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

Friday, March 27, 2015

Ebola Virus in Latest Outbreak Does Not Show Unusual Mutations, Study Finds

Maggie McKelvy                                                                                March 27, 2015
Core Biology C Odd                                                                           Mrs. McClellan

Belluck, Pam. "Ebola Virus in Latest Outbreak Does Not Show Unusual Mutations, Study Finds." The New York Times. The New York Times, 26 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.

The article “Ebola Virus in Latest Outbreak Does Not Show Unusual Mutations” by Pam Belluck discusses and refutes the argument that the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak was more “lethal, fast-moving, and transmissible” than previous ones. Belluck explains that these claims appear to lack proper scientific evidence. A study published in the journal Science on Thursday includes data from a genetic analysis of the Ebola virus from the current outbreak that suggests that the virus is mutating similarly to the virus in smaller outbreaks. Although more studies will be needed to support these claims, the news that this virus retained the typical mutation rate is great for those trying to combat the disease. The study analyzed the change in the virus over time, starting with cases in Mali in October and November 2014 and working backwards to cases in Guinea in March and Sierra Leone in June. The scientists found that the virus did not mutate faster than the virus from other outbreaks, as previously thought. Instead, researchers are blaming the turmoil, lack of proper health care, and poverty of the areas ravaged by the disease as the main cause for the alarming rates of infection. As of now, the virus has infected 24,000 people and has killed approximately 10,000.
The results of this study, if supported by further research, have major implications for the development of treatment and a vaccine for Ebola. If this particular virus had a significantly faster mutation range than typical, it would be hard for scientists to develop a treatment and vaccine that would be effective for long, because the virus would keep mutating. However, since the current virus appears to be mutating at average rates, scientists are still on course for finding a treatment for this horrific disease. Furthermore, because the disease appears to not be able to mutate at a higher than average rate, the chances that the virus will become transmittable by air are severely decreased. Obviously, this type of “doomsday situation” would have devastating consequences for the entire world, and if this were the case, we may see results similar to the horror caused by the bubonic plague. 
This article did a good job of explaining the study recently published and the implications this new data has on vaccine and treatment development. It also did a good job of giving a counterexample with previous data in order to refute it. It would have been helpful to have information about previous studies that concluded that the disease was, in fact, mutating at a high rate to compare the data from the different studies and make an educated guess about what the disease might do in the future. It also would have been beneficial to have data and information about previous Ebola outbreaks to see how the current one compares. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Liam Siegal Current Event

Liam Siegal           3/26/15
C Odd
A young star  known as Beta Pictoris is around 20 million years old and estimated to live for billions of years. It is surrounded by plane filled with debris where planets form. It is around 63 light years from Earth and has a potential to have a new planetary system form around it. What catches the eyes of the astronomers how close this planetary system is because it becomes an easier area pinpoint and further study the formation of planets since we can receive in depth details. Currently it has one planet called Beta Pictoris b, which has an orbit that is 25% bigger than saturn’s orbit.  Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile set new light on the mysterious carbon monoxide gas. All of the primordial gas should be sucked into the star or later become an orbiting gas giant after 10 million years meaning it shouldn't interfere much with the study of the monoxide gas since this telescope can detect the gas emissions. What was stunning for the researchers was that the gas was between 50-160 AUs from the sun and surrounded the planet still exist because it should have been broken up within a century or two by ultraviolet light. The gas weighs only a third of the moon’s mass, or a sixth of all the water on Earth and has a large clump around 85 AUs from the sun. But it only gets better, the gas seems to be relatively new within the last 600 years making astronomers think this gas being replenished or was recently released. This is believed to have occurred by comets colliding since they carry gas in them or smaller particles colliding into gasses. As for the huge collection of gas at 85 AU, they believe that there may have been a massive collision to cause that much gas or a planet that’s causing comets near it to collide. To maintain the gas in the sun’s orbit, its estimated that one comet must collide every five minutes, or have two mars sized comets collide with each other.

This article is important to astronomers since we can observe the formation of planets. Even though its a very slow process, every event we can capture helps to explain how the debris formed into planets and to answer questions how did water and life form on the planets that are similar to earth. Astronomers are also exploring for new planets that can be suitable for life and want to learn of new sorts of life forms. At this point we do know that this gas is a side product of the collisions and we can assume it occurred in our solar system as well, but we are also now asking how did this impact the solar system.  This study is really important because it shows how chaotic the formation of a planetary system is and shines new light on how our solar system came to being.

