Aspirin, the common household treatment for issues ranging from headaches to heart disease, is made from a relatively simple process, one that year 13 students are capable of replicating. Aspirin remains one of the most studied drugs in the world, admired by many scientists and being used from as early as 1890s in its acid form and even earlier in the form of leaves.
I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at King’s College London with the Chemistry department led by Dr Helen Coulshed. After being given the iconic scientists blue coats and goggles we were given a hand-out of what we had to do. There were four procedures that we needed to carry out and each once lasted around 30 to 40 minutes, we used ingredients green oil, ethanol, hydrochloric acid and sulphuric acid. I found the stages very interesting as well as the filtering processes and the equipment we used. King’s College has particularly advanced equipment which aided our process as did their helpful ambassadors who were able to offer assistance. Furthermore I enjoyed the process of crystallisation with the use of filtration, especially having to use the vacuum to help with the process. It was also great to use spectroscopy, something that I had been accustomed to on paper and it was great to see King’s College equipment help bring it to real life
Overall the experience reaffirmed my ambitions to study at university especially due the lab environment as it was essential in preparing me for university. It was surprising to see that a drug such as aspirin was relatively easy to make and it was a unique opportunity that was given to me in order to do so. To improve I would write down my notes in a more professional manner.
Dementia is a collective name for brain diseases that cause a long-term and gradual decrease in memory and the ability to think. However, as many people do not know, dementia does not just affect memory. It includes problems with language, understanding, mood, judgement, movement, day-to-day activities, etc. Dementia has become very common, with one in fourteen people over 65 developing dementia and one in six people over 80 affected.
The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s diseases. There are more than 520,000 people in the UK with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s affects the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain which has a major role in daily memory. Although the exact cause is unknown, researchers know that ‘plaques’ (which are formed by protein amyloid) and ‘tangles’ (which are formed by protein tau) occur in the brain. Amyloid comes from within us and it is natural, it creates beta amyloid which is toxic to brain cells. This results in a plaque forming which consists of dead cells and the protein amyloid. Tau is also naturally occurring and helps brain cells communicate with one another; however, it can clump together which leads to the death of brain cells affected. This ultimately leads to the loss of connections between nerve cells. As it is a progressive disease, the symptoms are not as bad to start with but get worse over time. The most common early symptom is one having difficulty recalling recent events and learning, but memory for events that happened a long time ago are not usually affected in the early stages.
Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia. This affects roughly 150,000 people in the UK. Symptoms start to arise when the brain is damaged due to problems with the supply of blood to the brain because of diseased blood vessels. A constant supply of blood is needed to allow oxygen and nutrients to enter brain cells, this is delivered to the brain by the vascular system. However, if the vascular system gets damaged, blood vessels may leak or get blocked and so the blood cannot reach the brain cells. This results in the brain cells eventually dying. This therefore results in problems with memory and thinking. The most common symptoms in the early stages are problems with organising and making decisions, slower thought speed, problems concentrating, etc. Some people may also have problems with visuospatial skills which is problems understand 3D objects. Age plays a major role in risk factors, those over 65 are more likely to develop this disease, but someone who has had a stroke or diabetes or heart disease is roughly twice as likely to develop vascular dementia.
Around ten percent of people with dementia experience mixed dementia, which is where they have more than one type at the same time. The most common is a mixture between Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. The symptoms of mixed dementia will be a mixture of the symptoms of the two types.
With the improvement of health standards over the years, the levels of birth defects have been lowered considerably and in England and Wales just over 690,000 births were given in the year of 2016. Ultrasound scanning has become more and more common as a way of monitoring the progress of an unborn child, often the scan at 8-14 weeks could indicate potential problems but the second scan which takes place at 18-21 weeks is known as the anomaly scan due it being the one that checks for defects or anomalies in the baby. Figures estimate that around 1 in every 50 births result in a defect, despite this most of the conditions are mild and can be treated quite easily. However these defects can also be serious and life threatening, affecting multiple parts of the body. The reasons to these defects rely on multiple factors, and recent research has suggested a fever early on in pregnancy may result in birth defects.
The study carried out by Duke University was focused on answering the question of whether the fever caused the defect or the underlying cause. Duke University led by Eric Benner of the paediatrics department, created a method to test this theory. By using a magnet based device, they were able to close and open certain pathways inside embryos. By altering the temperature of the embryos using proteins they found that the cells were affected in their functioning in a negative manner. The researchers used an approach to stimulate the fever conditions on the cells without affecting the rest of the organism- also known as a remote radiofrequency approach. They discovered that it was the fever itself and not its source that interfered with the development of the heart and jaw in the early first trimester of pregnancy. The result was with animal embryos developing facial deformities and heart defects when heated. The facial deformities also included clefts, which is a known birth defect.
Scientists saw that the animal models suggest that some defects such as cleft lip or palate could be prevented by using paracetamol or acetaminophen. Drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen were not recommended due to their strong nature, furthermore measures to prevent illness could be prevented via implementing strict hand washing measures and vaccinations against flu. The occurrence of fevers during pregnancy is not uncommon and the actions taken to counteract this are what impacts the health of the developing baby. The study will prove to be important as scientists can now work to figure out the severity of the fever in pregnancy and the duration for how it impacts fetal development.
In a recent breakthrough in the treatment of HIV, scientists developed an antibody that attacks an astounding 99 percent of HIV strains. The potential of this breakthrough could lead to effective treatment of HIV or prevention of it being transmitted. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus affects over 35 million worldwide and can lead to Autoimmune Disease (AIDS) a very severe stage of disease.
This antibody was tested on monkeys, who have shown successful results and human trials have could be scheduled to commence as early as 2018. The ability to apply the antibodies success in humans will be vital in the fight against HIV, a disease that has been notoriously difficult to treat due to its variation. The mutations and changes in its appearance overwhelms the body when it attempts to defend against this virus. The strains and the number of them is what defeats the immune system. The antibody has been engineered to attack three parts of the virus which makes it harder for the HIV to evade the antibody.
