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Submitted by bpmccarthy on Fri, 11/01/2019 - 12:50

Sleep is an important aspect of every animal’s life, and while scientists are not exactly sure why animals need to sleep so often, the benefits are known. A good night’s sleep is important to staying healthy in both body and mind. Sleep gives the body a chance to slow down normal daily processes and focus on any repair that might be needed. Sleep is also a chance for the brain to organize information that has been taken in throughout the day. During sleep the brain sorts information and gets rid of information that it doesn’t need so as to not fill the brain’s storage with useless information it will never use or need. The negative effects of not getting enough sleep are very apparent, and have been studied numerous times over the years. A person that goes without sleep for an extended period of time will experience delirium, hallucinations, and other detrimental health effects. Long periods of time without rest can lead to a weakened immune system making the individual more susceptible to sickness. The reason why animals sleep so much may not be fully known, but it is certainly known how it affects organisms.


Submitted by bpmccarthy on Wed, 10/30/2019 - 17:59

Caffeine is a well known stimulant, and an ingredient in some of the world's most popular beverages. Coffee, tea, and soda are some of the most well known sources of caffeine, beverages that are consumed by people every day all over the world. Caffeine can also be found in chocolate and other foods. Over recent years, I have come across many articles claiming the negative health effects of caffeine, while also seeing other articles claiming the benefits of caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, and in general stimulants increase heart rate, blood pressure, and cause the person who has ingested it to be more alert. I'm inclined to believe that too much caffeine is not good for you. Just like anything else, take it in moderation. Continuously increasing your heart rate/blood pressure by the use of anything is not good for the cardiovascular system, and caffeine can have adverse effects on sleep schedule/sleeping in general so it is important to know when caffeine intake is affecting your sleep habits, as bad sleep habits can have many negative effects. That being said, don't think caffeine should be dropped completely from your diet, just remember to take everything in moderation and be smart with your choices.

Fluorescence Microscopy

Submitted by bpmccarthy on Thu, 10/24/2019 - 17:45

Fluorescence microscopy is a useful tool in the world of bioimaging. I am currently in the BIO-477H course Bioimaging, and one of our experiments was to work with cells tagged with fluorescent molecules called fluorophores. Fluorophores produce fluorescent light and fantastic, colorful images, but caution must be taken when imaging with fluorescence. A phenomena known as photobleaching occurs when fluorophores are exposed to fluorescent light of high intensity or for a prolonged time period. This occurs because the fluorophore absorbs the photon of the receiving light, goes to an excited state, and releases a photon when it returns to the ground state. The emitted photon is what we perceive as "fluorescence". When fluorophores are exposed to high intensity fluorescent light, the fluorophore is modified covalently and remains in an excited state, losing the ability to return to ground state and release a photon. Thus, the fluorophore no longer fluoresces. Strategies such as using neutral density filters, and using a shutter to help take the photos reduces the fluorophore's exposure to fluorescent light and result in better images.

Genetic Variation

Submitted by bpmccarthy on Wed, 10/23/2019 - 23:34

Genetic mutations are often associated with negative effects; however, not all genetic mutations are bad. The negative effects associated with genetic mutations include diseases like cancer, and are responsible for many genetic diseases, and in rare cases can happen without a genetic predisposition to do so. The random, non-inherited, genetic mutations are the ones that can play a big positive role in evolution and directly lead to speciation. For example, a mouse living in a sandy environment would mostly be a light tan color to blend in with the sand to avoid predation. Say a nearby volcano erupts and the hardened magma changes the landscape from light sand to dark rock. Surviving mice adapted for the sandy environment would stick out to a bird of prey flying overhead, and would not survive long. On the other hand, a mouse with a random mutation for black fur color would have a better chance of surviving and passing on the genes for black fur. Mutations can have effects that hurt you or help you, and should not be lumped under just one category. 


