Bovine Embryonic Development Closely Resembles That of Humans

By Kurtis Chien

Mice have traditionally been used as research models for the study of human embryonic development, since they share many early developmental processes, and researchers have the most comprehensive map of their genome. However, recent use of CRISPR-Cas9, a gene editing tool, has allowed for more thorough investigation into the early development of other, similar animals. Bovines, in particular, have been determined to exhibit even closer processes to humans.

Mammalian embryos begin dividing after fertilization. Following a couple of divisions, the cells form a blastocyst, which is two layers of cells wrapped around a cavity filled with fluid. The inner layer of cells become the actual embryo, and the outer layer becomes extraembryonic membranes and the placenta. Some of the cells on the inner layer of the blastocyst are pluripotent stem cells, and are capable of developing into a variety of different adult cells.

Here’s where the difference with mice begins. Researchers at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet in Munich were able to use CRISPR-Cas9 to delete OCT4, a gene that regulates the pluripotency of embryonic stem cells. When OCT4 was deleted from a mouse embryo, the researchers observed that the embryo was unable to express a transcription factor called GATA6, which contributes to heart, lung, and gut development. Deletion of OCT4 from a bovine embryo, on the other hand, resulted in the loss of the transcription factor NANOG instead. This omission of NANOG is also observed in human embryos with mutated or dysfunctional OCT4.

OCT4 deletion is just one example of a handful that support the developmental similarities between human and bovine embryos. These findings, and the future use of bovine models, might give rise to a better understanding of how human embryos develop, and what each step of the process means.


Kilian Simmet, Valeri Zakhartchenko, Julia Philippou-Massier, Helmut Blum, Nikolai Klymiuk, Eckhard Wolf. OCT4/POU5F1 is required for NANOG expression in bovine blastocysts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201718833 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1718833115

“GATA6 Gene.” GeneCards, Weizmann Institute of Science,

Anxiety can Positively or Negatively Color Memory

By Ursula Biba

At the University of Waterloo, 80 undergraduate students participated in a study to elucidate the effects of different levels of anxiety on memory recall. Groups were exposed to high and low anxiety-inducing conditions in deep and shallow encoding construction groups, respectively. Findings showed that anxiety can help individuals recall details of an experience—but only to a certain extent. Heightened levels of anxiety can morph into feelings of fear and increased emotional sensitivity, allowing emotions to negatively color neutral memories. This, in turn, can also lead to a negative mindset, bias, and altered perception. Scientists of the study, Christopher Lee and Myra Fernandez, state that findings are applicable to both educators and the general public: educators should be cognizant of how the mood of their lectures influence retention while the public should be aware of their own biases and their effects on perception.


University of Waterloo. (2018, February 26). Manageable levels of anxiety can help your memory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2018 from

The Ghosts of Smallpox Past, Present, and Yet to Come

By Meghan Mulvey

Smallpox, which results from the transmission of the variola virus, is a deadly disease that plagued mankind for centuries. With the help of worldwide immunization efforts, the infectious disease was eradicated around 1980. However, in 2017, scientists in Canada were able to manufacture a virus very similar to the one that causes smallpox, and they have now published a guide on how to create the smallpox-like virus in a lab. These recent discoveries have encouraged infectious disease experts to evaluate what would happen if smallpox were to reemerge. During the time since smallpox has been eradicated, modern medicine has advanced to the point where many people are able to stay alive with a weakened immune system. For example, those with HIV and those undergoing treatment for cancer all have weakened immune systems, but medical advancements have helped them stay alive. Moreover, approximately 20% of people in large cities like New York City have a weakened immune system. This all makes the impact of a potential smallpox attack more threatening. Specialists in the areas of immunology and infectious disease warn that it is crucial for people in the healthcare field to receive vaccinations to minimize a smallpox outbreak if one were to occur. Additionally, Professor Mike Lane, who is the former director of the United States Centers for Disease Control Smallpox Eradication Program ensures that if a smallpox outbreak were to occur, following public health standards and vaccinations should be able to keep it under control.