The article is strong in describing what they are studying which is the gas and tracking its patterns. They have been able to formulate 2 strong and well supported theories of why the gas still exist. As much as you get the idea of what they are doing I still asked what exactly would this research be used for in the future or is it being used to support a theory in the past. That something I want to know, whats its relevance it plays to modern society today and why is it important to learn about. I would also have liked to know how this played a part in effecting the planetary system or what they hope to find out.

Hall, Shannon. "A Chaotic Planet-Forming Disk." Sky & Telescope. N.p., 6 Mar. 2014. Web. 26 Mar. 2015. <>.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Kevin HEndrick Current Event

Kevin Hendrick         3/22/15
Biology     Mrs. McClellan

Kim, Jim Yong. "The Path to Zero Ebola Cases." The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Dec. 2014. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. “The Path to Zero Ebola Cases”
By Jim Yong Kim

I read the article, “The Path to Zero Ebola Cases”, by Jim Yong Kim, which describes the steps required to fully extinguish the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa. First, the author writes that resources need to keep being sent to Western Africa to aid the patients. Kim states, “For Senegal, the cost to treat one patient and all of his contacts was more than $1 million . For Nigeria, one infected person led to 19 other cases, and more than 19,000 contacts traced by over 800 health care workers at a cost of more than $13 million.” It will cost a lot of money, but to quell the spread of Ebola it is worth the money to the millions of innocent lives. The second and third steps are about the people tracking down the virus, and the scientists analyzing the data to see if Ebola is further spreading. The fourth step is that national agencies must adapt to the conditions of local towns, and if this is done right than the number of patients and their contacts will drop greatly. Finally, the fifth step is that not only regional groups need to keep fighting the virus, but international powers such as the United States and the United Kingdom need to keep sending resources to fight Ebola. If all these steps are taken, then one of the most fearsome epidemics in the Modern Age will be removed, and the scare of Ebola will end.
Although there has not been a case of Ebola in the United States, this affects me because Ebola has been spreading for almost a year now, and I believe that that is way too long for these innocent lives to be put at fatal risk. I chose this topic because I wanted to know how close we were to stopping the spread of Ebola. Obviously, this would have a momentous impact on the rest of the world, primarily Western Africa. If Ebola was extinguished, than that already devastated region could move on from this time of loss and tragedy.
Jim Yong Kim wrote an impressive article on what is still such a pressing topic in our world. I liked that he elaborated on each of the five “steps” which could help to stop Ebola, and also the statistics he gave on the disease. For example, he wrote, “More than 11 months into the crisis, thousands of people are dead and more than 17,000 have been infected.” I thought Jim could have given a background on Ebola and its effects, and also he did really expand on the specific resources necessary to stop the spread. Overall, Jim Yong Kim wrote a great article on an important topic that is affecting the lives of millions, and is in the sorrowful minds of billions.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ebola Statistics not as Deadly as Predicted?

*Notice: Before reading my current event article, I want to apologize first that this wasn't added to the blog till now. I was told after I uploaded this the first time that the current event didn't add to the blog and had I uploaded it again later. However, I only found out today that it still is not there. Recently, I've noticed that everything I've been uploading from my computer has not been working properly because of unknown reasons. This means that I must go back through every assignment to make sure that it has been successfully uploaded. I am sorry for this inconvenience and I will make sure that my computer is fixed as soon as possible.

Will Cioffi
Current Event Report

Fecht, Sarah. "Why The Ebola Epidemic Is (So Far) Less Devastating Than Scientists
 Predicted." Popular Science., 22 Jan. 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

Ebola Statistics not as Deadly as Predicted?

Ebola. One of today’s worst fears. Ebola is a plague that infects a human and causes them to have symptoms of dehydration, diarrhea, and frequent bleeding to name a few. While there are more symptoms that I haven’t listed, these are the most noticeable and can be very deadly. As one might suspect from these three symptoms, the Ebola virus mainly targets a person’s body fluids, or in other words how much water is in that person. There is no cure, however there is a simple solution; one must intake as much water as one expels from the body through the excretory system, digestive system, and frequent bleeding. Despite the disaster of the Ebola plague, scientists estimated that it could have been much worse. In a popular science article that I read, editor Sarah Fecht provides other articles and evidence from both the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) suggesting that the scientists’ “doomsday prophecies” could have actually been true, if not worse. She provides three major factors to consider that could have made the situation much worse: supportive programs giving aid, unreported cases, and human tradition. In order for a plague to be eradicated, programs must give aid for the research and treatment, cases must be reported in order to stop further spread without the subject knowing it, and human traditions, such as kissing the dead during burial, must be suspended. According to the article, all these categories were overlooked and were overestimated. Models that represented a possible 20,000 dead by last November would be nothing compared to the real deal of 13,000 killed.

