Scientific Anthology: Epidemics

Introduction

The term “epidemic” is something heard often in the news, in doctors offices, and in the world around today. However, most of the population do not have an idea of what the medical term means. The Center for Disease Control defines an epidemic as “the occurrence of more cases of disease than expected in a given area or among a specific group of people over a particular period of time.”

This anthology will introduce twenty epidemics of the past that had a major impact mankind. From viruses to fatal bacterial strains, these diseases has caused major distress, panic amongst major populations. The and ideas topics of how these diseases were started, vehicles for transmission and how society has responded to the outbreaks will be examined and discussed.

Something that you’ll find interesting is how diseases are spread eerily similar. However, the the biotechnological methods of treatment to combat these deadly disease are even more intriguing.

We are going on a Nerdventure! – Dr. Christopher Thompson

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Image courtesy of Shuttershock

Continue reading “Scientific Anthology: Epidemics”

Scientific Anthology: Epidemics

GENENTECH: A NEW APPROACH OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERING NEW MEDICINES

In Sally Smith Hughes book, Genentech, readers learn about a small genetic engineering company whose name became known after one biochemical invention. The use of biotechnology to invent a better system of creating pharmaceutical drugs for distribution had been a goal for many biotech companies. Genentech was the first company to pioneer recombinant DNA technology to manufacture a crucial hormone our body needs in order to regulate sugar intake. Before this innovation, insulin was collected from the pancreas of pigs and used to treat people with diabetes. By using biological machinery that naturally occurs in bacteria, scientist Herbert W. Boyer and Stanley Cohen were able to manipulate its biological software to produce human hormones. Once their breakthrough was known, Robert A. Swanson, a young entrepreneur, joined the team of scientist and created a business which is now Genentech. This was not Hughes first encounter with the company’s technology. Before publishing the history of this company, she published a novel with Boyer himself called Recombinant DNA Research at UCSF and Commercial Application at Genentech: Oral history Transcript, in 2001. Already being familiar with the technology, she was able to craft together the birth of Genentech by giving detailed descriptions of its co-founders, details of their innovations, and the business aspect that went into creating the company. This book is a great read for those interested in learning how biotechnology has evolved into one of the tools we now use to create better pharmaceuticals. Continue reading “GENENTECH: A NEW APPROACH OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERING NEW MEDICINES”

GENENTECH: A NEW APPROACH OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERING NEW MEDICINES

Ethics Concerning CRISPR Technology

CRISPR-cas 9 technology allows biologist to edit genes. Cas-9 is an enzyme that works as biological scissors that can cut DNA. A small RNA molecule is required to direct the enzyme to a specific sequence of interest. Once the DNA is cut out, the natural machinery of the bodies DNA repair mechanism takes over and will seal up the cut out DNA ends. This technology can be used to alter protein/gene expression, which could be very helpful when researching ways for curing diseases. This brings up an ethical question of who should be able to alter genes? Should parents be able to alter genes of their unborn child to prevent them from being deaf, having a certain eye color, certain disease etc? If this technology was offered to the public, what would be the price?

Personally, it does not seem ethical to spend this technology editing certain genes that could make a parents ideal child. You shouldn’t be able to choose whether or not you want your child to have certain features. It almost seems as if it would be playing to role of God. It seems as if this technology was offered to the public, it would have to come with many regulations. I think that using this gene editing tool to prevent disease would be awesome though. If science was able to block a certain viral protein from being formed but cutting out the DNA that codes for it, it could prevent multiple fatal diseases. It just becomes the next question of what is the limitations of this technology? How would companies prevent people from going to far with this technology? Below is a picture of the CRISPR-cas-9 system.

crispr-cas9-CO013130

Ethics Concerning CRISPR Technology

Recombinant DNA vs. RNA interference

Chapter 2 in Genentech talked heavily on the applications of Recombinant DNA. The main application discussed was an easier way to produce the hormone insulin for people suffering from diabetes. In molecular genetics, the course offered here at loyola, one of the experiments done within the semester is making our own recombinant DNA. We actually did Boyer’s experiment and tested whether or not it was successful by running the samples on a gel and on petri dishes. When we used the petri dishes we streaked the plates with our recombinant DNA and did a blue/white screening to test the colonies that contained our plasmid. The colonies that remained white were and indication of our recombinant DNA due to the inactivation of a-galactosidase. While reading Genentech reminded me of this experiment and also another involving RNA interference.