Fact File - HIV
How many suffer from it?
Around 35 million people worldwide. In 2013, more than 100,000 people in the UK were living with this condition.
What is it?
HIV is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus - it targets the immune system and weakens it by infecting it. It can lead to AIDS, which is the last stage of the diseases
Is there a cure?
There is no cure for HIV, but treatments can prevent AIDS being developed and allow the sufferer to live a healthy life.
How does it spread?
Most common way is via unprotected sex. It can also spread via contaminated needles, blood and breast milk.
These antibodies which have been dubbed as “super-antibodies” due to fact that three antibodies are combined to make a “tri-specific antibody”. These antibodies are able to attack HIV and kill large numbers of the strain. The experiments conducted on the monkeys, of the 24 injected with the tri-specific antibody, none of them developed an infection when later injected with HIV. The work carried out by Harvard Medical School, The Scripps Research Institute and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gives a lot of hope for future clinical trials on humans.
Doctors in Africa are looking for clinical trials to be started as soon as possible due to the severe problems that HIV and AIDS have caused in Africa, a continent that is home to 19 million people with HIV, with just 56% aware of their condition. With 1.1 million dying in 2015, there is an urgency in dealing with HIV, that has somewhat been inspired by the results shown by these trials.
With editing embryos the general consensus has been puzzled,but a major step forward was taken with CRISPR CAS9 technology. For the first time, scientists were able edit embryos and successfully remove the DNA that cause the heart disease hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This condition, which is known to affect one in every 500, can be harmful and ultimately lead to death by causing the heart to stop beating. CRISPR is very much a diamond with rough edges, however its ease of use and cheap cost has made it a promising technology, it has been used previously experimentally in monkey embryos with success. The future application of this technology is very important as it could help remove genetic disorders caused by faulty DNA as such hypertrophic cardiomyopathy was the disease focused on by the Oregon Health and Science University, the Salk Institute and the Institute for Basic Science in South Korea. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is caused by an error in a single gene and there is a 50% chance of the disease being passed onto the offspring.
The scientists used sperm from a patient who had the heart condition and his sperm was injected into healthy donated eggs,the process of the repair was mainly carried out during the conception phase. The results showed that 72% of the embryos were free of disease-causing mutations. These results were an improvement, in 2015 the technology was used by scientists in China to correct DNA that lead to the blood disorder hemophilia, their results showed that not all the cells had been corrected and that the embryo had a mix of healthy and diseased cells. Thus the results of this latest trial shows promise.
The future of this technology is still limited, the safety concerns on the embryo themselves is a major issue, furthermore the issue of designer babies is an ethical and moral issue to many people. The technology also currently relies on another healthy version of the gene via the unaffected mother/father and there is noise wanting CRISPR to work by inserting an engineered piece of DNA rather than remove the faulty DNA. It can still be said that more research on the safety of this technology and what the effects of editing the embryos are, whilst it is a flawed technology, there is room for improvement.
The Human Immuno deficiency has long been incurable and scientists have been tasked with the goal of curing HIV and AIDS, this until now has been far from their reach. The epidemic has been prominent in Western Europe in particular with an increase in the number of diagnoses year on year, worldwide an estimated 36.7 million people are living with HIV. It is vital that a cure is found in order prevent it from benefiting with the increasing population.
In South Africa, an infected nine year old who had been infected with HIV at birth, has survived so far without the need for treatment, something which doctors see a lot of potential in. AIDS is the latter stage of HIV and the progress that the child is making so far opens up doors to a potential vaccination for HIV. In order for the child to make the progress, a short period after birth involved with treatment being given. From there on the child has not been given any treatment and their immune system is in stable condition, not under danger from developing AIDS. The treatment known as antiretroviral therapy was given to the child from nine weeks old, not the norm at the time, and the treatment allowed for the virus to become effectively undetectable. However this is not the first time that this instance has occurred, with the case of the “Mississippi Baby” who was given similar treatment at birth and went for 27 months untreated before HIV had returned in her blood. Furthermore a patient in France has gone more than 11 years without treatment, and some scientists are stating that this “supposed” state of remission is possible due to genetic or immune system related reasons. The head of paediatric research at the Perinal HIV Research Unit in Johannesburg, Dr Avy Violari said “We don’t believe antiretroviral therapy alone can lead to remission”. This somewhat dampens the potential of this therapy, however it also increases determination to replicate the therapy for future application for other viruses, note that around 53% worldwide receive antiretroviral therapy.
The child still has the virus in their immune system, but they are not active, rather latent – in a state of hiding. This poses a question of if the child is need for treatment in the future, a point at which HIV could become active.
Babies have interestingly shown to prefer looking at faces more than objects, for reasons that have been a mystery to many scientists. However an interesting study was published on the 8th of June in which research concluded that the fetus develops this ability, preferring to look at faces rather than objects. Ultrasound technology was used to track the fetal behaviour, the scientists projected a stimuli in two orientations (“upright” and “inverted”), and the light was projected into the maternal abdomen. Using the 4D ultrasound scanner, they tracked the movement of the head of the fetus. The fetus was in the third trimester of pregnancy, 34 weeks into pregnancy, and the period in which the human fetus can process perceptual information. The studies showed that the fetuses were more likely to move their heads to follow the stimuli that appeared as face like shapes.
The study carried out by Vincent M.Reid of the Lancaster University in England, used the three dots that were in an inverted triangle in order to appear as the top two dots were the eyes and the bottom one for the mouth or nose. This essentially was the face down to its very minimum. The researchers carried out the study on 39 fetuses and displayed each type of triangle a total of five times on all fetuses. They concluded that of the 195 times the face like triangle was projected, a total of 40 head turns were made. In comparison when non-face like triangles were projected, only 14 head turns were counted. This lead to conclusion that fetuses were more likely to identify the face like shapes to the non-face like shapes.
