Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An Inspiring Blog Roll

It's been several months since my last blog post and a lot has happened since then. Creating blogs has (regretfully) been on the back burner, however, browsing blogs has not. Here are a few blogs I've been viewing this past month. ENJOY!

Tom Ruff -Lends useful tips on resume writing and choosing a career that is for YOU!

BioTechInsider-for those interested in entering the sales industry of science

Medical Sales Recruiter- Peggy McKee gives insightful information about the interview process, resume writing, and closing the job. She also has multiple YouTube clips that are very informative. Here's a useful tip to Behavioral Based Interviews by Peggy McKee.

BioJobBlog-search for science jobs

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

a little more hope for Africa's parasite problem

In honor of my buddy Keenan taking a trip to Africa this summer and the fact that basically my only biological thoughts this spring have been geared towards parasites, I thought it would be good to think about some of the obstacles that he would be facing as he headed towards Africa for some mission work.

When he gets there he will be faced with a myriad of potential parasitic threats. River Blindness, Sleeping Sickness, and most famously malaria will be lurking, just to name a few. On the malaria front, however, I am happy to report that soon there may be more options to deaden or even eliminate the threat of malaria for African residents and visitors like my friend.

In two papers I have recently read, microbiologists have been working on ways to protect against infection of Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly malarial strain, and the three other species of Plasmodium that infect humans. These experiments were fascinating to study. In one, genes necessary for the parasite to move out of the human liver stage were “knocked out,” effectively stopping the modified, weakened Plasmodium from continuing infection and hurting the mice hosts.

The Knockout step seems to be a promising way to attenuate parasites and bacteria in the future. During the process, crossovers are introduced along the parasitic (in this case) chromosome and the crossovers with successfully disrupted, or deleted, genes are selected for, positively and negatively, in a new growth medium. It seemed pretty involved, but at least in this experiment the ultimate product was a mutant that could not affect the host, but could possibly stay in the system long enough for antibodies to be produced against it. This would hopefully let a vaccinated person acquire immunity from the parasite.

Another option for control that I have read about is a widespread administration of antibiotics like this one. The idea is that Plasmodium populations will be knocked down, and with less numbers in the mosquito, the disease will be less severe and will affect less people. It does not seem like a long-term solution because of possible drug resistance, and it would be hard to administer the drug to a massive amount of people on such a disorganized continent.

Either way, it looks like it might be worth a try. Africa is stricken by parasites and it hinders the ability of the people living there to prosper and have the quality of life that people in “first world” countries have. Our modern science can help to alleviate some of the health problems that cause so many problems there, and it is too bad that the money incentive is not as high for drug makers to put the effort into researching drugs like the more advanced anti-malarial options I have been reading about. It is possible to reduce the threat, though, and we have a recent example. Jimmy Carter may not have been the best, most effective president, but his altruistic work since then has actually been worthwhile and this seems to be what he is now known for. A project of his, the Carter Center, has been working in Africa to eliminate the Guinea worm, and it actually seems like they will do it soon. This is good news, and combined with recent research on other parasites, there actually seems like there is hope that some of the health problems in the Third World will soon be reduced. That progress is being made may not affect my buddy, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be alright.

Publication Information (also embedded, needs pdf)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

AU Senior Seminar Video (2010)

Check out our video sprinkled with comedy and science knowledge (fabulous comments are appreciated)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Backseat Enemy: My Relationship with Motion Sickness

I'd like to consider myself a member of the "Strong-Stomach Club", but that's simply not the case. Instead, I can claim fame to numerous times I've had to tell someone to "pull over" because I couldn't handle the constant stop-go motion of a car ride. Yep, that's me. The one whose either car sick, air sick, train sick, sea sick, rollercoaster sick, or you-name-it sick. For those fortunate enough to not suffer from motion sickness (kinetosis), feel lucky because the symptoms of constant dizziness, cold sweats, headache, and nausea all typically lead to vomiting and grumpiness (in my case, that is).
I can recall the last major episode was during a five hour flight to Phoenix. I had braved air travel several times before, but this particular event was a disaster. Hitting turbulence immediately after our departure was not friendly on my Cheez-It filled stomach and the bag strategically placed infront of my seat contained all the proof.