As rRNA is used to produce a certain protein as RNA interference is used to stop the production of a certain protein. The two types that we studied were microRNA (miRNA) and small interfering RNA (siRNA). They both have different properties as to what type of sequences they bind to. Basically, they are small sequences that are able to bind to other sequences to prevent the translation of their amino acids, aka protein. This is super cool! It makes me wonder if this technology could possibly be used in the future to fight disease. For example, cancer therapy. Hypothetically, if scientist were able to program a specific miRNA to target the protein production of a cancer cell, it may be able to stop the proliferation of the cell. Without vital protein production then the cell will die, possibly killing off the cancer. It seems like something that should be researched.

Recombinant DNA vs. RNA interference

POINTING FROM THE GRAVE: THE INVISIBLE HELIX THAT TRACKS YOUR EVERY MOVE

In Samantha Weinberg’s book, Pointing From the Grave: A True Story of Murder and DNA, readers get the first inside look to how the innovation of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) technology evolved to become a key aspect within forensic criminology. Following the story of young scientist, Helena Greenwood, Weinberg places the reader into a courtroom drama while giving accurate details about this cutting-edge technology. This was the first novel Weinberg had ever published with the topic of DNA. After publishing this novel in 2003, she went on to fully establish herself as a novelist by creating a trilogy known as the Moneypenny Diaries. Although Pointing From the Grave was the first criminology novel for this British novelist, she was able to successfully take complex scientific terminology and break it down to where her readers can fully understand it in a more simplistic manner; the need for a scientific background is not necessary. Weinberg is able to show the true story of Helena Greenwood’s sexual assault and murder by providing accurate forensic evidence and integrating different perspectives from those who knew the victim and suspect best. Continue reading “POINTING FROM THE GRAVE: THE INVISIBLE HELIX THAT TRACKS YOUR EVERY MOVE”

POINTING FROM THE GRAVE: THE INVISIBLE HELIX THAT TRACKS YOUR EVERY MOVE

Mentally Ill Plea

By the ending chapters, Frediani’s mental state was questioned. We had discussed multiple times in class about a personality disorder Frediani could have but it was never mentioned this in the book until the last few chapters. Something that I have previously seen on an episode of Law & Order was a man who was a retired professional football player that was very famous. There was a young girl by the age of 14 who was forcibly being pimped out men willing to pay money for her services. This man was caught paying her for this. In the eyes of the law, he was said to of raped her because of her age. However, the next day he was unaware of his actions. The insanity plea is extremely hard to come across due to people pretending to be insane to get away with murder. Many psychological reviews must be performed to be diagnosed. Obviously, the jury did not believe that he was ill. He himself was too proud to admit he was sick as well. It was not until the end of the trial where his defense lawyer had him on the stand at a late night court arrangement where he exhibited the defendants sundowning affect.What really stuck out to me in this episode was the defense lawyer saying a latin phrase that meant, the body can only be guilty if the mind is as well”. The poor judgement displayed by this man was not of his choosing but rather by his diseased brain. This made me relook at Frediani’s case and wondered if they had had a psychological review of him, would they have diagnosed him with an illness. The causes for these diseases truly vary but should a person be held accountable for their actions when their ability to choose from right and wrong is compromised? I’m not sure.

The next connection to Frediani’s case I made was a another episode of Law & Order. I love this show. Anyways, there was a young child that was an outcast of his school because his family was considered gypsies. He was found murdered one day when he walked home from school but all the clues were pointing to the wrong person. Once her friends gave up her secret, this young girl, most likely 15 years old, admitted to murdering the young boy by strangulation with his scarf. The most stunning thing was at the end when the investigator asked her why she did it. Her response was “why not”? This is a very clear indication of no remorse and it is deviance and crime at the age of 15 which is a necessary requirement for the disorder, Antisocial personality disorder.