I, of course, do not need to explain in great detail that these numbers are significant; however, they should not be looked at as improvement but rather as a near-miss. The ideas explained in the article are important to understand because they could very well save us in the future. For example, human burial traditions have been going on for centuries. One simple plague, though, could infect an entire village (or city) because of a person, with inexperience or prior knowledge of an infection, performing a ceremonial act at a funeral. Imagine how much safer the village (or city) would be if these life saving lessons were to be taught and learned. It would make the war against Ebola more efficient.

At the end of the day, though, it is the lessons that count the most in order to spread awareness of the deadly disease. Take for instance this article. This article successfully made me realize the severity of this crisis. Through it’s organization of facts, specific statistics of major factors, and easy to understand summaries, Sarah Fecht has done a good job to spread important information that will maybe someday save lives. Overall, the article was an excellent read and would be suitable for teens and adults to read to learn about the Ebola outbreak.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Study Reveals Genetic Path of Modern Britons

Grace Leemputte                                                                                                       03/21/15
Current Event                                                                                                             Biology

Wade, Nicholas. "Study Reveals Genetic Path of Modern Britons." The New York Times. The                               
     New York Times, 18 Mar. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.

The article “Study Reveals Genetic Path of Modern Britons.” discusses how there are only 17 genetic clusters in Britain. Scientists in Britain are now analyzing the DNA of people from Britain to see where they came from. There are some clusters from Orkney Islands, Wales, and 17 other regions. This happened when Romano-British people reproduced with Saxons. More people came to Britain from different areas in Europe which caused these genetic clusters to happen in certain areas. Dr. Donnelly who is one of the main scientists looking at this experiment said “ The study was groundbreaking because it is really the first time that scientists looked in great detail within a country at the pattern of genetic variation.” They studied 2,000 people and then organized them into genetic groups.

This article is an important connection to society because it is a brand new study. If we conduct an experiment like this in the United States we would be able to see all the places people are from and if we have clusters like they do in Britain. This may even be able to help us in medicine because sometimes people are more susceptible to diseases or illnesses depending on their genes. If we can find which groups of people are more susceptible to disease we could find a specialized cure for those people.

This article was very interesting but could sometimes be hard to understand. It seemed like it was skipping around a little bit. It would talk about one thing and then go to another and then come back to the first thing. Overall, I found this article to be very interesting and informative.

Slowdown Of Brain's Waste Removal System Could Drive Alzheimer's

Maryasa Krivitskaya 3/20/15

Hawkes, Cheryl. "Slowdown Of Brain's Waste Removal System Could Drive Alzheimer's."    
IFLScience. N.p., 20 Mar. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.

Alzheimer’s has been classified as a disease for more than a century. Since then, scientists have tried to find a cure for this disease, but unfortunately they have only been able to delay some of its effects, such as memory loss. This article discusses some of the possible reasons why finding a cure for the Alzheimer’s disease is so difficult. The brain is surrounded by a blood- brain barrier which is in charge of what goes in and out of the brain. When the brain is younger, the blood-brain barrier is tighter and therefore works better. As the brain gets older, the brain barrier works slower and the  β-amyloid, which is quickly removed from from a young brain, can sometimes build up as the brain ages. The collection of  the  β-amyloid in the brain is one of the causes of Alzheimers. Drugs, which can help cure some diseases can’t help to cure Alzheimers. This is because the blood-brain barrier is tight enough not to keep out the drugs from entering the brain. One way this problem can be resolved is by attaching the dug to a substance which the brain accepts, like glucose. As well identifying this disease at an early stage may help as well. New advances in technology, such as an MRI help identify the disease in and allow the patient to go into treatment as early as possible.
The search for a  cure for Alzheimer’s is extremely important for the human race. Alzheimers is the kind of disease which not only provides physical damage to its victim, but also emocional. Imagine not being able to remember any events of your life or not being able to recognise your own children. Many families suffer emotionally when a family member is diagnosed with Alzheimers. Finding a cure for this disease will decrease the amount of deaths and as well it might help find answers to other existing diseases.

