When venom becomes your painkiller

Author: Attabey Rodriguez-Benitez
Editors: Patricia Garay, Alison Clair Ludzki, and Noah Steinfeld.

Imagine you are not in frigid Michigan but are swimming in the warm waters of the Caribbean. The warm waters caress your skin. While you dive past a colorful reef with a plethora of fish, you see an anemone. You know you cannot touch it, because it might sting you with its toxins. Little do you know; these anemones are not the only ones capable of stinging. The reef harbors a far deadlier and more beautiful creature: cone snails. While cute on the outside, these little creatures can contain a venom cocktail of more than 100 toxins.  However, if they do sting, you will not feel any pain at all. This prompted a pivotal change in Professor Baldomero Olivera’s career. Dr. Olivero is a researcher currently at the University of Utah, where he transitioned from studying DNA synthesis to studying cone sails indigenous from his hometown in the Philippines. Continue reading “When venom becomes your painkiller”

 Who owns cells and DNA?  Property rights get messy in biology

Author: Sarah Kearns
Editors: Genesis Rodriguez, Zena Lapp, and Whit Froehlich

Scattered around your house or apartment, lightly coating the surface of your coffee table and lurking in the nooks and crannies of each room, discarded layers of yourself can be found in the form of skin and hair cells. Regardless of how much of clean-freak you are, it’s unlikely you miss the over one million cells you shed per day. One might go so far as to say that they aren’t even yours in the first place as you sweep them up during a spring cleaning before irreverently dumping them in the waste bin. But what if someone came into your house and took them? Continue reading ” Who owns cells and DNA?  Property rights get messy in biology”

The influence of epigenetics in breast cancer therapeutics

Author: Jessica McAnulty
Editors: Tricia Garay, Stephanie Hamilton, and Whit Froehlich

Most likely, you know of someone diagnosed with breast cancer, which affects 1 in 8 women in the United States. Some of the reasons this disease is so difficult to treat are the lack of targeted therapies (as there are different subtypes of breast cancer) and tumor resistance to treatment. Therefore, scientists are investigating novel therapies that act on a specific component of the cancer and/or prevent this resistance. One exciting therapy alters the expression of certain genes; a gene needs to be expressed, or “turned on”, in order for the cell to obtain information from the gene and produce a product. This therapy is a promising approach since cancers, such as hormone-sensitive breast cancer, are often due to genetic mutations that result in an increase in gene expression. It is thought that using this therapy to alter gene expression will reverse the breast tumor’s resistance to treatment.

Continue reading “The influence of epigenetics in breast cancer therapeutics”

Are Omega-3 fatty acids healthy?

Author: Attabey Rodríguez-Benítez

Editors: Jimmy Brancho, Andrew McAllister, and Noah Steinfeld

When I got sick as a child, my great-grandmother used to treat me with unpleasant fish oil. She would say, “bébete esto para que te pongas mejor y tengas un corazón fuerte” (“drink this so you can get better and have a strong heart”). Both of my parents also swore by fish oil, taking these enormous yellow pills, which I did not take myself because I was afraid to choke on them. These large fish oil pills were full of omega-3 fatty acids. My family explained that the supplements helped with high blood pressure, but never explained why they worked. As it turns out, there is still quite a lot of debate in the scientific community as to how omega-3s impact human health.

Continue reading “Are Omega-3 fatty acids healthy?”

Microscopic Diversity: How and Why One Gene Creates Many Unique Proteins

Author: Jessica Cote

Editors: Zena Lapp, Christina Vallianatos, and Whit Froehlich

The Human Genome Project is one of the greatest scientific accomplishments in recent history— this international collaboration identified almost all of the ~20,500 genes in the human body, known collectively as the genome. Now that scientists know the details of these genes, they are better able to understand and treat human diseases associated with genetic factors. However, despite the immense effort put forth by over 30 research labs for 13 years (1990-2003), the information we gained from this project is limited. Genes serve as guidebooks for cells in the body to build proteins; genes themselves don’t perform the necessary cellular functions—proteins do. So, while scientists have now known the nitty-gritty of thousands of human genes for a while, the details of their protein products, known collectively as the proteome, are still quite puzzling.

Continue reading “Microscopic Diversity: How and Why One Gene Creates Many Unique Proteins”

Methylated Memory

Author: Sarah Kearns

Editors: Nayiri Kaissarian, Patricia Garay, and Shweta Ramdas

If you saw a hippo on campus, you would remember it. But, would you expect that seeing such a pachyderm roaming on a university would alter the expression of your DNA? A recent study found that rats placed in an environment that tested their memory had alterations to their DNA, or epigenetic changes.

For a long while, we have generally known that neurons within the hippocampus of our brains are responsible for memory. The current model for memory storage is due to the plasticity of neuronal connections, but researchers have recently found that it also involves active changes at the genetic level. These changes come from external factors and are linked to retaining long-term memories, which has implications in stress-related learning and memory disorders.

Continue reading “Methylated Memory”

The After-Hours Life of a Protein

Author: Sarah Kearns

Editors: Zena Lapp, Jimmy Brancho, Noah Steinfeld

After you get home from work, perhaps after eating dinner, you may start working on other projects or hobbies. Humans aren’t the only ones that have a life after hours. Recently it’s been discovered that many proteins have roles in the cell outside of their main functions. This peculiar behavior led to the name ‘moonlighting,’ referencing individuals who have multiple jobs. A useful analogy might be a werewolf’s behavior under a full moon: being a person during the day, but a wolf at night.

Continue reading “The After-Hours Life of a Protein”

Trasplante de Órganos de Cerdos a Humanos Podría Ser Posible en el Futuro Gracias a la Ingeniera Genética

Escrita por Attabey Rodríguez Benitez y editado por Cristina Maria Rios.

¿Te imaginas un futuro en el que los humanos podamos recibir órganos de animales en lugar de esperar por un donante? Esto podría ser posible gracias a una investigación llevada a cabo por una colaboración internacional entre laboratorios de Harvard y China que resultó en una publicación en la revista científica Science.

Continue reading “Trasplante de Órganos de Cerdos a Humanos Podría Ser Posible en el Futuro Gracias a la Ingeniera Genética”

Organ Transplantation from Pigs to Humans Could Be Possible, Thanks to Gene Editing

Author: Attabey Rodríguez Benítez

Editors: Sarah Kearns, Jimmy Brancho, and Whit Froehlich

Can you imagine a future where humans could receive organs from animals instead of having to wait for a donor? Well, this could be possible thanks to evidence from an international collaboration between labs in Harvard and China which resulted in a publication in the prestigious journal Science.

Continue reading “Organ Transplantation from Pigs to Humans Could Be Possible, Thanks to Gene Editing”

Semen’s Lesser-known Roles in Reproduction

Author: Brooke Wolford

Editors: Andrew McAllister, Molly Kozminsky, and Whit Froehlich

tinder_sperm
Image by Sierra Nishizaki

If you’re a millennial who thinks dating in the age of Tinder is difficult, you may find parallels between your dating life and the complexities of reproduction. The process of a sperm meeting an egg to create a cell that successfully implants in the uterine wall and subsequently creates a human is incredibly intricate. Similar to the world of dating, two have to meet, decide they like each other, and then invest time and energy to grow together as a couple. From finding a mate to the biological processes behind pregnancy, reproduction may seem downright impossible. Luckily mother nature has devised sneaky and fascinating ways to improve the chances of a successful pregnancy. Evolution favors those who pass their DNA on to as many offspring as possible, and natural selection has worked for years to optimize reproduction. If only Tinder were that good at getting you a date!

Continue reading “Semen’s Lesser-known Roles in Reproduction”