University of New South Wales. (2018, March 3). Planning for smallpox outbreak must consider immunosuppression. ScienceDaily . Retrieved March 9, 2018 from

You can never have too much of a Green thing

By Emily Taketa

Long term greenspace exposure is shown to increase a child’s white and grey matter volume in Barcelona Institute for Global Health’s “BREATHE project.” With collaboration from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and the Hospital del Mar, the study of 253 schoolchildren’s lifelong exposure to greenspaces and current brain anatomy was conducted to test specific cognitive processes. This study is the first to associate long-term surrounding greenness exposure to changes in the anatomical brain. The results connected the increased availability of greenspaces in a schoolchild’s surrounding environment with increased attentiveness and working memory capacity for children from ages seven to ten.

This study demonstrated that natural contact facilitates increased psychological restoration and beneficial brain development, providing evidence for the Biophilia hypothesis. The Biophilia hypothesis suggests an innate, evolutionary human affinity to connect with nature.  Additionally, the increased greenspaces, and therefore decreased atmospheric and auditory pollution, in the surroundings could “enrich microbial inputs” indirectly improving brain development.

These studies of positive effects from childhood exposure to natural environments support existing studies urging cities to increase greenspace availability for their residents’ health. The extent and duration of greenspace exposure can have lasting impacts on a resident’s quality of life and cognitive development.


University of California - Los Angeles. "Being raised in greener neighborhoods may have beneficial effects on brain development." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 February 2018. 

Lack of Diversity in Medical School Textbooks May Lead to Racial Bias in Medical Treatment

By Amanda Moises

According to researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto, dark skin tones are underrepresented in medical school textbooks. After analyzing over 4,000 human images in four medical textbooks, the researchers discovered that there is little diversity, even in chapters where people with darker skin tones are more susceptible to certain diseases. For example, in Atlas of Human Anatomy, researchers found that fewer than 1% of photos in the textbook featured patients of darker skin.

This can cause huge problems in medical treatment because the rates of mortality for breast, skin, and other cancers are actually higher for black people, due to late diagnosis. For skin cancer in particular, physicians need to look for melanomas on patients’ hands, nails, and feet. However, there were no visuals in any medical textbook that explained how to do this for dark-skinned patients. This lack of diversity may contribute to misdiagnosis in dark-skinned patients if light skin tones continue to be shown as the norm. In order to avoid racial bias, physicians need to be able to recognize disease in patients with a variety of skin tones. These findings are significant and can be used to promote greater diversity of skin tones in medical education.


University of British Columbia. (2018, March 1). More diversity needed in medical school textbooks. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 7, 2018 from

Preserving Stem Cells while Aging?

By Akari Miki

As people age, the function of their skeletal muscle declines, and this decline may be due to the reductions in the activity and number of stem cells over time. As a step toward a deeper understanding of the mechanism, researchers at Karolinska Instituet in Sweden examined mutations in the stem cells of the skeletal muscles using whole genome sequencing. As stem cells divide, their mutations accumulate and diminish the function of the skeletal muscles. Regions that are crucial for the function and survival of the cells have the greatest protection against mutations. The researchers found that this protection against mutations declines with age, and this finding could pave the way for novel treatments that preserve movement in the skeleton muscles. One promising treatment is a drug that restores the DNA repair system in the cells. As the next step, the researchers are currently investigating whether physical exercise could eliminate the growth of stem cells with mutations in the skeletal muscle. This growing area of research on the impact of stem cells on aging could help people remain physically active as they become older.


Karolinska Institutet. (2018, February 23). Stem cell study may result in stronger muscles in old age. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2018 from

Adverse, irreparable developmental impacts of iron-deficiency studied in piglet brains

By Mohamad Hamze

Piglet brains have been studied extensively for their similarities to human infant brains in terms of development timeline and nutrient requirements; with this in mind, the research of Austin Mudd and Ryan Dilger at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has corroborated the documented neurological and psychological effects of iron deficiency with neuroimaging of piglet brains as they developed in early life with and without sufficient iron. Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies worldwide, and carries a number of adverse health effects in individuals of all ages. It was their hope that this information may point towards research of the structural neurological deficits in humans whose effects can last well into adulthood.