But what exactly are the mechanics of this annoying sickness that I'm faced with every adventure I dare take? Actually, the vestibular system (or, the inner ear) plays an important role in deciphering the position of the body. The skeletal and muscular system along with our visual perception (all co-workers for the inner ear) are responsible for sending important informational signals back to the central nervous system to help coordinate our balance. The inner ear uses the mechanical force of gravity to determine our body position.
Motion sickness is triggered by contradictory signals to the CNS which results in the unpleasant symptoms previously mentioned. Basically, the body is being overloaded with perceptual signals when it is determining the proper spatial orientation of the body and is perceived as a miscommunication. This signal confusion may initiate vomiting in an act of self-defense against possible ingested neurotoxin.
The area within the brain responsible for inducing vomiting is called the area postrema located within the medullary structure. This region of the brain is responsible for controlling vomiting when poisons are present and is responsible for vision and balance communication. Obviously you can see how miscommunications between these signals would lead to motion sickness. When feeling motion, but not actually seeing it, the inner ear transmits a signal to the brain that motion is occurring. At the same time, the eyes are sending a signal to the brain that nothing is moving. This miscommunication allows the brain to perceive that one of these signals is hallucinating. The brain then determines that the hallucination may be poison induced and sends the body into instant defense mode. The symptoms set in and you immediately feel sick. Your body thinks it's under attack.

Luckily there are several tricks that (sometimes) work and being the veteran motion sickee that I am, believe me I've tried them all.

The first trick being that you always get to ride shotgun (you don't want to make a mess on your friend's car floor). Or better yet, be the driver because it's a lot harder to make yourself carsick than it is to be tousled around in the back seat smashed between your friends.

Get plenty of cool air whether that be putting the window down, cranking the AC up, or whatever it is you have to do to avoid roasting.

Try to stare at the horizon because focusing on objects off in the distance will help stabilize the dizziness. So looking down, reading, texting, organizing your cluttered purse should be the last thing on your mind if you're like me and are in a moving vehicle.

When traveling by air, do what ever possible to get a seat by the window and concentrate on distant objects instead of the plane jerking the passenger behind you into the back of your seat.

If these suggestions don't work, take some antiemetic meds like Meclizine before your travel. These tend to knock you out (especially after a glass of wine) so maybe take half the dose the first time.

Recent studies have suggested that continual exposure to motion sickness usually results in a decrease of symptom onset (3). This included adaptation training on simulation sickness and frankly these people are crazy. They analyzed the use of simulated rotary stimulation (SRS) on visually induced motion sickness. Also, the susceptibility of motion sickness may be genetically linked in a single nucleotide polymorphism of the alpha-2-adrenergic receptor. It was concluded that exposure to excessive rotation did decrease motion sickness symptoms, but whether it is an adaptation phenomenon is still in question. I have yet to agree with these findings and I hesitate to volunteer myself to physically induce such horrible symptoms (I'd rather take Dramamine as preventative measures than be keeled over the porcelain throne from sheer curiosity).

1. Terrie, Yvette C. "Motion Sickness: Calming the Waves of Upset." Pharmacy Times 74.5 (2008): 63-72

2. "Head maneuvers work best for common vertigo." Harvard Women's Health Watch 15.12 (2008): 4-5.

3. DOI: 10.1080/10508410802346921

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Yoga Pants and a Teslar Watch...Get 'Um!

I am not a person who would use my hard earned money to attend a yoga class. Partially because I would have to wear a skin-tight tank top and painted on “workout” pants and partially because I would rather run 3 miles outside than do a “downward-facing dog” and a “warrior pose.” I feel the same way about tai chi. When I was about 8, we had crazy relatives over for a Christmas dinner. I was minding my own business, playing with my Pocahontas Barbie doll, and the next thing I know, I was looking at my second-cousin-twice-removed-on-my-mother’s-side doing Tai Chi in the snow with no shoes. Besides the fact that he was a total whack job, the moves he was doing (“parting the wild horses main” and “repulse monkey”) completely closed my mind to any form of exercise which involved an animal’s name.

