Eyesight: What Factors Affect Your Eyesight and How Can You Improve It?

The human eye works much like a camera does: it takes in light from the environment and uses that light to form an image. When light reaches the human eye, it first passes through a crystalline lens, which focuses the light towards the interior of the eye. This lens is controlled by the ciliary muscles, a pair of muscles which adjust the lens to allow us to see at different distances. The light is then focused onto the retina, a layer of tissue which contains light-sensitive cells which react to incoming light. This allows the retina to “capture” the image produced by the surrounding environment and send that data to the brain to be processed as visual data.

As people grow older, many parts of their body begin to weaken, and the eyes are no exception. As humans age, it often becomes more difficult for them to focus their vision and distinguish different colors. They also often need more light to properly see, and more time to adjust to sudden changes in brightness (such as when leaving a dark room and entering a bright one). Such conditions are considered a normal part of aging, and is often treated with prescription lenses or contact lenses. Actual visual loss, on the other hand, is not considered a natural part of aging and occurs due to multiple medical disorders. Such disorders include cataracts, where the lens of the eyes become clouded, diabetic retinopathy, where the blood vessels in the retina bleed and cause blurred vision, glaucoma, a group of diseases which damage the optic nerve and can cause sudden loss of eyesight, and Age-related Macular Degradation (AMD), where the center of the retina, the macula, deteriorates and causes a loss of vision.

This begs the question, “How can I maintain my eyesight?” There are multiple ways to safeguard your eyesight and minimize your risk of eye-related diseases. One way is to avoid smoking. Smoking has been shown to increase the risk of multiple eye-related disorders, such as AMD. Maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet has also been shown to significantly decrease one’s risk of eyesight loss. Another way to preserve your eyesight is to frequently wear sunglasses or sunhats when outside. This prevents damage caused by excessive exposure to sunlight. Contrary to popular belief, staring at a computer screen does not damage one’s eyes.

The eyes, like any other part of the body, can become strained from overexertion. This strain, by itself, won’t necessarily damage the eyes, but it will tire them out and, as a result, tire the rest of the body out as well. There are many common causes of eyestrain, many of which are fairly easy to avoid. For instance, staring at a computer screen for a long, uninterrupted period of time, will cause eyestrain. A good way to prevent eyestrain is to take 5-minute breaks when using the computer for long periods of time, or simply dim the computer screen by adjusting its brightness setting. One myth about eyestrain is that wearing contacts or glasses causes it. Wearing glasses or contacts does not negatively impact your vision, and attempting to read without them only causes excessive eyestrain. Another common source of eyestrain is reading in dim light. Always make sure to have an adequate source of light when reading for an extended period of time

There are some myths regarding how one can improve their eyesight. A common myth is that eating carrots helps improve eyesight. This myth has some truth to it. Carrots contain vitamin A, which is beneficial to the eyes. However, there are many other fruits and vegetables with contain vitamin A and other beneficial vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin E, both of which are better at preventing eye disorders. Furthermore, while eating such foods will help preserve eyesight, doing so will not correct basic vision problems or improve eyesight. Another myth is that one can “exercise” their eyes in order to prevent vision degradation or improve vision. This stems from the role the ciliary muscles play in allowing humans to see at varying differences, and the belief that by “exercising” these muscles, one can thus correct or prevent problems such as nearsightedness. However, vision depends on many other factors, such as the shape of the lens or the health of one’s eye tissues. Such factors cannot be significantly altered through eye exercises, and thus, eye exercises are not a reliable way to correct vision problems.

Eyesight is a very important sense for humans to have, one that many take for granted until they lose it. Many believe vision loss is just a natural part of growing old. However, with proper eye care, one can maintain good eyesight even late in life.

References:

“Vision Changes as We Age: What's Normal, What's Not?” University of Utah Health, www.healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/postings/2016/09/vision.changes.php.

Publishing, Harvard Health. “Safeguarding Your Sight.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/safeguarding-your-sight.

Kazilek. “How Do We See?” Kazilek, 1 July 2015, www.askabiologist.asu.edu/explore/how-do-we-see.  

George Galanis
DNA for Data Storage: Storing all the World’s Information

When you want to store away physical objects for the future, the attic tends to be the go-to place for this. However, at some point, it becomes cramped, crowded and unorganized. What can be even messier than your attic is your computer and all other electrical devices with a storage component. A one page paper is small and easy to manage, but imagine all those files, documents, pictures, videos, and applications that pile up until your computer’s memory is full. Then, the computer starts running slow and you need a USB, external memory disk, or an online storage unit like cloud to back-up and save everything. But with approximately 7.7 million people currently on earth, and almost 2 centuries since the first built computer, how are we supposed to manage ALL of it?

Scientists have proclaimed DNA as being a potential source of storage for long periods of time. Its dense, easy to replicate and stable property makes it a highly desired candidate for an easier method of storage and retrieval. Current storage uses magnetic tape to store zettabytes of data but with the extensive amount of data production made every day, the current infrastructure is expected to consume all the world’s microchip-grade silicon by the year 2040 and therefore does not seem like an efficient method. Researchers can use the DNA base pairs Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Cytosine (C) and Guanine (G) to make a script to encode information. Attaching non-binary numbers, 0s and 1s, to transcribe the nucleotides into a coding sequence can allow the ability to simplify the computational language in the writing and reading process.

Encoding data in DNA initially started as a joke in 2011, but it was soon seen as a potential idea for long time archiving. Shakespeare's Sonnet, snippets of Martin Luther King’s speech “I have a Dream” and even parts of Beethoven have been successfully encoded into a strand of DNA. Unfortunately, the biggest worry is that DNA tends to make 1 mistake in the nucleotide sequence for every 100 bases. While reading the transcript, the desired file may not be able to be retrieved properly without being damaged. DNA uses one of the five types of DNA polymerases for proofreading and repairing for DNA sequences, so a mathematical computation needs to be made that performs the same function. The economics of writing DNA still remains problematic since DNA-synthesis companies charge 0.07-0.09 dollars per base. This means that a minute of stereo can be stored for $100,000. For such high expenses, an alternative source of processing needs to be found that is more cost effective.

Based on bacterial genetics, digital DNA can maybe one day rival or exceed storage technology. The read-write speed of a hard disk is between 3,000 to 5,000 microseconds per bit with a retention span of just over 10 years, using 0.04 watts per gigabytes. In contrast, Bacterial DNA’s reading-writing speed is less than 100 microseconds per bit, with over 100 years retention period and uses less than 1*10^11 watts per gigabyte. To conclude, this means that even though the translation of memory is slower in DNA, DNA storage still stores for 10 times longer than a regular hard disk, and uses an exponential amount of less energy with 1*10^6 times more data storage density. This means that we need only 1 kg of DNA storage to store the world’s information. Once the design is successful and the economics of its production resolved, we will be able to put all the internet’s information, books, and more with terabytes of information in something as small as a strand of hair.