MRI analysis of piglets with iron-deficient diets in the first four weeks of life indicated that insufficient iron resulted in reduced overall brain volume and decreased iron content in crucial areas of the brain such as the hippocampus when compared to those piglets who received sufficient dietary iron. All piglets were then supplied iron-rich diets for the next four weeks in order to study the ability of the brain to recover from the early effects of iron-deficiency. While brain volume increased to near-normal levels, many of the earlier-affected brain areas were still found to be iron-deficient or structurally impaired even after four weeks of a normal diet. What this implies for piglets – and with further research, the researchers hope, human infants – is a “critical window in development for providing iron” found right after birth. This window, which in humans translates to about four months post-birth, thus proves crucial for early brain development and motor skills, cognition, memory and emotion later in life.


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Neuroimaging reveals lasting brain deficits in iron-deficient piglets." ScienceDaily, 21 February 2018. 

Detecting Preeclampsia- the Silent Pregnancy Killer

By Santiago Noriega

Preeclampsia, the leading cause of maternal mortality in the United States, is a pregnancy complication that can interfere with blood flow to a mother’s placenta and the fetus, potentially causing low birth weight, prematurity, and death. In an effort to work towards an early diagnostic blood test, researchers led by Dr. Noam Shomron and Prof. Moshe Hod of Tel Aviv University have identified “novel molecular biomarkers of preeclampsia” (American Friends of Tel Aviv University). Specifically, by comparing RNA samples from control group and preeclampsia participants, they were able to identify a set of molecules that were significantly different between the groups. Although the cure for preeclampsia is well known and easily accessible, it is often difficult to detect the condition because as of yet doctors do not know what causes it. Shomron and Hod’s work however, shifts research on preeclampsia towards genetics. Before, doctors were only able to assess risk of preeclampsia from their medical and family history, but the finding of this new biomarker makes it possible to predict preeclampsia from a simple blood test. This way, doctors will be able to treat the condition more reliably, hopefully diminishing its lethality. Prof. Hod asserts that this new research works towards a growing trend in medicine that seeks to “establish pregnancy tests in the first trimester, as opposed to today, when most tests are performed in the third trimester” (American Friends of Tel Aviv University).


American Friends of Tel Aviv University. (2018, February 21). Scientists discover critical molecular biomarkers of preeclampsia: Small non-coding RNAs may be used to devise a diagnostic blood test for pregnant women. Retrieved March 5, 2018.

New study suggests the microbiome plays a role in the development of metabolic syndrome 

By Iris Becene

A recent Johns Hopkins study done on mice suggests the intestinal microbiome is an important factor in the development of obesity and insulin resistance in mammals. Dr. David Hackman from the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center described how past studies suggest that a certain protein, TLR4, may interact with the microbiome to result in metabolic syndrome, which may result in heart attack, stroke, or diabetes. Metabolic syndrome describes an array of conditions including obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. First, the research team ran an experiment in which half of the mice were genetically modified to lack the TLR4 gene and the other half were the controls. Both groups were fed the same feed for the same period of time. The mice lacking the TLR4 gene developed metabolic syndrome symptoms. Further experiments suggested that deleting the TLR4 gene specifically in intestinal epithelium cells resulted in the greatest effects of metabolic syndrome. Other experiments were completed in which the microbiome of both groups of mice were altered through the ingestion of antibiotics which reduce the amount of bacteria in the intestines. The genetically modified mice that were given antibiotics did not develop metabolic syndrome. Fecal tests showed that bacteria contributing to metabolic syndrome were expressed differently between the genetically modified mice and the control mice. Overall, this study suggests that the interaction of the TLR4 gene and bacterial cells may play a role in metabolic syndrome.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2018, February 12). Mouse study adds to evidence linking gut bacteria and obesity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 4, 2018 from 

Sedative Use May Decrease Delirium

By: Katie Campbell

            It has been reported that delirium in the critically ill patient extends hospital stays and increases mortality. A new study, performed in Boston and Quebec, has shown low-dose night time sedative use may prevent delirium in this population. 100 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients who did not have delirium at the time of enrollment were entered into the double-blind study. Half the patients were randomly assigned to receive low-dose dexmedetomidine, a sedative, while the other half received a placebo.

