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.
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.
This question has been asked over and over, whether consuming such substances are proven to be perfectly healthy, without having effect of your physical/mental health, or that they should be forbidden in the face of society for its hidden properties that slowly ruin our physical perception without having the consciousness to know so. With different beliefs coming from different opinions, there has been research; science has finally provided an answer for society to realise the reality how soft drinks really affect our brain cognition. The research suggests that excess sugar (especially the fructose in sugary drinks) might damage your brain. Researchers ( that have utilised data from the Framingham Heart Study) found that people who drank soft drinks consistently are more likely to have poorer memory, a smaller overall brain volume, and a significantly smaller hippocampus (an area of the brain important for learning and memory).
Researchers examined the data, including MRI scans and cognitive testing results, from about 4,000 people enrolled in the FHS. The researchers looked at people who consumed more than two sugary drinks a day of any type: any type of soft drink, fruit juices, and other carbonated beverages, or more than three per week of soda alone. Among the individuals in the ‘high intake’ group, they found multiple indications of accelerated brain aging, including smaller overall brain volume, poorer episodic memory (the memory of autobiographical events; times, places, and associated emotions), and a shrunken hippocampus, all risk factors for early-stage Alzheimer's disease. Researchers also found that higher intake of diet soda, at least one per day, was associated with smaller brain volume.
The researchers took age, smoking, diet quality, and other factors into consideration, however they could not completely control for pre-existing conditions like diabetes, which may have developed over the course of the study and is a known risk factor for dementia. Diabetics generally drink more diet soda on average, as a way to limit their sugar consumption, and some of the correlation between diet soda intake and dementia may be due to diabetes as well as other cardiovascular risk factors. However, these pre-existing conditions cannot wholly explain the new findings.
Before the Common Era, the Greeks believed that matter could be split but only split a certain number of times. In the Early 1800s, physicist John Dalton believed atoms were tiny particles that made up elements, cannot be divided and that the atoms of the given elements have to be the same. The famous Joseph John Thomson later built upon this theory after cathode rays had been discovered. He viewed that these particles had negative charges and could be deflected by both magnetic and electric fields. Also, he noticed that their masses were incredibly small. Thomson therefore proposed atoms were made up of electrons moving around in a ‘sea’ of moving positive charge. His model is commonly referred to as the plum pudding model.
The next major step in the history of the atom was Ernest Rutherford’s gold-leaf experiment in 1909. The experiment was directing alpha particles towards a sheet of gold foil. All deflection was measured and Rutherford calculated and determined that a plum pudding atom would have lots of deflection. The results were astounding as most particles were not deflected and the small percentage of particles that were deflected was deflected through large angles. Very few particles were actually deflected towards the source of alpha emission. Here is an image of Rutherford’s gold leaf experiment.
In 1911, Rutherford proposed a creation of a new atomic model based upon the results of gold leaf experiment. He proposed that most of the atoms mass is within a nucleus which would be positive and that the negative electrons were orbiting the nucleus just like planets orbit the sun. Also, the overall positive and negative charges must be balanced. In 1918, Rutherford discovered the proton further proving his model and in 1932, James Chadwick discovered the neutron concluding that Rutherford’s discovery was indeed fact. The image below depicts
Rutherford’s ideas graphically in this version of the atom.
The Bohr model was another step towards the latest model of the atom as he attempts to create the connection between atoms and light. He believed that the colors of light in a gas correspond differently to energy levels within electrons. The key to his model was that electrons can only be at certain energy levels within the atom. The model depends on the connection between the difference of energy level and the frequency corresponding to this change. A significant statement of Bohr’s model was that for certain elements, only certain frequencies of light can be absorbed or emitted. This can be linked to what we now know as the absorption and emission spectrums. The diagram below should hopefully make more sense, as Bohr’s model can be rather confusing.
Now the more recent, Schrodinger and Heisenberg model mentions that electrons orbiting the nucleus no longer occur as it previously did with Rutherford and Bohr. The issue is that we cannot state the trajectory of an electron within an atom and all we can state are the probabilities of where the electrons might be. This is due to the uncertainty principle within quantum mechanics. The diagram below is officially the latest graphic image of the standard model of the atom and whether it is likely to change in the future well, we cannot rule this possibility out.