 

References:

https://www.wired.com/story/the-rise-of-dna-data-storage/

https://newclasses.nyu.edu/access/content/attachment/2f2b4893-90fc-42a5-8306-d4a486689b93/Assignments/e3667c95-30ca-4973-addc-c2180a81b26e/DNA-Datastorage.pdf

Walida Ali
Emotions Effect on Wellness from a Holistic Perspective

Imagine you are sitting at home one day, going about your business, when suddenly you start experiencing heartburn. What would be your first response? The majority of people would think to take an antacid and move on. However, although one may experience relief for a few hours, the calcium carbonate in the antacid did nothing to address the underlying issue behind the heartburn. As a result, the condition may worsen into something more serious such as gastritis or a hiatal hernia. This problem serves as an exemplar to some of the shortcomings behind traditional medicine. Traditional medicine treats symptoms and problems from a specific area of the body by prescribing drugs or recommending surgery. This specialization is often effective in treating a specific condition, but concentrating on only one area can fall short in judging the general wellness of that individual.

Alternative medicine, on the other hand, addresses the larger picture by focusing on the underlying cause behind the issue as well as methods to prevent the issue from ever occurring. Alternative medicine, also known as holistic medicine, pays closer attention to the overall health of the patient by recommending natural but sometimes unorthodox treatments. From a holistic perspective, if a person demonstrates a health issue, then an energy imbalance must be present in the body. The imbalance can be physical, emotional, and even spiritual. To restore balance, the holistic practitioner considers all of the potential determinants such as other health issues, diet, lifestyle, personal problems, and spiritual practices.

An aspect that makes alternative medicine especially unique is its concentration in emotional energy.  The influence that emotional states have over the body’s physiological wellness is often trivialized in traditional medicine. However, from a holistic outlook, the general emotional state of the person can often be the root cause behind the issues they may be experiencing. To make analyzing one's emotional state easier, scales of emotional consciousness were created by assigning a frequency (from 0 to 1000) to an emotion along a spectrum logarithmically. The emotions are ranked from negative to positive in ascending order of frequencies. According to many spiritual healing literatures, negative emotions (0 to 150) can disrupt the meridians and chakras in the body. In our body, there are paths that energy can flow through that make up our autonomic nervous system. There are also seven energy centers located along our spine that transmit and receive this energy. These paths are commonly referred to as meridians and the energy centers are known as chakras. If one of our chakras becomes disrupted or damaged, then the energy cannot flow and an imbalance is forged. This would in turn, cause specific physiological consequences depending on which chakra is impaired.

It might seem far fetched to assume that emotions can have an effect on our health to such an extent. If this were all true, then patients would just have to vibrate at a higher emotional frequency to treat themselves instead of using “real” medicine. However, the placebo effect illustrates that thinking can sometimes be just as good as “real” medicine. The mind-body connection was demonstrated when 30% of patients were able to have a positive response when given a sugar pill instead of a prescription drug. All placebos possess neurological underpinnings that have actual effects on the mind and body. There are also many types of placebo responses attributable to different mechanisms – especially those in immune, hormonal, and respiratory processes. However, Analgesia is a placebo response initiated and maintained by changes in emotion.

Positive thinking is of course limited in treating illnesses. In a study by Dr. Bernie Siegel, writer of Love, Medicine, and Miracles, cancer patients were placed in a positive thinking ECaP program. Siegel then measured the cure rates of the patients in the program to those not in the program. Surprisingly, at the end of the study, his research team found that the patients in the program had no statistically different results in cure rates than those not in the camp. Despite this, the idea that positive emotional energy can have healing properties is still not refuted. According Dr. Deepak Chopra, a popular figure in the New Age movement, Siegel’s study doesn’t consider how positive thinking can prevent the disease or treat early stages of that illness. As mentioned before, the prominent goal of alternative medicine is not to rescue dying patients as much as it is to maintain their wellness. Therefore, cure rates is not a strong indicator in measuring the effects of positive emotional energy as much as healing rates – although quantifying healing rate is a difficult task in itself.

There are many cases where traditional medicine may be more preferable than alternative medicine, just as there are cases where alternative medicine may be better than traditional medicine. Usually, holistic medicine is used as a failsafe when all else fails, but, ideally, both perspectives should be considered in one’s life in order to maintain wellness and treat certain conditions. The advancement of modern medicine led people to pay less attention to certain factors of wellness such as emotional energy. According to Dr. David Hawkins, a clinical psychologist who is a strong proponent in holistic methods, he once had a patient who was having a difficult time letting people into her life because of certain childhood traumas. After making breakthroughs with her by utilizing the emotional scale of consciousness, she started to feel better and even ended up going into a long-term relationship. The patient also had a history of heartburn and acid reflux, but she stated that after going into the relationship and having more positive emotions in her life, she no longer felt the symptoms. So, next time you are experiencing heartburn, although it is probably a good idea to take an antacid and see a doctor, it might also be worthwhile to suspect an underlying cause from a holistic perspective.

References:

https://bancswellness.com/conventional-medicine-vs-alternative-medicine/

https://reikirays.com/185/how-the-meridians-and-chakras-work-together/

https://upliftconnect.com/science-proves-meridians-exist/

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-16118-6

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1847521/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17550344

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/owning-pink/201112/can-positive-thinking-help-you-heal

https://www.sciencedaily.com/news/health_medicine/alternative_medicine/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2005290110600143

http://www.sexualhealthsite.info/david-r-hawkins-healing-recovery.php

Kieran Bissessar
The Future of Designer Babies

More and more attention has been drawn to designer babies, which are babies that are developed through a method that allows professionals to select the genetic makeup of an embryo so that the baby is born with specific traits. Likewise, professionals can also ensure that the baby is born without undesirable traits. This article is not about an episode of Black Mirror. Rather, this is an actual scientific and medical development that has started to charge in recent years.

Why would potential parents want a designer baby? Well, by allowing scientists to select embryos with certain traits, potential parents can make sure that their baby-to-be isn’t born with certain genetic markers that could make them susceptible to fatal or chronic diseases. This sounds like a great advancement and one that can thrust humanity into an age of minimized genetic illnesses. If both parents are carriers for a disease it may be the safest option for them to make sure their potential baby does not carry the genetic code for the disease. In the USA, there are no federal laws that regulate this procedure, unlike in various European countries which have very strict guidelines that need to be followed. These procedures can select for a multitude of variables that do not include genetic illnesses, like even the sex of their baby-to-be.

