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Biology

Genes to Cure Disease

These days we are seeing more and more things that often seem unreal to us. There is genetic technology, our own genes, which not only prevent us from developing certain diseases, but can also help cure us from these diseases. Our genes tell us and doctors a lot about who we are and what types of diseases we are susceptible to; however, it is the proteins in our bodies that make the largest difference. The article entitled “Blood Work” (2013) by Bill Saporito is an interesting article that explains how these proteins and genes work in order to give us all an idea of the diseases we could develop as well as how we can cure these diseases.

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Biology

Baseline Characteristics of European and Non-European

Summary

The article discusses the impact of Adult attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in Europe. In this article, the authors analyze the diagnosis of ADHD in adults, focusing on characteristics of this disease in Non-European  and Europeans adults. The primary focus is the baseline characteristics of European and non-European adult patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD), while participating in a placebo-controlled, randomized treatment study.  This study found that there is no significant difference between European or Non-European with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and they have similar characteristics and demographics. The study changes the perception about (ADHD), which most people are afraid of what they do not understand.  The study presented the common perception that a hyperactive child in the mall or a disruptive child in school is associated with ADHD. However, the study concluded ADHD is just as prevalent in adults.  The study indicated that in the European and Non-European adults spend most of the adulthood impaired because they have gone underdiagnosed in many European countries.  However, the primary contribution is the similarities in characteristics between the ADHD adults both European and Non-European. The article explained that European adults that are left untreated for ADHD often are perceived as troublemakers unable to cope with society or lazy. However, the article raised the awareness level that ADHD is a disease that impairs the individual’s neurological system. In many the European countries, professionals working in the adult mental health field may not know that ADHD frequently persists well into adulthood. The article discusses the impairments of ADHD adults that are misunderstood by the European public. The article indicated that adults with ADHD in Europe often go untreated for ADHD, causing the adult to experience lower educational and occupational achievements. The European adults will also have problems in their daily relationships with families and close friends.

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Biology

The Silent Scream of MicroRNA

Genetic disposition can affect conditions–

they can turn visions to reality,

and even turn the key

with regards to life, strife, or physical might

weight, height, colors in sight–

genetic disposition affects perception.

Genetic silencers take aim and fire,

but only on sequences that aren’t required.

If you are looking for an influence,

micro RNA makes the difference.

These micro RNA’s run the streets

leaving behind ribosome’s

as I am making this beat–

when it comes to gene regulation,

other strains of protein better just take a seat.

These back-channel messengers are super-efficient,

completely eliminating a need for rendition.

Genetic silencers take aim and fire,

but only on sequences that aren’t required.

If you are looking for an influence,

micro RNA makes the difference.

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Biology

Research proposal article: Therapeutic microRNA Delivery Suppresses Tumorigenesis in a Murine Liver Cancer Model

Unanswered questions in this research article pertain towards underscoring the protumorigenic effects of miRNA loss-of-function; why cells were expressed at approximately equivalent levels in normal liver and tumors; reasons why miR-34a was strongly upregulated in liver tumors; what influences antitumorigenic properties and potential therapeutic utility for liver cancer in vitro and in vivo (Kota et.al, 2009)

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Biology

Use of human embryonic stem cells to model pediatric gliomas with H3.3K27M histone mutation (pptx)

Pediatric glicoma

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Biology

Healthy Foods

Healthy foods help people stay fit and even lose weight. Mayo Clinic reports that healthy foods meet at least three of the following conditions: contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals; are high in phytonutrients and antioxidant compounds; reduce risk of heart disease and other health condition; are low in calorie density (Clinic). The best healthy foods are called superfoods because they do not only satisfy all of the above conditions but also help with cholesterol, cancer, and mood (WebMD). Superfoods include beans, blueberries, broccoli, oats, oranges, pumpkin, salmon, soy, spinach, tea (green or black), tomatoes, turkey, walnuts, and yogurt. One of the superfoods is Salmon which is a “lean sources of protein… chock-full of MUFAs… A 2001 study found that dieters eating a MUFA-rich diet lost an average of 9 pounds.” (Health). Salmon is beneficial for health because it replaces red meat which is relatively less healthy and also satisfies all of the four conditions mentioned by the Mayo Clinic.

