research

What’s All The Buzz About CRISPR?

It’s inevitable— genetics is the future of medicine. With the discovery of certain diseases linked to specific gene mutations, the science community became engrossed in DNA manipulation. Precisely, CRISPR gained global recognition in the past few years as a promising therapeutic strategy in human genetic diseases. CRISPR could provide a means to directly alter mutations that underlie single-gene disorders such as cystic fibrosis or more complex diseases such as cancer. So, what is the mechanism behind this novel genome editing technique? “CRISPR,” an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, is part of the bacterial adaptive immune system to combat invading viruses. In short, these DNA segments or CRISPR arrays are created upon the first invasion as a means for the bacteria to “remember” the virus. Upon subsequent attacks, the bacteria can then transcribe RNA segments from the CRISPR arrays to direct enzymes such as Cas9 to a target sequence of the viruses’ DNA. Cas9 or a similar nuclease can then cut the DNA and kill the virus. Just five years ago, the CRISPR-Cas9 system was utilized for the first time in a laboratory setting. In January 2013, the Zhang lab published CRISPR-Cas9 as a genome modification tool in eukaryotic cells (Cong et al., 2013). In the same way as the bacterial defense system, researchers can generate RNA sequences that attach to specific target locations of DNA. These...

Climate Change and the Spread of Infectious Diseases

Global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking ice, decreased snow cover, ocean acidification and rise in sea levels. Do these terms sound familiar? These terms are indeed stark reminders of how human beings continue to damage the planet. Climate change is one of the most severe threats to human health and well-being. While the scientific community has made tremendous progress in eradicating many diseases, not a lot of research has been put towards the perplexing topic of climate change and the spread of infectious diseases. Long before the role of infectious agents was discovered, humans knew that climatic conditions affect epidemic diseases. Roman aristocrats spent their summers in hill resorts to avoid Malaria. South Asians preferred curried foods in summers to avoid diarrhea. Climate change refers to long-term shifts in weather conditions and patterns of extreme weather events. Appropriate climate and weather conditions are necessary for the survival, reproduction, distribution and transmission of disease pathogens. Thus, long-term climate change and weather shifts tend to favor the spread of several infectious diseases and extreme weather conditions might create opportunities for newer outbreaks or outbreaks at non-traditional places. It has been known for a while now that warming temperatures can help certain diseases. Malaria, which kills an estimated 650,000 people a year, thrives in the hot and humid areas where the Anopheles mosquito can live. The link between malaria and extreme climatic events has...

It’s All About Lifestyle—24 Healthy Habits, Hobbies & Scientific Facts

There’s no doubt that if people were asked about whether or not they want to be healthy, the answer would be “yes.” So, why do we wait for some special opportunity if it’s possible to have healthy habits without putting much effort into it? All that’s needed is a bit of free time, dedication, and a certain amount of patience. Why all that? Because the change doesn’t happen in a single day. Staying healthy is something you invest time and effort into. And your body will thank you. The infographic below leads you through the steps to becoming healthier. No one says that you should stop there. This may only be the beginning. After getting a taste of it, you’ll want to move to something a bit more serious. So, the infographic contains 24 healthy lifestyle habits and hobbies for you to pick up. Apart from that, it’s going to share a couple of scientific facts showing the benefits to your academic performance and life in general from staying fit. Want to learn more about exercising the right way? Make sure to take this quiz! Or if you want to keep up your good work, make working out into a game! Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Boston University set out to test the theory that participants could be incentivized to increase their physical activity through the gamification of exercise. All participants...