The idea that a child so young can commit such a heinous crime is unthinkable. I was very curious how a court room will handle such a case because the murderer is not an adult. The story of Jordan Brown was shocking to the world. How does a child that shows no signs of aggression murder a woman and her unborn baby? According to this video, a child’s brain is not fully developed at this age, especially the part about decision making and impulse. For this reason, the death penalty will no longer be an option for an child under the age of 18. Below is a Picture of him at the age of his conviction.

jordan brown

 

Mentally Ill Plea

Ethics Concerning Defense Lawyers

In most every case we see in our court system, if the defendant can afford a lawyer, they do so because they feel as if they have no chance in winning unless they pay for the service. However, in the case of murder, the questions of whether the lawyer knows if his client is guilty or not questions the moral compass of the lawyer. Should it bother the lawyer that they are defending a person guilty or rape, murder, embezzlement etc. ? In my opinion, it takes a certain mindset to do this job. The person in law schooling interested in becoming a defense lawyer has to be aware of the moral decisions he must make in his profession. I am not implying that these decisions are going to ever be easy or morally correct but this is what the profession brings. If a person can handle these situations than it might make them an excellent defense lawyer.

However, a hired defense lawyer’s obviously have a choice to let go of the client but if its a public defender they have no choice. Public defenders are assigned to a case and usually have to stay. It is part of a lawyers duty as a job to do what is best for their client, so they cannot try to give up the case. It is like gambling, the lawyer has to take the best shot at the case and it is for his own reputation as well as the well being of his client.

Another interesting suggestion I thought of was what if they client admits they are guilty but could be lying to the lawyer. There have been many cases where people try and take the rap for a loved ones bad doings so that they do not spend the rest of their life in jail. For example, a parents who knows his child committed homicide. In this case, it also doesn’t seem beneficial for the defense lawyer to know whether they are guilty or innocent. Even if they get an answer, it could be a lie in either direction. Over all, it is the side that makes the strongest case for the conviction. The way evidence is presented to the jury is a huge aspect of how the verdict comes out. Stronger evidence such as DNA, has become extremely useful in our court systems today. They knowledge of DNA has also broadened due to it being taught during primary schooling and the fact that it is all over crime shows. The awareness of it has grown which makes it more difficult for a murder/ rapist to get away with their crime.

kuwait dna

Image Source

Ethics Concerning Defense Lawyers

Psychopathology

One of the main topics in our discussions this week has been about Frediani’s mental health. The question of whether Frediani has a personality disorder or if he simply enjoyed the thrill of molesting women and murder has been a conversation covered in class. I am currently taking psychopathology and we have learned about many disorders people suffer from. Shockingly enough, a large percentage of americans suffer from at least one disorder throughout their life time. The most prevalent ones are depression and substance abuse. For Frediani’s case, as a class we hypothesized that he may have borderline personality disorder or antisocial disorder. However, the book never discusses this possibility. The DMS-5 classifies borderline personality disorder to have multiple checklist criteria that must be present in order for someone to be diagnosed. However, a person does not have to exhibit all the behaviors to be diagnosed. Based on the criteria for borderline personality disorder, I believe Frediani may suffer from this disorder rather than antisocial disorder.

  1. a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
  2. inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
  3. affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)

Criteria Source

Frediani is constantly in and out of romantic relationships through out the book. I swear every chapter he has a new woman. He is always sweet and generous in the beginning of each relationship but than somehow turns into a very aggressive man later in the relationship. He always devalues the women hes with by calling them ugly names and pining them down to scream that them. It always ends unhealthy.

Psychopathology

Lie to Me

The question of whether Andrea’s alibi is valid or a way to cover Frediani tracks has been a discussion within the book along with in our class. She was his sole supporter in the case and was pregnant by him with twins. We made a speculation that she wouldn’t want him going to jail because it would leave her by herself to raise them. The question than became if she was willing to lie in courts for him, committing a felony herself which would also put her in jail if she was found to be guilty of perjury.