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Biology

Intelligent Design

Introduction

Intelligent design is a theory which is in direct opposition to evolution, whereby all living things did not necessarily evolve, but were the product of an advanced design that enabled them to form almost perfectly (Miller). According to this theory, “the combination of nerves, sensory cells, muscles, and lens tissue in the eye could only have been “designed” from scratch” (Miller). In this context, intelligent design is a combination of elements which come together to form a perfect union in a living thing (Miller).

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Biology

Evolution

Introduction

Evolution is defined as gradual changes in living beings and species over a period of time and influences how living things grow, thrive, and adapt to different social and environmental circumstances (Berkeley). This process considers the gradual changes that have taken place on Earth since the beginning of time and the adaptations that have been made in all living things to accommodate these changes (Berkeley). Evolution serves as the primary theory behind human, plant, and animal development over thousands of years.

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Biology

Genetically Modified Crop Plants

INTRODUCTION

Although the majority of gene technology is currently focused on how the sequencing of human DNA is helping to cure human illness and disease, it is the science of genetically modified foods that is being used to reduce hunger worldwide as populations grow and food production struggles to keep up.  This paper will therefore discuss the technology, ethics and a personal view on the use of genetically modified food plants in enhancing the types of food most available to the poorest peoples, i.e. crop plants.

BIOLOGICAL BASIS

Genetically modifying foods is the use of techniques in molecular biology to obtain new or enhanced characteristics, such as pest and virus resistance (reducing the need for expensive insecticides that can also be harmful to the environment), drought resistance (helping to reduce the need to draw on dwindling water supplies), and increased yields. The underlying technique is essentially to transfer the gene which has the target characteristic from one organism and placing it in the genome of the plant you want to enhance.  Fig 1 provides an example of this in the production of genetically modified corn. (Chaudry, 2013)

Essentially, the DNA of the target gene is isolated using enzymes sensitive to the sequence (e.g. restriction endonucleases) to ‘cut’ the DNA at specific locations, adding a promoter and terminator to form an expression cassette that the corn gene is capable of receiving, inserting the cassette into a bacterial plasmid (parasitic ring of DNA), and after millions of replications are made, introducing them into the host cell’s genome.  The next stage is to expand the cells that have successfully incorporated the new gene in culture, which is then used to grow new plants.  (Chaudry, 2013)

SOCIAL AND ETHICAL ISSUES

The concept of genetic engineering has been challenged on both ethical and moral grounds.  Those against it feel that genetic programming of humans, animals, and crops /plants is an interference with the process of nature.  There are also moral issues associated with the fact that it is now possible to change our human composition, our environment, and even determine what future generations will look like.

However, in the case of the genetic modification of plant crops, as the world population increases and the land available to grow food remains static, there is an urgent need to meet increased demands on food production. One of the big ethical arguments in favour of genetically modified crops is that strains can be developed that can be grown in many different environments throughout the world.  These can be made resistant to such items as insects, variations in climate, disease and weeds.

Syngenta Zeneca is one company that has been producing and licensing the production of Golden Rice. In 2005 they were reported to have been granted 16 licenses primarily in the Asia Pacific regions.  Golden Rice contains a large amount of Vitamin A or beta carotene that is converted into Vitamin A. It is Beta Carotene that gives carrots their bright orange colour and similarly the yellow in Golden Rice. In order to achieve this requires the introduction of three new genes, two from daffodils and one bacterium.

Golden Rice is of great advantage to third world countries as they have only historically eaten rice lacking in nutrients and vitamins. The consequence of poor nutrition can result in blindness or death, particularly in South East Asia where there is a heavy reliance upon rice. This is demonstrated by the fact that around 150 million children from poor families in more than 100 countries around the world suffer from Vitamin A deficiency.  World Health Organization figures say that up to half a million of these children become victims of blindness each year, with 50% dying within one year of becoming blind.  In order to help solve these issues, the patent rights for Golden Rice have been waived to enable mass distribution.

