Extreme Biology Blog » Medicine http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog Mon, 06 Jun 2011 15:15:28 +0000enhourly1http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.5Was this Football Tragedy Preventable? http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/was-this-football-tragedy-preventable/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/was-this-football-tragedy-preventable/#commentsMon, 06 Jun 2011 13:59:14 +0000Deirdrehttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2458

Football helmet of the late Owen Thomas; House Committee on Education via Flickr

In April of the past year, Penn State football player, Owen Thomas committed suicide in his bedroom flat. The captain’s death was a shock to everyone including doctors who had looked at his brain after his death. The doctors were worried to see signs of early Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, otherwise known as CTE.

CTE is a degenerative brain disease which has side effects similar to Alzheimer’s disease, but unlike Alzheimer’s, CTE is caused by repeated brain trauma. CTE symptoms include: headaches, dizziness, lack of insight, and poor judgment. CTE is caused by repeated concussions or blows to the head with incredible force. Research has not proven exactly how many concussions it takes for a person to get CTE, but researchers are getting closer. They have discovered that there are usually three stages when it comes to detecting CTE. The first stage includes psychotic problems. This branches off into stage two, where the individual may experience social difficulties, erratic behavior, memory loss, and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The final stage happens when the brain is thoroughly affected by deterioration. Affects of stage three include more speech problems, worsening Parkinson’s symptoms, trouble swallowing, and drooping eyelids.  As you can see, CTE affects not only your body but also affects your psychotic well being. The effect of psychotic troubles can lead to sudden depression. Researchers on Owen Thomas’s case say that family members and friends had seen evident changes in the mood of Owen Thomas before he died. He had started giving up on school work and the intensity his personality had started declining. CTE was definitely a main factor in the suicide of Owen Thomas. Dr. Daniel Perl reviewed slides of Thomas’s brain tissue, and this confirmed the diagnosis of CTE.

Brain damage that causes CTE happens when an object is struck violently to the head, but does not break the skull. Although the object does not break the bone, the brain smashes into the side of your skull. This causes deterioration to different parts of the brain. As occurrences like these happen over and over, they lead to many problems, as described in the paragraph above.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is a gradual disease, so it is most likely not seen until it ends tragically, like in the case of Owen Thomas. To detect CTE you would most likely assess someone’s personality. Personality swings are hard to detect and could be caused by anything; so if someone has CTE it is hard to tell that CTE is causing these symptoms. CTE is at risk for athletes involved in football, boxing, wrestling, rugby, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and skiing. To date there have been many sports related deaths involving CTE. These deaths include: 39 amateur and professional boxers, 5 football players, 1 professional wrestler, and 1 soccer player. You can have CTE without playing sports, but 90% of CTE problems are sports related.

So what is the solution to this problem? Maybe there should be routine checkups of athletes who have been affected by concussions and other head injuries. I’m not saying only professional and college level players, but also high school level sports. This disease should be more publicly known so problems related to this disease can be eliminated.

How can we make it possible for athletes at all levels to be checked for CTE? Does brain damage affect other members of the Primate family like it affects humans?

Vitamin B12 and Alzeheimer’s Disease http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/vitamin-b12-and-alzeheimers-disease/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/vitamin-b12-and-alzeheimers-disease/#commentsMon, 06 Jun 2011 13:52:25 +0000Samanthahttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2450

Euskalanato via Flickr

Recently, scientists questioned whether the vitamin B12 could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder in which a person suffers from serious memory loss. Usually, people develop this disease when they are older, and 50% of the population over 85 years old has this disease. More than 5.3 million people in the United States suffer with this brutal disease, and it is very hard for both them and their family and friends to deal with. There are many stages, or phases, of this disease, and as the years go by, the worst the disease gets.  In the beginning, people may feel that they are forgetting things or facts more often than usual. Then, people begin to forget names, and they frequently forget what they have just read or done. They also begin to misplace objects. As the disease worsens, people have great difficulty performing tasks such as paying bills, and then is goes downhill from there. Eventually, the disease gets so bad that within a few years, people may forget how to do everyday task such as brushing their teeth, combing their hair, getting dressed, eating, going to the bathroom, or walking. They also forget who their loved ones are, and that is one of the worst parts of the disease, for both the patient and their friends and family.

Alzheimer’s is caused by the decreasing number of brain cells in a person’s head. Many of these brain cells have important jobs such as learning and remembering, and when they die, part of that job is lost. There is not a treatment for this disease yet, and that is one of the reasons why it is so brutal. But, scientists recently showed in a 7 year study that the Vitamin B12 might be able to lower the risk of a person’s likelihood of getting this disease.

