Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Swimming with Dolphins can Help Treat Depression

             If someone is diagnosed with depression is consuming antidepressant drugs and attending psychotherapy the only way to treat their depression? Scientists from BMJ, British Medical Journal, discovered that swimming with dolphins could treat mild to moderate depression. This experiment took place in Honduras and involved 30 patients who were diagnosed with mild or moderate depression. All of these patients were required to stop taking antidepressants or attending psychotherapy two weeks before the experiment so that all the data recorded was exact. Half of the patients performed water exercises without dolphins in the water and the other half did the same exercises with dolphins in the water. This was to provide an experimental and control for the experiment. Both groups practiced these water exercises for a duration of two weeks and once the experiment was finished, the people who swam with dolphins has less symptoms of depression than the other half of people who did not swim with dolphins. Three months later, participants from this experiment reported their improvement and some people improved so much that they did not require antidepressants or other treatment anymore. I think this article was well written and the author made it easy to understand. I think the author should have been more specific about the number of people who’s depression was helped from this experiment to give the reader a better idea on how effective this experiment was. I think the author could have improved this article by explaining the theory of biophilia.
            I thought this article was very interesting. I thought it was cool how this experiment supports the theory of biophilia, which implies “there is a natural bond between human beings and other living systems”. This experiment was a breakthrough in society because it proves that drugs are not the only way to cure a mental disorder. I hope that this experiment can allow scientists to develop treatments to mental illnesses, like depression, without prescribing addicting drugs. I also thought this article was interesting because of the theory of biophilia and I think it is fascinating how animals like dolphins can help a person who is suffering from depression. This article made me wonder if dolphins are the only animals that can be used to treat depression and why the scientist chose to use dolphins instead of other animals. I also became curious if animals can be used to treat other mental illnesses like anorexia or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Overall, I enjoyed reading this article and learning about how swimming with dolphins can help treat depression.   

"Biophilia Hypothesis." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Mar. 2014. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. <>.

"Swimming with Dolphins Can Alleviate Depression." Swimming with Dolphins Can Alleviate Depression. British Medical Journal, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. <>.

Friday, March 28, 2014

"Sepsis Study Comparing Three Treatment Methods Shows Same Survival Rate."

"Sepsis Study Comparing Three Treatment Methods Shows Same Survival Rate." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 18 Mar. 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. <>.

Sepsis is a dangerous inflation of everything in the body caused by infections, usually in hospitals. This article was about a clinical trial to try to prevent sepsis from occurring in so many patients. In America alone, sepsis takes 800,000 lives a year. Sepsis can cause dangerously low blood pressure and can cut off your organs’ supply of oxygen, which leads to organ failure and, subsequently, death. Doctors Derek C. Angus, M.D., M.P.H., and Donald M. Yealy, M.D., joined together to start a five-year clinical trial called Protocolized Care for Early Septic Shock (ProCESS) to see how sepsis could be treated. They got 1,341 patients to partake in the trial, divided them into three groups, and tested three different ways of treating sepsis. Group 1 got early goal-directed therapy, which means the doctors inserted a venous catheter near the heart to monitor blood pressure and oxygen levels. Doctors closely monitored the patient for the first 6 hours and gave the patient limited amount of fluids, cardiovascular drugs, and blood transfusions. Group 2 was given protocolized standard care. The patients’ heart rate and blood pressure were taken with a cuff and they were observed without a catheter to decide their treatment plan. The 3rd group was given standard care, which entails the doctors monitoring the patient and giving them drugs, fluids, and transfusions as they saw fit. Dr. Angus and Dr. Yealy compared the results of the 5-year trial and the different methods of care and found that all three treatment plans gave the same outcomes. The outcomes took in all factors of the trial: survival at 60 days, 90 days and one year, heart and lung function, and length of hospital stay. A lot was discovered from this trial, such as the fact that invasive care is not necessary to treat early sepsis. Invasive treatment is dangerous for patients and can cause more infection.
The ProCESS study was a good step towards treating sepsis and avoiding the many deaths it causes yearly. With the information gained from this study, doctors in the future can create new studies with other approaches and perhaps discover the ultimate cure for sepsis. Doctors are one step closer to finding a solution to the danger of sepsis. ProCESS was a successful trial because it determined the level of invasiveness needed to treat early sepsis, and that alone can save many lives by protecting patients from needless infections and strain on their body from the invasive procedures.
This article was very helpful and informational. It gave all the details needed such as the exact methods of care given to the three patient groups. I thought it was well written and well and clearly conveyed the importance and outcome of the ProCESS trial. It was not very informational when it talked about where in the world the trial was performed and what the patients’ conditions were. Some patients may have had different circumstances and medical history, etc. which could affect the trial’s outcomes. Nevertheless, this article was interesting to read and noteworthy in the world of medical science.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fast Synthesis Could Boost Drug Development

"Fast Synthesis Could Boost Drug Development." Fast Synthesis Could Boost Drug Development. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.

