The Secret in Your Veins: The History of Blood Transfusion

Blood transfusions are an essential component of modern-day medicine, saving lives in a variety of situations, ranging from genetic diseases like sickle cell anemia to road accidents. But, the history of blood transfusion is a rocky one. For instance, did you know that a German physician founded the world’s first blood transfusion institute in 1926 because he believed blood transfusions led to immortality?

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How Your Brain Finds your Phone When You Hear it Ringing 

It’s Monday morning and your about to head out to catch your bus for work. You’re in a bit of a rush because, when you were getting dressed, you couldn’t find a two matching socks and you had to dig through the clean laundry still sitting in your dryer to find a matching pair. As you approach the door, you reflexively pat your pockets, checking for everything you need to bring with you. Keys? Check. Wallet? Check. Cell phone? Your phone is not there. Continue reading “How Your Brain Finds your Phone When You Hear it Ringing “

Na-No Thank You? Exploring the Dangers of Commercial Nanoparticles

Ah, a day at the beach. You find the perfect spot near the water’s edge, spread out your towel, slather on some sunscreen, and settle in with a cool drink. You spot a sparkling white boat bobbing in the distance, full of relaxed passengers tanning in the sun.

While this scene is full of idyllic summer imagery, is it also full of lurking danger? I’m not talking about sharks, but rather something much smaller: both the sunscreen you put on and the paint on the boat contain nanoparticles that provide important benefits but can harm both you and the environment around you.

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Artificial Organs? How We Can Get There with 3D Printing

Medical technology is rapidly advancing, with new technologies emerging faster than we can appreciate. Technologies such as liquid biopsies, 3D fluorescence imaging, and heart-in-a-box are just a sampling of the very cool advances we’ve seen in medicine in the past decade. Liquid biopsies can detect cancer in a patient’s blood, giving clinicians a reliable, non-invasive, and informative clinical tool to use to monitor cancer growth over time. Three dimensional imaging makes it easier to see what’s going on in your tissues. And heart-in-a-box allows donor hearts to live longer before transplanting them, giving time for hearts to travel far distances to patients in need. But, a tool that’s not so new yet is still particularly fascinating in its potential medical applications is the 3D printer.

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A Cell’s Search for Identity

All of us have gone through the torment of high school—the growing pains and the mood swings and the cliques. It turns out that during development the cells of your body also go through something similar to high school. Once a new cell is created in the developing embryo, the cell undergoes a process called cellular differentiation, where it responds to varying cues to choose what kind of cell it’s going to be, or rather how it should respond to the incessant “what do you want to be when you grow up” question. The process of cellular differentiation in embryonic development is very similar to school—the cell enters the process naïve and innocent about the world, and leaves with an idea of who and what it wants to be.

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Blood, Sweat, and… Saliva: How Our Bodily Fluids Can Save Us

Picture a fighter pilot commanding a plane as they engage in aerial combat.  When you think of the greatest threats to the pilot’s safety, you probably think of attacks from other aircraft or the risk of crashing the plane as they swiftly maneuver it between various obstacles.  But what about the potential for harm coming from inside the pilot’s own body?  For example, the stress the pilot is feeling might give him or her a heart attack.  Similarly, their severe dehydration could lead to heat stroke.  Both of these conditions would spell disaster for the pilot.  While often overshadowed by the inherent hazards of weapons and machinery, these ailments pose a very serious threat to the safety of military personnel.  But how can we know if someone is dehydrated or enduring dangerous levels of stress while they’re thousands of feet in the air? Continue reading “Blood, Sweat, and… Saliva: How Our Bodily Fluids Can Save Us”

Does Sprinkles McFluffington have Resting Cat Face?

Why is your cat so judgmental?  Sure, you’ve been lounging on the couch stuffing your face and binging on Netflix for like seven hours. But still.  A animal who uses their tongue to shower doesn’t get to judge us, right? Nevertheless, our cats seem to direct a thick layer of skepticism and condescension toward us, even though we prepare their meals, clean their litter boxes, and buy them toys filled with catnip. Continue reading “Does Sprinkles McFluffington have Resting Cat Face?”

Stripping, Drugs, Neurosurgery: Living With Epilepsy

Somehow, the first seizure I recall makes me giggle. I was getting changed after sports at school, age 6-ish, when I had a focal seizure, a seizure that starts on one side of the brain. The problem really was that I was still only half-dressed when I started walking down the corridor in only my underwear. It wasn’t until I was about to enter the classroom that I came out of the seizure. Can you imagine how different my life might have been if I had half-flashed my classmates?!  Continue reading “Stripping, Drugs, Neurosurgery: Living With Epilepsy”

Viva Las Vagus

Chances are, you’ve had a few opportunities to be crippled by symptoms of anxiety in your life. Maybe it was a first day at a new job or a social occasion with no familiar faces. Perhaps it happened right before you needed to perform in front of an audience. These occasions can be few and far between for some or chronically debilitating for others. Any way you experience it, anxiety generally comes with the same set of symptoms—accelerated heart rate, increased blood pressure, an abrupt tightness in your stomach. What’s happening here is your body’s fight-or-flight response, the automatic physiological and psychological behaviors that prepare your body to react to a perceived danger. Continue reading “Viva Las Vagus”

Is the Measles Really That Bad?