Vitamin B12 is very important for your body because it is needed for the formation of red blood cells, and if you don’t get enough of it in your diet, you could develop anemia. You also need Vitamin B12 to process fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, and to maintain the nervous system. Vitamin B12 could be found in meat, fish, dairy, whole grain cereal or bread, egg yokes, or yeast.

In 2003, researchers took 271 Finnish people, who did not have dementia, and took blood samples from them. These people’s ages ranged from 65- 79. During this 7 year span, 17 people, about 6%, were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Researchers observed each of the people’s blood samples and looked at many variables. One variable was called homocysteine. If people have high homocysteine levels in their body, it most likely means that they have something wrong with their body, and it could be associated with Alzheimer’s disease, or other medical conditions such as blood clots, hardening of the arteries, heart attacks, or strokes. Researchers also observed the amount of holotranscobalamin, which is the active part in the B12 vitamin, in the Finnish people’s bodies.

At the end of the experiment, scientists learned that for each micromolar increase in the concentration of homocysteine, the risk of Alzheimer’s disease increased by 16 percent whereas each picomolar,  increase in concentration of the active form of vitamin B12 reduced risk by two percent.” Picolmolar is a measurement which is one trillionth of a mole. What this means is the more homocysteine in a person’s body, the greater the risk that person has of getting the disease. However, the more holotranscobalamin, or B12, the person has in his body, his risk of getting Alzhemier’s decreases by 2%. That shows you that B12 actually could help in preventing Alzheimer’s. Yet, scientists still need to do more tests before making a final decision and making it final that B12 could really help.

Here are some questions you could research:

How can people prevent Alzheimer’s?  Are there any other vitamins or foods that could prevent Alzheimer’s?  What factors could contribute to Alzheimer’s?  Where did Alzheimer’s get its name from?  Is there any particular region in the world where the number of people with Alzheimer’s is high?  When Was Alzheimer’s fist discovered and how?

The Mystery of Von Hippel Lindau http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/03/10/the-mystery-of-von-hippel-lindau/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/03/10/the-mystery-of-von-hippel-lindau/#commentsThu, 10 Mar 2011 15:25:02 +0000Gabrielahttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2405

After checking into the hospital, Bravo was tested thoroughly in hopes to find out what was going on inside his body. What nobody expected to find was large and small tumors in his brain. The doctors knew what was wrong, the only task now was to find out the cause of these tumors, and how to cure Bravo.

Before reading this post, please watch the video on this website.

Von Hippel Lindau, more commonly referred to as VHL, is an extremely rare genetic disorder. In fact, VHL is so rare that only 1 in 36,000 people are infected with Von Hippel Lindau.  My father is that one in 36,000 affected by VHL.  So, just what is this rare disease? And why is it called Von Hippel Lindau?

Von Hippel Lindau is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a rare genetic disease that is characterized by hemangiomas of the retina and cerebellum and often by cysts or tumors of the liver, pancreas, and kidneys and that is typically inherited as an autosomal dominant trait”. According to the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the most common manifestations of VHL include cysts and tumors of the retina, brain, spinal cord, kidney, pancreas and inner ear.

For patients similar to my father, tumors develop mostly in the brain. These growths, depending on location and size, can affect your every day functions. In my father’s case, loss of motor skills, muscle control, coordination, and blurred vision were all caused by the size and locations of the tumors in the brain. For other VHL patients it is very common for partial or complete loss of vision to occur, as tumors frequently develop on the retina. Headaches are another very common symptom of VHL caused by hemangioblastomas, or tumors in the central nervous system. Though they are not cancerous, hemangioblastomas can cause serious problems inside your body. In my father’s case, a loss of strength, headaches, and obscured vision quickly became a problem.

All this information may lead you to the question, is there a cure for VHL? Unfortunately, there is no one cure for Von Hippel Lindau.  Why do you think this is true? Fortunately, there are surgeons who can remove the hemangioblastomas caused by VHL, or start radiation therapy and then closely monitor progress to ensure that you are recovering well. But, just where does one find a surgeon or hospital that can care for such a rare disease? And how many surgeons or hospitals have knowledge of this disease? If you have VHL caused pheochromocytomas, something that can cause wild fluctuations in blood pressure, surgery is the most common form of treatment. Special blood pressure controlling medications is required to be taken a couple of weeks before the surgery. During this surgery, it is not uncommon for the adrenal gland, a gland that produces hormones necessary for life, to be removed. If this happens, patients must take hormone supplements for the rest of their lives. Why would doctors remove such a vital gland? Patients with tumors on the retina have a crucial time span for detection and treatment, if the tumors on the retina go undetected or untreated for too long, loss of vision is a problem a patient is likely to face. Because the retina is a highly sensitive location, surgeries are suggested over treatment to try and ensure that minimal damage will be done to the patient’s eyes and vision. What forms of treatment would there be for tumors on the retina?