Although designer babies seem like a fantastic solution to potential genetic illnesses, it comes at a hefty cost. The procedure is an incredibly expensive one that the average American would not have the luxury to pay for. What could this mean? This has the potential to create a very clear class divide, if only Americans who have the money to get this procedure actually take advantage of it, which would leave a huge population of socioeconomically disadvantaged people that may potentially have children with genetic-related illness and no means or opportunity to change this outcome. Those who are wealthy enough to go through the procedure can begin to create children that they know will have certain hair colors, eye colors, height, and so on. This can potentially create a ‘super’ population of people in America who are gifted these attributes during conception.

These designer babies have been the center of many controversies and arguments. If people begin to make more and more strides in selecting traits for their potential children, these children could have a much greater advantage in life as a whole compared to those conceived by conventional methods. Is a risk of a ‘super’ population of the (predominantly) upper class something that shouldn't be ethical? Even if a ‘super’ population was created, another risk is having too many individuals with the same genetic makeup. Thus, through Darwinian concepts, if a tragedy were to happen, due to the similarity in genetics, such a tragedy may be able to wipe out entire populations. These scenarios begin to blur the line between what should be allowed to be selected and what shouldn’t be. Looking at the genetic code as whole, when people begin to manipulate their genetics, these are passed onto future offspring. With any little mistake, a fatal genome can be passed on without anybody knowing about it . Accidents can happen and these accidents come with the burden of impacting various people down the line.

As this is a highly debated topic, many people have their own opinions on the concept. This article is not meant to display any preference for or against designer babies, but rather, to simply state some of the discussed aspects of it. Various professionals and scientist have said that making an international guideline for all countries to follow may be the best way to ensure the morality of genetically engineering potential on human beings. The concept may seem rare but it is something that needs to be mentioned sooner rather than later to ensure the safety of all potential babies-to-be.

References:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603633/us-panel-endorses-designer-babies-to-avoid-serious-disease/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5612618/

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/regulate-designer-babies/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028207012162?via%3Dihub

https://www.theweek.co.uk/95108/designer-babies-the-arguments-for-and-against

Nathalia Schettino
Is ASMR good for you?

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) has become an increasingly popular practice and experience since it first became popular. Even if you’re not an avid ASMR follower, you may have heard of or seen many of the popular ASMR YouTube videos on your homepage – each with views that easily range in the millions. People watch and feel drawn to these videos for a variety of reasons, whether this be to help them reduce stress, to go to sleep, to feel relaxed or even to feel amused. However, not everyone seems to gain the same sense of gratification from these videos. In fact, some people have stated that the sounds make them feel more irritated than calm. In the end, the question to ask is: does ASMR really help your brain and body?

Little do people know, ASMR has actually had little to no scientific basis behind it up until recently. The phenomenon, also known as autonomous sensory meridian response, sounds scientific, but the term was coined simply to bestow a name to the experience for people to discuss it. People have described the experience as tingling sensations in some parts of their bodies, usually in the head or neck areas. These feelings are then associated with relaxation, comfort, calmness and other general feelings of happiness. Three categories of triggers are responsible for inducing these bodily responses: tactile, visual, and auditory. The tactile stimuli category includes but isn’t limited to light touching, massages and grooming. The visual category then includes gazing, observing and more popularly, hand movements. Finally, auditory stimuli, the most popular one these days, includes a broad range of vocal and object sounds.

Recent research has begun to show that ASMR may be a viable method for treating psychological disorders, such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other forms of paranoia. 2018 studies by Lochte et al. and Poerio et al. show how ASMR videos activate specific brain regions, decrease heart rate, and increase skin conductance. Furthermore, a study by Barrat et al. 2015 has even demonstrated how 42% of participants with chronic pain believed that ASMR had an effect on their symptoms. Emma Barrat points out that the ASMR phenomenon may be closely linked to conditions of flow state and synesthesia. People in a state of flow experience heightened focus during tasks. On the other hand, synesthesia is when people associate one form of sensory input, such as color, to another kind, like taste. Such conditions were found to be the case in about 5.9% of surveyed participants in the study.

Other theories such as those proposed by Ahuja (2013) suggest that ASMR is similar to the physical contact people experience through grooming and maternal care. The acts and motions in ASMR then produce feelings of intimacy in the viewer, inducing relaxation responses. From an evolutionary standpoint, viewers feel protected and are thus able to settle into a comfortable mind state, away from the stresses of danger. Psychiatrist, Michael Yasinski even states that ASMR goes as far as shutting down sections of the brain that are critical for stress and anxiety. However, ultimately the present research is limited in its inability to answer why people experience ASMR. Much of it relies heavily on self-reported data from ASMR enthusiasts and not enough has been proven in neurological/biological areas.

So, is ASMR good for you? That is still a difficult question to answer, but the innovative and rising research is suggesting a bright future for ASMR’s potential. While data may be self-reported, the vast number of people feeling more relaxed and getting sleep from the effects of ASMR can’t be just  ignored. ASMR seems to appear greatly psychological at this point, but it may just represent the psychological comfort you’re looking for if you’ve also felt stressed or have been losing sleep in the past days.

References:

https://asmruniversity.com/health-benefits-of-asmr/

https://asmruniversity.com/origin-theory-of-asmr/

https://www.theguardian.com/science/head-quarters/2016/jan/08/asmr-and-head-orgasms-whats-the-science-behind-it

https://www.theasmr.com/the-science-behind-asmr/

Sherry Chow
Korean Skin Care Products

Hand cream in panda-shaped containers, face masks that transform your face into a rabbit, lip balms that look suspiciously like popsicles -- if you’ve ever walked through the cosmetics isle in any beauty shop or department store, you probably have noticed a colorful assortment of skin care products filling the shelves, with some of the most popular being Korean beauty products. The amount of Korean beauty products that can be found in the U.S. market has greatly increased and they can easily be spotted through the many celebrity endorsements. Korean beauty products have hit the nation in a wave!

The Korean beauty market, otherwise known as Kbeauty, is now valued at around $13 billion, with $7.2 billion coming from facial skin care. With all the cute designs and affordable rates, it’s no wonder that these cosmetics have caught the people’s eyes. Certainly, a large factor contributing to the success of Korean beauty products is the hallyu movement, otherwise known as the Korean wave. This wave is an increase in popularity in South Korean culture, particularly with the rise of the many internationally acclaimed Korean pop groups composed of numerous adorable heartthrobs. But surely, affordability, cute packaging, and the rise of Korean culture must not be the sole reason why Kbeauty is so popular. There must be some other reason why people keep purchasing Korean skin care products.  

One of the reasons why Korean skin care products may be so popular may be due to the components included in it. Korea is one of the few countries that have “functional cosmetics,” a label used by the Korean Food and Drug Administration to describe the properties some Korean skin care products have, from anti-wrinkle to pigment-fading. This has fueled many beauty companies to research more about creating better products. On the other end, this has also fueled the consumers to learn more about cosmetics. The Korean skin care companies have always been interested in natural ingredients, some of which can sound intimidating at first. The popular brand SkinFood takes this quite literally with their “food cosmetics.” They are taking the phrase “you are what you eat” to a whole new level by incorporating the things that we generally eat, like strawberries and black sugar, into their cosmetics.