Submitted by bpmccarthy on Wed, 10/23/2019 - 16:38

The evolution of mitochondria in eukaryotic cells is something of a mystery. Many scientists are not completely sure where mitochondria came from, but the best solution out there now is that mitochondria were once separate organisms from cells, something along the lines of a type of bacteria or archaea. Scientists believe that a prokaryote ancestor of mitochondria was consumed by a eukaryotic cell at some point in time, and the prokaryote and eukaryotic cell developed a symbiotic relationship. Through evolution, the prokaryote eventually lost characteristics that it did not need outside of its function in the cell, and became what we now know as the mitochondrion. This being just a theory, it does not guarantee that this is where mitochondria came from, but as of now, it's our best guess that can explain the properties of mitochondria and its behavior in the cell.


Submitted by bpmccarthy on Sun, 10/20/2019 - 15:00

Stereochemistry is a term used to describe the orientation and spatial arrangement of molecules, and has very important implications in society, especially in the fields of medicine and pharmacology. A famous case of stereochemistry at work occurred in the late 1950’s. A drug called thalidomide was developed by German scientists in the 1950’s as a sedative and was eventually marketed and sold as Contergan. At the time, not much was known about the effects of medicine on developing fetuses, and pregnant women took thalidomide to relieve their morning sickness symptoms. When producing the drug, it existed in the form of two enantiomers, one form with re medical benefit and the other causing serious birth defects in children. Shortly afterwards the sale of thalidomide was banned. Thalidomide was later discovered to have positive effects on people with leprosy and even cancer treatments. Thalidomide was found to inhibit angiogenesis (the growth and development of blood vessels) which helped treat some cases of blood cancer.


Submitted by bpmccarthy on Tue, 10/08/2019 - 18:05

The organization present in the different forms of life on Earth is astounding. In a plant physiology class that I took last semester, we looked at a lot of different processes that plants use to survive. As multicellular organisms, a lot goes into a plant in order for it to survive. From photosynthesis to maintaining homeostasis, many processes are going on at once to keep the plant alive. Examining the cell pathways and interactions in and outside of the plant, it is easy to get lost because of how many steps are usually involved with these processes. With how complicated these processes are, it is easy not to get lost in awe of how organized these processes are. Certain things only happen depending on the completion of other events, and other things require the presence of so many things in a particular order. The same can be said about mostly every organism. Every organism has tightly regulated processes that try to ensure survival and the level of organization that goes into the different cell pathways, etc. is mind-blowing and it makes me think of how miraculous it really is that all this life can exist on Earth.


Submitted by bpmccarthy on Wed, 10/02/2019 - 14:36

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been very prevalent in recent years in the ongoing debate about what foods we should be eating and how different foods affect us. For a while I didn't really know what GMOs do or how they affect us, until last semester in my genetics class. My professor, Professor Loomis, told us how scientists have been able to modify the genomes of certain crops, like wheat. These genetic modifications have allowed the crops to survive being sprayed with pesticides. This is great for farmers because they can easily rid their crops of insects/pests while increasing their yield; however, this has detrimental effects on the populations who eat these crops. The pesticides get absorbed into the plant and the plant doesn't die, but the chemicals in these pesticides remain in the crop all the way until they are consumed, poisoning whoever consumes this product.  Professor Loomis then told us that this is a big reason why many people in the US have gluten insensitivities, or so they think. People with so called “gluten insensitivities” are just responding to the pesticides that are in their food, that have traveled from the wheat fields to their plate. She stated that people who have what they think are gluten insensitivities can go to Europe and eat the bread there just fine, because they’re not made with genetically modified wheat crop that has been sprayed down with pesticides. While this is still all I really know about GMOs, I think they could be potentially useful if implemented correctly. GMOs could help fulfill food needs of a steadily increasing world population. In their current state, GMOs need a lot of improvement before their use is practical and efficient (and doesn’t poison people), but many people recognize their potential, and are working towards better GMO solutions.


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