The action of being about to tell if someones lying reminded me of a show I use to watch called “Lie to Me”. I loved this show because it was formulated off of real research showing commonalities people have when they are lying. The main character is the worlds leading deception expert who studies peoples faces and movements allowing him to tell when when a person is lying. He is able to solve murder, assault, missing persons cases etc. just by studying a witness or suspects facial expressions.

We all get have our own intuition of when we believe someone is lying. Either by what they are saying or by the way someone is acting. However, somethings that I remember from the show include the way a person reports a story. When the main character, Cal, was questioning people about what happened at a crime scene or in general case he would ask them to tell the story backwards. Interestingly enough, when people plan to tell a fabricated story, they only are able to tell it in the forward direction not backwards. Stumbling to put the pieces together backwards was a big indicator a fabricated stories. Another thing people tend to do when lying is the repeat the question in the answer and never use contractions. For example, when your parents ask you if you were out with the bad kids in school, a child replying “No I was not out with the bad kids from school”. For some reason, people believe that using more words when replying makes it seem like their statements are more valid. However, in reality, its a trigger to notice if someones trying to be deceiving.

Other than what we say, we also tend to show emotions in our face which the show called, micro expressions. Someone not keen these expressions wouldn’t be able to pick up on it because they are unconsciously expressed by the person. A person does not have to be lying in order to expresses these. We express emotions like surprise, sadness, happiness etc. even if we are not explicitly trying to.  Its like your co-worker telling you that he received the promotion that you were equally working towards. You express that you’re happy for them but your face might show contempt without you even realizing.

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Lie to Me

Invasion of Privacy or Concrete Evidence?

” Tell her that this is the man who murdered and raped her predecessor” (Weinberg, pg. 136).

In the middle of chapter 9, Weinberg reports that someone had called Helena’s old work at Genprobe and requested to talk to her successor. The message he had to leave was that he killed and raped Helena. Than he hung up. It was confusing at first because I was curious as to why they didn’t trace the phone line to see where it came from but maybe in 1985 they didn’t have such technology. However, this reminded me of a popular show called “Person of Interest”. Basically is about two men who created a machine that monitors every means of surveillance. By this technology, it somehow is able to predict within 24 hours of a crime that was pre meditated. One of the main things it uses are cell phones. Most everyone has a cellphone and its easily traceable. But even if someone used a pay phone, the street cameras placed everywhere has a clear direct view of the people using them. Assuming that this technology is not available in 1985, how can someone confessing over the phone be handled? It does not make sense that Frediani made the phone call seeing how he was placed in jail at the time but maybe he had an accomplice? This call may indicate that another person could be involved or a third party that we are not expecting could be the cause of Helena’s death.

We discussed in class how Iphones have the ability to tract every place you go and how long you were there for. It makes me questioned if the government should have the ability to access this information and know my whereabouts daily.

Sometimes people have difficult finding alibi’s in a court case, such as Frediani did, so I wonder if using the tracking technology of cellphones could of changed the result of his conviction if in 1985 they had them. It seems as if someone had claimed that they were with the person and there phone indicated that they were also present at that location, the alibi would hold stronger. However, since Frediani was guilty of the sexual assault, having a cellphone track his whereabouts may have been considered an invasion of privacy. I do not know much about the law but it doesn’t seem likely that the court would care much about someones privacy in this
particular case.  camera

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Invasion of Privacy or Concrete Evidence?

Sexual assault and DID

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a rare disorder that has seem to have a common causal factor in the few cases that have come about. This commonality is sever sexual assault at a very young age. Reading about Helena’s case, she wasn’t assaulted at a young age nor was she continuously assaulted, but it was still a traumatic experience. In psychopathology we read a case study on a woman with DID. She was sexual assaulted from the age of 5 by her father. As she grew older, she developed symptoms such as dizziness, memory loss, alcohol abuse, promiscuity, etc. When she started seeing therapy, the therapist did not consider DID because of how rare it was and how many symptoms a person has to have in order to be diagnosed with it. The main symptom one has to have are two or more distinct identities. These identities can have their own race, age, personalities, names, etc. A completely other person.