This article clearly explains how Alzheimer's disease is caused and can be easily understood. The article also provides a diagram which shows the parts of a capillary. At the same time it would be more helpful if the article gave some numbers such as the percentage of people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease; as well the age which they are diagnosed with the disease. This would help strengthen the point that Alzheimer's disease is more likely found in older people.

Friday, March 20, 2015

"Unsung" Scientist Hero: Alfred Wallace

Ben Grieco
Biology 3rd Quarter Current Event

“Unsung” Scientist Hero: Alfred Wallace

Alfred Wallace made huge advancements in the field of biology, yet he isn’t nearly as famous as other scientists in the world, as he hasn’t received close to the amount of attention and credit he deserves for his achievements in science. Wallace was a British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, and biologist who was best known for the co-discovery of natural selection and pioneering work on biogeography.
Alfred Wallace was born in Wales in 1923. When he was young, his parents had financial troubles, so they struggled to pay for his education. As a result, he was taken out of school at only 14 years old. After being withdrawn from the school, Wallace became an apprentice surveyor to his older brother, William. But, as his older brother’s business declined due to economic troubles, Wallace left that job. After being unemployed for a brief amount of time, Wallace was hired to work at a collegiate school in Leicester as a professor. At the college, Wallace taught drawing, mapmaking, and surveying. Following his job at the college, Wallace, with his younger brother John, started an architecture and civil engineering firm.
Wallace’s most important work was initiated when he began his real career as a traveling naturalist. When he started traveling, Wallace had already believed in the transmutation of species, which is the term to describe the idea for the altering of one species into another. The transmutation of species was advocated by many scientists, but since it was considered a radical idea, it was also criticized by many more experts. This idea was important because it preceded Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection. In his travels, Wallace came to the conclusion that every species has come into existence coincident both in space and time with a close allied species. Later in his life, Wallace wrote the book Darwinism, which explained natural selection, and defended his and Charles Darwin’s ideas.
Also, Wallace contributed to the science fields of biogeography and ecology, and put in plenty of effort to help cure many environmental problems, such as deforestation, soil erosion, and invasive species.
Unfortunately, Wallace died in 1913, at 90 years old. He was one of many under appreciated scientists who never received the proper recognition for their work.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Biology Current Event
Christina Brumbaugh

Zimmer, Carl. "Studying Oversize Brain Cells for Links to Exceptional Memory." The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

A study involving eighty-year olds sparked new research concepts for the anatomy of the brain. Known as “SuperAgers,” these senior citizens received amazing results on memory tests given to them by a Northwestern graduate, Dr. Gefen. Their scores were equivalent to those of the average fifty year old’s, if not better. With their consent to donate their brains to medical research post-mortem, Dr. Gefen has had the opportunity to observe the inner workings of their brains “in life and death.” An abundance of von Economo neurons and a thick band of neurons in the anterior cingulate cortex were present according to a high-resolution CAT scan. The SuperAgers had five times as many of them as the average individual. Researchers have been trying to identify the purpose of these spindle-shaped “oversized brain cells.” John M. Allman of CalTech, for example, believes that they provide “long distance transmission of nerve impulses,” which aid the functioning of the frontal lobe. There is uncertainty as to how the von Economo neurons form to begin with, but scientists are developing numerous tests today to learn more. New knowledge could provide life-changing cures to some of today’s most common brain diseases.
Statistics from the article show how a lack of von Economo neurons are detrimental to the functioning of the human brain. Because alcoholics have sixty percent fewer neurons than the average person, their memories may perform poorly earlier in life. Learning more about these oversized brain cells may not only confirm their purpose but also help to treat or maybe cure brain deterioration. The more information gathered, the more of a chance there is to prolong the lives and to stop the destruction of these apparently beneficial cells. To speed up the process of discovering more about their role and how they form would only facilitate this process. As embryonic stem cells are capable of forming any type of cell in the human body, a possible solution could be using these versatile cells to form more von Economo neurons to bring back declining memories.
Throughout the article, the author used much scientific vocabulary to explain the research he presented. His choice of facts were well-used, serving to inform the reader of necessary evidence to better their comprehension. However, to open this article to a wider audience, these terms could have been better defined or eliminated. The author was successful in keeping the reader’s interest by consistently making connections to the bigger picture, such as talking about a possible cure for Alzheimer’s disease. He also was able to gather statistics from prestigious figures to heighten the significance of his claims.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Rosalind Franklin

Sarah Wagner                                                                                                                       3/4/15