Figure B was the image that was close to a face-like visual stimuli.
Some scientists have claimed that it is a too early to suggest that fetuses are that advanced at the stage. The use of triangle projections means that the image is different to what an actual face looks like, lacking the head shaped borders. Despite this, the study is opening doors for a very interesting theory on how facial perception is in fact encoded into the human sensory system. Among this, the ability to project images onto the womb and track the reaction of the fetus is an exciting prospect.
For many years the use of deep brain stimulation otherwise known as: DBS, has been used to treat those who have had Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer's and other neurological disorders. Parkinson’s disease is a condition where parts of the brain become damaged over a period of time. Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that affect memory of the brain and its functions.
Starting in 1997 a most complex surgery of where thin wired electrodes are implanted. This can also be known as a brain’s pacemakers - helping it send nerve impulses to the subthalamic part of the brain. The subthalamic nucleus found in the brain performs its functions as part of the Basal Ganglia system - it contains many neurons that connect and run through the brain. This surgery is done by drilling through the skull of the patient and the wired electrodes are passed through.
Now after some long periods of research conducted they have been now able to invasive methods of looking at nerve patterns and stimulate impulses from outside of the brain. This new technique is known as the: Temporal Interference. Conducted by Boyden and Nir Grossman they were able to activate neurons in the brain by using electrical fields. Our brain cells will not react to any type of high frequencies but will only react to low frequencies. They had suggested a hypothesis that if they send 2 high frequency signals that only differ by a small amount - then they would interfere causing a much lower frequency which activates neurones.
They had first done computer models and then moved onto testing on mice. They had placed electrical nodes in the hippocampus of the brain. They monitored the activity of the brain in the ice by using a clamping patch. A gene found in the brain known as the: c-Fos had actively triggered neurons at a fast rate that were responding to the frequencies being sent. After testing on dead mice they then moved onto testing on real mice - they use fluorescent pigments to help monitor the alive brain cell and also differentiate them from the dead.
Electrical bacteria are the key ingredient in a new process, which was developed by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. They recycle waste-water from biofuel production, which is then used to generate hydrogen. This hydrogen can then be used to convert bio-oil into higher grade liquid fuels such as gasoline and diesel.
The team’s lab scale demonstration has the potential to produce 11.7 litres of hydrogen per day at rates that are required for industrial used. However, it has been noted that more work is required to bring the technology to the commercial scale. Although, the progress demonstrates the potential of microbial electrolysis to make bio-refineries more efficient and economically viable.
Abhijeet Borole, an ORNL research said “We are solving multiple problems at the same time” who led the multi-year project to develop the system. Microbial electrolysis is powered by electrogens - bacteria which digest organic compounds and generate an electric current. Borole put these bacteria to work in breaking down organic acids in liquid bio-oil that is produced from plant feedstocks such as switchgrass. Usually, a quarter of the liquid bio-oil is contaminated water which contains corrosive acids.
The hydrogen which is generated from the microbes could displace the need for natural gas in the future, which is used later in the production process to upgrade bio-oil into more desirable drop-in liquid fuels. They commented saying “We are taking this waste, which can be 20 to 30 percent of the biomass that you put in the process, making hydrogen from it and putting that hydrogen back into the oil, and the water can be recycled to produce clean hydrogen and eliminate the natural gas”.
The researchers developed a procedure to evolve and enrich a hardy bacterial community that could tolerate the toxic compounds that could tolerate toxic compounds in the biofuel waster. In this application, the bacterial poison comes in the form of products created by the degradation of lignin, a cell polymer found in plant cell walls. However, understanding how to build and optimize microbial electrolysis systems that can tolerate and treat contaminated wastewater could have benefits outside of the biofuel production industry. The research team is now focused on completing a life cycle analysis for the technology for evaluation purposes.
Many curious minds have wondered; how do axons guide themselves to establish unique connections to other neurons? Axons allow our brains to be able to interact in different ways in different situations. When we study how people think, react and interact, we typically understand the behaviour and the overall basis of how it works, however, we have never really delved deep into how these interconnections actually form, to allow us to think, react and interact.
Axons are equipped with growth cones, that navigates by sensing its environment. These growth cones encounters a succession of ‘sign posts’: netrin, ephrin, sema3 and slit3 genes. Receptors on the neurons are able to detect these guidance cones by binding onto them. This can be approved by the scientific study conducted that involved embryonic eye tissue in a petri dish. There were a selection of different growth cones, and you can present it with a molecule that you would want to test to see the different responses that the tissue may present in the petri dish. This shows how growth cones respond and grow due to the different environments - some axons are attracted and some present repulsion to molecules such as netrin for example. If you remove the particular receptor and its specific guidance cone, the axons will form to become lost and disorganized.
Ephrin is used for the chiasm for the retina, and without it, the nerves would not have diverted to a different direction. Netrin presented capabilities of causing attraction of the axons, whereas ephrin was seen to be repulsive to the growth cones. The usage of ephrin and netrin presented different behavior by the neurons, meaning that these molecules are critical for directing the axons to its designated destination in the brain so that it can participate in its specific function - without them, the axons will not be able to form connections to the right neurons for the right functions, leaving the interconnected communication between neurons to be unrecognisable. Further research in this area will be very useful for future application of this technology, as neuron integration is an area that has left scientists fighting to work out the secret to it. There is no doubt that if a significant breakthrough is made, it will become easier to cure neurodegenerative diseases.
It weighs less than a pound (450g) yet it is so important and beats around 115,200 times a day over and over again throughout your lifetime. This is the heart. Our blood vessels (arteries, veins and capillaries) which make up a system, are alone 60,000 miles long; which means that they can go around the world more than twice. The heart has a major role in the human body (as we all know); without the heart, our bodies can stop working very quickly. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the Western world.