Of course, scientist can now shove some statistics and studies in my face and confirm that exercises like yoga and tai chi are not only physically healthy for the body but also for the balance of energy in the body. Yes, we now have a way to measure and visually see energy. However, it is only when this energy gets out of balance that we start to have physical problems. It’s called energy medicine and, of course, I first heard of it on The Doctors. Energy medicine is the art and science of working with and teaching people to work with these energies to empower them to live happier, healthier lives. [1] While yoga and tai chi may be good preventatives for such energy imbalances, energy medicine is also good for the treatment of basically anything; from Alzheimer’s disease, to hypertension, to lock jaw.

Forms of energy medicine have been around for over 5,000 years but the Energy Enhancement System (EES) has not. The EESystem basically creates energy, in the form of scalar waves, to balance out or enhance cellular and systemic functions of the body. Every living organism has an energy field and when these fields are out of balance, sickness and disease may be the result. The EESystem was developed 15 years ago by Dr. Sandra Rose Michael who describes the EESystem by making the comparison of “recharging your cell phone” to “recharging your cells.”

I mentioned earlier that scalar waves are responsible for the “rebalancing” of the body’s functions. But what in the world are scalar waves? The only time I have hear the word “scalar” was when it was used in physics class and I still don’t remember what it means. That is where the internet comes in. The EESystem website states that,

A Scalar field is known as a fifth-dimensional non-linear field. Scalar fields exist out of relative time and space, thus they do not decay over time or distance from their source. They are unbounded and capable of passing through solid matter. The human body has crystalline structures in every cell wall that are capable of holding a charge. When the human body enters a Scalar field the electromagnetic field of the individual becomes excited. EESystem uses Scalar technology to return the body to a more original and appropriate electrical matrix.” [2]

Energy and Scalar Waves

Much to my surprise, there have been countless case studies that examine the physiological benefits of these scalar waves on the human body. One such study done by Dr. Glen Rein found that there was an increase in lymphocyte proliferation (e.g. the reproduction of more lymphocytes after an antigen encounter) in people who wore a Teslar watch than those who did not wear a Teslar watch. [3] So what is so special about these watches? Basically, the Teslar watch contains a chip which emits 7 to 9 Alpha wave signals (these signals are also emitted when doing yoga or in a high state of performance). These signals are then able to affect macromolecules such as proteins and DNA as well as cellular membranes which, in this case, can improve the body’s immunity. In short, scalar waves improve lymphocyte proliferation which improves the immune system.

Philip Stein Teslar Women's Dual-time Brown Strap WatchTeslar Watch - $540 on

Along with Dr. Rein there have been many other studies that described the benefits of the EESystem and the use of scalar fields. A study done by Dr. Victor A. Marcial-Vega, recognized as being in the top one percent of medical doctors, showed all the reported effects of 107 patients subjected to ½ to 1 hour in the EESystem “chamber.” Their ages ranged from 7 to 81 years old and their effects were:

More energy- 8 patients

Deep relaxation- 59

Clearing of Panic attack-2

Sleeping during session-13

Disappearance of pain- 6 (3 had cancer pain)

Sense of floating-9

Out of body experiences-9

Visions, Colors- 7

Hearing voices, sounds- 8

Feeling of intense joy-17

Manifestation of prayers-11

Increased Libido, Spontaneous erections- 2

Insomnia from increased energy-4

Seeing people inside chamber-5

Stitches coming out of old scars- 3

Disappearance of breast capsules around implants-2

Tingling, feeling energy moving inside their bodies-17

Warm feeling-15

Symmetrical balancing of facial features-2

A cell Before After the EESystem

Energy field Before After EESystem treatment

So as you can see, there appears to be many physiological and spiritual effects from this system. Just reading the research that was done, the testimonials, and the future research (study the effects of patients with terminal cancer and HIV/AIDS), it is definitely something that I would try and “feel” for myself. But as for now, as I do not have any money, I will have to try and fit into some yoga pants or just stick with running to get my daily scalar waves.




Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Talkin' Scorpions Not From the 80's Hairband

An extreme fascination with Arizona and its desert led me to my next blog topic. When visiting Phoenix, Arizona for last year's spring break, one of the first things I did was browse through a book nestled upon the coffee table that contained cute little pictures and descriptions of all the neat wildlife that exists in the hot desert.

Within this book contained many interesting animals that would easily amuse anyone not accustomed to indigenous desert wildlife (unless you visit the local zoo of course for us Ohioans). I was informed numerous times about the local scorpions that lurk in the shadows of the desert floor to the point where I kept my shoes on more often than I probably should have and slept with blankets completely bundled around my head. So this book allowed me to take a closer look at these creepy-crawly-things without getting too close for my liking. Despite my fear I had for these creatures, thanks to the local residents who instilled it upon me, I have to admit now that I was a little disappointed not to see one for myself during the entire week stay. I'm even more disappointed because Arizona has the most venomous scorpion in North America, the Arizona Bark Scorpion.

The Arizona Bark Scorpion is among ~2,000 species of scorpions and one of the few species that are dangerous to humans. These creatures, I mean scorpions, use their venom to kill or paralyze their prey (typically crickets and roaches) before eating them. They do this by injecting venom that is stored in a glandular sac called the telson just below their stinger also known as the aculeus. The venom that the scorpion injects into its prey is a mixture of neurotoxin and enzyme inhibitors which contain a large quantity of channel blockers. The venom binds to sodium channels and inhibits any activation that may occur which, in turn, blocks overall neuronal transmission causing its immobilizing symptoms. Scorpion toxin is also used in some insecticides and vaccines.

Another interesting fact I quickly discovered (while fearing that during an innocent night walk to the kitchen I might accidentally get stung by one of these beasts and have to be rushed away to the hospital (which probably wouldn't happen-thank goodness)), was the fact that these guys glow in the dark. Well kind of. They do, however, contain a fluorescent compound that allows them to glow under ultraviolet light. Most people don't pack a blacklight in their luggage (though I'm sure if I did the airport security would have confiscated that bad boy anyway), but luckily I found one for my own amusement in finding a scorpion. The compound responsible for the scorpion's glowing qualities is known as Beta-Carboline. This compound, that generates a fluorescent glow under UV, is part of the alkaloids found within many plants and animals and plays a vital role in monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). (It was also the compound that would enable me to see any potential scorpions crouched in any crack or corner so I could inevitably scream and have someone remove it appropriately).

It turns out that scorpions are way cooler than what I previously thought. A Tel Aviv University researcher claims that scorpion venom may actually be used as a substitution for addictive opiate painkillers such as morphine. It is believed that the toxic venom could lead the way to the production of a powerful analgesic drug. Potentially the drug will be used against severe burns and cuts by mimicking and modifying the necessary elements of scorpion venom. This will allow for a more potent and target-specific (to certain sodium channels) while at the same time, reducing any serious side effects shown from pure scorpion venom or addictive opiate painkillers.

So this spring when I head out West, you can bet I just might be looking for scorpions that could quite possibly "Rock You Like a Hurricane". Okay Okay, who's kidding who, I probably won't be snooping for scorpions. I'll just look at their pictures in that book on the coffee table, never quote that song title again, and investigate something else like the Sonoran desert whiptail.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Night Owl Syndrome

I am an early bird! I love waking up in the morning. I love opening my blinds and letting the song birds sing to me. A long shower, a hot cup of coffee, Al Roker and a smile is all I need to have for a good morning.

Well, actually, I lied. Waking up in the morning is number 3,658,915,556.23 on my list of enjoyable things to do. Truthfully speaking, when I wake up, my room has to be completely dark, noiseless, coffeeless, and foodless; otherwise I might get grumpy. And I don't know about you, but I have to set my alarm AT LEAST 1 1/2 hour before I have to leave. However, researcher say I can cut down on my "getting ready time" if I only change one element of my morning routine.