            They found that 80% of the patients in the dexmedetomidine group did not develop delirium as compared to the 54% of patients in the control group who did. Additionally, the experimental group spent two more days delirium-free and experienced a significant reduction pain (and a decrease in opiate use) during their time in the ICU. There was no difference found in the length of ICU stay, length of hospitalization, or ICU mortality. Dr. Yoanna Skorbik, the primary investigator for the project, suggests that these results are strong enough to alter practices, and advises that centers increase their use of dexmedetomidine in high-risk patients. These findings provide an exciting step forward in the prevention of delirium and overall treatment of ICU patients.


American Thoracic Society. "Sedative may prevent delirium in the ICU." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 March 2018. <>.

To Be Young and to Have TB

By Leili Najmabadi 

Globally, 1.8 million people aged between 10 to 24 years get infected by tuberculosis (TB) every year, with 20-24 year olds at greatest risk. The European Respiratory Journal conducted the first research study analyzing TB in this age group to better understand the burden of this disease in a specific population of young people. Previously, data was only given for children under 14 years of age and adults over 15 years of age. In-depth research on this age group is especially important due to the disease’s ability to affect productivity in school, work, or family life. Transmission of TB occurs through the inhalation of droplets from coughs and sneezes from infected patients. Common symptoms include a severe cough, fever, and weight loss and treatment for these symptoms usually includes antibiotics.

Adolescents in Kathryn Snow’s research at the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Melbourne, Australia were categorized into groups aged 10 to 14 years, 15 to 19 years, and 20 to 24 years. South Asia, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa, had the greatest amount of new TB cases at 721,000 and 534,000 cases. Both these regions have high amounts of young adults in their population, which could explain the large amount of burden in these areas. Snow hypothesized that both biological and social factors contribute to the high risk of TB in adolescents, largely due to their constant interaction with their peers.

With the results of this study, epidemiologists are hoping to re-evaluate their prevention strategies to target the young population most vulnerable to tuberculosis. Addressing the stigma behind TB and creating more accessible and effective treatment is also a priority among public health officials combating the TB epidemic.


European Lung Foundation. (2018, February 21). First global estimate finds 1.8 million young people develop tuberculosis every year. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 2, 2018 from

The Opioid, Hepatitis C domino effect

By Alexander Pan

Due to the prevalence of opioids and commonplace opioid prescriptions, many lose control and become addicted. Subsequently, opioid addicts switch to heroin due to its potency and cheaper price. Researchers from the Keck School of Medicine studied the correlation between increased opioid use and the increased incidence of hepatitis C. Needles are used to inject heroin into the blood, which leads to the spread of various blood-related diseases. Despite the health risks of injecting needles into the blood, many opioid addicts move from prescribed opioids to heroin. “Heroin is much less expensive and more efficient in doing the job”, a subject said in justification of injecting needles. From a study of 776 subjects in Los Angeles, drug addicts injected various drugs into themselves such as heroin, methamphetamine, and crack cocaine. From that subject group, there was an incidence of 35% of subjects that developed hepatitis C over 5 years. To prevent the rampant opioid epidemic from spreading, novel solutions for improving treatment addiction and drug education programs should be utilized. Further research needs to be conducted on subjects to improve current forms of treatment. From a policy perspective, more governmental regulation is needed to limit the quantity of opioids prescribed to patients. As a result, fewer people would abuse opioids and use needles to spread hepatitis C, limiting the domino effect of two health epidemics at once.