The heart is a muscle and connected to it is many blood vessels which help the heart to carry and pump blood and necessities to other various parts of the body and to supply what the organs need. The brain is in constant need of oxygen from blood and without the heart, the brain would not be able to function as it would not get its supply of oxygen. Also, muscles constantly need nutrients, for example: oxygen, glucose and amino acids, as well as sodium, calcium and potassium in order to contract normally; so without the heart, we would not be able to respire to produce energy. If the heart was to fail, the entire body would shut down in a matter of minutes.
The heart has another function apart from carry needed blood and nutrients to the rest of the body, it is also a source of disposal of waste in the body. As the heart pumps blood around the body, it takes up carbon dioxide that your body produces as a result of aerobic respiration (which your muscles undergo constantly) and other waste products. As the heart does its cycle, the blood will eventually be transported back to the heart. The blood becomes rid of all chemicals such as carbon dioxide, these chemicals are sent to the lungs to be breathed out of our body. Blood also takes waste products to the liver and kidneys to be rid of via urine. Without the heart, we would be full of harmful chemicals and substances and we would all soon die.
So the heart is also known as a double circulatory system. This is because it has two pumps: the right side of our hearts receive blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs; and the left side of our hearts does the exact opposite (receives blood from the lungs and pumps it out to the body). This type of system allows the heart to have its advantages – higher blood pressure and so it prevents backflow of blood and it allows a greater flow of blood to the tissues.
Recently at the University of Queensland, Australia have had a major advancement in cardiac disease research by creating a ‘beating’ human heart muscle from stem cells. The scientists at UQ collaborated with German researchers to create models of the human heart tissue in the laboratory so that they could study the heart and its diseases ‘in a dish’. This will then provide scientists functioning human heart muscle to screen new drugs and to investigate heart repair.
Stem cells are cells with the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body during early life and growth. How are they different to other cells? They can divide and renew themselves over a long time, making them useful as a sort of internal repair system; they are unspecialised so they cannot do specific functions but they have the capability to become specialised cells, for example, muscle cells or red blood cells.
In humans, there are different types of stem cells that come from different places in the body or are formed at different times in our lives. There are embryonic stem cells that exist only at the earliest stages of development (in a three to five year old embryo, known as a blastocyst) and there are different types of tissue-specific or adult stem cells that appear during the earliest stages of development and remain in our bodies throughout our life. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, which means that they can develop into different types of body cells but cannot generate support structures like the placenta and the umbilical cord. Other cells are multipotent which mean they can develop into a few different cell types, generally in a specific tissue, hence why they are called tissue-specific stem cells.
As humans grow older, the number and type of stem cells change. The stem cells that stay in your body throughout your life are tissue-specific; however, there is evidence that the skin stem cells in your body at a young age won’t be the same as the ones in your body when you are older.
There are also induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), which are similar to embryonic stem cells, although they are made from specialised adult cells using a laboratory technique discovered in 2006 which won a Nobel Prize. So what are scientists so excited about? The discovery of these stem cells raised hopes that cells could be made from a patient’s own skin to cure their disease, this allows the risk of immune rejection to be removed. The finding of these cells allows cell banks to be created, which allows a matching donor to be found for patients, almost like a blood bank.
In a stem cell transplant, embryonic stem cells are specialised into the appropriate adult cell; they are then used to replace the tissue that has been damaged. This method can be used to replace neurons damaged by spinal cord injury, strokes or other neurological problems; used to produce insulin to treat those with diabetes; replace any tissue or organ that has been injured or diseased and others. Using embryonic stem cell therapies can be much more useful in medical research as cells could be used to study diseases, to create new drugs and to test drugs for side effects
Birth asphyxia (specifically known as perinatal asphyxia) is a medical condition that arises when there is a lack of oxygen to a new-born infant that lasts long enough during the birth process to cause physical harm, usually to the brain. Hypoxic (a region of the body that is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level) damage can occur to most of the infant's organs (heart, lungs, liver, gut, kidneys), but brain damage is of most concern and perhaps the least likely to quickly or completely heal. One million babies die every year suffering from brain asphyxia, however this figure will soon decline dramatically due to the new introduction to the treatments available include cooling, which was thought of after 15 years of medical research.
Neonatal encephalopathy is the state the baby is in when abnormal neurological function in the first few days of life as an infant (commonly caused by birth asphyxia) show up with signs such as reduced level of consciousness, seizures, difficulty initiating and maintaining respiration, depression of tone and reflexes. During the 1950s, a system known as SARNAT staging was used to measure the level of consciousness of the a patient (in this instance, a baby) to determine whether the baby was showing signs of neonatal encephalopathy. Today, we use an EEG (an electroencephalogram) which provides health professionals a very accurate representation (in comparison to the SARNAT) of the activity in the brain so that it is clearer for them to come up with a solution to relieve the symptoms as soon as it arises to decrease the amount of potential damage to the brain.
By cooling the baby by 3℃ for 6 hours for 3 consecutive days, it has proven to:
Gases such as Xenon and Argon have been proven to be neuroprotective agents to protect the brain while acting on the mitochondria of the cells to reduce the metabolic rate and reducing cell death while the baby is healing from the damage caused from a lack of oxygen to the brain. These gases are inhaled by the baby along with other gases while being treated. However, Argon is much better as an agent than Xenon as it is seen as too expensive and too toxic if too much has been inhaled. Along with this, health professionals inject a hormone called erythropoietin (after the use of the noble gases) into the baby’s veins as it increases the rate of production of red blood cells in response to falling levels of oxygen in the tissues.
On March 2nd 2016, the biomedical world took a giant leap forward in the progress of embryonic stem cells, with a group of scientists successfully producing an artificial embryo of a mouse, purely from embryonic stem cells. This is the first time in history that a full scale embryo has been made from stem cells, opening doors for scientists to go and discover more potential benefits of the cells.