The main reason that triggered these alters was the trauma. It was the patients way of coping with the trauma that was happening with her. When her father was assaulting her, one of her other alters took over so that the host personality didn’t have to experience it. However, the host memory wouldn’t have any memory of what happened. She would wake up after sleeping and feel hungover and so confused about what just happened. This is why she wasn’t aware of what was happening to her.

Helena was assaulted when she was much older but still traumatized by what happened. I wonder if she had been assaulted also at a younger age and than again by Frediani, would it have triggered something in her to where she would have developed a disorder. Not saying DID but other common disorders would be PTSD or general anxiety disorder. Being assaulted in your home could make someone feel unsafe and anxious about their surroundings all the time. I also wonder if by throwing herself back into her work was her coping method and prevented her from thinking about it to let it worry her.

Sexual assault and DID

Book Review: Where Good Ideas Come From

Looking at our world’s most compelling innovations, theories, and discoveries, it seems as if brilliant minds of those like Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, and Charles Darwin could produce ingenious insight in the blink of an eye.  Author Steve Johnson however, believes that the components of our surrounding environment play a vital role in how we arrive at these “eureka moments” of enlightenment. In his book, Where Good Ideas Come From, Johnson documents the roots of innovation and creativity, while exploring the factors that play a role in determining how we ultimately arrive at ideas. Johnson uses seven different elements of thinking to outline our thought process; The Adjacent Possible, Liquid Networks, The Slow Hunch, Serendipity, Error, Exaptation, and Platforms. Slow hunches, densely populated areas, liquid networks, platforms are important themes our group noted as critical for the growth of innovation. Through Steven Johnson’s use of  biological metaphors, scientific research, and innovative stories we are able to read where great ideas come from. Continue reading “Book Review: Where Good Ideas Come From”

Book Review: Where Good Ideas Come From

GenBank: DNA sequences

We have recently been discussing the ethics of DNA sequencing and having a database with our sequences contained for either legal or public use. There have been so many advances in  technology for collecting DNA samples and efficiently analyzing them within a lab setting. However, the beginning struggle of collecting these samples is having a sample to compare it to, in this case a perpetrator. This idea of not having a suspect at hand and having DNA that has no sample to compare it to brings the discussion of having a DNA bank with all individuals genetic information placed in it. This seems like a logical way to solve this situation but is it reasonable and ethical? There is always the statement that if you’re not doing anything illegal than why does it matter that the government has your DNA information? Our documents are not impossible to reach if they are needed in a legal situation. This is seen as an invasion of privacy and makes many people uneasy.

In my molecular genetics and synthetic biology courses, we were required to use systems such as GenBank to input sequences into a BLAST search to look for other similar sequences. It is advantageous to scientist because it can identify sequences that they might not know where it comes from.

How we approached this in molecular genetics was we had an Autorad sequence and we needed to figure out the individual ATGC arrangement, in a linear fashion: AGCCTACGATAG for example. Once we manual wrote down every base we were able to put into the blast search that would tell us what it was (enzyme, protein, etc. ), where it was mostly found (animal, plant etc.) what chromosome it is found on, and many other features. This GenBank is public information and allows other scientist around the world to compare their findings of sequencing with others.

 

GenBank: DNA sequences

Fetal Bovin Serium

fetal bovine serum

A questioned posed in this chapter was how does someone distinguish between animal and human blood. People were trying to claim that blood on their clothing was from their meaty dinners instead of actual people. The experiment done to finally put an end to this mystery was using animal serum (antibodies/blood) and testing it against blood taken from humans. 

This experiment reminded me of a lab technique found in cell culturing. Fetal bovin serum is extracted from calfs actually taken from slaughterhouses. It sounds pretty disgusting but it has proven to be a great way to feed cells. It is used in cell culturing because it has a low level of antibodies and provides many growth factor to a variety of eukaryotic cells. Without this serum the cells wouldn’t be able to survive or grow.

www.caissonlabs.com: Picture 

Fetal Bovin Serium

Shotgun Sequencing

Helena’s research on DNA probes reminded me of a technique I learned about in synthetic biology that is widely used today in science. Since these DNA probes were synthetic short single-stranded chains of DNA, they were able to adhesively attached to its complementary strand in a mixture of media. To bring it to the next step, is finding out the sequence needed in order to make that synthetic strand of DNA. Helena’s group may have had one specific sequence of interest but what if a research wanted to know the sequence of an entire genome?