It's called Teenage Night Owl Syndrome and researchers from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center (LRC) stated that,

"As teenagers spend more time indoors, they miss out on essential morning light needed to stimulate the body's 24-hour biological system, which regulates the sleep/wake cycle," and

"These morning-light-deprived teenagers are going to bed later, getting less sleep and possibly under-performing on standardized tests. We are starting to call this the teenage night owl syndrome."

A study published in Neuroendocrinology had 11 8th graders wear special glasses which prevented short-wavelength (blue) morning light from reaching their eyes. The results revealed that the students experienced a 30 minute delay in falling asleep over the course of 5 days.

So why does this happen?

Melatonin is a chemical in the body that helps to regulate the body's 24 hour circadian cycle. The body starts to produce this chemical about 2 hours before you go to bed. However, in the continued absence of blue light (getting ready in the dark), it is released 6 minutes later each night and eventually, their sleep cycle is completely out of line.

So, if you are one of these people who can't fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning and have trouble waking up on time, try waking up to sweet sunshine. Open your blinds and soak up the sun!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Heart Chocolate

Fantastic news for chocolate lovers! The consumption of chocolate has many positive benefits, along side its oh-so-addicting taste, it may reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. What makes this news even better is the more you eat the better. This may sound like a gimmick to those non-chocolate lovers and more reason for chocolate fanatics, such as myself, to continue their chocolatey obsessions, but researchers in Sweden have discovered evidence proving that chocolate contains antioxidants that have great cardiovascular effects. Sweet!

According to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the antioxidant important to chocolate's heart friendly effects is known as flavonoid, commonly found within many fruits and vegetables. Flavonoid, like other antioxidants, helps curb the effects of free radicals that cause damage to cells. Free radicals are also responsible for oxidizing LDL (bad cholesterol), increasing the likelihood of plaque build-up within arteries also known as atherosclerosis. In other words, eating chocolate can increase proper blood flow to and from the heart.

Not only does indulging in the divine taste of chocolate have great cardiovascular effects, according to a study at the University of Chicago, chocolate also reduces stress levels and has been shown to act as a painkiller. (No wonder so many women are addicted to its euphoric qualities.) But how much chocolate is too much? Well, studies show that eating just one serving of chocolate a week can reduce stroke risk by as much as 22% and eating up to 50 grams of chocolate a week may reduce the risk up to 46%. Most chocolate deserts, however, contain high quantities of sugar and saturated fats which can ruin these benefits (as well as increase your waistline), but sticking with dark chocolate may be best.

So go on you chocolate fiends, eat to your heart's desire. And for those of you who aren't quite chocolate enthusiasts, you're missing out. I heart chocolate.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Denialism Isn't All Their Fault

Michael Specter's idea of denialism is well founded and I think mostly true but I disagree with the solution that he seems to propose, where people simply become more open minded and accepting of the ideas of science that we establish through research. That people take sides is too obvious in our politics today, and there is clearly a degree of irrationality in our beliefs, but I don't think that the solution to the problem of scientific misunderstanding is for citizens to simply accept expert opinion.

If I were a climatologist, and a close friend asked me "what do you make of this climate-change business?" and I told him it was real, he would probably believe me because I am his friend who wouldn't lead him astray and he knows I am an expert. The same holds for evolution and so on. But it is reasonably more of a stretch to ask someone to trust the opinion of some faraway, faceless expert, especially in an time when science is sometimes closely joined to business and political interests. The solution? It should be easy - just read the literature. The proof is in the pudding. The problem is, scientific papers are not written for the layman, they are written for trained scientists. Naturally then they are usually full of jargon and efficiently (and robotically) worded. For the average person most papers are impenetrable. The problem that arises is that nearly all scientific information is passed to the public through secondary sources, which are sometimes boring (textbooks) and by nature lack the authority and level of engagement of a primary source. This principle holds across disciplines - history and political philosophy textbooks are boring, for example, but original documents are often fascinating (as is the spelling). One of the reasons these particular humanities struggle is because people hate hacking through the prevailing secondary literature.

