research

A Research Manifesto: How to Make the Most of Your Pre-Med Research Position

A ‘manifesto’ is a published declaration of someone’s intentions, motives, or views. Although often associated with radical politics and revolution, manifestos can be written to capture the spirit of any group or movement.   Why does research need a manifesto? We’ve worked with hundreds of pre-meds, and many struggle to write about their research in meaningful ways. What’s the problem? Usually, it’s their approach to their work in the lab. Too often, they’ve taken on research as a way to check off one of their pre-med boxes, rather than a means for exploration, growth, and discovery.   Our manifesto is designed to help you avoid these obligatory feelings by inspiring a deeper commitment to the research. Hopefully, you read our manifesto early on in your research career. But regardless of how far along you are in the process, our principles will help you maintain the right mindset in the lab.   Karl Marx called the subpoints of his manifesto ‘planks,’ but for our purposes, ‘theses’ seemed more appropriate.   Thesis #1 – Get Involved in Research Early and Often in Your Pre-Med Career You will not make the same mistake as most pre-meds. You will look for research opportunities as early as possible, because you’ll recognize how long it can take to secure a spot. You will remain open-minded towards different projects, even if they seem outside of your...

Video Game Therapy

It’s crazy to think that almost 91% of kids in the U.S. play video games, but today video games are an important part of our culture and lifestyle. Shared gaming experiences like Pokémon Go bring together people from all around the globe. Game developers work hard to make their games appealing and accessible to as broad an audience as possible, but what about kids with a medical condition that prevents them from playing most games? And what if accessible games could include a learning and therapeutic component?   Researchers at Flinders University in Adelaide are working on video games specifically for children with cerebral palsy and limited hand function. Cerebral palsy affects more than 17 million people around the world. There is no cure for CP and it is the most common childhood disability. Targeted interventions for children often involve therapeutic exercises aimed at improving or maintaining function with the goal of helping children achieve independence in daily activities. However, just as with adult physical therapy, compliance can be a struggle as the exercises are seen as work and not play. David Hobbs and his team set out to change that by making an accessible video game system that may also help children with CP improve sensory function, bilateral hand functionality and coordination.   Image: Source   Known as “serious games,” their work is part of a growing sector...

Fighting Allergies Without Injections?

Where I live in Texas it’s cedar season, which means it’s allergy season. Texas is notorious for its large number of pollen-producing plants including ash, mountain cedar, ragweed, grass and oak… the list goes on and on. When pollination comes around each year, it seems like everyone is coughing, sneezing and congested, with an itchy throat and watery eyes.   Image: Source   To cope with allergies, I’ve heard some pretty creative (though NOT doctor recommended nor evidence-based) solutions including sleeping with a wet washcloth over the face, eating “local” honey to expose the body to pollens or drinking apple cider vinegar. With my friends going to such extremes to fight allergies, you can imagine how excited I was to see a new paper in JAMA reporting on a 3-year study of sublingual immunotherapy for grass pollen allergy sufferers.   Image: Source   Sublingual immunotherapy is being explored as an alternative to injection therapies (or subcutaneous immunotherapy), where small amounts of allergens are injected into patients over the course of months and years to build immunity and prevent the allergic reaction. Allergy shots have been used for nearly 100 years and evidence shows that they are highly effective, especially against many pollen species. It is also more cost-effective than simply treating allergic symptoms. With sublingual immunotherapy, instead of injections, the patient takes either a drop solution or tablet under...

The Love Competition

Happy Valentine’s Day! In honor of V-day, we wanted to get nerdy with the subject of love. Is it possible for one person to love more than another person can?   On yours marks, get set, LOVE. This short documentary explores the 1st Annual Love Competition that took place at the Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurological Imaging. Scientists asked 7 participants to “love” as hard as they could for 5 minutes while measuring brain activity via fMRI. The participants ranged in age, love experiences, and general “hipster-ness.” The researchers looked closely at the brain activity  with special focus on the Nucleus Accumbens, an area which has been shown to be an epicenter for various neural pathways signaling love.   Video: Source   While the skeptic science student in me questions such bold claims of quantifiable love based off of barely understood neural pathways (I mean, no control group…really?), the normal human in me can’t help but go ‘awww, how cute.’ Some questions that lingered on after watching the documentary included:   1. Could brain activity be supplemented with other physiological variables to give a more accurate reading of love experiences?   2. Could brain plasticity at a young age affect love’s neurobiological activity?   3. Can Hipsters really even fall in love?   4. Where can I sign up for next years???   Watch the full video on vimeo.   Click here to read more about...