Ricky N. Bluthenthal, Daniel Chu, Lynn D. Wenger, Philippe Bourgois, Thomas Valente, Alex H. Kral. Differences in time to injection onset by drug in California: Implications for the emerging heroin epidemic. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2018; 185: 253 DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.01.005

University of Southern California. (2018, February 22). Opioid abuse leads to heroin use and a hepatitis C epidemic, researcher says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 27, 2018 from

Four Millennia… That’s a Long Time to Wait: The First Safe, Effective, And Reversible Male Oral Contraceptive

By Jacqueline Katz

We can trace primitive female contraceptive methods as far back as 1825 BCE, when the Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus of Ancient Egypt was first drafted. So, why did it take nearly four thousand years for scientists to discover a marketable oral contraceptive for men?

The American Chemical Society’s Journal of Medicinal Chemistry published a study in January indicating that a derivative of ouabain, a plant extract traditionally used by African warriors as arrow poison, can function as a sort of spermicide. What was used as a fatal toxin then is now, in small doses, prescribed as an effective treatment for heart attack patients and, possibly, as a male birth control pill in coming years.

Research has been conducted on ouabain as a male contraceptive in the past and these earlier studies also found that it does decrease male fertility. Trials were not further pursued, however, because of the notable risk of heart damage associated with the compound. But, what is different about the research conducted by Gunda Georg, Gustavo Blanco, and their team is that they manipulated the ouabain compound to eliminate the potential heart risk, making a derivative far more likely to debilitate the protein subunit found in sperm cells rather than those found in heart tissue. The ouabain analog binds to the protein subunit in the sperm cell, thereby crippling it so that the sperm cell is no longer mobile, a feature crucial to the fertilization of the ovum.

There has been no measured toxicity found in rats upon ingestion of the pill. The scientists on the project also maintain that full fertility should be restored once the patient stops taking the drug, as the compound only affects mature sperm cells and, therefore, sperm cells produced after routine dosage has ceased should not be harmed by the contraceptive.


American Chemical Society. "Prospective birth control pill for men has its origin in an arrow poison." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 January 2018. <>.

Smith, Lesley. “The Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus: Ancient Egyptian Medicine.” Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, vol. 37, no. 1, 2011, pp. 54–55., doi:10.1136/jfprhc.2010.0019.

Approaches to Reducing Childhood Obesity Must be Multi-Pronged

By Allison Kannam

Childhood obesity is a major public health issue globally and there has recently been increased attention to effective preventive interventions. When children enter elementary school, they are at an ideal age for prevention efforts that may help reduce weight problems later in life. To that end, a randomized control trial led by the University of Birmingham investigated the clinical impacts of a healthy lifestyle intervention in schools for 6 and 7 year olds. Their findings indicated that the intervention did not influence weight status for participants, and they concluded that school-based interventions alone are not adequate to address issues of childhood obesity.

The WAVES (West Midlands ActiVe lifestyle and healthy Eating in School) study involved 1,500 students and the experimental group participated in a 12-month intervention that included an additional 30 minutes of daily physical activity in schools, a 6-week curriculum run by a local soccer club, and increased parent engagement via periodic mailings and workshops about exercise and healthy cooking. Indicators such as weight and blood pressure were measured at the start of the intervention, after 15 months, and after 30 months. In addition, the children used an activity tracker for five days; took assessments about quality of life, social acceptance, and body image; and recorded their dietary intake.

Since the intervention did not result in a change in weight status among the children, the researchers emphasize that while schools are important places to teach about healthy behavior, additional interventions on the community and family level as well as policy changes are imperative to address childhood obesity.