Rosalind Franklin
        Rosalind Franklin. (2015). The website. Retrieved 05:56, Mar 02, 2015, from

There are many famous names in science. Mendel, Newton, Curie and Einstein, are all names that easily recognized by most people. However, there are many other names, much less well known, that have made great contributions to the world of science but received little fanfare for doing so. Rosalind Franklin is one of these scientists.
            Franklin was born in England on July 25, 1920. She attended St Paul's Girls' School and she did exceedingly well in both academics and athletics. She graduated at age 18 and went on to study at the Natural Sciences Tripos at Newnham College in Cambridge. After graduating in 1941, Franklin earned a research fellowship and she joined the University of Cambridge physical chemistry laboratory under Ronald George Wreyford Norrish. She earned her PhD in 1945 and eventually went on to become a researcher at King’s College in London in 1951. It was at King’s College that her most notable work began.
             During her time at King’s College, Franklin discovered that she could use X-rays to create the diffracted images of DNA This technique led to the discovery of the DNA double helix. Most people believe that James Watson and Francis Crick are solely responsible for the discovery of the double helix, however this is simply untrue. Watson himself admitted that without Rosalind Franklin’s research and data, it would have been nearly impossible to confirm the structure of DNA. Unpublished drafts of her papers (written are proof that she had independently determined the overall B-form of the DNA helix and the location of the phosphate groups on the outside of the structure. It was a report of Franklin's that convinced Crick and Watson that the backbones of the structure had to be on the outside.
            Sadly, Franklin was diagnosed with cancer in 1956. Yet instead of feeling sad or sorry for herself, Franklin pushed ahead and continued working as best she could. She continued her research at King’s College, but eventually lost her battle with cancer in April of 1958. Franklin was never recognized for her work while she was alive. Mainly for the simple fact that she was a female. At the time, females were not considered equal to their male counterparts in the scientific world. Even after the structure of DNA was proven and Watson and Crick were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work in 1962, Franklin received no formal recognition for her work, not even posthumously.
            Without a doubt, for every well-known scientific hero, there is one who is far less well known, if at all. Rosalind Franklin is, sadly, one of these “unsung heroes” who was disenfranchised simply because she was a woman. Hopefully, one day, her name will take its rightful place among the giants of science.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Matthew Bato
Biology C Odd/Mrs. McClellan

Fink, Sheri. "Nearly Halted in Sierra Leone, Ebola Makes Comeback by Sea."The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 Feb. 2015. Web. 01 Mar. 2015. <>.

We have unfinished business with the Ebola crisis. Nearly Halted in Sierra Leone, Ebola Makes Comeback by Sea, is an article in the New York Times about a new Ebola outbreak that has landed in Sierra Leone. After the first outbreak of Ebola that made news headlines around the world, the Ebola virus has been simmering down rapidly. Now in Sierra Leone the president lifted travel restrictions, schools were to reopen, and news from local politicians say that no new infection reports have been made however Ebola has washed up on the shore of Sierra Leone. On early February two boats carrying three sick fisherman landed on the shore of Sierra Leone near some of the fanciest hotels housing public health workers. A two week trip was cut short because the captain was vomiting according to Mohamed Bangura, a crew member of one boat. About 60 to 80 new cases have been reported since the late of February. Nevertheless, according to Dr. Pierre Rollin, an infectious disease expert with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “I doubt it will stop just suddenly” but that doesn’t mean a cure is impossible. The Vice President of Sierra Leone has taken matters into his own hands after one of his security officers contracted and died from Ebola. He has placed himself under quarantine just to make sure he himself hasn’t been in contact with the disease. Now new reports of people such as other fishermen and boat cleaners have been in contact with Ebola but other seamen were delayed in reporting that they may be infected. Some dozen or more residence in the quarantine area have been trying to escape at night because they claim that they felt cooped up and the food did not always arrive. According to many doctors the fight for a cure is far from over but they will do everything in their power to create one.
The importance for this article is knowing what is happening around the world. Nevertheless the Ebola virus has taken a huge toll on the lives of many. People around the world need to understand the severity of the epidemic. We all need to realize if we do not find a solution fast for this this can become a worldwide problem. A lot of the people living in sierra Leone need to know  that when they run from the quarantine they are putting many people in harms way.

The article was well written by the author, she put information that was somewhat 

complicated but easy enough to understand. There really isn’t enough criticism to be 

said about this article. I believe that all the information that was written had enough 

evidence to supported it. This article is a very credible source because it was taken 

from the New York Times.