Medical Advancements To Look Forward To This Year #4: Bioabsorbable Stents

4. Bioabsorbable Stents Coronary artery disease (CAD) is one of the most common cardiovascular disorders that carry a high risk of morbidity and mortality if left untreated. Patients usually present with a sudden onset of severe chest pain and possible difficulty breathing, among other symptoms. Many of these individuals suffer from a host of comorbidities, including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, COPD, and diabetes. Stable angina, comprising of chest pain on exertion that subsides on resting, eventually progresses to unstable angina in these patients due to complete closure of one or more coronary arteries in the heart, impeding blood flow.     The current standard of treatment for these patients is percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). The procedure involves threading a catheter up through the patient’s femoral artery in the groin to the coronary artery in question in order to carry out a balloon angioplasty to expand the arterial diameter followed by potential deployment of a metallic stent that keeps the artery expanded to allow proper blood flow. However, this procedure does come with substantial risks and post-operative complications, such as the need to stay on anticoagulant drugs for prevention of blood clot formation, restenosis of the artery, stroke, and death.   Since 2011, there has been a surge of interest in bioabsorbable stents, which are made from biodegradable polymers that eventually leave the body as foreign material after they have run their...

Warm Up for your Workout Using Science

Go to any gym and you’re bound to hear “locker room talk” on the age-old issue facing men and women alike – what’s the best way to warm up before you exercise? Static stretching, dynamic stretching, dynamic warm-ups, re-warm-ups, at what intervals… everyone has an opinion. However, Hammami et al have published a review in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness attempting to answer just this question.   The authors searched for peer-reviewed studies from 1995-2015 in PubMed, ScienceDirect and Google Scholar and found 27 relevant articles. Twenty-two of the articles looked at warm-up effects on soccer performance and 5 articles examined performance with or without re-warm-ups during play. In the review, dynamic warm-ups were found to increase many factors such as “strength, jump, speed and explosive performances.” The review found additional performance benefits from re-warm-ups among soccer players at halftime in order to reduce postactivation potentiation, no matter how much or how little the players were on the field.   Image: Source   Moreover, the authors found that static stretching reduced subsequent performance. Other studies, such as Amiri-Khorasani et al., in the Journal of Human Kinetics, found significant increases in speed after dynamic stretching when compared to static stretching, while Behm et al., in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, found a similar though smaller effect. These studies and others like it add more data to a...

Scientists Introduce Hybrid Human-Pig Embryos

After many years of research, scientists have successfully produced the first-ever human-pig hybrid. Why is this important?   It could change the future of organ transplants for humans.   Many researchers have been working on growing the organs of one animal inside of a different species of animal. For example, scientists recently grew a mouse pancreas inside of a rat successfully. Using similar methods, it might be possible to grow human organs in a pig.   After testing about 1,500 pig embryos, they discovered that certain types of human stem cells would spread throughout the embryo. Many of the cells that took over would develop into the heart, liver, and kidneys.   Watch the video below to learn more about this incredible breakthrough.   Video: Source Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte at La Jolla’s Salk Institute for Biological Studies, and his team of researchers, have successfully introduced pluripotent human stem cells into pig blastocysts that then developed into a viable embryo. The stem cells took up residence in the spaces that would indicate development of human-compatible organs including the heart, liver, and kidneys. Current regulations prevent the scientists from allowing the embryo to continue to develop, but this research offers promise in the quest to one day eliminate organ transplantation waiting lists. Video of the Week on TDC.   Featured Image:...

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