There are numerous popular components found in many Korean skin care products. One example is snail mucin. This is known to have hydrating and regenerative powers which can help reduce hyperpigmentation and help moisturize and soothe acne. Snail mucin is produced naturally by snails to help them heal wounds. Another popular component is hyaluronic acid, which is a naturally occurring humectant in our skin tissues that is important in retaining skin moisture. As we age, we produce less of this, resulting in wrinkles and saggy skin. A third example is propolis, an antibacterial substance used in ancient medicine. It can help with cell renewal. Not only is it known for its anti-aging properties, but it is also helps relieve irritation and decrease blemishes. Propolis is a gummy substance used by bees to seal and sterilize their hives. A final component is centella asiatica extract. This extract is a medicinal herb used popularly in Asia, and in Korean folklore, tigers roll in it to help heal their wounds. Asides from healing wounds, it is recommended to treat various skin conditions like eczema and varicose ulcers. There are many more examples, from the common tea tree oil to the anti-aging properties of ginseng.

These are just a few of the interesting ingredients common in Korean skin care. Another great thing about Korean skin care is that you can understand many of its ingredients, making it more fun to research the best product for you. Hopefully this article will help you begin your journey in Korean skin care!

Resources:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/11/health/korean-makeup-beauty-health-benefits/index.html

https://medium.com/s/youthnow/how-k-beauty-conquered-the-west-f8bf81d28bf7

https://beautymnl.com/bloom/articles/k-beauty-101-your-cheat-sheet-to-9-popular-ingredients

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116297/

https://stylecaster.com/beauty/k-beauty-popular-ingredients/#slide-4

https://blog.euromonitor.com/growth-k-beauty-us-market/

Mary Yoshikawa
The Seriousness of Being a Picky Eater: ARFID

Picky eaters-- we all had that one childhood friend who never ate certain foods, or perhaps we were that picky eater. The term ‘picky eater’ has been used so colloquially that the seriousness of its implications in adulthood are often overlooked. Even in childhood, this is normally dealt with lightly-- we tend to assume that the child will eventually eat when they are hungry, and that avoiding certain foods is just a phase. However, being a picky eater is sometimes not just a phase in a child’s life. It can be signs of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID), which has been added to the DSM-V in 2013. Although we commonly think of bulimia or anorexia as common eating disorders, ARFID is also a mental disorder, but with trauma-based causes instead of those related to self-esteem and perception of one’s body image.

ARFID may stem from infancy, especially with premature babies who have spent time in the NICU with tubes in both their noses and mouths. A choking incident can be a trigger for ARFID, as it associates objects in the mouth with the choking. Other causes are also trauma-based, to the point where it convinces one that food is dangerous and potentially deadly. Those with ARFID truly believe that food, especially if in their mouths, will lead to death. This raises the significance of recognizing this disorder, because food is necessary for survival and health. Of course, those who were mere picky eaters in childhood can face an exacerbation of symptoms and develop ARFID. However, it is important to recognize that being a picky eater does not necessarily mean one has ARFID.

Social anxiety is a condition that may be present as well, especially with certain social events involving eating and dining. ARFID is therefore more than just picky eating-- it can be severe to the point of affecting one’s social life and skills. On a related note, those with autism spectrum conditions and ADHD are more likely to suffer from this type of eating disorder as well. Additionally, the diet is very limited for one with ARFID; there can be about 20 to 30 items that one would only eat, but the list gradually shortens as time goes by. There is unwillingness to try new foods, as the individuals have the genuine concern of food being harmful and dangerous. This leads to either severe malnourishment or to obesity, depending on which foods are only being consumed, as well as other physical symptoms.

While ARFID is treatable, it is important to remember that it can not be treated like other eating disorders. Food exposure, which may work with anorexia, does not apply to ARFID and can in fact exacerbate symptoms. It helps if one is motivated to overcome ARFID and is willing to change their lifestyle. This is especially true for teenagers, as social life can be heavily impacted by this disorder. Unlike other disorders, where medication can be prescribed, ARFID is treated better when interacting with therapists, nutritionists, and psychiatrists. Effective treatment includes cognitive behavioral treatment, perhaps in conjunction with anxiety treatment if applicable. Group therapy and having meals in groups has also been found to be helpful. While eating disorders are definitely of serious concern, they can also be treated and overcome if there is a proper diagnosis, motivation to accept change, and proper treatment.

References:

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/parents-may-mistake-picky-eating-for-a-more-serious-eating-disorder#3

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/by-eating-disorder/arfid

https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/effective-treatments-adults-arfid

Stephanie Chan
Endometriosis: Myths and Facts

Endometriosis is a complicated disease that affects about 10% of individuals who have a uterus and are of childbearing age. It is one of those diseases that are often delayed in diagnosis and are often given ineffective treatments. This lack of information complicates the lives of those who have the condition.  The clinical picture of endometriosis is characterized by chronic pain in the pelvic region and infertility. There may also be changes in the digestive and urinary rhythm during the menstrual period.

Is endometriosis simply a strong menstrual cramp? Cramps are only one of the symptoms of endometriosis. Although some people do not experience any pain, many women with endometriosis have severe cramps before, during, and after menstruation. Endometriosis is a condition in which a tissue resembling the endometrium (lining layer inside the uterus) is found outside the uterus. This "shifted" tissue induces an inflammatory response that can result in severe pain and scarring. In addition to cramps, endometriosis can cause pain when urinating, chronic pelvic pain, as well as back, leg and shoulder pain. In some cases, the pain can be so intense that it prevents daily activities such as sitting and walking.

This disorder manifests itself in women who are in their reproductive period and it may first appear soon after the first menses, but the strongest symptoms are usually expressed between the ages of 25 and 35 years old. The disease has no definitive cure, but the treatments can allow for a better quality of life. Physical exercise and healthy eating help in the overall treatment as well.

There are genetic factors involved in the manifestation of endometriosis: women with relatives with endometriosis have an increased risk (of approximately 7%) of developing it. The disorder may also occur as a result of anatomical or biochemical changes. It is an example of endometriosis related to anatomical alterations. There are cases of young women with obstructions that hinder the menstrual flow, as such the remains of the endometrium are forced to travel the retrograde path, towards the uterine tubes, the ovary, and the abdominal cavity. Examples of biochemical alterations that have occurred are women who were exposed to high doses of estrogen administered by their mothers during their intrauterine life .

There are three main forms of the disorder: peritoneal (when implants settle on the inner surface of the pelvic cavity and ovaries), endometriomas (when complex ovarian cysts are coated with endometrioid tissue), and rectovaginal nodules (when endometrioid tissue forms solid nodes). The diagnosis is made from complaints, gynecological examination (which can reveal the existence of nodules as well as enlarged and painful ovaries), and through an ultrasound examination. Smaller implants placed in the abdominal cavity can also be visualized by laparoscopy.