Peptides, or small protein fragments, are now capable of being drugs because peptides are designed for specific function. Scientists can manipulate the peptide to serve a different function as a drug. It is expected that peptide drugs become a wealthy franchise. The pending issue that manufacturing the peptide drugs takes several weeks is no longer an issue. MIT scientists and chemical engineers designed a way to manufacture the peptide drugs in only hours. The new machinery created only takes a few minutes to perform the chemical reactions needed to add one amino acid to a chain as apposed to an hour each. This is possible with the continuous flow system. The new system has storage vessels for each of the 20 amino acids, which are connected to pumps that pull out the correct amino acid. When the amino acids flow in the chamber, where the reaction takes place, they are heated to speed up the reaction. Researchers have patented the technology. It is believed that only ten machines would be enough to meet the current demand for the peptides; but how much does one machine cost?
            The rapid manufacturing has opened up the doors to many tests and discoveries that were not possible before. Major worldwide issues such as diseases like cancer could potentially benefit from the peptide drugs. The improvement in technology is paving the way for advancement in cancer research and research for other diseases. The peptide drugs could be the next stepping-stones to the cure for cancer.  The peptide drugs will also become a vigorous market and make a lot of money. The fact that the new process will allow for the current demand to be met will allow for an abundance of tests and medical experiments revolving around disease for the most part. The benefits that the peptide drugs could bring are endless. As I read I was constantly wondering what would happen if the peptide drugs actually were able to cure a major disease. Peptide drugs are no longer a dream they are a reality and our society could only benefit from the vast amount of purposes they serve.
            The article had much strength throughout. A major strength was the use of quotes from the actual scientists who created the new system and technology. This really gives the reader a sense of understanding to the mentality of the major breakthrough, rather than facts written down on a page. Another strength of the article was the author’s use of statistics to give the reader a perspective. For example “about 10 machines using the new technology would be enough to meet current demand, which is about 100,000 to 500,000 custom peptides a year”. When I read that statistic I immediately saw the big picture. This raised the question of what will all of these custom peptides go to, what research, and what disease? However, there were also some weaknesses about the article. The article ends with a quote of one of the scientists, who states that the aim is to be able to have next-day or two-day delivery of the peptide units. I wish that the author wrote more on what else the peptides could do, or at least their purpose more specifically as apposed to just talking about how quickly the custom peptides can now be made. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dangers of Anesthesia

Storrs, Carina. "The Hidden Dangers of Going Under." Scientific American Global. Scientific American, 18 Mar. 2014. Web. 20 Mar. 2014. <>.

     In hospitals across the world, people undergoing surgery use anesthesia to make surgery painless and relatively easy. Anesthesia has been in use since 1846, when ether was first used during surgery to make the procedure nearly painless. However, during the hundred and sixty eight year history anesthesia, few conclusive studies have been conducted regarding common reports of dementia, hallucinations, and amnesia that come up after surgery. Those who have investigated in the past have usually chalked up the incidents to the stress of surgery releasing underlying dementia or brain defects. However, a set of new studies conducted by Johns Hopkins, the University of Massachusetts, and a Hong Kong hospital, among others, suggest that in fact the anesthesia may be responsible for the issues, which are commonly known as postoperative delirium. Though the results are not able to show how anesthesia may cause delirium - a fact complicated by the fact that scientists do not even fully understand how general anesthesia works to induce unconsciousness - they do bring to light a troubling issue for those who are planning on undergoing surgery or have in the past. Typically the side effects show up while patients are undergoing surgery with general anesthesia, which is designed to put a patient into an unconscious state, however regional anesthesia, which is designed to numb pain coming from a specific part of the body, can also cause the same effects when it reduces electrical activity in the brain enough to qualify as general anesthesia. This drop in brain activity in those undergoing surgery with regional anesthesia happened in eighty seven percent of cases during another study. A doctor at Johns Hopkins, Frederick Sieber, suspects that these results may have been caused by an overdose of regional anesthesia. Additionally, age appears to be a factor. The article states that approximately fifty percent of those sixty or older felt the side effects of anesthesia, including severe disorientation and postoperative delirium, and that patients who developed delirium took far longer - up to a full year - to regain their mental abilities in memory and attention tests after undergoing surgery. Researchers believe that proteins that anesthetic drugs target are less common on the surface of neurons of patients over sixty.