Opponents to production of Golden Rice argue that this type of genetically modified crop is still not safe for human consumption.  One key concern has been the absence of sufficiently in-depth research and animal testing on the product.  Early tests indicated that the rice was over-engineered to such an extent that it produced an excess of beta carotene producing a toxic effect and a potential to cause birth defects.

The concerns raised in western societies over the effects of genetically modified products are compounded by the fact that only the USA and Canada do not have legislation in place requiring the labelling of genetically modified food. This gives an indication of the lobbying power of the biotech companies over federal policymaking.  It is also argued that there is in fact no world food shortage at all, but it is poverty that causes hunger as a result of the high price of the food already being grown.  (Harrison, 2007)

Opponents of genetically modified food state that we have moved too quickly into production cycles without fully understanding the ramifications or side effects genetically modified plants may produce. There is also the concern of the transference of problems to humans by the introduction of allergenic proteins.  (Herman, 2003)

PERSONAL VIEWPOINT

There is no good argument to support not growing genetically modified rice other than that of fear and exploitation by the companies producing it.  It is really a question of seeing the bigger picture here and providing healthier more reliable nutritional crops to the undernourished parts of the world. The developing world needs to move more towards genetically modified crops in order to produce improved yields and outputs.  Although there has been some scepticism in the western world, there is no reason not to implement this on a widespread basis in the developing world if it is to reduce the hunger problem.  Africa should be a specific target in this area so that more land in drought-stricken regions can be used for food production.

The counter argument is that there is sufficient food produced to feed current world populations and in fact hunger is caused more by poor distribution than lack of food.  To solve this issue, more emphasis should be placed on creating a better distribution of wealth through more jobs and/or better paying jobs.   People earning very low wages are not able to buy the available food.  Even those with some land do not have enough to grow an excess to their needs that they can sell.  Therefore the concept of ‘give someone a fish and you feed them for a day, teach them how to fish and you feed them for life’ is limited. Biotech corporations can help by producing more reliable food plants supplemented by encouraging land reform that enables farmers to own/lease more land for farming.  This would improve public opinion of biotech companies, by promoting better wealth redistribution, and allowing the farmers to grow more food to sell.

There are no magic bullets to solving world poverty and hundreds of new biotech products are now either in use or in development to help solve these tricky moral and social issues.  This indicates the contributions that biotechnology makes to society’s wellbeing.

In my opinion the risks involved in the creation, production and implementation of genetically modified crops are much lower than the effects of the severe world poverty situation. We need solutions now and genetically modified food crops will be vital to feed growing populations of the world.  The only alternative will be to run the risk of starvation and malnutrition in these countries with the resulting high rates of sickness and mortality.

References

Chaudry, A. (2013). Genetically modified foods. The Science creative quarterly, Issue 8, 7.

Harrison, B. (2007). Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food. Lincoln: iUniverse, Inc.

Herman, E. (2003, May). Genetic Modification Removes an Immunodominant Allergen from Soybean. Retrieved from Plant Physiology: http://www.plantphysiology.org/content/132/1/36.short

Categories
Biology

Should living organisms be used in teaching laboratories?

Animals have for a long time been used in the laboratory for research and teaching purposes. In the teaching laboratory, it is essential to have a model or specimen that can stimulate students actively and contribute positively to their development in the bioscientific world. It is important to have a living organism in any physiological study or experiment if such learners are to be well equipped in terms of information and experience.

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Biology

Summary of 3 articles

Biology

Introduction

RNA interference (RNAi) is a mechanism by which RNA molecules inhibit gene expression sometimes by destroying mRNA molecules. Co-suppression, post transcriptional gene silencing (PTGS), and quelling are some other names by which the process has been described before it was discovered.  Andrew Fire and Craig C. Mello in 2006 shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine due to their significant contributions to the discovery of RNAi. These significant contributions were published in 1998 (Bagasra & Prilliman, 2004).

