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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Scientific Anthology: Epidemics

California: Hotbed of Innovation

Introduction

 

Biotechnology as a major field within science has led to many new companies copying the Genentech blueprint: having a small company creating commercially viable products to earn profits. This movement from a purely academic scope of research to a company thriving in an industrial market has become a popular choice for those interested in the sciences, offering more career opportunities. From the 1970s on, a number of companies would emerge to follow the example set by Genentech. This would result in a major growth of the field, located in California.

California has become the true center of biotechnology in the U.S, as the birth place of the industry as well as having numerous companies making products in a multitude of fields. Because of this environment, being surrounded by other biotech companies, a sense of innovation is greatly encouraged, as competition will enable a surge of creativity. This anthology details several examples of how California has become the epicenter of biotech, ranging from peculiar facts about the history of Californian biotech to present companies developing new products within the biotech field. The hotbed of innovation exhibited by the California environment is shown through the amount of diverse companies and novel products.

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California: Hotbed of Innovation

Computer Gamers Designing and Folding RNA Molecules

“Modern biotechnology originates in 1973 with the invention of recombinant DNA technology, a now universal form of genetic engineering. It entails recombining (joining) pieces of DNA in a test tube, cloning (creating identical copies of DNA) in a bacterium or other organism, and expressing the DNA code as a protein or RNA molecule.”- Hughes (pg.1)

The discovery and use of recombinant has paved the way into finding new ways to treat patients with protein (nucleotide) based medications such as RNA. This form of treatment does not grow old with time and still is prevalent in our society today. In my health communication class we discussed that there have been many new innovations in the health and pharmaceutical industry. New technologies in wearable technologies, tools for diagnosis, and portable gaming are becoming more apparent.

An online computer game, called EteRNA, has the user puzzled in making single strands of RNA molecule fold and in certain shapes. My first impression of the game was how fun and easily addicting this game can become. However, the importance of this game is critical for the development of new drugs. The RNA in our cells are involved in many important biological functions. Including whether or not certain genes, within our DNA, gets expressed. Scientists want to use  the RNA for customized treatments for viral infections (i.e. the Zika virus) or inherited disorders (i.e. cystic fibrosis) by targeting genes and other parts of our cells. But first, the scientists have to figure out how does RNA fold when it interacts with those structures. So some researchers from Stanford and Carnegie Mellon University, who were inspired by the success of Foldit (another mHealth game), developed EterRNA. What the community of gamers noticed from the game were traits that made some RNA structures harder to design. In the “Principles for Predicting RNA Secondary Structure Design Difficulty” published in the Journal of Molecular Biology explained that gamers had difficulty in designing folded RNA molecules that are symmetrical (containing similar RNA bases) were also difficult to synthesize in the laboratory. What these gamers learned can help scientists to save time and money when designing RNA structures in the lab. EteRNA is a gaming technology has led to more positive health outcome in the medical research field that can help benefit society.

Multimedia Outlets:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/11/science/11rna.html?_r=0

http://www.nature.com/nsmb/journal/v18/n10/full/nsmb.2119.html

 

 

Computer Gamers Designing and Folding RNA Molecules