Clinical treatment can be done by using the contraceptive pill (containing estrogen and progesterone or progesterone only), by inhibiting ovarian function, or by using drugs belonging to the aromatase inhibitor group, an important enzyme for estrogen formation. Surgical treatment is almost always done by laparoscopy, which allows the implants to be removed or vaporized by means of laser beams or the application of electric current. Conventional surgeries are indicated only in selected cases.

References:

https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/endometriosis-facts-and-figures

http://www.idph.state.il.us/about/womenshealth/factsheets/endo.htm

Nathalia Schettino
When Exercising Becomes an Addiction

From a young age, we are constantly told the positive effects of exercising. Of course, exercise does have its benefits-- it leads to the production of endorphins, it helps with weight maintenance and/or loss, it increases energy levels, it builds muscles and bone density, it improves sleep quality, and it does much more. However, is there a certain extent to which exercise is beneficial? Exercise is only beneficial if done moderately-- exercise addiction is surely a phenomenon. Exercise addiction refers to the obsession over physical fitness and exercise, and is usually the result of disorders with one’s perception of body image or eating disorders. Like with other types of addiction, exercise addicts may show behaviors such as obsessing over the behavior and continuing to engage in the behavior even when it is harmful.

From a scientific perspective, exercise stimulates the release of endorphins and dopamine, both of which are neurotransmitters that cause the feelings of happiness and reward. These are also the same neurotransmitters that are released when using certain drugs, such as opiates and stimulants. When an addict is no longer exercising, there are less neurotransmitters present, prompting one to engage in more exercise. Symptoms of exercise addiction include withdrawal symptoms after long periods of no exercise, uncontrollable desires to exercise, reducing or cutting out other activities to make time for exercise, or an inability to reduce exercise.

Exercise addiction is considered ego-syntonic, in which one believes that one’s actions are justifiable and correct. This makes it difficult to diagnose exercise addiction, as addicts are likely to not mention their behavior. In addition, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) does not recognize exercise addiction, making it difficult to ascertain if one truly has it or not. However, this does not mean that it is not a phenomenon-- it is thought to affect twenty five percent of amateur runners and fifty percent of marathon runners (Anderson et al, 1997). Further research has shown that those showing signs of exercise addiction are more likely to display behaviors associated with other types of addiction, such as Internet addiction, work addiction, and compulsive shopping (Lejoyeux et al, 2008, Villella et al, 2011). While the majority of us are not exercise addicts, the implications of their behavior is certainly worth noting.

Self-control is seen as the standard form of treatment for exercise addiction. The first step would be acknowledging that one has an obsession with exercise, and to be willing to make changes to one’s lifestyle and behavior. Instead of completely cutting out exercise from one’s life, it is helpful to start by gradually moderating one’s workouts or switching forms of exercises. Although in some cases, it may be helpful to briefly stop exercising to gain more self-control over the desire to exercise. The types of treatment for exercise addiction is more personalized and based on the individual situation. Similar to other treatments, the amount of time it takes for one to overcome exercise addiction would depend on the severity of the addiction. As for prevention, it is important to take breaks from exercising and set limits on how often and how long one is exercising for. Exercising is healthy and encouraged, only as long as we do not take it to the extreme!

References:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-benefits-of-exercise

https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-addiction

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truth-about-exercise-addiction/201504/how-many-people-are-addicted-exercise

Stephanie Chan
Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome

Before diving deeper into what constitutes multiple organ dysfunction syndrome, it should be clarified that instead of being a single event, it is more of a series of events, with varying degrees of severity in the alteration of organs. The syndrome involves the failure of at least two organ systems, and it is directly related to inflammation from a severe infection or injury. Therefore, most people who have experienced, for instance, a severe septic shock or a major traumatic event are more prone to develop this syndrome. During sepsis, there is disturbed perfusion of microcirculation, tissue-toxicity, and systemic hypotension. These three can influence the way an organ would function normally, and if there is a negative impact, it would lead to organ failure. Multiple organ dysfunction syndrome is a condition that is associated with both high morbidity and mortality rates.

The major organs that are affected are the kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, and the brain. Kidney failure can be separated into acute and chronic. Acute kidney failure can be associated with chest pain, decrease in urine output, fluid retention that leads to swelling in ankles, feet, and legs, fatigue, drowsiness, weakness in muscles, and a shortness of breath. Additionally, a risk of death is also high even for acute kidney failure. For chronic kidney failure, the symptoms are the same, with the addition of nausea, anemia, decreased immunity, high blood pressure, weakness in bones, and for women, complications in pregnancy and health risks to the fetus. Similar to kidney failure, liver failure is also split into acute and chronic (cirrhosis). Symptoms of acute liver failure include nausea, yellowing of the skin and eyes, pain in the upper abdomen, infections in the urinary and respiratory tracts, cerebral edema, and difficulty in regulating blood flow and clotting. For chronic liver failure, symptoms include fatigue, easy bruising, liver cancer, loss of appetite, edema, excessive weakness, and spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP).

Symptoms of lung failure include weakness in muscles, an obstruction to air pathways, and lung diseases such as pneumonia, while symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of appetite, and an increased heart rate. As for brain failure, there are two classifications-- acute (delirium) and chronic (Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia). While there are major differences among delirium, Alzheimer’s Disease, and dementia, common factors are that memory and focus are impaired, and daily life is also negatively affected.

In addition to the five organ systems mentioned above, there are three other sources of dysfunction that can lead to multiple organ dysfunction syndrome. There is immunologic failure, in which both the specific and nonspecific immune systems function abnormally and/or antibody production is altered. In addition, there is metabolic failure, where a common endocrinologic discrepancy that is easily discovered is insulin resistance. The third one is hematologic failure due to leukocytosis (leukocyte, or white blood cell, count is higher than it should be).

The failure of one organ is already impactful on a patient’s body and the body’s ability to function, and therefore the failure of multiple organs is definitely more impactful and severe. Regardless, there are still steps that can be taken in combating organ failure. For organ dysfunction that is caused by sepsis, the first step is to restore and maintain adequate oxygen delivery to cells. Sepsis generally causes the failure of more than one organ, making it more of a condition to be on the watchout for. While the risk of death associated with multiple organ dysfunction syndrome is still present, organ failure caused by sepsis is generally reversible if the patient survives. Current treatment for sepsis involves limiting the development of organ failure by providing rapid control of any infection and organ support whenever possible.

