National Autism Awareness Month

By Nicholas Persaud

The month of April is National Autism Awareness Month. As suggested by the name, the purpose of this month is to educate and inform others about autism. This includes defining the disease, learning what it means to have autism, learning the difficulties that someone with autism faces, and of course learning how to accept and appreciate those living with autism. Considering that over 3.5 million Americans are currently living with autism, it is important that we are educated on this topic.

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April: Parkinson’s Awareness Month

By Barbara Gruszka

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative brain disorder. While there are many neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and Huntington’s, Parkinson’s is characterized by the development of tremors, impaired movement, and even trouble controlling emotions.[1]

Why does this occur? Current research points to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Neurotransmitters allow for the brain to send signals through neurons, known as “brain cells.” In Parkinson’s disease, the brain slowly stops producing dopamine and is unable to relay signals towards the parts of the brain that help us move. These signals typically stem from the substantia nigra, where the neurons that produce dopamine are heavily concentrated. In a Parkinson’s patient this area is inactive and dopamine is not produced.

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Development of Novel Flow Cytometry Technique to Study Yellow Fever Virus

By Devorah Saffern

Researchers in the Ploss lab of the Molecular Biology department at Princeton University have utilized a new technology to analyze the pathogenesis of the yellow fever virus (YFV), which can be applied to other viruses and lead to significant progress in understanding disease mechanisms. Published in Nature Communications on March 14, their study discusses the ways in which viruses interact with host cells, in an effort to discover more effective vaccines. Currently, there is a lack of scientific knowledge on how viruses interact with the host cells and cause illness or proper immune response, and their research begins to uncover these behaviors.

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Combating Blood Shortage: In vitro Red Blood Cells

By Sharon Washio

At any given time, or more exactly every 2 seconds, blood transfusions are needed for complicated surgeries, treatments, accident victims, sickle patients, pregnancy complications, severely anemic children, and more. While blood can be donated even concurrently with the use of medications like aspirin, and in the U.S. approximately 38% of the population is able to donate, less than 10% do, according to the Red Cross. Even donated blood does not last forever and there is a constant shortage problem that, unless donors increase, is projected to rise due to longer lifespans, the limited shelf life of blood, blood requirements, and the specificity of blood types. The scarcity of blood supplies often prevents necessary surgeries and treatments from reaching a loved one.

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Emergence of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis holds unsettling consequences

By Ava Torjani

A recent study found that a rare form of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB), called extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB), has been spreading across regions of South Africa and currently has no effective treatment for or prevention against it. Although in much smaller numbers, cases of XDR TB have also been reported in countries including the U.S., Russia, and Brazil.

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American Heart Month

By Nicholas Persaud

February is the month dedicated to the heart in more ways than one. Most people know about Valentine’s day but they probably don’t know that the month of February is American Heart Month. Heart health is an extremely important issue worldwide. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The number of reported deaths from heart disease are greater than deaths caused by cancer in the United States. Heart disease is not something to be taken lightly.

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The Links between Gut Microbes and Human Disease

By Devorah Saffern

Our guts are composed of thousands of bacterial species, many of which are essential for physiological processes like digestion and fighting disease. Recent findings suggest that these microbes – the types of which are specific to each individual – are linked to several diseases that affect much of our population. Studying the gut microbiome may therefore reveal the mechanism or cause of these diseases and help us develop better treatments or prevention methods. Here, we focus on two papers in particular that were published in the past three months and analyzed the links between the gut microbiome and specific diseases: a University of Oregon study connects the gut bacteria to intestinal inflammation; and a California Institute of Technology study examines the gut microbiome in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

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Blood-based prion detection: a breakthrough?

By Yusha Sun

Prion diseases are a group of infectious, mostly fatal neurological diseases that affect all animals, including humans. Prion diseases are caused by prions, infectious agents made from a conformationally altered form of the natural PrP protein. They are especially dangerous due to their ability to propagate in the body and brain indefinitely without the requirement of genetic material. One of the most common forms of prion disease, known as the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), or more popularly mad cow disease, results from eating the meat of cattle afflicted with a form of encephalopathy.

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