The process involved the transformation of a fertilised egg into a tiny living embryo, ranking among nature’s most impressive feats. The cells, grown outside the body in a blob of gel, were shown to morph into embryos that replicated the internal structure that emerge during normal development inside a womb. The scientists let the artificial embryo culture in the lab for seven days and by this point the cells had organised two anatomical sections that would normally go on to form the placenta and the mouse.
‘Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz’, the development biologist who led the work at the University of Cambridge, described the process as a “miracle of nature”. The team to do aim to stop from here after however, with the goal not growing artificial babies; instead learning more about embryo development prior to implantation.
The cells were placed in a semi-solid gel which allowed the structure to grow in three dimensions. After five days, the cells had multiplied and self organised themselves into distinct cell populations. The embryonic cells had also begin to organise themselves into two populations: one division, the mesoderm, would give rise to the heart, muscles and bones. The other cluster contained the cells that would go on to become skin, eyes and the brain.
The team used cells from embryos rather than starting from a fertilised egg, which could potentially overcome the shortage of human embryos available for research. Currently, these eggs are donated through IVF (in vitro fertilisation) clinics, while the supply for embryonic stem cells is limitless.
While the artificial embryo closely resembled the real thing, the research team said it is unlikely to develop further into a healthy foetus, as it would require the addition of the yolk sac, which provides the embryo nourishment and within which a network of blood vessels would develop. However, the promising the development gives hopes to scientists all over the world.
Electrical Conduction of the heart
The heart is an organ that pumps blood around the body that delivers oxygen to vital cells that undergo respiration. It is split into 4 chambers: Left Atria, Right Atria Left ventricle and right ventricle. When looking at diagrams the wall of the left ventricle is much thicker as the heart has to pump with more pressure to deliver blood around the body.
The rhythm of the heart is controlled by nerve impulse - Electrical excitation. Pacemaker cells are involved in controlling the rhythm of contraction. These are patches of specialised cells that control the contraction of the heart, consisting of SAN - (Sinoatrial Node) and AVN - (Atrioventricular Node). The Cardiac muscles that are found are known a: Myogenic meaning that they can contract on its own. Pacemakers SAN and AVN helps with the initiation and coordination of the heart.
Heart’s Electrical Conduction System
There is a short delay between SN and AVN which ensures that the atria has fully contracted and all the blood has gone to the ventricles. Otherwise if Atria and ventricles contract at the same time then blood will keep flowing up and down and won't leave the heart. However when pacemaker cells don’t work then we can have artificial pacemakers that can help with initiation and coordination with the heart.
The movements or the Electrical Activity can be monitored by doctors using an Electrocardiogram (ECG). Doctors can also check for any abnormalities in the rhythm of the heart beat.
Scientists at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Northwest A&F University in Shaanxi, China were determined to figure out a solution to one of the biggest problems facing dairy farmers around the world: tuberculosis. The scientists concluded their examinations by creating ‘designer cows’ where they were able to be resistant to this infectious disease by simply editing their genes through newly-developed technology called CRISPR, whereby allows scientists globally with access to this software to edit genes to suit the needs to accomplish different objectives (resistance to infectious diseases etc.). This advancement spares farmers from having to kill their cattle to alleviate the spread of the tuberculosis infection to the other animals on site that contribute to the dairy industry in the farm. According to the researchers, the gene led to no adverse effects on the animal, but it did greatly increase TB resistance.
Crispr technology precisely changes target parts of genetic code. Unlike other gene-silencing tools, the Crispr system targets the genome's source material and permanently turns off genes at the DNA level. The DNA cut (known as a double strand break) closely mimics the kinds of mutations that occur naturally, for instance after chronic sun exposure. But unlike UV rays that can result in genetic alterations, the Crispr system causes a mutation at a precise location in the genome. When cellular machinery repairs the DNA break, it removes a small snip of DNA. In this way, researchers can precisely turn off specific genes in the genome.
To carry out the process, the healthy gene used to create a resistance against tuberculosis was inserted into the nucleus of another kind of bovine cell (a fibroblast), taken from a cow foetus. This edited nucleus was then transferred to the egg cell of a cow. The eggs were nurtured in the laboratory, and then fertilised in the lab to form embryos. These were then inserted into the cow and developed and were born as normal. A total of 11 calves with new genes inserted using CRISPR were assessed for resistance to tuberculosis and any adverse genetic effects. From this experiment, it ensured that 11 calves would be able to develop without having the risk to carry or infect other cows which may disturb the farm’s procedures in producing the amount set by external demands - from this advancement, it would also open up many opportunities for other farmers worldwide to use this sort of technology to save money on treatment for their cattle and to produce products more efficiently in the long run.
Barium is a chemical element found in the periodic table which has an atomic number of 56. It is found in group 2 of the periodic table and hence it is an alkaline metal. Barium is most commonly used in Hospitals under Radiology. Radiology is the study of X-rays and Ultrasounds. A radiographer or a radiologist is a person who specialises in dealing in this field of medicine. Hospitals use Barium in the form of liquid to conducts X-rays on the esophagus and the stomach to view soft tissues.
What are X-rays
An X-ray is part of an electromagnetic spectrum. It is a fast and painless procedure that takes various images of your body. It will only capture hard bones that are found in the body. X-rays are passed through the body anything that is dense; Bone it will be absorbed, and it will show as a white area on the image. However it will become much more difficult to visualise soft tissues on an X-ray. This is where Barium is used.
Barium swallows are a white coloured liquid form of Barium that is taken by patients before having an x-ray of the Esophagus or the stomach. Barium swallow will also contain small amounts of Barium Sulphate this will align the edges of the esophagus and the stomach, X-rays can’t pass through Barium as it is Dense. So it will show up as white on the image and radiographers can then be able to see the stomach and Esophagus.
Barium can also be used for Barium Meals, this is also used in Radiology. This is when again Barium is used in a liquid form to look for any problems that could be found in the stomach. The patient then sits down to allows the liquid to cover the whole of the digestive system. After taking the Barium you also take some Citric acid and and bicarbonate soda. The gases produced will help open the esophagus and the stomach much larger. This allows the radiologist to clearly see the insides.