     These findings raise serious questions about the safety of using anesthesia and about how hospitals can proceed to minimize the incidence of these newfound side effects. Already doctors at Johns Hopkins are beginning to talk to elderly and other at-risk patients while the patients are undergoing surgery using regional anesthesia, which works to numb a specific part or parts of a patient's body. Other hospitals are also ensuring that patients are well hydrated and nourished and avoiding activities or medications that could alter brain activity. That hospitals are already changing policies to account for this new research shows how important this new research is. These new side effects may even prompt further research into how exactly general anesthesia works, perhaps allowing scientists to create better anesthesias without these potentially dangerous side effects.

     The article was able to effectively introduce me to the history of anesthesia, postoperative delirium, and hospitals' preliminary responses to the data. It also backed up its claims with several separate new studies that have come to similar conclusions regarding anesthesia's effects on patients. However, I feel that the article could have more effectively proven its point with more quotes from experts. The article included only two quotes from experts in anesthesiology, and both were relatively vague. Additionally, the article only mentioned studies conducted on the elderly. Though the study stated that the effects surfaced primarily in those over sixty, they did not quote any studies involving patients under sixty to back up their claims. Overall, the article was interesting and got me interested in new research and the problems that anesthesia causes.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The tortoises that helped Darwin's theory are not extinct?

Paul K. Philips                                                                                                                3/18/2014

Biology                                                                                                                           Current Event

         Tortoises are fascinating creatures and on the Galapagos Island there is a species of tortoise that was thought to be extinct since the 1840s. The article I read taught me a lot about these tortoises and how important they are. The article talks about how researchers traveled to the island and tested the DNA of 1,600 tortoises. The result of these tests showed that there are direct offspring of a tortoise species that used to live on Floreana Island. This species was supposed to be extinct in the 1840s. The Galapagos tortoises are actually famous because Darwin's theory of evolution explained how the species evolved to survive in its home land. On the Floreana Island he studied the Chelonoidis Elephantopus. The article also talked about how researchers found DNA evidence of these tortoises as purebred among the other tortoises on the Isabela Island. The researchers even called them aliens because they were so divergent genetically, or mutated. Their tests showed that these tortoises came from Floreana Island. This article then goes on to how they flipped the tortoises and took their blood, from the equivalent to an elbow.

         This discovery shows that these types of tortoises are not extinct and that they descendants are still roaming the world today. These tortoises are very important to the islands' ecosystems. They also sprout an endangered prickly pear cactus on their backs. It is also very fascinating because of the possibility of these tortoises being the direct descendants of the exact same tortoises Darwin studied.

        I enjoyed this article very much, and what caught my eye about it was the relevance to Darwin. I believe it has a good idea and topic, but it would have been better with more evidence and facts. I also think that it integrated the quotes they had very well and the quotes were helpful with understanding the article. The author also should have tied in more significance about the topic because of how the author made the article it sounded like it was not very important to society, but only to the researchers and scientists who are specifically interested in the topic already. I did not like how the article catered to scientists instead of the general public. I did not like how the article was organized, for example the title, "Giant Galapagos tortoise species may not be extinct" is not very interesting for such an interesting topic.

Citation: Weise, Elizabeth. "Giant Galapagos Tortoise Species May Not Be Extinct." USA TODAY. USA TODAY, 9 Jan. 2012. Web. <>.


Studies question fatty acids' heart benefits

Goldschmidt, Debra, and Elizabeth Landau. "Studies Question Fatty Acids' Heart Benefits."The Chart RSS., 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014. <>.

This article by Debra Goldschmidt and Elizabeth Landau, states that for a very long time health organizations such as American Heart Association have recommended polyunsaturated fatty acids, claiming that they helped reduce heart disease risk and have many heart benefits. However, new research reveals doubt on whether polyunsaturated fatty acids have any health benefits at all. The research directs toward omega-3s and omega-6s in specific.

The article then moves on to list fish and other products that are high in polyunsaturated fats, these included salmon, trout, herring, nuts, seeds, and specific vegetable oils. "The American Heart Association recommends that most fats you eat

The authors Debra Goldschmidt and Elizabeth Landau, then go on to give two studies, the first study was the meta-analysis published in Annals of Internal Medicine. This experiment included, "32 observational studies looking at fatty acids from dietary intake, 17 observational studies of fatty acid biomarkers, and 27 randomized, controlled trials examining fatty acid supplementation." This first experiment showed the omega-3&6 polyunsaturated fatty acids did not reduce the risk of heart disease.The same goes for monounsaturated fatty acid consumption. The second study by the JAMA Internal Medicine stated that supplementing long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids did not reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, this study was based off of analyzed data from 4,203 elderly people with macular degeneration because of age.

The article helped me takeaway that there are still a few uncertainty's about omega-3 supplements right now. Advice such as "regular dietary consumption of fish should be preferentially encouraged as a source of these fatty acids " instead of supplements. The article also quotes the American Heart Association spokeswoman who states guidelines that have no reason to change such as "avoid trans fats, reduce saturated fat, increase intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains".