Citation: University of Birmingham. (2018, February 7). Schools alone cannot help to prevent childhood obesity, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 26, 2018 from

Neural Stem cells are being used to repair brain damage

By Kaya Jordan

Researchers at the University of Georgia and a UGA startup company led by Steven Stice have developed a new regenerative stroke treatment that repairs brain damage. This will affect so many as strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States. The treatment, AB126, relies on exosomes, which are fluid filled extracellular vesicles. Human neural stem cells are capable of producing these structures. They found that the small extracellular vesicles are perfect for storing and administering doses. The extracellular vesicles are more effective than cell therapy because of their small size, tubular shape and invisibility to the body's defense system. MRI studies found a decline in atrophy rate in rats that had been administered AB126. The scans showed "an approximately 35 percent decrease in the size of the injury and 50 percent reduction in brain tissue loss." The UGA start up, ArunA Biomedical is planning on starting clinical trials on humans as early as next year. The company is also hoping to use this method to treat other problems of the brain such as traumatic brain damage and epilepsy. Most exciting, these companies promise to produce these therapies at a low cost, revolutionizing not only the treatment of these brain disorders but possibly cancer, heart disease and more. 


University of Georgia. (2018, February 15). New stem-cell based stroke treatment repairs damaged brain tissue: Human clinical trials could begin as early as next year. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 25, 2018 from

Cleaning: The Silent Killer

By Eve Abraha

Over the course of history, women have generally been the “ideal” candidate for taking care of several household duties- primarily cleaning. As such, the main tests subjects for this experiment were women since a higher population of cleaners tend to be women. Once the test subjects were isolated, it became clear that the effects of the cleaning industry has lead to long term negative effects in women’s health, as noted by the American Thoracic Society. It was recently noted by researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway that cleaning sprays and other cleaning products have lead to an increase in lung function decline in many women. This decline was triggered by the multiple occurrences of when the cleaning spray was used and some of the toxic chemicals were inhaled, which later caused issues with the “mucous membranes lining the airways which… results in persistent changes in the airways and airway remodeling.” Even after removing any extraneous variables that may have affected the data, the effects of inhalation of chemical products were still prominent. In fact, so much so that studies were noting how women who cleaned a lot with these products and did not wear face masks were shown to have the same level of lung defects as someone who smoked 20 packs of cigarettes a year. These studies indicate how easy exposure to these chemicals can cause serious health issues. In the future, it is recommended that one wears at least a face mask when cleaning, as well as using materials that do not contain as many toxic chemicals.


American Thoracic Society. (2018, February 16). Women who clean at home or work face increased lung function decline, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 25, 2018 from

Hand Hygiene Saves Lives

By Mina Ghobrial
In a 2018 study published in Elsevier, researchers in France incorporated a multicomponent hand hygiene program in thirteen nursing homes throughout the country. When compared to thirteen other French nursing homes, all randomly selected and assigned, the results reflected a decreased mortality rate and a reduced antibiotic prescription rate. 
In what was one of the first studies focused around hand hygiene outside of a hospital setting, researchers targeted nursing home staff, visitors, residents, and health care providers through a series of promotional posters, personalized dispensers, and various awareness events. By targeting nursing home staff, and going as far as giving quizzes to said staff, the experimental group was able to promote hand hygiene to the point where a statically significant change in the mortality was observed. A 0.55 deaths per 100 residents was observed over the course of one year. While France suffered a flu epidemic in the months between January and March, the experimental group had an impressive 30% lower mortality rate than the control. A similar trend was observed when considering the rate of antibiotic prescriptions. 
The habituation produced as a result of this program was also observed. By the end of the study, the average individual in the experimental group was using upwards of 1.5 more milliliters of hand wash or sanitizer per day. Unfortunately, these results did not remain consistent for more than three months after this study's termination. 
As the flu sweeps through the United States, these findings are especially interesting if we seek to control the spread of infectious agents. This can have wide spread effects on mortality rates outside of just hospitals and nursing homes, should we all take the time to just wash our hands.