The benefits to Radiologists of using barium meals and swallows outweighs all the risks from using Barium Swallow. Hence why Barium plays an important role in hospitals
The lung has and will always remain one of the most important organs in the human body. Lungs play a crucial role in allowing the body to let in oxygen and let out carbon dioxide. How would a human function without their lungs? Melissa Benoit, a 32 year old from Canada, was dying from a severe lung infection, that initiated organ failure and had an effect on the digestive system. The lung infection was a result of a super-bacteria, that was resistant to most antibiotics, and was able to spread the disease (cystic fibrosis), throughout her body. In what is the world’s first procedure, doctors removed her lungs entirely. Despite being so close to death, Melissa managed to survive due to a transplant that was made in time, however what is most astonishing, is that for 6 days, she survived without lungs. During this time she was placed on an incredibly sophisticated life support machine, which helped her heart pump blood. Two devices were connected to her heart, oxygenating her blood and removing carbon dioxide, whilst another device helped circulate the oxygen-rich blood throughout her body.
The trachea is the main airway from the nose down into the chest, it is a wide tube supported by incomplete rings of strong,and flexible c-shaped cartilage, which stop the trachea from collapsing. Within these trachea, and its branches, are lines of ciliated epithelium, with goblet cells between and below the epithelial cells. The goblet cell secrete mucus onto the lining of the trachea, to trap dust and microorganisms that have escaped the nose lining. The cilia beat and move the mucus away from the lungs, moving away trapped dirt and microorganisms. When cigarettes are smoked, than the cilia stops beating, causes the “smokers cough”. The trachea divides to form the left bronchi, which leads to the left lung, and the right bronchus that leads to the right lung. They are smaller structures of the trachea. The bronchioles divide to form many small bronchioles, which have no cartilage rings, and are of a diameter 1mm or less. The walls of the bronchioles are of smooth muscle, when this muscle contracts, the bronchioles close up. When the smooth muscle relaxes, the bronchioles dilate. This alters the amount of air that reach the lungs. Bronchioles are lined with a thin layer of flattened epithelium, which allows for gas exchange.
The alveoli carry out the most important aspects of gas exchange, the alveoli are tiny air sacs and are unique to mammalian lungs. They are extremely small and consist of a layer thin, flattened epithelial cells, along with some collagen and elastic fibres (elastin). These elastic tissues allow the alveoli to stretch as air is drawn in, and they help squeeze air out when they return to their resting size. This is the function of elastic recoil. The alveoli are efficient for gaseous exchange due to their large surface area, thin layers, good supply of blood; to maintain a steep concentration gradient. Along with good ventilation, through steep diffusion gradients for oxygen and carbon dioxide between the blood and the air in the lungs. The inner surface of the alveoli contain a lung surfactant, which allows for the alveoli to remain inflated.
Air is moved in and out of the lungs, by pressure changes in the chest cavity. The diaphragm is a broad and domed sheet of muscle that forms the floor of the thorax. When you take air in, energy is used, as the diaphragm contracts, and flattens. The external intercostal muscles contract, and move the ribs upwards and outwards, the volume of the thorax increases, and the pressure in the thorax is reduced. Air is drawn in through the nasal passage. When air is exhaled, the muscles relax due to it being a passive process. The diaphragm relaxes, and the external intercostal muscles relax so the ribs move down and inwards under gravity. The elastic fibres in the alveoli of the lung return to their normal length. This process decreases the volume of the thorax.
The lungs play a role, and a role that is incredibly complex and requires multiple processes to be carried out alongside, in order to maintain pressure. Lungs are taken for granted, not many realise what an important role it has in doing something as simple (to us) as breathing.
Bacteria are unicellular microorganism that cause harm and diseases in the human body.
Water is an essential component in everyday life to humans. However if not careful water can become infected creating water born diseases such as cholera. After many years of research scientists have come up with a way of sterilizing water with the use of UV rays (Ultraviolet Radiation) emitted from an LED. Ultraviolet radiation is found between X-ray and Visible light on the Electromagnetic spectrum, it has a wavelength of around 100 to 400 nm which is used to kill bacteria and sterilize drinking water. The process of which this is known as: Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation. There are 3 types of Ultraviolet Radiation: UV-A (100-280nm), UV-B (280nm - 315 nm), and UV-C (315 nm - 400 nm).
Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation
Germicidal UV radiation is produced and sent by a mercury vapour lamp. As these types of Ultraviolet radiation can be harmful to humans this method of Germicidal Irradiation is practiced behind enclose spaces with shielding in order for us to be protected.
During Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation UV-C is used which ultimately disrupt and deactivate the DNA found in bacteria and viruses. This will result in that Bacteria not being able to carry out its function and reproducing by binary fission. In bacteria Nucleic Acids are also disrupted as of the formation of covalent bonds and further breaking bonds in the DNA and Nucleic Acids. If the bacteria and viruses are unable to reproduce this will result in them not passing on the DNA and nucleic acids and increasing in numbers. Once the DNA absorbs these photons this will create a DNA pyrimidine dimers (producing same molecules) this will alter the order of the bases and eventually it will lead to a random mutation where microorganisms will eventually die.
Scientists have ensured us that water will now be free of bacteria and any water born disease thanks to this LED gadget.
The Counter-current Exchange in fish is used as a method for them to gain enough oxygen in the water. This method is used as there is a lack of oxygen that can be found in the water. As a result of this fish have found a way of adapting and evolving in these types of conditions.
Fish use their gills found on the side that is used for them to collect their oxygen. The process of how fish do this is as follows:
Water enters through the mouth of the fish and then it will pass out through the gills. Inside the gills there are small branches known as the: gill filaments this as a result gives it a larger surface area:to allows for gaseous exchange. The surface area is further increased by the small tiny structures known as the : gill plates.