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Biology

Evolution

The theory of evolution is a scientific theory of the origin of species of plants and animals, including humans. Charles Darwin began developing this theory during a boat voyage in 1838. In 1859, Darwin published On the Origin of Species, a book that explained natural selection and the theory of evolution in detail. On the Origin of Species was so successful people referred to the theory of evolution as Darwinian Evolution. (Sokal) There are five main ideas behind the theory of evolution. These are evidence of evolution, natural selection, genetic change and equilibrium, reproductive isolation and patterns of evolution. Together, these five concepts validate and illustrate the theory of evolution. To understand the theory of evolution, each concept can be researched and explained in detail.

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Biology Other

Biology Article

The article “Fetal Genome Screening Could Prove Tragic” (Scientific American, 2013) warns against the potential misuse of the incoming revolution of commercial genetic mapping. The main concern is that the public still doesn’t understand the limitations of genetic mapping in terms of predictability yet it will make serious life decisions on the basis of these inconclusive and sometimes faulty tests. The advancements in technology means that the new genome testing services will not only be far more comprehensive than the options currently available but will also be quite affordable. These tests may result in selective discrimination against unborn children, especially those with undesirable traits or high probability of inheriting a particular disability. In addition to discrimination, these tests may also strengthen social stigma against groups like Albinos whose condition is really not considered a disability.

The article stresses upon the need of developing a comprehensive policy on genome testing by stakeholders such as U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),  genome-testing companies, and American Society of Human Genetics. The recommendations include genetics counselor providing filtered set of information to parents, giving more weight to life-threatening disease risks, and safeguarding the child’s right to not to be informed about later-in-life disease risk until adulthood. The article claims there is still an inadequate supply of health professionals who could serve as reliable genomics counselors.

This article addresses the DNA and gene concepts studied in the course. This article confirms the idea that understanding genetic makeup can tell us a lot about the traits and diseases an individual may inherit. This article also helps us understand that our genes are like instruction manuals that guide the development and functionality of our biological setup. But the article does indicate that while we have been able to decode our genetic makeup, we still have a relatively poor understanding of how different genes interact with each other to result in a particular trait or cause a particular disease risk. Thus, while we can make some predictions, we should still take a cautious approach when basing decisions on these predictions.

The article caught my attention because it demonstrates the reality that scientific progress often comes with ethical implications. I personally know people who have faced social stigma either due to disability or unique traits and I also know how disability could result in serious mental anguish as well as financial burden on the family. I could relate with the predictions in the article that genome testing may result in discrimination against fetuses who may be deemed to have a higher risk of inheriting a disability or an undesirable trait. I believe that the public still doesn’t understand the limitations of genome testing and is unaware of the fact that genes interact with each other in complicated ways which we still don’t understand quite well yet they would be basing some of the most difficult decisions in life on their unreliable tests.

I do believe the government should fund the research on genetics because it will also have several other benefits one of which may be the development of more effective drugs that could be targeted at particular genes. While we still don’t understand quite well how genes interact with each other to produce particular traits or result in particular disease risks, the only solution is more progress in genomics and government assistance could go a long way in making a significant progress in the near future.

Reference

Scientific American. (2013, February). Fetal Genome Screening Could Prove Tragic. Scientific American.

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Biology

Does the amount of vitamin C contained in oranges vary among countries?

Introduction

            Vitamin C is an important nutritional element.  The development of different elements that contribute to the production of sources for this particular vitamin is deemed important especially when it comes to improving the function of immune system, development of healthy gums and proper improvement aspects for better and healthier skin. Also known as ‘ascorbic acid’ vitamin C is a known cofactor of eight other different enzymes that particularly synthesize specific reactions that could also cause irregularities such as scurvy. One of the richest sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits such as oranges.

In this particular experimental study, the specific source of vitamin C [oranges] shall be better identified and tested for their citrus content. Relatively, it is believed that the more juice there is in the fruit, the higher the rate of vitamin C that could be collected from the said fruit. To set measurement through comparison, several types of oranges have been collected depending on the region from where they have been produced from. At this point, the measurement results would not only yield an obvious truth about the volume of liquid collected defining the capacity of the fruit for juice extraction,  but also allows for the identification of the different environmental factors  that contribute to the  production of highly citrus oranges.