research

Everything You Need to Know About the Latest Research on Stem Cells

As life begins, we are a single cell, full of potential to become any cell of the body. Our cell divides, the first of a countless number of replications as we approach a steady state of cell growth and cell death around 40 trillion cells. During this process, our cells lose their potential, committing to play a more specific role in the body, and with each commitment, it is believed that the cells enter a path of no return. These high potential cells are called stem cells and there is a great interest among medical researchers in their ability to produce multiple cell types. Studying them can help us understand more about how our body develops and how mistakes in this development process can manifest in negative outcomes. They also may be used in regenerative medicine to replace damaged tissue or eventually produce whole organs. While most of our cells commit to a role, some remain in the high potential state to act as the body’s repair system. To study them, we can isolate them from bone marrow, adipose tissue, and blood, their three most accessible sites in adults. They can also come from an embryo, but this method is highly controversial and sparks debate over when life truly begins. In vitro, cells can also be induced to have this high potential through introduction of genes that are expressed...

The Love Competition

On your mark, 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. 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 year’s??? Watch the full video on vimeo. Click here to read more about The Love Competition. Featured image from Lola Mag – John...

The “Other” Kind of Doctor

I don’t want people to think being a PhD candidate is this awful experience, so let me start with some positives. The environment that I work in promotes creativity, imagination, self direction, and cutting edge research. However, it also has its drawbacks, and as most PhD’s do, I will dwell on the negatives and share them with you. It is always an entertaining process trying to explain what I do to family/friends/acquaintances. Here is an example: them: so, you’re going to be a doctor eh? me: well, yeah, but not the one you’re thinking, I’m doing a PhD. them: huh? Oh, that’s not like a doctor doctor? me: no, I do research them: On what? me: It’s a bit complicated and boring, its just biology stuff them: what kind of stuff? it sounds pretty cool… me: [big sigh]…well, I am looking at a nuclear recept…. them: …………[BSoC]…….. This is the Blank Stare of Confusion. I notice it immediately, so to remedy this I just tell them that I take care of mice. Usually ends the conversation right there. PhD training is a quite different exercise than training to become a medical doctor. There really is no structure or set timetable. In fact, you don’t even have to show up all the time. The project is driven and shaped by the results…Ah yes the R word, merely a rumour to...

Can Medical Marijuana Be the Answer for Those Suffering from PTSD After 9/11?

Martin Lee, author of Smoke Signals, and director of Project CBD, discusses the results of a University of Calgary study that found New Yorkers suffering from PTSD after the 9/11 terrorist attacks had a lower baseline level of naturally occurring cannabinoids than those not suffering from...

Does Eating Chocolate Really Have Health Benefits?

I love chocolate. In fact, my first “real” word, after “momma” and “dada” was “chocolat”. My family lived in France for the first few years of my life so being close to Switzerland, I was getting the good stuff… it’s no wonder my priorities were mom, dad, chocolate. And, 24 years later, chocolate is still my guilty pleasure. But do I really have to feel guilty? We’ve all heard the back and forth results of many studies reporting its health benefits or lack thereof.  However, after The New England Journal of Medicine published a study last year finding a strong correlation between a country’s chocolate consumption and the number of Nobel laureates it spawns per capita, I was overjoyed.  Because I believe the benefits are true and I want to justify my own guilty pleasure, let’s take a look at some data that show just how good it is for you. Several studies have indicated that because flavanols have antioxidant properties and increase nitric oxide bioavailability, they may exert vascular protection. A group of researchers hypothesized that because dark chocolate contains flavanols, its effect of increasing the bioavailability of nitric oxide would influence insulin-stimulated glucose uptake and vascular tone. Their study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finding that dark chocolate did in fact decrease blood pressure and improve insulin sensitivity in healthy people. They did...

Bat Girl and The Milwaukee Protocol

Jeanna Giese was sitting in church one ordinary Sunday when suddenly, from above, a small bat flew in and interrupted the service. It was whacked aside by someone, and Jeanna went to the little bat’s aid. She was an animal lover, a devoted rescuer, and she thought the bat was pretty cute. As she cradled the stunned creature in her hand, she remembers that it suddenly bit her, sending a stinging pain through her finger and hand. She took it outside, where it detached from her and flew off into a nearby tree. Satisfied that she had returned the helpless creature back to nature, she rejoined the church service, having no idea that the nip of the cute little bat she saved was already starting to kill her; she was fifteen years old. Like many teenage girls of the early 2000s, Jeanna was involved in many social and athletic activities and enjoyed socializing with her peers. When she got sick several weeks later and had to sit out during a volleyball game, it occurred to her it might be more than a viral illness. When her mother asked why she hadn’t played any of the game, Jeanne told her she had double vision. After that, as she notes in her own account of the story on her personal website, she remembers very little about what happened. Meanwhile, at The...

Gut Microbe Gene Sequencing May Provide Future Therapies

Larry Smarr, Founding Director, CALIT2, examines the 90% of cells in the body that aren’t human, most of which reside in the large intestine. A recent study used metagenomic sequencing of DNA from stool samples to identify the myriad species of microbes in the gut. He advises doctors to view gut microbes not as an enemy, but as an ecological garden. Read more about Larry Smarr. Filmed at FutureMed, in February 2013, at Singularity...