There are many blood capillaries that are found through the gill plates which allows for faster/efficient rate of diffusion Through the gill filaments water will flow one way while the blood flows through the other direction of the gill plates. When the water flows past the blood there can be a high concentration of oxygen found in the water therefore the oxygen will diffuse into the blood. There will also be a large maintenance of concentration gradient between the water and the blood.
Ventilation of gills
Not only do fish use the Countercurrent Exchange but they also have a process where these gills are further ventilated. Ventilation means where fresh air enters through. The mouth of the fish opens up, the floor of the buccal cavity is then lowered. Pressure decreases and water enters in. When the fish closes its mouth the floor of the buccal raises up, volume decreases which then increases the pressure and forces the water out of the filaments. On every gill there is a bony flap known as the operculum which is used to protect the gills.
For many years now the reasons behind the function of the appendix has been a mystery. It has now been uncovered by scientists after years of research its true function. The appendix is the small tube that is found attached to the large intestine. It was first thought that is was a useless organ just found in the body, but researchers at the Midwestern University of Arizona have shown that it is used to shed useful gut bacteria, as at times useful bacteria maybe killed off from the digestive system or any attacks from diseases. This is also commonly known as to be a ‘reservoir’. Tissues that are found on the Appendix are known to stimulate the growth of gut and other beneficial bacteria. In an average adult the appendix can be found to be roughly around 5-10cm long in length. New Research has uncovered that the true purpose of the appendix is that it plays an important role in our immune system.
During/After Birth Lymph tissues are found to form parts of the Appendix. As a result the appendix will then produce B Lymphocytes which produces antibodies. These antibodies are what protects our bodies from invading pathogens.
Even when the Appendix can play a key vital role in our immune system, it can also have a potential of it turning into a condition known as: Appendicitis. This takes place when the appendix becomes inflamed and may rupture. Doctors are still unsure about the causes of appendicitis but they have an idea that it is mainly caused by mucus or faeces that block the appendix. Research has been shown that Teenagers and older children are more prone to these diseases. If it is not treated in time this block can then rupture the appendix.
At first you feel pain around your abdomen area, this will become constant and severe. Other system may include: feeling sick. Diarrhoea and having a high temperature. Coughing and walking tend to make this pain become even worse.
Treatment for Appendicitis is known as: Appendectomy - which is the removal of the Appendix. 2 types of surgery can be performed: Keyhole surgery and Open Surgery. Keyhole surgery is when 3 -4 cuts are made, gas used to inflate the abdomen and the Appendix is removed. Open Surgery involves a larger cut being made to remove the Appendix as the appendix is severely damaged and it may burst at any given time.
The human body is vastly complex, often words cannot describe how the body works the way it does, in perfect synchronicity, a system of organs working together. The number of organs was at 78, until the discovery of mesentery. Mesentery has been hiding in plain sight, from scientists since Da Vinci first identified it, however many failed to acknowledge that it was one continuous organ. Recently J Calvin Coffey, who is a researcher at University Hospital Limerick, proved that mesentery was in fact an organ. This is a change from the fragmented structure that it was thought to be, and now the importance of it has been highlighted, and now researchers will look to see what roles it plays. It has been dubbed as a portal to a new area of science, in which scientists will be able to see what roles mesentery plays in diseases. There is a possibility that mesentery could lead to changes in treatments of abdominal diseases.
The function of mesentery is currently unknown and this is where the scientists will play a key role in identifying its true purpose. As of know it is understood that mesentery keeps the intestines in a particular formation, and if it attaches to the abdominal wall in an incorrect manner then it could cause death of the intestine. Mesentery is a double fold of peritoneum (which is a large membrane found in the abdominal cavity) and it supports nearby organs. The mesentery folding attaches the small intestine and large intestine to the walls of the abdomen. When peritonitis occurs, the peritoneum membrane becomes inflamed as a result of organs rubbing against each other and no to little serum is produced. The abdominal cavity is the largest hollow part of the body found just below the diaphragm. Inside the cavity are parts of the digestive system: liver, kidney, spleen, pancreas and the adrenal glands. The cavity is lined with peritoneum and mesentery provides the foldings for support.
The discovery was first noted in The Lancet, which is a reputable medical journal. Once again discoveries have changed our understanding of the human body, and once again Leonardo Da Vinci’s intelligence shines, showing just how far ahead of his time he was, that it took 509 years for us to confirm what he already knew. With this latest discovery there are now 79 organs, and Gray’s Anatomy has been updated to accommodate this, but there is little doubt that this discovery could have big repercussions in the field of abdominal disease research.
Epithelia are formed of cells that line the cavities around the body and cover many of the flat surfaces on our body. For example, our hand wouldn't be as smooth as it is without the millions of epithelial cells lining the skin. Epithelial cells can join together to form epithelial membranes and tissues, called epithelium. These are vital in our day to day functioning and allow us to live the way we do, helping us survive. There are several functions that the epithelial tissue performs, with the primary function being to protect. However, it’s also involved in filtration, secretion and absorption within the human body.
Epithelial cells are stuck together in sheets of tissue called epithelia. The sheets are held together by different types of interactions and gap junction. One junction is the tight junction, which is considered the closest junction in the world. Epithelium is given support on the base of the cell by a basement membrane called the basal lamina. This lies on the capillary bed, which provides epithelia with enough nutrients and disposal of waste products.
One of the main function of epithelial cells are to protect. The skin, which is covered by the cells, protect the body from invasion of germs and harmful bacteria, preventing infection and other illnesses. The cells also act as a barrier to sunlight and UV, protecting us from the dangers of the light and preventing skin cancer and skin burn. Another function of the cells is to filter our dirt and dust particles from our body, helping us keep cleaner and fresher both internally and externally. In addition to this, they are involved in the process of secretion. Epithelial cells form glands of the body, which secrete hormones and enzymes around the body, helping us function. However, they also have the ability to secrete wax, digestive enzymes and milk, further aiding us and other humans. Finally, they are involved in absorption, in which they absorb food and water, playing a huge part in the body's digestive system.
