopuses, and in the Antarctic region, scientists are just beginning to discover giant sea spiders and jellyfish with 12-foot tentacles. It is believed there may be species of deep-sea giants yet to be discovered.

Check out the “8 Largest Giants of the Deep” here:

Bad Day? Just Blame It On Your Genes!

Your outlook on life may be more positive or negative depending on your genes. The alleles in the OXTR gene may be linked to psychological traits and it codes for the receptor for oxytocin (no, not oxycontin…) a hormone that plays a role in positive emotional and social bonding. People with certain psychological traits like optimism, self-esteem, and mastery can deal with stressful events and stay away from depression. These traits run in the family so it makes sense a certain gene contributes to this.

Scientists in Los Angeles, California, had 326 volunteers complete questionnaires that would measure the three psychological traits and assess depressive symptoms.  They also analyzed the DNA from the volunteers’ saliva to find differences in the OXTR gene. The results found that the A allele of the OXTR gene had higher levels of depression symptoms and had less optimism, lower self-esteem, and less feeling of mastery than people with the G allele of the OXTR gene.

Although this gene does impact these three traits and possibly your overall outlook, it is certainly not the only thing. Our environments are filled with many different things that influence our outlook besides genes. If you are having a bad day though, try to remember a part of it is in your genes and you’ll get through it just fine.

Brain Malfunction Prevents Rats From Remembering Deliciousness of Spicy Food

You are able to recall one smell a year later after coming in contact with it just once. The same goes for rats. Researchers from the University of Bordeaux in France have taken advantage of this to obtain important insight into memory formation. When the brain comes in contact with an odor, it temporarily saves the data in the hippocampus. But the frontal cortex is what eventually encodes this smell and stores it in the long-term memory. To see further detail on how this process works, neurobiologist Bruno Bontemp and colleagues took advantage of behavior in rats. The rodents will smell the breath of other rats to determine whether a food is safe to consume. This one meeting can recall a memory of the meal.

In their study, Bontempi and his team red cumin-spiced food to a group of rats and then placed them around a group of other rats, whose frontal cortex had been temporarily cut off from communication with the hippocampus. After one week, the changed rodents still enjoyed food flavored with spice. After a month, they no longer wanted cumin. This experiment proved that without a link between the hippocampus and the frontal cortex, long-term memories cannot form.

Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome

The past three summers I have had the opportunity of being a nanny in North Dakota for four children. The youngest, at age two was diagnosed with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome a couple days after birth.  This syndrome affects many parts of the body. Most everyone with the syndrome has distinctive facial features including a high forehead and a flat nasal bridge and sometimes wide spread eyes. The syndrome also delays growth and development.

Wolf-Hirshhorn Syndrome differs in severity for every 1 in 50,000 people that have it. I had the privalage of attending a Wolf-Hirshhorn Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah two summers ago. It was amazing to see the different development and stages the affected individuals had. I met a 37 year old lady named Maggie. Here is a video of her getting interviewed in 2004. She was the most adorable little person I have ever seen. Her favorite thing to say to me was “Your cute! Your Cute! Your Cute!” and then of course you would tell her she was and she giggled. Her shoe size was no more than a children’s size three.

The baby that I was a nanny for has been through a lot. More than five months of her little life has been spent in the hospitals.  She has had many seizures and one time was admitted to the hospital for her blood. Blood is supposed to be red. Hers was a creamy white.  It’s amazing how she can keep smiles through everything. She has truly been an inspiration to me. I have never heard of this syndrome until she came along. It has been really interesting to learn about and experience. Here is a picture of the adorable little girl I have come to love. This would have been when she was a year old and in 3-6 month clothing.

Pain Genes

The disease of congenital insensitivity to pain causes people to not feel pain at all.  Paul Waters from the UK and Steven Pete from the US were born with this disease. Their siblings also have it. When they were younger they were fearless. Not being able to feel pain made them not afraid of anything. Paul and his sister would jump down a flight of stairs because it sounded fun. They both broke both of their legs but they kept doing it because they liked the rush they felt being in midair. Now that Paul and Steven are in their 20s they have to look at the different signs of pain. If they feel adrenaline kicking in they look for what may be scratched or broken. They also have to look for heat and swelling. Some of the downfalls of having this disease is now affecting how they live. Steve describes how now he might have to amputate his left leg because of how bad his joints are from his injuries. At first, the fearlessness of not being able to feel pain was exhilirating but now they are facing the truth about how their body is finally catching up to them.

Blue Whale Feeding Frenzy in the Middle of Heavy Sea Traffic

Ever wondered while you were water skiing or just boating around if you run over fish in the water? You do. But have you ever thought about what would happen if you hit a whale?

That is just the case along the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports. There is an increasing number of feeding blue whales in the area. The whales migrate here between May and December making it a busy area for cargo ships that pass through to the ocean every day. In the past decade, dozens of whales have been hit along the California coast. With a staggering population of only 2,500 whales along the West Coast, scientists are worried. In 2007, four blue whales were killed by boats near the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. This was eye opening for researchers and conservationists.

Now that there is concern some things are being done to help the animals in need. Whales are being monitored by federal wildlife officials. There are tracking devices that are placed on to whales that suction cup to the side of them without hurting the whale. They fall of in twenty four hours and give information about the depth and coordinates of the whale. More  advanced tracking devices can record the sound of passing ships and how the animal reacts to them.

Shocking results of the information gathered show that blue whales dive deep during the day to feed and spend the night closer to the surface. They don’t react to passing boats and tend to not move out of the way for them. Using GPS coordinates, whales can be tracked and freighters that come close to a whale near the surface get a call asking them to slow down. Conservationists are asking lawmakers to enforce a speed limit in the area that whales feed on krill.