About gainzy7

My name is Samuel Quincy Gaines. I'm Kentucky born and Cincinnati raised. I'm a Biology Major from Transylvania University '13, and have considered myself "pre-PA" since I got there. I've presented theoretical chemistry research in LA, and worked on molecular genetic research at the University of Kentucky for two summers. I'm currently taking a few classes at University of Cincinnati, I've work as an EMT for the past year, which has inspired a lot of my posts about provider-patient communication. This spring I will be applying to PA school, and hopefully traveling through Europe before I start my career! I've always thought that you learn about the world in the classroom, but you learn about yourself out in the world. I'm passionate about communication in medicine, effective primary care, and continuing education even after school. I'd be in rough shape without Spotify or TedTalks

Genetic Technique to Combat Malaria

With human death tolls reaching over 600,000 people a year from malaria-carrying mosquitos, researchers are reinventing the weaponry that scientists and health experts use to fight malaria. The current methods that range from spraying insecticides, to distributing millions of bed nets, and even draining entire swamps.  These methods have proved to be extremely limited in their effectiveness, allowing malaria to remain one of mankind’s most lethal killers.

New methods scientists have developed actually target and alter the DNA of the mosquitos. The proposed mechanism is a system of molecules that allows scientists to target and alter DNA with exquisite precision. The system, called Crispr, specifically designs molecules that attach to DNA in a specific location. This allows researchers to slice out the DNA at these locations — a small portion or an entire gene — and then use a prompt cell to replace it with a new segment or gene designed by the scientists.

The entire process would start in a lab with scientists inserting a “package” of genes into a group of mosquitos. Part of the “package” will include a gene that codes for a protein which makes the mosquitoes resistant to malaria parasites. By releasing these genetically engineered mosquitoes into the wild, allowing them to mate with their normal counterparts. The Crispr molecules are designed to target the other parent’s genetic material passed to the offspring, which would altered with the new resistance gene.

The newly bred offspring will now carry two copies of the resistance gene instead of just one like their parents. In theory, by harnessing genetic material and utilizing the natural reproductive capabilities of mosquitoes, it could take just a few years before every mosquito is resistant to malaria.

Obviously this system is in the very preliminary stages of being applicable in the real world. There are many concerns and questions about Crispr that have yet to be addressed.  One thing that concerns me is how this could possibly not work in the long run. A study published recently by Smallegange and colleagues in PLoS ONE examines the relationship that seems to exist between the malaria parasite and it’s host. Many people believe the two are engaged in a commensalistic relationship, regarding the parasite as the beneficiary and the mosquito as the neutral host (neither benefiting nor harmed). New evidence suggests that the relationship is actually more symbiotic than it is given credit for. There is a statistically significant association (P=0.0017) regarding the landing rate of mosquitoes infected with P. falciparum in the presence of human odor than those uninfected (Smallegange et al. 2013). This research could suggest that once infected with the malaria parasite, mosquito behavior can be dramatically altered. Infected mosquitoes may have an increased ability to either detect the presence of humans, or more likely an enhanced drive to try to feed on human blood. Bottomline, the presence of malaria enhances their attraction to humans.

I fear that if this mutualistic relationship has developed an evolutionary purpose for the survival of mosquitoes, the introduction of the Crispr system could be short lived. Evolution is smarter than humans. Given the vast number of wild mosquitoes and extremely short breeding time, it’s not impossible that mosquitoes could develop a specific preference for mosquitoes infected with malaria, since it could give them a selective advantage. Hopefully we have learned from our mistakes of the past, and will consider every possible consequence before implementing such a radical change into the global ecosystem.

 

Smallegange, R. C., G.-J. van Gemert, M. van de Vegte-Bolmer, S. Gezan, W. Takken, R. W. Sauerwein, and J. G. Logan. 2013. Malariai infected mosquitoes express enhanced attraction to human odor. PLoS ONE 8:e63602 EP

Take Advantage of Your 20’s: Don’t Let Them Pass Unnoticed

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My last post is not research, but it is very applicable to everyones’ lives. I hope every gets a chance to watch it. Meg Jay discusses how our generation thinks that everyone will just have it all figured out in their 30’s, but this is isn’t the case! What we do now is our future, so take advantage of your 20’s. As she discusses, this is the most critical time for all young adults to develop into who they want to be in the future. Good luck to everyone!

Glucose Level Dependent Nanogel Released Insulin…I definitely came up with this idea first.

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Glucose Level Dependent Nanogel Released Insulin...I definitely came up with this idea first.

This post is obviously inspired by the presentors in todays class. And maybe I didn’t use “SCIENCE,” but I definitely thought of this first. My thought was that they should develop an insulin that would only direct cells to uptake glucose in high blood glucose concentrations. This article obviously does a much better job at actually defining the research. Either way, they need to move to human trials ASAP, and I’ll be the first to volunteer.

Shaking Off Loneliness

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Shaking Off Loneliness

Loneliness undermines peoples ability to self regulate. One study found that those who reported to feel socially disconnected ate many more cookies than those who didn’t. “We want to soothe the pain we feel by mainlining sugar and fat content to the pleasure centers of the brain, and absent of self-control, we go right at it.” Thus, the stereotypical eating of icecream while watching some sappy movie after a break-up; induced by the sudden disconnect with social groups. Click the picture, pretty interesting article that I felt like was easy for most readers to relate to.

Preventative Double Mastectomies

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Preventative Double Mastectomies

In the NY Times, I read an article that talked about how women that are genetically predisposed to getting breast cancer, are now opting to get a preventative procedure to avoid breast cancer. Doctor’s can predict that some women may have a 90% chance of getting breast cancer, and a 50% of getting ovarian cancer, after getting tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. This article is also a clear indication that research efforts should focus on diagnostic technologies. Unfortunately, most of our cancer detection technologies are harmful in themselves, making frequent observation of patients counter productive.

Train Your Brain

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Train Your Brain

New companies like Lumosity have over 40 million members online, to improve their brain function. Although there is often unclear results on whether brain training just improves one’s skill at a particular game, or if the skills actually translate to real world application. Click the picture for a pretty interesting article.

Submarine Powerplant

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Submarine Powerplant

I’m not sure how this really relates to biology research, but I thought it was too cool to not post. A group of Norwegian scientists from the SINTEF organization proposed a new design that may actually go into production. Utilizing the immense pressure at sea floor bottoms, the force could drive a turbine, which in turn could produce electricity for thousands of people. Go green.

3D color ultrasound

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3D color ultrasound

Researchers at General Electric created a new 3-D image technology called HDlive. It utilizes an ultrasound that creates a clear and colorful 3-D image of a fetus in utero. Who wants to wait 9 months to see their beautiful son or daughter? This is America. But actually, the technology allows doctors to more accurately access the fetus’s health and foresee potential complications.

Alright PETA, you win…

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Alright PETA, you win...

Researchers are developing a machine that could replace animal testing altogether. The organ simulator is designed to simulate the lung, heart, kidney, intestine, pancreas, skin and bone marrow. Each chip is designed to consist of reservoirs, channels, and membranes lined with human cells. Scientists can monitor the cells’ response to different fluid and air stimuli, to gauge the effect on actual human beings.