References:

https://www.medscape.com/answers/169640-99164/what-is-multiple-organ-dysfunction-syndrome-mods

http://www.newhealthguide.org/organ-failure-symptoms.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26757392

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41581-018-0005-7

Stephanie Chan
Importance of Epigenetics

For the longest time, it was thought that the genome was entirely responsible for one’s biological characteristics, such as phenotype or the carrying of an allele for a certain disease. Researchers would often make this assumption when studying the cause of certain diseases. However, after hitting roadblocks under this paradigm, the function of the genome was then reassessed. The reassessment eventually led to the doubtfulness of the assumption that the genome was entirely responsible for all of one’s biological characteristics. Researchers came to this doubtfulness after investigating breast cancer patients without the BRCA gene mutation, after studying non-genotoxic carcinogens, and after considering concepts such as cell differentiation.

If one were to look at the case of breast cancer without considering the epigenetic contributions (meaning contributions that do not cause changes in the gene), they would probably assume that the cancer’s development would be due to the patient’s possession of the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genes (mutant strains of the BRCA gene associated with breast and ovarian cancer). However, the statistics show that, in actuality, only 7% of breast cancer cases in the general population are estimated to be of carriers of the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes. So, although the possession of the genes dramatically increase the risk of developing the cancer, it is not an ultimatum.

In the study of carcinogens, it was commonly thought that chemically induced cancer was solely due to genotoxic chemicals, or chemicals that cause damage to the gene. However, this was questioned after observing that the risk of cancer in former smokers was dramatically lower than that of active smokers. This suggests that the carcinogens in cigarette smoke do not mutate our DNA sequence, because if it did then the risk of cancer would stay stagnant in former smokers – not lower. After further investigation, it was found that 64 carcinogens of the list of 162 were not genotoxic. Thus, although a correlation between mutagens and carcinogens exists, they are not synonymous.

Another idea that deprecates the role of the genome is that of cell differentiation. It is known that every single cell in our body possesses the same 2-meter long invariant DNA sequence that stores all of the genetic information of the organism. However the question that used to puzzle scientists was that if all of our cells have the same DNA sequence, how is it that they have different structures and functions? The answer to this, which also explains why patients can develop breast cancer without the BRCA gene mutation and how non-genotoxic chemicals can be carcinogens, is the epigenetic contributions done on the DNA sequence. The epigenetic contributions make it so that each cell only uses and expresses certain genes that pertain to its specific function.

As our DNA that makes up our genome is very long (2 meters), our cells need to package DNA by wrapping it around histone proteins. Forming repeated units of nucleosomes, this DNA-protein complex is known as chromatin, which can be condensed further into chromosomes. The core of one nucleosome is composed of DNA wrapped around a histone octamer. This organized DNA-protein complex allows the cells to regulate what genes are expressed and when. This is done by the use of chemical tags on either DNA sequence or histone tails. These tags, most commonly methyl or acetyl groups, modify gene expression by either closing or opening the chromatin respectively. Silenced genes occur when the chromatin is in a repressed state, and active genes occur when the chromatin is in a more open state.

Because epigenetics is responsible for determining what genes are turned on or off, there are tons of studies that link epigenetics to a large assortment of diseases and conditions. This provides much insight on how to develop different therapies that could treat diseases. The recent progress in epigenetics is reshaping the medical field as scientists are making advancements that were previously thought to be unimaginable.

References:

B. Claus, Elizabeth & M. Schildkraut, Joellen & Douglas Thompson, W & J. Risch, Neil. (1996). The genetic attributable risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Cancer. 77. 2318 - 2324. 10.1002/ (SICI) 1097-0142(19960601)77:11<2318: AID-CNCR21>3.0.CO; 2-Z.

James E. Trosko, Brad L. Upham. 2005. The emperor wears no clothes in the field of carcinogen risk assessment: ignored concepts in cancer risk assessment, Mutagenesis, Volume 20, Issue 2, March 2005, Pages 81–92, https://doi.org/10.1093/mutage/gei017

Moosavi, A., & Motevalizadeh Ardekani, A. (2016). Role of Epigenetics in Biology and Human Diseases. Iranian biomedical journal, 20(5), 246–258. doi:10.22045/ibj.2016.01

Kieran Bissessar
Palliative Medicine

In 1990, palliative care was defined by the World Health Organization as a form of care that targets the chronically ill, those who have progressing diseases that threaten the continuity of life. Such care was recommended for all countries as part of the comprehensive care for human beings. The palliative care specialist treats the patients but not their illness. How? They do so by looking at one’s needs and symptoms not only from the physical, but also from the emotional, social and spiritual point of view. The specialist also looks at the family and the caregiver during treatment and provides care after death in the period of mourning.

Palliative care began in oncology, but today it extends to the carriers of all chronic diseases. Patients with advanced diabetes, heart disease, or chronic lung disease benefit from receiving this type of care. However, even today, those with advanced stages of cancer constitute most patients requiring palliative care. The first step in palliative care treatment is to listen to the patient, to observe him or her as an individual who has a history, a culture, and a level of understanding of his or her own condition. The specialist must be attentive to all the characteristics and conditions of that patient. This was the way that palliative medicine oversaw the patient and his family in order to meet the needs of the family nucleus in a very personalized way - as part of the specific treatment.

From the physical point of view, besides pain, the most common symptoms targeted by palliative care are fatigue and shortness of breath, which are extremely distressing symptoms that can be controlled in a simple way without the need of great technological resources. Other problems that are focused on during treatment include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, sores, depression, anguish, fear and loneliness. Palliative medicine advocates that one should always seek the cause of the symptom to try to minimize it. Fatigue, for example, can be determined by anemia or a metabolic disorder amenable to treatment. When one cannot fight the cause, there are psychostimulant drugs that can be used since they make people more willing, more cheerful, and more likely to improve their quality of life even if by a little.

It is important to note that most sick people realize when their life is coming to an end. The signs are very clear: one loses mobility in one day; the next day one cannot sit or turn in bed and depends on other’s help to make any movements. The feeling of fatigue becomes very acute, the appetite disappears completely, and it is no use imposing an artificial diet, because the individual no longer responds to any type of treatment. (In fact, to stop feeding at the end of life is providential because it makes the body produce some substances that relieve pain and discomfort.) In palliative medicine, much medication is used subcutaneously. As the picture progresses, some drowsiness and mental confusion may arise. At this stage, it is common for patients to see things and communicate with family members who have sometimes died. Gradually, however, they lose consciousness and sleep most of the time.

In this period, it is important to listen to what they have to say, to listen to their desires and needs, and to reassure their families. There are patients who ask to die at home next to a certain person. The best way to approach them at this stage is to assure them that his or her health specialist will not abandon them, that their family is there and that both the specialists and family want them to end their lives in peace.