There are several different types of epithelial tissue:
Meiosis is an incredibly important process which allows for gametes to be produced, these gametes are a necessity for sexual reproduction. Two gametes join together and fertilise to form a zygote, which develops into a new organism. Meiosis occurs in the reproductive organs to produce gametes. Meiosis involves a reduction division. Now this reduction division process, means that cells that divide by meiosis have the full number of chromosomes to start with, but the cells that are formed from meiosis have half the number. These cells are called haploid cells, and they have half the normal number of chromosomes (hence the term haploid). The unique feature of the cells formed by meiosis, are that they are all genetically different because each new cell ends up with a different combination of chromosomes.
Meiosis itself is characterized by two divisions, meiosis I and meiosis II. Meiosis I is the reduction division due to the fact it halves the chromosome number. Meiosis I and II are still split into the four phases; PMAT. Prophase, metaphase, anaphase and telophase. To start with, meiosis begins with interphase, in which the DNA unravels and replicates to produced double armed chromosomes called sister chromatids.
In the first Meiosis I division
Prophase I; The chromosomes condense, and coil up, reducing their size and arrange themselves in homologous pairs (this means one chromosome from the father and one from the mother pair up) and crossing over occurs, this is the source of genetic variation. Centrioles begin to move to opposite ends of the cell forming the spindle fibres. The nuclear envelope breaks down.
Metaphase I; The homologous pairs line up at the metaphase plate at the centre of the cells, and spindle fibres attach to the kinetochore.
Anaphase I; The spindles shorten and separate the homologous pairs- one chromosome goes to each end of the cell.
Telophase I; A nuclear envelope forms around each group of chromosomes and cytokinesis occurs to split the cytoplasm and two haploid daughter cells are produced. The chromosome number is halved.
Then the second Meiosis II division follows
The two daughter cells undergo prophase II, metaphase II, telophase II and cytokinesis – in a fashion similar to the stages in mitosis.
In anaphase II, the pairs of sister chromatids are separated- each new daughter cell inherits one chromatid from each chromosome. Four (genetically identical) haploid daughter cells are produced – and these are the gametes.
The production of genetically different cells, is a reason as to why meiosis is an important
process. There are two main events in meiosis that lead to genetic variation.
The crossing over of chromatids in prophase I, means that each of the four daughter cells formed from meiosis contains chromatids with different alleles.
The independent assortment of chromosomes is the other event that leads to genetic variation.
Each homologous pair of chromosomes in your cells is made up of one chromosome from the maternal and one from the paternal. In metaphase I homologous pairs line up and in anaphase I they split up, and as to where which chromosome ends up in which daughter cell, is arbitrary. So the four daughter cells produced by meiosis have completely different combinations of those maternal and paternal chromosomes. This is called independent assortment, and the shuffling of chromosomes leads to genetic variation in any potential offspring.
Coronary heart disease consists of plaque building up and blocking coronary arteries of the all essential oxygen pumped blood, travelling to the heart muscle. Also known as ; atherosclerosis. This can easily lead to a heart attack as the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle are blocked, so there is no oxygen and the heart muscle fails as a result. Even if a patient survives, a heart attack is leaves a permanent damage to the heart muscle, hence why it is important for it to be dealt with as soon as possible. Another effect are heart failures; which is when the heart is too weak to pump blood around the body, causing fluids to build up in the lungs and difficulty breathing. Common symptoms include: angina (chest pain, which can spread to upper parts of the body), physical activity can cause more stress to the heart muscle, however can be relieved by nitrate tablets and sprays. Bypass surgery; helps to reduce the risk of an individual's heart attack, but this procedure tends to be very stressful and can potentially be risky to a certain extent. Also, rehabilitation programmes consist of: exercise, education on ‘chd’, change in lifestyle, relaxation and emotional support. Furthermore, warfarin (an anticoagulant, thinning blind) and a pacemaker helping to regulate heart beats, supposedly increasing blood flow.
With treatment comes costs for:individual health care, time-off work, government costs and a loss in productivity. In 2009 ‘chd’ costed the UK healthcare industry, a staggering £8.7 billion and £19 billion altogether for the UK economy. The world health organisation ‘who’, commented by saying; smoking health care is costing $200 billion every year, with ⅓ of this happening in developing countries. ‘Who’, also said in 2000, citizens over 65 in the United States of America were costing $76 billion out of the economy. On a positive note, they do believe that deaths and disabilities from coronary heart disease has in fact halved with new drugs costing $14 per year per person.
Preventing the disease is a socially and economical benefiting factor to us all. With education, there is hoped to be affordable treatment with new medical advances, also by advising patients on living a healthy lifestyle. Commonly, uk dietieners have promoted the benefits of foods such as: oily fish, fruit, vegetables and generally less saturated fats in everyday diets. Finland have taken a clever approach in health education, by nutritional labelling and cholesterol levels of foods, allowing a rapid decline in heart disease, throughout the country. Health educational campaigns, in Japan increased treatment and caused a decline in high blood pressure. New Zealand, have gone directly to manufacturers and urged them to reformulate products, reducing a significant quantity of salts and cholesterol causing additives. The change from palm oil to soya oil has transitioned within Mauritius, which is a healthier approach, reducing cholesterol but not affecting obesity rates.
The world health organisation, initiated activities to assist schools, since 2000, co-ordinating world heart day, 29th September each year. In 2000; 63 countries participated in world heart day and in 2015 over 120 now do.Some activities include: medical activities like blood pressure testing, promoting the benefits of physical activity, holding science conferences and creating heart-healthy diets.
At the end of the day the government is the one power which can legislate and control the disease by reducing tobacco smoking which would reduce heart disease, saving lives and taxpayers money. Advertising bans, taxing tobacco and serious health warnings on packets are all good examples. Singapore first introduced there smoking ban in the 1970s and 37 years later the uk has started using it.