It’s official. In 2019, the United States (U.S.) is experiencing the nation’s largest outbreak of measles since 1994.

As the pairing of “measles” and “outbreak” screams across the headlines of countless news outlets, the majority of us experience an internal and instinctive shrinking back. But why? Is this learned response necessary, or is it simply the result of scare tactics and media hype? Continue reading “Is the Measles Really That Bad?”

The Truth about Cannabidiol (As Far as We Know)

“CBD.” Perhaps you’ve seen these letters shining bright, in green neon, on a store window in a seedy part of the city, fronting a shop with glass vials and trinkets lining the shelves and creepy men behind the counter. Or, maybe you took a stroll downtown on a sunny day and walked into CVS or Walgreens, only to see these same letters on small boxes lining the shelves next to the vitamins. You might be wondering what’s going on – how could the same compound be proudly sold in shady hemp shops and mainstream convenience stores at the same time? What is this confounded chemical? Continue reading “The Truth about Cannabidiol (As Far as We Know)”

The Moving Cells that Make Our Pups the Pups They Are Today

What makes dogs so doggy? You might have noticed that your dog has traits, like floppy ears, a curly tail, speckles or patches, or a cute, short nose,  that make it look pretty different from the wolf it’s descended from. For more than a century, scientists have wondered why so many domesticated animals, ranging from cows to pigs to mice, share traits like these that don’t exist in the wild animals they’re related to. Continue reading “The Moving Cells that Make Our Pups the Pups They Are Today”

Redrawing the Battle Plan Against Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

Emily Collins has spent her life under the shadow of recurring bacterial infections. She spent a significant part of her childhood in the hospital, taking time off from her studies at her university, which cause her to lose her dream job of being a nurse. Emily suffers from chronic ESBL infections. ESBLs, or Extended-Spectrum-Beta-Lactamases, are bacterial chemicals that can break down a range of antibiotics, helping certain bacteria resist a large fraction of antibiotic treatments. As a result, these antibiotic-resistant infections are notoriously difficult to treat and can cause chronic, life-long infections.

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Immunity: How Vaccines Keep You Healthy

“It’s just like riding a bike!”

We usually say this when we’re trying out a task or a skill that we may have learned long ago, and have not used for a while, but can still execute like no time has passed. Think back for a moment to that time when you were learning this persistent skill. What exactly did you need to learn that stuck with you all this time? Your brain and muscles learned how to stay balanced, how to pedal and how to steer, and how to do all of those things at once. It was a pretty complicated task to learn. Continue reading “Immunity: How Vaccines Keep You Healthy”

What Your 23andMe Results Mean for Your Health

Last year, the genetic testing company 23andMe announced they will start testing for mutations in the BRCA genes, the ones that predict whether a woman will develop breast cancer, with surprising accuracy. A year prior, the FDA approved 23andMe genetic tests for other complex conditions such as Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Celiac disease. Continue reading “What Your 23andMe Results Mean for Your Health”

Glioblastoma: This Cancer is Not a No-Brainer

In the summer of 2018, you probably heard the word “glioblastoma” popping up quite frequently in news reports upon the decline and death of American politician John McCain.  McCain was diagnosed with the aggressive class of brain cancer in July 2017, stopped treatment on August 24, 2018 and passed away the very next day. While this timeline might seem exceptional, the unfortunate reality is that McCain’s experience with glioblastoma is a very accurate representation of the rapid progression of the disease.  In fact, those afflicted by glioblastoma survive on average just over one year upon diagnosis.  Let’s explore what makes glioblastoma so evasive in nature and what scientists are doing to try to increase patients’ lifespans.   Continue reading “Glioblastoma: This Cancer is Not a No-Brainer”

A Spoonful of Insulin Makes the Blood Sugar Go Down

Imagine drinking ten glasses of sugar water. What would you do after? Wash out your mouth? Eat something salty? You’d probably eat or drink whatever it takes to get rid of the extremely sweet taste. In the same way, when your body encounters high blood sugar, it tries to lower your glucose back to normal levels. Insulin, meaning island in Latin, is a hormone that is made in your pancreas.  Its primary role is to reduce your blood sugar. Defective insulin secretion, which is the hallmark of diabetes, can have adverse consequences in the body, such as unintended weight loss, increased thirst, increased urination, vision problems, and skin problems. Continue reading “A Spoonful of Insulin Makes the Blood Sugar Go Down”

How Genetic Mutations Cause — And Prevent — Disease

Stephen Crohn, an artist from New York, lost a lot to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. For more than a decade, he watched his boyfriend, Jerry Green, as well as nearly all of his friends slowly grow sicker and perish from this mysterious illness. His passion for his art dried up, and survivors’ guilt consumed him.

But the one thing he didn’t lose during this scourge was his own life. The reason he survived was not luck, however. Rather, he made it through because he carried a rare genetic mutation that made him virtually immune to HIV. Continue reading “How Genetic Mutations Cause — And Prevent — Disease”