As stated previously, Von Hippel Lindau is a hereditary condition; this means the children of people with this rare genetic disorder are at a high risk for inheriting VHL. What is the percent likelihood of a VHL patient’s child having VHL? VHL is a dominant gene, meaning that if your genes code for VHL, VHL will be expressed in your body. Does this mean you will have tumors in your body? No. VHL may be in your genes, but it does not have to manifest itself to the point where tumors form. Genetic testing is highly suggested for children, such as me or my sister, with parents who have Von Hippel Lindau. One form of testing would be to draw a blood sample and test for the specific strain of VHL that the parent of the child is carrying. Brain and retinal scans are also highly suggested forms of testing. For VHL positive offspring, this will allow patients to see if VHL has manifested itself in the form of tumors throughout the body.

VHL is a scary disease, but the treatment and skilled doctors make it a disease you can live with. Family support groups can play a key role in dealing with VHL, and early treatment and scanning can help to prevent serious VHL related medical issues.

Breast Cancer is on it’s Way Out http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/03/01/breast-cancer-is-on-its-way-out/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/03/01/breast-cancer-is-on-its-way-out/#commentsTue, 01 Mar 2011 14:44:53 +0000Mollyhttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2357

SIA Play in Pink

Last October was National Breast Cancer Awareness month and Americans across the country greatly supported awareness of the disease. Many states and cities across the U.S. held numerous fund raisers and campaigns to help raise awareness and money for women with Breast Cancer. From personal experience, my own school ran several bake sales, soccer games and sold many “play in pink” items. The disease affects a large amount of women yearly, but new studies show that there are several ways Breast Cancer can be prevented, even for women who have the possibility of getting the disease simply through genetics.

Beginning his study in 1993, Robert E. Gramling, a professor of family medicine and community and preventive medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, conducted a study to test if healthy lifestyle choices can prevent women from developing Breast Cancer. The study followed 85,644 U.S. women (post-menopausal) for 5 and a half years on a day-to-day basis. During the study, one group of women did not follow any healthy habits (healthy diet, minimum alcohol consumption, and moderate exercise), one group of women followed all three habits, and a separate group followed all three habits but had a family history that involved the disease or another type of cancer.

Gramling and his co-researchers Timothy Lash, Kenneth Rothman, Howard Cabral, Rebecca Silliman, Mary Roberts, Marcia Stefanick, Rosanne Harrigan, Monica Bertoia and Charles Eaton, collected data that proved his hypothesis true: women who follow healthy choices will prevent themselves from developing breast cancer, and by doing so even women with a family history will reduce their risk of developing the disease as well.

The study (also part of the Women’s Health Initiative Study) collected results where overall (excluding women with a family history) 1,997 women were diagnosed with Breast Cancer. However, the results collected from women with a family history of cancer that followed the three healthy habits, showed that only 6 out of every 1000 women were diagnosed with Breast Cancer. On the contrary, women with a late-onset family history of the disease that didn’t follow any of the healthy choices had a slightly higher risk of being diagnosed with Breast Cancer.

For women without a family history, women who follow the three healthy habits are less likely of developing breast cancer than those who do not make healthy lifestyle choices. Only 3.5 of 1,000 women were diagnosed every year who made healthy choices, while 4.6 of 1,000 women were diagnosed who did not follow any of the habits. Although Gramling and his co-researchers collected a numerous amount of data that supports their study on breast cancer prevention, the disease still can not be completed cured.

Robert Gramling advises women to moderate their alcohol intake, involve themselves in at least 20 minutes of cardio 5 times a week, and try to keep their BMI (body mass index) to around 18. 5 to 25. Other doctors and researchers have expressed their views on the study in a positive way, “The results of this study show that both women with a family history [late-onset] and without will benefit from maintaining a healthy weight and exercising, and consuming lower amounts of alcohol, limiting their alcohol consumption,” said Dr. Susan Gapstur of the America Cancer Society.  Do you think the women of America and other countries will follow these three habits to prevent Breast Cancer? Why or why not?