I can think of a famous precedent for accessible science writing. In the mid-1800s, Darwin published the Origin of Species as a readable theory for the British masses, not just for Owen and Wallace, and it was a smash hit and started a revolution in thought. This happened in closed-minded Victorian England. My opinion on the subject is that today's scientists would be more persuasive if their writing and speaking were more readable and conversational. That the public will magically wake up to scientific understanding or simply accept our "settled science" seems to be a pipe dream to me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

All is Fair in Love and War...bioterrorism that is

Dr. Oz is a genius! He started out as a regular doctor, then he became Oprah's go-to man for all her weight problems, and now he is a billionaire with his own TV show! I love him, he knows what he is talking about. Anyways, his Tuesday segment was all about bioterrorism and how deadly these pathogens can be. By then end of the show, I was more worried about bioterrorism than I was about regular terrorism. The CDC defines bioterrorism as "...the deliberate release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs (agents) used to cause illness or death in people, animals, or plants." Bioterrorism is not something that has sprung up with the advancement of new technology; it can be dated back to the 14th century. Soldiers would throw the bodies of those who died from the plague, over the walls of their enemies fortresses. The disease was easily transferred from person to person and therefore caused many deaths.

The first bioterrorism agent Dr. Oz explained (and a category A agent according to the CDC) was anthrax. Anthrax is an encapsulated, aerobic, gram-positive, spore-forming, rod-shaped (bacillus) bacterium. The anthrax bacterium is enclosed in a capsule where it is protected from phagocytes which makes it hard to destroy. The gram-positive cell wall of the bacterium also makes it extremely resistant due to the numerous layers of peptidoglycan that make up the cell wall. However, anthrax's most deadly characteristic is its ability to form spores. Dr. Oz held up a regular 5 pound bag of flour, took a handful, and blew it into the air. He said, "This 5 pound bag could wipe out New York City!"
Some symptoms of anthrax include...

If inhaled: flu-like symptoms – fever, aches, fatigue, nonproductive cough, chest discomfort, breathing difficulties, sweating, and blue lips and extremities
If eaten: nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, vomiting of blood, and severe diarrhea
If on skin: itching, depressed black scar, redness and swelling

It is scary to think that other countries may use viruses and toxins to fight wars. It is even scarier to think that most countries in the world have the technology to engineer mass quantities of toxins that could easily wipe out an entire civilization. Let's just hope that they don't believe that all is fair in love and war!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sexual Behavior of the Narwhal

Hi everyone, my name is Deanna and I am one of the sexy scientists. For my first blog post, I thought it was important to connect our blog title with a topic I found interesting. With that said, I decided to talk about the sexual behoviors of the narwhal. I chose the narwhal due to my love of the movie "Elf" and because the narwhal is a facinating creature. So to start, for those of you who do not know, a narwhal is a toothed whale that lives in the Artic ocean (close to the north pole; where Santa lives). But these creatures are easily identifiable due to their long, straight, spiral tusk protruding from the upper jaw.
The function of this spear-like projection is not clearly understood, however some theories include that it is used by males to determine social rank. It may also be a seconday sexual characteristic much like the feathers of a peacock, the horns of a goat, or facial hair on men. These characteristics are important when it come down to finding a mate. And apparently, for the male narwhal, the larger the tusk, the more likely he will win the battle over the right to a female. And the female narwhal does not want just ANY male. According to the "sexy son hypothesis" proposed by Weatherhead and Robertson (1979), the female's optimum choice among potential mates is a male whose genes will produce male offspring with the best chance of reproductive success (as does any woman).

In the beginning...

...there were 3 sexy scientists, only one of whom was actually sexy. This blog was created out of love for science and truth. While striving to bring this blog to you, the reader, we worked through many hardships and stayed awake many hours, but we were able to overcome our differences and create this masterpiece.
Your humble bloggers are Deanna Blosser, Nikki Burson, and Ryan Yoder. We named the blog "SexyScience" not only in honor of the authors but also because of our infatuation with the subject matter. Just a little information about us: we are all fourth year biology majors and we have a crazy obsession with science. Deanna enjoys long walks on the beach, while Ryan likes tormenting underclassmen, and Nikki likes watching The Price is Right on rainy days. We hope you enjoy our blog.