Elsevier. (2018, February 14). Rigorous hand hygiene-intervention practices can lower mortality, antibiotic prescription rates in nursing homes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 25, 2018 from

Cell Signalling May Depend on Ligand Patterns

By Anna Kolchinski

The Elowitz Lab at Caltech has discovered a crucial difference in the way cell signaling was previously thought to have worked. Prior to the lab's paper, which was recently published in Cell, similar ligands, which act as cellular signaling proteins, were thought to have been nearly indistinguishable by the cell. However, this was shown to be inaccurate as the two slightly different ligands had different signaling patterns. Specifically, the Notch cell communication system, which plays a part in cancer development, was examined. In the Notch system, the Delta1 and Delta4 ligands, which have similar structures, are sent out to bind to the same  receptors and trigger cellular cascades which result in the activation of transcription factors. Transcription factors are signals that tell DNA which portions should be made into proteins to express that particular gene at the time. Before, it was not understood how such similar ligands could trigger different transcription factors if they bound to the same receptors. But, based off of this research, in which different fluorescent molecules were attached to the different ligands to show the ligand release patterns, the two ligands act in unique ways. Delta1 ligands simultaneously bound to many receptors, while Delta 4 ligands seemed to bind to only one, but many times in succession. These two different patterns of binding explain how the same receptors can distinguish between the two different types of ligands, thus triggering different responses. Overall, binding pattern as a mechanism for cell signalling is a relatively new concept that should be explored further to uncover how it is used generally in signalling pathways. 


California Institute of Technology. (2018, February 16). Cells communicate in a dynamic code: A critically important intercellular communication system is found to encode and transmit more messages than previously thought.. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 25, 2018 from

New Vaccines Approved to Help Combat Shingles

By Nicole Loranger

The US Food and Drug Administration has just approved two new shots aimed at preventing the development of herpes zoster, the common skin condition colloquially known as shingles. Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash caused by varicella-zoster, the same virus responsible for the chicken pox. Typically seen in adults above the age of 50, shingles presents itself after years of dormancy, and years after the person had any initial contact with the virus. Generally, the afflicted patch of skin will become particularly sensitive to touch, later developing into the tell-tale rash. Since the condition can only affect those in whom the virus already exists in dormancy (i.e. those who have previously had either chicken pox or the chicken pox vaccine), the rash is not generally considered contagious. However, it is particularly unpleasant, and a relatively prevalent issue among older adults. The newly released vaccines are designed to reduce the pain and severity of the disease as well as prevent undesirable side effects, according to Dr. Rosamilia, a board-certified dermatologist. The vaccines target specific age groups, those above 50 and those above 60. The decision to separate these ages groups and design separate vaccines for each was not elaborated on in the article. 


American Academy of Dermatology. (2018, February 16). Shot may help shield against shingles. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 26, 2018 from

Bringing Together Old and New: Developing Anti-Malaria Drugs from Existing Treatments

By Min Seo Jeong

An international group of researchers has found a new combination of treatments to block transmission of P. falciparum malaria, the most common form of the disease present in Africa.

Malaria is a widespread disease commonly found in Africa through infected mosquito bites. Its parasites spread throughout the blood circulation in humans and replicate asexually or develop into gametocytes. Many existing anti-malarial drugs are unable to kill the gametocytes, which allows the parasites to be transmitted back to mosquitoes and further spread the disease.

The compounds analyzed by the researchers were discovered to prevent gametocyte transmission when added to existing anti-malaria treatments. One of the compounds, primaquine, has been commonly used as a treatment for P. vivax malaria. The other compound, methylene blue, is a laboratory dye that exhibits anti-malarial characteristics when injected into the bloodstream. Both drugs have been found to be effective treatments for an experimental group of 80 boys and men with asymptomatic malaria.

Researchers state that the next step is to understand methods in which the compounds can be incorporated into existing malaria treatment tools within the communities. Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF, Dr. Ingrid Chen, stated that "from a practical standpoint, primaquine is available as a single dose, while methylene blue requires three doses, and it also gives urine a blue color, which would require a greater degree of community sensitization prior to use."


University of California - San Francisco. "New evidence shows potential of two drugs to block malaria transmission: Findings could speed elimination of malaria, including its drug-resistant forms." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 February 2018. <>.