Honestly, how this process works doesn’t make much sense but for researchers, it has been an amazing tool. One technique is called Shotgun Sequencing. Basically, in short terms, you “blow up” the genome into smaller fragments and a computer system puts it back together by looking for overlapping sequences. This technique was proven to be more efficient with both time and cost of the process. The previous type of sequencing took a very long time and cost a large amount of resources. However, if I remember correctly, whole genome shotgunning sequencing is not as accurate. Since you are breaking up the whole genome and putting it back together in one piece rather than piece by piece, if there is a problem with one section, theres no way of telling what section went wrong.

Shotgun Sequencing

Police Dogs Searching For Drugs

As this chapter talked about Helena’s work on a test to detect drugs such as cocaine, it reminded me of a lecture I attended this fall. The police department has now adopted dogs at birth to train them to detect drugs that are not visible or found by the police themselves. This new technique has been proven to be successful in busting meth labs, marijuana, cocaine etc. What this lecture discussed was a case where a man was tried for possession of cocaine. However, if I remember correctly, the police officer who called for the search was only based off of probable cause. The probable cause came from his canine identifying they smelt the drug. This questioned the validity of the canines smelling ability for detection. The defendants case was that the search warrant was not granted on proper terms and he was falsely charged. Even though the canine had correctly identified the large amount of drugs that man had in his home, he won the case and was freed from all charges based on there not being a standard for canines established in the system yet.

After this case happened, canines were now put into funded training programs that is made to train them into detecting these drugs. At the end of the training they have to pass a series of exams to qualify as a legitimate DEA canine. This put an end to any further court case like the man’s described above.

What was interesting about their training is that dogs are trained in both drugs and bomb detection. Because of this, when they smell a particular oder, they walk up to it and just sit to wait for a policeman. The reason for this is because if it wore a bomb and the dog started scratching at it, it could possibly go off. Cocaine doesn’t have a scent that can be smelt by someone when it is concealed but a dogs noise is so hyperactive that it can.

Police Dogs Searching For Drugs

The Discovery of PCR

DNA PCR

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) was invented in 1985 by Kary B. Mullius. This process was developed the same year that Helena Greenwood’s court case. PCR was a revolutionary discovery for the study of DNA because what it does in a nutshell, is make a ton of DNA from any time tiny bit of DNA. It basically duplicates the strands of DNA to make more and more of it so that its a substantial amount of DNA to do an analysis with. Before this, if DNA samples were taking from a crime scene, if there wasn’t a substantial amount, than only a few test would most likely be able to be done. PCR now allows for an unlimited amount of retesting because more DNA sample can be made. This process is truly amazing!

As amazing as this process is, it actually takes quite some effort. The Molecular Genetics course has a lab portion that does a lot of PCR. It is a series of heating, centrifuging, cooling, adding enzymes, etc. Heat is used to break apart the strands of DNA to than have an enzyme called DNA polymerase travel along each strand making a complimentary strand. This process continues exponentially within the tiny test tube producing a subtle sample for testing.

Testing than is done on an electrophoresis gel, that will show whether a person is a match to the DNA or not. The picture shown above is an example of a gel.

The Discovery of PCR

The Snuggie

The invention of the Snuggie was strange in the fact that its just a blanket with arms. Who would of thought that this simple adjustment to a blanket sold like hot cakes. It was a basic design that came in different sizes and colors. Most everyone knows the struggle of being comfortable on the couch and trying to do work as well, but the fact that someone stitched arm holes into fabric made this simplistic idea be worth millions.

The idea of a free market like the one exhibited here in the United States, makes what seem to be silly innovations, be worth a ton of money. I think that in order to become a successful  product it has to connect to each gender, race, age etc. Some products are geared towards one of these aspects, limiting its marketability and ultimately its success in business. Something like the Snuggie, interest anyone who enjoys relaxing on the couch watching movies. This innovation may fit in the quadrant that was made by an individual for the market.