References:

https://www.liebertpub.com/loi/jpm

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-are-palliative-care-and-hospice-care

Nathalia Schettino
Collagen Skin Care Credibility

Today, skin care has become increasingly more popular in the beauty market. Places like Sephora and Ulta carry many brands and trends that follow what is popular while also carrying items that have affordable prices, high end prices, and/or attractive packaging. For example, Korean Beauty, better known as K Beauty, has become overwhelmingly popular in the United States. That being said, an ongoing trend of skin care claiming to contain collagen to promote skin quality and “bounce” has been in the market, driving sales for both men and women. Considering that collagen is naturally made in our bodies, how does putting skin care products with collagen on the surface of our skin help (if they even help at all)? Moreover, what is the difference between our own self made collagen compared to the ones in beauty products?

What is collagen exactly? Collagen is one of the most important proteins that our body produces in order to help it stay intact (Cobb, 2017). It is our biological “glue”. This form of collagen is best known as endogenous collagen which is best defined as collagen that is naturally made by one’s body (Cobb, 2017). It can be found in all parts of the body and is most observed in the bones, skin, and muscles (Goddard, 2018). Aside from “gluing” the body together, collagen also promotes new skin formation and recovery when the organism sustains an injury  (Cobb, 2017). There are about sixteen forms of collagen and they all have unique functions that helps the organism function best (Cobb, 2017).

Structures of proteins tend to look messy and this applies to collagen as well. Collagen proteins are typically packed into long fibrils (Cobb, 2017). This means that many little proteins come together and condense to form a long strand. This long strand will then further condense with other collagen strands by wrapping to form a fibril. While to the naked eye this protein fibril is extremely small and is unable to be detected unless with special equipment, it is essentially large to our body in terms of the cellular world.   

Considering that collagen is so important to us, why is collagen in skin care under skepticism? The collagen that is seen in skin care is typically synthetic collagen. This form of collagen is called exogenous collagen (Cobb, 2017). Typically, such skin care products can be purchased in drugstores and beauty stores without any prescription. Because these products are so widely sold, do they really work?

To better understand how they would work, the natural characteristic of skin and cells should be elaborated. Skin is made up of tissue which are made up with very tiny cells. Cells are the base to all living organisms. This includes bacteria, plants, fungi, animals, and humans. Human cells are actually categorized under animal cells. Animal cells do not have a cell wall. A cell wall is usually a steady outer covering that protects the whole cell. Cells with cell walls also have a cell membrane which is a delicate but protective layer found surrounding organelles (mini parts of the cell) and holding the cell together. All cells without a cell wall still have a cell membrane. Bacteria and plant cells have cell walls. Fungi may or may not have cell walls as it depends on the type of fungus. Animal cells however, do not have cell walls and therefore only have cell membranes as their most outer coverings. Cell membranes are semipermeable which means they allow certain molecules into the cell and others are blocked off. Examples of molecules that often enter and leave your cells are water and salt. This acts as protection so that no pathogens or large molecules can randomly enter the cell without proper selection first.

As a refresher, exogenous collagen is synthetic or obtained from other organisms (most popular one  are pigs). Collagen in general are large fibril molecules and therefore cannot enter nor leave the cell due to the cell’s semipermeable membrane. Due to this, applying collagen onto the face does no favor to the individual as the collagen molecules are too large to even be absorbed into the skin. To further look into this, several MDs and PhDs conducted extensive research on collagen used in beauty products where they utilized rats to tests collagen skin care (Aust et al., 2008). After, they observed for changes in the epidermis, melanocytes (proteins that create melanin in skin), and pigmentation markers (Aust et al., 2008). In short, only the pigmentation markers were seen to increase but everything else stayed about the same. The research team concluded, then, that collagen therapy is not very successful (Aust et al., 2008).

References:

Aust, M., Reimers, K., Repenning, C., Stahl, F., Jahn, S., & Guggenheim, M. et al. (2008). Percutaneous Collagen Induction: Minimally Invasive Skin Rejuvenation without Risk of Hyperpigmentation—Fact or Fiction? Plastic And Reconstructive Surgery, 122(5), 1553-1563. doi: 10.1097/prs.0b013e318188245e

Cynthia Cobb, A. (2017). Collagen: What is it and what are its uses?. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262881.php

Goddard, S. (2018). Will taking collagen supplements *really* make you look younger?. Retrieved from https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/beauty/skincare/a29497/do-collagen-supplements-work/

Swatschek, D., Schatton, W., Kellermann, J., Müller, W. E., & Kreuter, J. (2002). Marine sponge collagen: isolation, characterization and effects on the skin parameters surface-pH, moisture and sebum. European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, 53(1), 107-113.

Michelle Yip
Can We Slow Down Aging?

Aging is a complex concept that has emotional and physical impacts on a person. It is a futile topic to worry about, yet it looms as a dark cloud, ready to rain on your parade one day. Science fiction movies have innovated ways to slow down and preserve a human for years before and after their death. Scientists have experimented solutions to the ever growing concern of staying young. No one seems to have an actual and feasible solution but there are several ways to slow down one’s aging.

There is no best way to slow down aging but there are simple ways that can alter the way aging can consume us. Medical advances and technology have already helped the world raise the longevity period from 48 years to 71 years, thus improving human life span. But what takes us to a lifespan of 91 years or even 100 years? The answer might be to improve the “health span.” Health care has been stagnant in that respect because not everything is helping to slow the aging process as it is to slowing the dying process.

As we get older, stress becomes a big factor in our life and it is blamed as one of the sole reasons people age faster. Stress releases free radicals that can denature proteins in our body and cause a huge problem in the long run, especially if the stress is chronic, but stress is an essential part of being human. It is actually necessary for the body to train its sympathetic nervous system, our “fight-or-flight” response. So the main focus is how to keep the cells healthy in our body even with factors like stress.

Cells in our body undergo mitosis (division) constantly, and the body has found many solutions on repairing them in case of a mutation. A cell stops dividing after 50 times to protect us from cancer in the body. These “zombie” cells do not stay in the body for a long time but are taken out by the immune system. However, as we age, the number of Zombie cells increases ridiculously. Zombie cells eat up the collagen in our body which causes one to look aged so scientists have found that there are two methods to prevent this: developing “Zombie” agents to kill the cells and to rejuvenate Zombie cells so they act as regular cells once again. Although these solutions are theoretically brilliant, practically they can destroy an entire organ system! It can make the problem worse and can even cause cancer. There have been more studies collected and conducted regarding rejuvenating “Zombie” cells and there has been progress, but not enough to see a difference within the next decade or so.

Another popular topic regarding slowing down aging is cryonics. It is the hypothetical science seen in sci-fi movies that freezes a living person’s body to preserve them when time is right for them to wake up. Cryonics is built on the concept of freezing meat to avoid bacterial damage and to be readily available for use. But the problem with the defrosting of a human body is: how do you find an oven big enough and how will it actually preserve our body? Ice is no friend to our physical composition and can damage the fragility of our bodies. We have fluids everywhere in our system and when water freezes, it expands which can burst our vessels and organs! Scientists’ solution to the problem: turning our fluids to glass. Glass has no crystals that can burst our vessels but it make not be the only solution. Other preservatives like methanol, formamide, and butanediol maybe be toxic but can be used in the way glass can.