The Cockroach’s Unique Genome That Can Contribute to Medicine

Dr. Sheng Li, an entomologist and professor of life sciences at South China’s Normal University in Guangzhou, is leading research on the recently sequenced genome of the American cockroach. This species of insect is remarkable for its resiliency and ability to survive and thrive in many different environments, making it a compelling specimen for study in the quest for knowledge and compounds that can contribute to human medicine. The American cockroach has one of the longest insect genomes ever sequenced, second only to the locusta migratoria. While there exists an overwhelming amount of genes to examine and design potential experiments around, Dr. Li’s team is currently focusing on the regeneration capabilities of the American cockroach and how that may translate into therapies for humans. Click here to review the paper published in Nature Communications. Read more on The Doctor’s Channel. Read more on how insects are combating the battle on Malaria: These studies point toward the possible efficacy of paratransgenesis in the war against malaria, but the experiments were carried out in the laboratory. A big hurdle is how to introduce recombinant P. agglomerans into mosquitoes in the field. The authors indicate that they have had some success in dealing with this crucial problem by placing baiting stations consisting of clay pots containing cotton balls soaked with sugar and recombinant bacteria surrounding villages where malaria is prevalent. But we don’t yet know...

The Case for Eating Fiber

I want to help you prepare for this situation because you might be expected to answer it soon. What are the benefits of eating fiber? Let’s go over a hypothetical situation. Your patient walks in to your office and says “Dr. I don’t know what to believe about fiber, is there really a benefit to eating brown rice instead of white rice? They have about the same number of calories and white rice tastes better, does fiber really make a significant difference?” And now, since you’ve read Why Should I Eat Fiber? An Overview, you’re prepared and have been waiting for this question for a while now. You light up with joy because you’ve had lectures for the past 8 years of your life and now it’s time for you to relay knowledge to someone else. So, you let them have it, and I mean really let them have it, like you’ve had this planned before they even came into the office. It went like this: Fiber is a carbohydrate that is unable to be digested by the body and is essential for maintaining proper health. Fiber helps regulate the use of sugar in the body, and keeps blood sugar and hunger in check [1]. There has been debate on how much fiber one should eat and the recommended is 20 to 30 grams daily, however I propose to...

Can Alcohol Damage our DNA? A New Study Suggests Yes

Can alcohol damage our cells and DNA? Scientists at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge discovered new evidence that suggests alcohol causes damage at a cellular level, with prolonged use leading to permanent damage to DNA. Ketan Patel, FRS FMedSci MRCP, professor and lead author of the study, has observed that alcohol consumption not only leads to permanent DNA damage, but also increases the risk of developing cancer. The research team at MRC Laboratory gave doses of ethanol to mice equivalent to a human drinking a full bottle of whisky in a compressed period of time. Some of these mice had a reduced ability to produce the enzyme that breaks down alcohol coupled with diminished DNA repair pathways. After a few weeks, they studied the DNA of the mice and found the harmful chemical compound acetaldehyde (ALDH) had built up due to the body’s processing of the large quantities of alcohol. This ALDH buildup damaged the DNA within blood stem cells, causing mutations in chromosomes which are known catalysts for cancer and the aging process. This study is being funded by Cancer Research UK. Click here to read more about the findings. Make sure to read “Three Med School Career Paths, and Their Alcoholic Drink Compliments“. A new study from the University of Greenwich’s Journal of Pain suggests that alcohol might be a better pain reliever than Acetaminophen‬‬ and other common pain relievers. The study suggests that alcohol...

Is My Specialty Research? Here’s What To Know

When you’re vying for an acceptance letter to your program of choice, doing research is just one of those boxes everyone tells you should check off to be able to fit into a crowd of almost doctors. In fact, test prep company Kaplan encourages students to prepare an answer if they are asked during their admission interview why they didn’t participate in research. Whether it is financial or time limitations, Kaplan advises students to have a prepared response to this question. Just to provide another perspective, during my admissions interviews, I was never once asked about the absence of research on my list of extra-curricular activities. No one ever asked me why I didn’t do research. (In case you’re wondering, I also did not do any community service, another “must have.”) In talking to my classmates (other admitted students), they were not asked about research. Doing research is important, certainly, for certain programs such as dual degree programs with a PhD. It may even be a requirement. But, I would not take the words “highly recommend” to mean “absolutely mandatory.” This is all to say that many pre-medical students think they should do research because it is highly regarded and provides an additional boost from an admissions perspective. I don’t think it matters so much that you conduct research as much as the value of the research to you...

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