How One Woman Pioneered Breast Cancer Research

The BRCA1 protein is a caretaker of the cell. When DNA becomes damaged, BRCA1 helps restore the DNA to its proper form or initiates program cell death if it is beyond repair. This ensures that cells maintain their intended function. However, if BRCA1 itself becomes damaged, it can no longer perform its essential role. Its importance is highlighted by the finding that when this occurs, there is a greater risk for developing cancer. Discovery of BRCA1’s relevance to cancer in 1990 was groundbreaking because it established that there is a genetic component to cancer, not just viral as commonly thought at the time. More so, it has allowed for screening for mutations in BRCA1 and the related BRCA2 gene that can identify at-risk women so they can receive life-saving treatments. These mutations are thought to be responsible for approximately 3-8% of breast cancer cases in the U.S. and up to 25% of inherited breast cancer. What may be even more remarkable than this discovery is the woman who discovered it, Mary-Claire King. Dr. King identified the BRCA1-cancer connection at a time when the idea of genes playing a role in cancer was radical. As a self-described “stubborn person”, she persisted and continued to push the idea forward. At the same time, she took on a leadership role as a scientist, despite training at a time when independent female scientists...

What I Learned The Last Summer Of My Life…

Feels kind of odd to think about the last summer of your life. You never think the last will ever be your last. However, as a first year medical student, the 3 summer months before your second year are truly the last months of sweet freedom. After that, all you have to look forward to is Step 1 (yikes!) and two glorious years of core clerkships and electives before you start residency. So, I put a lot of thought into my summer plans, which ended up being more of a dilemma really. “Should I be the classic gunner and do research all three months or should I take a nice vacation?” In the end, I made the clichéd middle of the road choice of doing a little bit of research and taking a trip down memory lane to India. After wrapping up my research work, I took a flight out on August 1st and landed straight in Ahmedabad, the hopping city in the quaint, peninsular state of Gujarat. A lot had changed since the last time I was there, but the one thing that truly blew me away was health care. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – I probably went there to shadow. However, I didn’t need to. The sources that informed me about the state of medicine in India were composed of an eclectic cohort consisting of...

Pig DNA is Considered Identical to Human DNA

Scientists at Recombinetics are conducting research on pigs in an effort to accelerate cancer cure development and potentially create a sustainable source of genetically-matched human organs for transplantation. While experiments involving farm animals are nothing new in the world of medical research, the pigs at Recombinetics farm in Minnesota are unique because they have been modified to express human traits using TALENs technology. Cancer has been cured in mice models many times, but the same techniques do not seem to translate well in humans. The company believes the 98% similarity between the human genome and the pig genome may help close the gap between successful cures in animal models and resulting efficacious treatments and/or cures for humans. Click here to read more about this company’s research on CNBC. Earlier this year, researchers were able to identify that DNA Bacteria can store information, like hard drives: Researchers at Harvard Medical School have used the CRISPR gene-editing tool to encode five frames of a vintage motion picture into the DNA Bacteria of E. coli bacteria. By reducing each frame into a series of single-color pixels and matching each color to a DNA code, the scientists were able to string together DNA strands that represented the video frames. Non-biological information has been encoded into DNA before, going back as far as 2003. However, this is the first time living organisms have been used as the message’s vessel. Living...

Three Med School Career Paths, and Their Alcoholic Drink Compliments

Modern Culture makes college out to be a never ending party filled with alcoholic beverages galore.  So if you’re a med student, here are three different career and the alcoholic drinks that compliment them.  Thoracic Heart Surgeon – Whiskey Neat Both the drink and the trade involve precision and a careful hand.  When pouring out the 50 year old shot of whiskey, that your surgeon budget can most definitely afford, you must have a careful unshaken hand as to not spill a single drop.  Just as when operating on a patient the thorax is not the place to be handling a knife with a trembling hand. Both can lead to tragic mishaps of spilt liquor and deceased patients.  Whiskey is a burning yet classy drink much like the fire that burns inside of the surgeon.  They stay locked into their work at all times and get the job done, but at the same time dressed down in full scrubs and gloves, make it look good too.  Yet the reason it is whiskey neat instead of on the rocks, is that the surgeon is straight up with his patients, they don’t have time to mess around or give false hope.  They’ll give you the diagnosis straight up, not watered down or with ice, just straight whiskey, making whiskey neat the official drink of the Thoracic Heart Surgeon.   Pediatrician –...

Here Are The World’s Best Dental Schools

Dentistry is a great career path and can lead to living a secure life. If you have decided to go with dentistry, you have to consider which school is the best to complete your course. Being part of the medical field, you will have great earning potential. If you like interacting with different people every day, but do not see yourself as a doctor, dentistry might be a great option for you. Before you can become a dentist, you are going to have to consider where to study and this is where I come in. Here is a list of the top dental schools in the world. Academisch Centrum Tandheelkunde – Amsterdam This institute is known for doing great research and is the perfect option for dental students. You are able to do a lot of practical work as they take care of over 300 patients coming through the doors every day. This is a great opportunity to work on your people skills in learning how to interact with patients early on. If you are looking to study abroad, this is a great option and Amsterdam makes for a great travel destination as well. Look at a few examples of personal statements before you apply and check if there are any differences. University College – London Who does not want to go and study in the UK? It is...

How Should I Pursue Research Opportunities?

I just started my junior year of college and have met many new students that express interest in pursuing a career in medicine. It is so exciting to see new first and second year students ambitiously seeking out new opportunities to explore. I feel like I have learned quite a lot over the past two years in college, especially from those older than me. The mentorship I received from junior and senior students when I was a freshman guided me strongly along the path towards medicine. Likewise, I hope to be that person for other students because mentorship and sharing advice and opportunities is a vibrant and important aspect of medical (and pre-medical) training. One thing I, specifically, love to talk to new students about is research opportunities and how/if they should seek them out. My freshman year, I walked into our university pre-medical advisor’s office and told him I’d really like to become involved in biomedical research, even if that meant that I had to sweep the floors or wash beakers. He thankfully told me I wouldn’t have to do any of that but could join his team. This opportunity was one of the best decisions I made as an undergraduate because it allowed me to see if research was something I was interested in. I eventually used this experience as robust aspect of my resume when applying...

A New ‘Cancer Pen’ Can Help Detect Tumors

In an effort to reduce the risk of re-operation in surgeries for the removal of cancerous tissue, scientists have been developing tools to bring fast and accurate tissue analysis directly to the operating room. A few weeks ago, our Video of the Week featured the work of an MIT research team that’s built a portable multiphoton microscope that can be employed during surgery with the same goal. Michael Giacomelli, PhD, Research Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his laboratory team have developed a portable system for multiphoton imaging (portable MPM) of large tissue samples within an operating surgical suite. “The system enables true 10x/20x/40x imaging at video rates using VH&E rendering to produce virtual histology images in real-time.” The technology is currently being tested in breast cancer surgeries, since many lumpectomies result in second surgeries to remove more tissue after histology from the first surgery is complete. With imaging taking place during surgery, these subsequent reoperations may be reduced significantly. Currently, doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering are considering the tool and/or technique for skin cancer and prostate cancer as well. Researchers at the University of Texas have now developed a ‘cancer pen’ that is connected to a mass spectrometer that can comfortably reside in an operating suite. The MasSpec Pen, when pressed against the tissue in question, releases a droplet of water that collects some elements of the contacted tissue, and is then sucked back into the device...