This study can possibly be a breakthrough in Cancer Research and will spread Breast Cancer Awareness world wide. Gramling, Gapstur and the other researchers involved in the study have clearly proven that at least one type of cancer can be highly prevented. Do you think this study is a cancer breakthrough? Can it lead to new cancer research?

Aren’t twins supposed to look alike? http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/02/04/arent-twins-supposed-to-look-alike/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/02/04/arent-twins-supposed-to-look-alike/#commentsFri, 04 Feb 2011 21:24:43 +0000Ms Bakerhttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2178Naseem has a new post on her Our Science blog about the misconceptions people have about twins.  Go check it out!

Note: you need to sign up for a free Scitable account before you can post a comment.

Alzheimer’s Disease – The Long Goodbye http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/02/04/alzheimers-disease-the-long-goodbye/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/02/04/alzheimers-disease-the-long-goodbye/#commentsFri, 04 Feb 2011 21:19:27 +0000Ms Bakerhttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2173Sabrina has a new post on her MedSci Discoveries blog about Alzheimer’s research. Go head over to her blog and comment!

Note: you need to sign up for a free Scitable account before you can post a comment.

Photo source: Sasseymills

The Link to Autism…Vaccines?? http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/01/28/the-link-to-autism-vaccines-2/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/01/28/the-link-to-autism-vaccines-2/#commentsFri, 28 Jan 2011 15:01:28 +0000Rachelhttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2031

Photo source: nexusnovum on Flickr

What if you were a parent who moments ago just found out that your child was autistic? What if you were a teacher (see this video) with a class full of autistic children? New data shows an average of 1 in 110 children have an autism spectrum disorder. As a parent, your life is full of stress. Now, imagine having a child with a mental disability, this doubles your stress. You are left with nothing but questions; this is the reason why many parents have been easily influenced by what the media has to say about the vaccine link to autism, rather than listening to what scientists have shown to be correct.

Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of a child’s life and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills. It is a physical condition that is linked to abnormal chemistry and biology in the brain. The exact causes of this disorder still remain unknown. Autism comes in different forms, some being more severe and extreme than others. For instance one person with autism can lead a normal life and nobody will suspect them of having any disorder, but other’s require constant care throughout their whole life.  How does this huge range of symptoms make discovering the real cause of autism more difficult?

Is it true that the vaccines children receive are linked to autism? False, but even after scientific studies have proved it wrong, parents are still concerned and some are now against getting their child vaccinated, which could be dangerous and fatal. Nearly all of the health organizations have stated that there is no evidence or relationship between vaccines and autism, but a huge controversy still remains. The main reason as to why parents believe vaccinations are leading to autism is because a short time after their child had received vaccines, they noticed changes in their children’s behavior. A coincidence is all that it is; autism symptoms start to show at the same age as the routine vaccinations are scheduled.

The driving force of this whole “debate” is the media and its overall influence on the public. Thanks to people, like Jenny McCarthy who has lead the public to believe the misconception that autism is caused by child vaccinations, the public no longer has any interest in listening to what scientists and doctors have proven wrong. In today’s generation many people are easily influenced by celebrities like Oprah, even though she has little knowledge in the medical field. After many studies and cases in court, over and over again no link has been found to prove that the public’s hypothesis that autism is linked to vaccines. Parents would like to believe that vaccinations lead to autism, even though it has been proven false because any parent would like to find the answer to why their child has this disorder. Blaming it on vaccines is a comfort for parents.

If parents start to become ignorant and refuse to get their children vaccinated, then diseases that could have been prevented will become a major problem in our society.  Every year, 2.5 million unvaccinated children worldwide die of diseases that vaccines could have prevented, and vaccines prevent the deaths of an additional 2 million children, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For this debate to come to an end, scientists must put in a bigger effort to communicate their research studies in a convincing manner. Then again, why should scientists work so hard completing experiments if factual results don’t convince people?

Fireflies Light Up Hope for Coronary Heart Disease Patients http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/10/18/fireflies-light-up-hope-for-coronary-heart-disease-patients/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/10/18/fireflies-light-up-hope-for-coronary-heart-disease-patients/#commentsMon, 18 Oct 2010 20:47:08 +0000Leylahttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=1117

Photo credit: Art Farmer

If you ask most people what connection there is between the human heart and fireflies, they probably won’t have any idea what you’re talking about.  If you ask Steven Ebert, a professor at the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences in the College of Medicine, however, he’ll tell you that fireflies may one day help America tackle its problem with coronary heart disease.