The Snuggie

Bone Cement

Hip-replacement

I have been fortunate enough to know personally some amazing orthopedic surgeons. My mother has always worked in the medical field in close contact with these professionals. Ever since I was young, I had always been interested in the medical field and when I was 16 I thought I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon. A close family friend took me into his operating room at 16 years old to watch a total hip and bilateral knee replacement. I was offered an opportunity that most medical students haven’t even experienced yet. During the surgery, Dr. Porth handed me a glob of white material that reminded me of play-doh. He told me to make a mushroom out of the dough and I was confused as to what it was. After about 20 minutes the material had hardened completely. What he gave me was bone cement that he was using to hold together the metal implants in the surgery. I later had put my name on it and the date to remember the moment.

 

When reading this chapter on platforms, I found it interesting that scientist mimicked the corals growth mechanisms to create this cement for repairing fractures. Now this cement is used world wide as a tool for holding the implants together so they wont separate. What is also amazing is that the body doesn’t usually reject it. However, its usually only found on the inside between two implants, not on the outside of them. Before reading this chapter I had no idea where the idea for such an innovative tool came from. Coral reefs have a huge effect on the ecosystem underwater but I would of never thought to use their mechanism to come up with a surgical tool.

Bone Cement

Origin of Tetrapods

tetrapod_evo

Darwin’s theories repetitively appear throughout this book and in this chapter it mentioned his “Origins of Species”. It prompted me to research more about the origins of tetrapods. Johnson mentioned how a fish evolved to now how feet to be able to walk on land. According to this website I found, it all began with ray-finned fish that slowly evolved into bony fish such as Eusthenopteron. These fish eventually continued evolving until they developed forelimbs and hindlimbs with fingers.

Organisms evolve based on their need for survival. Harsh weather can prompt an organism to use a body part, even if it wasn’t designed for that specific reason, in order to survive. The example Johnson gave was the birds feathers. The feathers were made for warmth but then they became useful for flying.

Its interesting to see how organisms keep evolving based on the environmental pressures. It makes me wonder if humans are done evolving or are we going to look different in the 22nd century? Or are we going to be extinct? I wonder.

Website Consulted:

http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evograms_04

Origin of Tetrapods

The Mystery of Anesthesia

“I didn’t know why it worked,… it just did” (pg. 134).

When reading this chapter, the quote above really stuck out to me and made me think of the past summer when I shadowed physicians at an Orthopaedic center. One physician that I shadowed in the OR was an anesthesiologist. She was absolutely brilliant and an excellent teacher. Among the many questions I asked her, I asked her how anesthesia actually works, the mechanism of it. She had the most appalling answer. She said she didn’t know. I was very confused and stunned but she said to me that the mechanism of why anesthesia works is still not understood, all they know is that it works. The drug that every person undergoing surgery relies on to keep them asleep and not in pain from the surgical procedure isn’t fully understood! How amazing is that to think about? And also how scary.

There are many theories proposed to how it works based on its compounds and what receptors it reacts with. However, it still stands as an abstract proposal since it can’t be fully proved yet.

The Mystery of Anesthesia

Synthetic Biology

(YEAST)

In the lecture portion of the Synthetic Biology course I took, you learn about different genome sizes, techniques for sequencing, how to build a genome from scratch etc. One of the cool things about this class is that the lab portion of this course offers you very real research experience that international. The yeast genome has recently been fully sequenced to where every nucleic acid has been identified within it. Knowing the sequences of all sections of the genome, the yeast genome project has now become the challenge of building it from raw materials, dNTPS. Every week in lab you build upon your synthetic DNA sequence making it longer and longer to eventually have a successful synthetic sequence of the genome. As awesome as this sounds, doing this is actually very difficult. When I took this course none of the material worked and I always had blank bands on my electrophoresis gel. There were also a ton of steps involved with making synthetic DNA that many errors could occur with simple techniques. Science is always tricky and takes effort to accomplish something.

“Individuals get smarter because they’re connected to the network” (pg. 60).

Being that this is an international program, multiple minds are working on this same experiment of building a synthetic genome. People can learn from other’s failures in building the genome. Learn what techniques work and which ones didn’t.

