Category Archives: Genetics

A Case Report of Tourette Syndrome

By Lo Tuan, Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and Managerial Economics, ’17

Author’s Note:

“I chose to write about Tourette Syndrome because someone who is dear to me was diagnosed with it. Watching him struggle at a young age, I could only imagine how difficult it must have been dealing with strange and disapproving looks from peers and teachers. Through the gradual decline of symptoms over the years, he learned to cope with his tics and sought to educate others about the syndrome. Inspired by his story, I wrote this case report in hopes of share his journey with others.”
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An Overview of Tension-Type Headache

By Lo Tuan, Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and Managerial Economics, ’17

Author’s Note:

“I chose to write this paper because I have a family member who suffers from TTH and expanding my knowledge of the topic through researching and writing empowered me to play a more active role in assisting my family with addressing such medical condition.”

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The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA

By Mor Alkaslasi, Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, ’16

Author’s Note:

“I chose to write a review about this book because I kept finding myself telling my professors and peers about it. As a student in a scientific discipline to which genetics and DNA are crucial, I feel that this book is a notable chronicle of the scientific process and of one of the most groundbreaking discoveries of the past century. I hope that this review serves to encourage anyone with an interest in science to read this book, or at least to realize the book’s importance in the scientific community.” Continue reading The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA

Exploring the Known Unknowns Using the Power of Metagenomics: Discovery of the crAssphage

By Connie Chen, Microbiology, ’15-’16

Author’s Note:

“Metagenomics is the study of genetic material directly from environmental samples such as the soil or the human gut. With whole metagenomic sequencing, it is possible to obtain and analyze every piece of genetic material in the sample. As we being to learn more about the world, it becomes evident that there is more that is unknown. The crAssphage is an example of a “known unknown” because through metagenomics, the virus’s genome has been built and certain properties can be interpreted from the genome, but it has never been seen under a microscope and there is much still unknown about the virus. Metagenomics have opened the doors to analyzing multiple sequences and determining the ecology of the environment. Because metagenomics is becoming more prevalent, it is essential to understand the potential of this growing field. I hope that by learning about the potential of metagenomics, new ideas can sprout from using this technology in order to help others.”

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Stem Cells: Important Yet Controversial

By: Lauren Forsell, Biological Sciences ’16 and Parnya Baradaran, Computer Science Engineering, ’16

Author’s Note: 

“Parnya and I collaborated on this piece for a Science and Religion: The Case of Galileo seminar assignment. This assignment was inspired by the seminar’s focus on religious controversies surrounding scientific advancements, theories, and concepts. Another main reason why we wrote this piece is because of our backgrounds. Parnya, a computer engineer major, and myself, a biology major, both attended Catholic high schools. We enjoyed writing this piece because analyzing science and technology in the face of religious teachings and practice is something we will have to consider in our future careers. We chose to analyze abortion because it is one of the most popular and controversial science vs religion topics today. After reading this piece, we would like our readers to understand that while science can heal and cure, it can also offend and upset religious groups. As college students studying science, it is our job to develop our own opinions, while respecting those whose beliefs differ from our own.”

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The Infant Airway Microbiome Linked to Childhood Asthma

By Shivani Kamal, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, ’17

Author’s Note:

“I am pursing a career in pediatrics and wanted to familiarize myself with new research regarding health and development of children. I was amazed at the advancements of medical technology which allow us to understand diseases and create potential cures, previously never thought possible. My purpose for writing this review is to show scientific audiences the most current research on how bacteria in the respiratory microbiome has an impact on asthma. Recently, much research initiated by the Human Microbiome Projects (HMP) proved that the bacteria living on and inside humans contribute to the health and disease of the body. This review is meant to educate scientists on the most recent information on development of childhood asthma and prompt others to conduct future research on preventative treatments for the disease.”

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A Breakthrough in Breast Cancer Treatment

 Exciting, new gene therapy treatments for breast cancer are on the verge of making a breakthrough. With proper funding, these procedures could reduce the need for the surgical removal of organs.

By Rayan Kaakati, Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior

Being born female automatically enters one in a game of Russian roulette: About 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime; for American women, breast cancer is the second leading cause of death (U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics).

Breast cancer is a disease that starts in the tissues of the breast and is statistically fatal for one in thirty-two women (Breast Cancer Facts). Many women, throughout recorded history, have succumbed to this malignant disease. Rapid advancements in research have been very promising for cancer cell-targeting medications and for gene modification techniques.

Medicine in the twenty-first century is still resorting to what the ancient Chinese and Arab doctors used to practice: “If cancerous, cut it out if possible,” or in current-day terms, order a “lumpectomy” or a “mastectomy” (if the entire breast is to be removed). In recent years, a toxic chemo “smoothie” and an intensive radiation regimen have been added, coupled with hormone therapy.  While these medical procedures are credited with saving thousands of lives, they are still primitive compared to current, promising research works.

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Viruses and the Global Metabolic Pathway

By Oyang Teng, Biological Sciences ’14

Microbes are the planetary engineers of the biogeochemical cycles that sustain all life on earth. At the molecular scale, the biological turnover of such key elements as hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, iron and sulfur depends on the enzymatic transfer of electrons from reduced (electron-donating) to oxidized (electron-accepting) forms of these elements. On the global scale and over geological time, reduced substrates and oxidized products map to a vast, often circuitous flux between the interior depths of the mantle and the oceans, land, and atmosphere.

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Arabidopsis – Model Organism

By John Tran,  Biochemistry & Molecular Biology ’14

Have you ever wanted to learn more about the plant model organism?

Plants have many unique properties that make them especially important to all aspects of life. They provide oxygen, food, and energy, so you could imagine that there are many cellular and molecular processes that are involved in plants. For these reasons, we want to better understand plants using a model organism called Arabidopsis. Here, we talk about the properties of Arabidopsis and present an example of a genetic experiment, which could be used to improve the quality of apple trees.

Photo credit:  “Arabidopsis thaliana – Acker-Schmalwand”  by Nuuuuuuuuuuul is licensed by CC BY 2.0

Is your spit making you fat?

One of the central pursuits of modern human genetics is to move beyond genomic correlation. That is, to demonstrate experimentally why a specific genetic variant may be associated with a disease. New work in Nature Genetics from an international team lead by Philippe Froguel at Imperial College in London does just this – demonstrating an interesting link between saliva and obesity. Basically, all humans express amylase, a salivary enzyme that breaks down complex carbohydrates into absorbable sugars. The researchers found that people with more copies of the gene had a significantly decreased risk of developing obesity. People with fewer copies expressed less amylase, and it was hypothesized that this alteration in gastrointestinal carbohydrate metabolism affected insulin signaling, blood sugar levels, as well as the microbial community in the gut. This finding has implications for the rational design of digestive enzyme-based therapies for obesity and other metabolic disorders.

Froguel, Philippe, et al. “Low copy number of the salivary amylase gene predisposes to obesity.” Nature Genetics vol. 46, p. 492-497 (2014).