Over 17.6 million people in the U.S. suffer from coronary heart disease and it is the main killer of human beings in the country. As a matter of fact, coronary heart disease affects 30% of people worldwide. Coronary heart disease is caused by a buildup of detrimental substances in the arteries, or blood vessels that transport blood away from the heart.  These substances include calcium, fatty material, and plaque. This prevents proper blood circulation in the cardiac muscle. However, a man named Steven Ebert has recently engineered “firefly” stem cells that may help to fix this problem.

These stem cells contain the enzymes that make fireflies glow, and the stem cells have the potential to allow surgeons to fix heart problems without performing actual surgery. The way the enzymes work within in the stem cells is by glowing brighter and brighter as the heart grows stronger and stronger. This way, it will be easier for doctors to keep an eye on the heart as it heals. However, researchers need to confirm exactly how these stem cells help to fix cardiac tissue. Even still, there is a strong possibility that these stem cells will one day significantly improve the lives of people with heart disease all around the world.  

How do the enzymes help the fireflies to glow, and why do the fireflies glow in the first place? How do stem cells work to fix the body’s organs?

Have No Fear, Food Allergy Prevention is Here! http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/10/18/have-no-fear-food-allergy-prevention-is-here/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/10/18/have-no-fear-food-allergy-prevention-is-here/#commentsMon, 18 Oct 2010 19:26:22 +0000Alicehttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=1105

Photo credits: Darny

Millions of people across the world suffer from food allergies. A food allergy is an unusual response triggered by the body’s immune system after eating a certain food, which can result in signs or symptoms such as digestive problems, hives, swollen airways, or death in severe cases. The most common foods that trigger allergic reactions are shellfish, peanuts, and eggs.  In the United States, it is estimated that six to eight percent of children under the age of three have food allergies, along with four percent of adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, between 2004 and 2006, food allergies were reported to cause approximately 9,500 cases of hospitalization. The number of food allergies among humans is, in fact, on the rise. From 1997 to 2007, the percentage of children with food allergies under the age of 18 increased by 18%. Food allergies are a significant problem, and until recently, a potential cure for food allergies had not been found.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have recently discovered a way to turn off the immune system’s allergic reactions to certain foods. Led by Shau-Ku Huang, Ph.D. and Yufeng Zhou, M.D., Ph.D., the research team investigated one kind of immune cell, called the lamina propria dendritic cells (LPDC), which is the immune system’s first line of defense. The LPDC produces a special receptor, which appears on LPDC’s cell surface and combines with certain sugars. When targeted with a specific sugar protein, this receptor, known as the SIGNR1, was able to absorb food proteins that would have normally caused much harm.

The research team decided to test this newly found discovery on mice. The team took a food protein that causes allergic reactions in mice, modifying it by adding special sugars. They predicted after the mice consumed the modified protein, the SIGNR1 receptors on the immune system cells would be able to combine with the protein. After combining with the modified protein, the immune system would learn to tolerate the food protein, no longer causing an allergic reaction when combining with the unmodified protein. Zhou fed the mice the modified protein every day for three days. After five days, he tested his hypothesis by feeding the mice the unmodified protein. This protein caused death and convulsions in the control group of mice that had not been previously fed the modified protein. However, the mice that had been previously fed with the modified proteins had much less severe allergic reactions to the unmodified protein. Reactions included itchiness or puffiness around the eyes and snout, but nothing severe. The research team’s hypothesis had been tentatively accepted.

Data Table:

Group of Mice Are they fed modified protein? Reactions when fed unmodified protein:
Control Group No Tremors, Convulsions, and/or Death
Testing Group Yes, the mice are fed modified protein once a day for 3 days Minor Itchiness or Puffiness around the Eyes or Snout

This experiment could potentially lead to some sort of drug that could prevent allergic reactions in humans. Maybe allergic reactions won’t always be such a huge problem in the future and the death and hospitalization rates could decrease.

Do you have or know someone who has food allergies? What are some of their allergic reactions? Have there been any other recent discoveries involving food allergies? Have any other animals been involved in experiments involving food allergies?

Protected: Autism and Vaccines: Together as One? http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/08/06/autism-and-vaccines-together-as-one/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/08/06/autism-and-vaccines-together-as-one/#commentsFri, 06 Aug 2010 18:34:34 +0000Ms Bakerhttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=1728

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