Synthetic Biology

Competition

Image result for apple logovs Image result for windows logo

“Competition between rival firms leads to innovation in their products and services” (pg. 21)

At the end of the chapter, Johnson brings up this idea of competition fueling good ideas and new innovations. It made me immediately think of Apple verses Window products. Both company’s have evolved to be both sufficient products but for some reason more people prefer one over the other. Apple products seem to be more costly and maybe their marketing strategies are better than windows. However, both companies produce updates often to keep their products running better and also adding more features to the programs for consumers, adds business. So why is one always considered better than the other? Is it always a personal preference or statistically is one more efficient than the other, or is it just marketing skills? These types of questions came to mind when I was thinking about the competition between these two companies.

I found an article online displaying reason why Mac computers are better than a PC. 1. Superior hardware, 2. Better Battery life, 3. The interface, 4. Free updates, 5. Anti-Virus protection, 6. Updating is not a nightmare, 7. Third-party services, 8. Track pad.

Some of these features a PC also has, but may be not as high in quality according to this article. I think overall Apple has become more innovative than windows and it could be due to this distinct competition between companies that thrive Apple technicians to come up with greater ideas.

Competition

Uses of Benzene

Danger-Benzene

We began discussing the structure of Benzene in class. Organic chemistry is the study of carbon which a fundamental part of drawing structures, includes a classic 6 membered benzene ring. However, what is benzene used for? I was curious as to how we use it and why it was so important so I looked up the historical uses of Benzene. Apparently in the 19th century, it was considered to have a nice smell to it, so men used it for after shave. Later in the 20th century it was used in decaffeinated coffees. Upon further research, benzene is actually a carcinogen and is not used for those purposes any longer. Since the danger of benzene was discovered, it is used now for manufacturing purposes: plastics, lubricants, rubbers, etc. Another great point about benzene is that is the base of many other derived chemicals.

Uses of Benzene

9/11 Attack

When the 9/11 attack on the US happened, I was still young and I don’t remember much of that day other than our schools sending us all home. The analogy that Johnson uses in chapter 3 is the fact that one man, Williams, had a hunch that the terrorist group sent people to join the academy to learn how to fly plains. It was disappointing to read that a man apart of our government had an hunch that this was happening and his memo to check on it got pushed aside. Its also disappointing to read that the government still uses the same system as they did in 2001. It is also frustrating to see how many people this information has to be passed through in order to be put into action as well. This chapter was pretty enlightening because I truly didn’t know much about it or how the hijackers actually became successful in the destruction they caused. However, it seems as though it could of been prevented if our government had a better way of passing on important information.

9/11 Attack

The structure of DNA

A connection I found from reading chapter 1 of “Where Do Good Ideas Come From” was the statement “we take the ideas we’ve inherited or that we’ve stumbled across, and we jigger them together into one new shape” to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. For the most part, people only know Watson and Crick as the people accountable for discovering the helical structure of DNA. However, after learning about so many scientist whom provided Watson and Crick the tools to piece together the puzzle, they were truly the very last piece that took the ideas of all the previous scientist. Without scientist such as Chargraff, Rosalind Franklin, Levene, etc. Watson and Crick wouldn’t of known that A and T match together, or that DNA was a helical structure without Rosalind’s x-ray diffraction picture of DNA, or the simple fact that there is a sugar attached to the nucleic acid. Before I learned about these previous scientist and their experiments in depth, I only gave Watson and Crick credit for the discovery of the structure, but I quickly learned there was so much more put into discovering the structure than I had previously known.

The structure of DNA

Regulation

After reading this article the biggest part that struck me was the genetically alter mice that Harvard Medical School patented. I never knew someone could genetically engineer mice to contain a certain gene that would be repetitively passed on from generation to generation. One of the questions that arose from this was that people could simply buy a female and male mouse and than reproduce them on their own for future experimental uses. How would this be regulated? It doesn’t seem plausible that a company could regulate this seeing how the patent was in place in many different countries. The countries that would not accept their mice as “novel” and did not give them a patent could do the same experiment and produce their own genetically engineered mice. It doesn’t seem as if Harvard would be able to monopolize this “invention”.

Regulation