I really like how Debra and Elizabeth were able to include the opinions of others in their article. They state that the senior vice president for scientific and regulatory affairs at the council for responsible nutrition, Duffy MacKay stated, in a few words that this viewpoint is interesting and potentially irresponsible. The authors wanted to show their readers that although this research maybe vaild or not it should not be taken to heart either way. By leaving Duffy's quote ""Unfortunately, their conclusions, if taken to heart, leave consumers to rely on genetics and fate to avoid coronary heart disease – an unacceptable situation given the fact that the scientific literature contains so many studies that point to benefit for omega-3 fatty acids," it keeps hope with the reader. However, I do not like the repetitive summary's given in the article. It felt like everything was repeated 2-3 in order to get the point across. Overall it was a great article, it attempted at giving the reader the acknowledgement of the uncertaintys polyunsaturated fatty acids.

3-Parent Embryos to stop illnesses in the Mitochondria

Smith, Matt. "FDA considering 3-parent Embryos." CNN. Cable News Network, 27 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
One in six thousand five-hundred babies are born with mitochondria related diseases, but there may be a cure. This article explains how using three people’s DNA instead of the normal two could save disease from being passed on. Through a vitro fertilization technique parents will be able to keep their kids from having major illnesses such as muscular dystrophy and respiratory problems. This process, however, will only cure mitochondria related illnesses but it is a step in the future.  This involves three embryos from three different people and if done will not pass on disease of the powerhouse of the cells or the mitochondria.  Although most researchers for this believe that this is a way for families to have healthy children, there is strong opposition from other scientists who feel that this will excel to the point where parents will want their children to become stronger, taller, and faster.  They believe that people will just try to make “super-babies” and that this is not too far off from stem cell research. For now if allowed to be in use it will only be used to cure genetic diseases in the mitochondria but scientists still fear a turn for the worst. Although the meaning of this research is in good heart, what it could become is parents trying to configure the perfect baby.

            This article really affects the human race and what we stand for, not only in a positive way, but a negative way as well. This study can really help babies and stop genetic diseases in the mitochondria from spreading, this of course would be great, but it could also lead to other more devious measures. Right now the current purpose of this research is to stop mitochondria illnesses. This would be great because not only would it reduce the amount of babies born with these diseases by a large percentage but it will save lives and keep innocent people from suffering.  If this were to work it would be a breakthrough in scientific discovery and be a great achievement. However there are two sides to that coin, for many believe that this is will become a way to make the perfect child. This will shift humanity into a place it has not been before for people may literally make their own custom baby. I for one think it is unethical and know that it will only be available to the elite of the world. This breakthrough in scientific discovery is very controversial and could be used unethically but then again it could be used for good and save many people from death and suffering.

            This article was overall a very good read and I highly recommend reading it. It was well written and it dumbed things down to the point that any person who knows basic biology could understand it but also it gets into the details to further explain it. I was shocked to hear that not only could something like this be done but it could be used for bad purposes as well. The only point I felt could’ve been touched up on is the fact that this is not a cure for most diseases although the article makes it sound like this in a way. Once again I loved this article and it was the perfect length to not get too boring but give enough information to understand what is going on.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Playing Tetris Reduces Cravings

Alex Londal
Bio Current event

"Playing Tetris Reduces Food and Nicotine Cravings, Study Shows." Fox News. FOX News Network, 17 Mar. 2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2014. <>.

            Who would think that a video game could cut cravings?  Well, according to this article, Tetris can.  A study by an independent group revealed that playing the blocky game reduced the desire for food, caffeine, and nicotine.  Researchers took 119 college students and told them to write down their cravings, classifying what they are and how strongly they are wanted.  The researchers took about half the students, selected at random, and told them to play Tetris.  The other half was also instructed to play, but they got a loading screen and an error message that did not let them play.  Afterwards, the students were once again told to write down their cravings.  The people who played Tetris found that their cravings were significantly lowered, while the people who did not play found that theirs had lowered, but by a much smaller margin. 

Everyone has cravings, and there is nothing we can do about that.  However, instead of people giving into the temptation, this would definitely be a better option.  While they did not test how long these cravings went away for, they do know that they were reduced and kept people away for a while.  If everybody did this, obesity might fall and create a healthier society. 

This finding may be surprising, but there are many flaws in the article.  First, the students tested were mainly female, so the accuracy regarding men might be tainted.  Also, the article does not name the organization that conducted the test, so there is no way we can obtain the data.  In addition, a large part of the article was quotes from people that were not at all involved with the study, questioning the researchers credibility.  Had the writer gave the name of the organization and more direct links to the study, it would be much more credible.  One of the things the article did right, however, is include specifics about the test and how it was preformed.  This certainly upped its accuracy and validity.