Now in the 21st century we have discovered all sorts of particles, hadrons, bosons, baryons, mesons, quarks, leptons and all the antiparticles so many believe that there is no further change arising. However, with the continued research of dark matter and exotic behavior with electrons theorized into being split to their electric and magnetic one dimensional fields, no one knows where this will take us. The deficiencies of the standard model occur due to the lack of knowledge of the origin of mass, neutrino oscillations, matter and antimatter asymmetry and the nature and mystery of dark matter. These are only a fragment of the possibilities of change within the atom and perhaps it may remain as the electron cloud model but it is the determination and inspiration of those that aspire to change the unchangeable, think the unthinkable and do the undoable that makes the world progress therefore by no means will the current model of the atom be the final one.
Lyme disease, an infection spread through ticks, currently it is the most common disease in the Northern Hemisphere. The history of the disease is relatively young, having been diagnosed as a separate condition in 1975, and its bacterium was first identified in 1981. Its biggest threat? It has no vaccine, and many specialists have tipped 2018 to be the year in which the number of people affected will peak. Lyme disease is difficult to be detected, and it science has shown that if Lyme disease is left untreated, it can lead to chronic complications such as memory problems, and arthritis. Due to the increasing issues created by climate change, higher temperatures are leading to a higher number of mice reproducing. Mice are the source for the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease, and the carriers of tick.
2016 was a year in which the mouse population increased, dubbed the “mouse plague” and the number of mice increase the rate of Lyme disease spreading. The ticks grasp onto the mice, and the when they feed on the blood of the mice, which contains the bacteria aforementioned, the bacteria move into the tick’s gut. The tick then attaches onto a human and the bacteria passes into the human’s blood.
Rick Ostfeld, was able to predict the possible outbreak of Lyme disease, by identifying the acorns littered in a forest in New York. The acorns, indicate the population of mice, and the population of infected ticks are predicted with the number of mice. Another threat of Lyme disease, is that in areas where the disease is scarce – outside the Lyme zones, the public is generally unaware of the precautions you need to take in order to avoid contracting Lyme disease.
The vaccine, Lymerix, developed by GSK, was withdrawn after 4 years, due to the link between Lymerix and chronic arthritis. Many anti-vaccination groups and the media, caused public support for the vaccine to decline. The vaccine for animal’s works to neutralise the B. burgdoferi and this is what the human version is currently being developed to do.
It is important that a vaccine is developed, in order to combat the ticking time bomb, which Lyme disease is, an outbreak of the disease can lead to many chronic problems in people. Public awareness for Lyme disease should also increase, and the precautions you should take in order to avoid contracting Lyme disease.
The crater, made by the asteroid that killed of dinosaurs millions of years ago, is giving clues to the origin of Life which began on Earth. Scientists have buried into the 200km long crated, buried under the Gulf of Mexico, and have found some remarkable discoveries.
They say that the rocks show evidence of having been home of a large “hydrothermal system”, which is where hot fluid flowed through cracks. Similar impacts could have helped kickstart the first lifeforms on Earth. This hydrothermal system at the Chicxulub crater could have been active for two million years or more.
829m of Chicxulub core material was drilled between May and June of last year, with team members been hard at work examining the rocks from the crater which was punched in the crust by a 15 km wide space objects 66 million years ago. The drillers targeted an area called the peak ring, containing rocks that moved the greatest distance in the impact.
The direction of the Earth’s magnetic field flips every few hundred thousand years, and when the event occurred, it had reverse the polarity to today. The whole system may have been too hot for even the most heat tolerant microorganisms to cope with, however as time went on, the peak ring must have cooled to allow any lifeforms to exploit the chemicals that were dissolved in the fluids for fuel.
When they got cool enough, they supported thermophilic and hyperthermophilic organisms which would have lived within the fractures and the veins of this subsurface crater. The asteroid impact killed of 75% of the species on Earth at the time, including all dinosaurs. Debris thrown into the atmosphere probably saw skies darken and the global climate to decrease dramatically. It may have also triggered raging wildfires, burning down trees, increasing the carbon dioxide percentage in the atmosphere.
However, the question that is puzzling scientists is: How did this environmental cataclysms kill off some groups such as dinosaurs, but allowed birds and mammals to survive? The question still remains unclear, however further discoveries can be made with the mission still ongoing and rocks still being examined. Once the study comes to an end, more answers should spring to light.