We are on the path to a new beginning of slowing down aging. There is a lot of work to be done for the future but all will come to fruition when we are able to say our longevity can extend to 100 years!

References:

https://nypost.com/2019/03/02/science-has-figured-out-how-to-freeze-the-aging-process/

https://www.inverse.com/article/25906-cryogenics-cryonics-vitrification-freezing-preservation-life-extension

Radhika-Alicia Patel
Fixing a Broken Heart

What happens to your body when you fall in love and what happens when you lose that love? Humans are known to be a deeply social species. Our most gratified state arises when we feel belonged in our environment and with those around us. Hence, we tend to form relationships. Our motivation to maintain stable and meaningful social relationships is a common pattern that is rooted in our evolutionary history.

Love in the brain was examined by functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or fMRI, in 2003 in order to map the neural activity of the brain when looking at a loved one. The scan showed vibrant fireworks of green, yellow and blue in an image of grey matter, confirming that love is activated by an influx of dopamine. Dopamine is one of the main neurotransmitters that are responsible for the feeling of pleasure and satisfaction, like a reward system. Love isn’t the only thing that wires an increase in dopamine. Nicotine based drugs and cocaine follow the same pattern of increased dopamine activity within the brain to provide a pleasurable feeling. The more dopamine that is released, the better you feel, the more you want it, and the easier it is to become addicted. From parallel conclusions, you can say that love is a drug.

So then what happens when the love is taken away? If you compare it to taking away a drug from a drug addict, it results in withdrawal. The extremity of the withdrawal is then determined by how addicted they were to the drug. Similar to how our body and mind hurts, heartbreak causes our body and mind to hurt. The brain regions involved in anticipating pain and regulating negative emotions are the right anterior insula, which regulates motor control and cognitive function, and the superior frontal gyrus, which links the nervous system to the endocrine system for hormone production. Thus, in response to physical pain, the brain activates the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) as an alarm for distress.

When in the mire of heartbreak, chances are that you feel pain somewhere in your body. Maybe you feel it in your heart, stomach or maybe even in the palm of your hand. The pain can be temporary, or it can be chronic, depleting you and hanging over a crushing sensation. So if an fMRI of a heartbroken patient were to be taken, if he/she is feeling pain and anger, the fMRI will show color development in the three areas due to increase in the hormone progesterone. Progesterone can be linked to anger and anxiety, which causes an overall depressing effect. In the midst of a heartbreak, the panic and denial of losing a loved one, we tend to show “signs of lack of emotional control” for weeks or months after initial heartbreak. This may result in unsuitable phone calls, writing letters, pleading for reconciliation, crying sessions, uncontrollable drinking, or dramatic encounters in the wake of passion.

If it hurts so much and makes us do crazy things, how can a broken heart be fixed? Unfortunately, there is no yet physical cure for heartbreak. There is no pill to cure it. The closest may be that recent studies have shown that Acetaminophen, the main ingredient in Tylenol, provides a placebo effect on patients resulting in significantly low activity in their brain’s ACC. This means that there is lower sense of distress in the patients.

Although this might not be a solid answer, other studies have shown that sensitive social support is one of the greatest source of relief for emotional distress. Hanging out with your friends or focusing on other things to keep yourself busy are beneficial for a smoother healing process. As much as we’d like to grow a new fresh heart every time we get our hearts broken, that is still not feasible. A heartbreak can distort your sense of self, and although it is a popular feeling that a lot of us can relate on, it is a topic still in research. On the bright side,  just like the neurons in a broken bone grow, change and connect with new neurons over time to heal, your heart also heal.

Work Cited:

Baer, D. (2017, March 03). The science of why heartbreak is so painful. Retrieved from https://theweek.com/articles/683488/science-why-heartbreak-painful

Jaffe, E. (2013, January 30). Why Love Literally Hurts. Retrieved from https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/why-love-literally-hurts

Laslocky, M. (2013, February 15). This Is Your Brain on Heartbreak. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/this_is_your_brain_on_heartbreak

Walida Ali
Are You Consuming the Right Balance of Fats?

Any of us striving to become healthy are faced with decisions regarding food intake. For some, this may be simply maintaining a balanced diet, while for others, this may be to choose foods for weight loss. Yet, regardless of which group you belong to, we seem to have a subconscious avoidance for fatty foods, and this may be especially true for dieters. However, did you know that there’s a large difference between the effects of different fats? Consuming the right balance of different fats may not only lower our risk of heart disease, but also assist in weight loss.

Nowadays it’s common for people use words like LDL and HDL, but many have little understanding behind what they mean. LDL and HDL both refer to lipoproteins, which are protein and lipid assemblies that function to move fats through our body. LDLs are what people commonly refer to as “unhealthy” fats and stands for low-density lipoprotein. These fats carry higher levels of cholesterol compared to other lipoproteins and deliver cholesterol throughout the body; it’s for this reason that they’ve become known as “bad.” Too many LDLs in our body leads to excess cholesterol, which can accumulate and clog arteries. However, it’s a misconception to believe that LDLs are “harmful,” as the function of LDLs are meant to help our body tissues acquire the cholesterol needed to synthesize vitamin D and various steroid hormones.

HDLs are what people refer to as “healthy” fats and stands for high-density lipoprotein. These fats contain a higher composition of proteins than fats and collect cholesterol throughout the body to either recycle in the liver, break down other fats, or excrete from the body. By collecting cholesterol throughout the body, HDLs are believed to be good because they lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

In reality, we can’t simply consume HDLs and avoid LDLs because our bodies require cholesterol as building blocks for important compounds used in our body. As such, what really matters is maintaining a balanced ratio of the two fats. The ideal ratio of HDL to LDL varies between individuals, but a general recommendation is to maintain a 0.4 to 1 ratio. For details regarding your specific case, consult a physician.

Managing this balance between HDLs and LDLs depends on one’s intake of the various kinds of fats. Some of these large categories include saturated, unsaturated and trans fats, but there are differences even amongst these groups. In the past, it was believed that saturated fats are best avoided because they promote higher levels of LDL and clog arteries more easily. Trans fats were believed to not only increase LDLs but also lower HDL levels. Unsaturated fats on the other hand were said to increase HDLs and considered beneficial, but recent research studies have shown that many of these beliefs are overgeneralizations. Not all saturated fats are the same. For instance, research conducted by Dr Nita G Forouhi found that consuming very long chain fatty acids – with 22 carbons or more – was associated with decreased type 2 diabetes risk and the same was true for saturated fats with an odd number of carbons. Even the source of fat makes a difference, as people eat foods that come with a multitude of nutrients. The interaction between these nutrients also has different effects on the body. Avocado contains the same amount of saturated fat as three slices of bacon, but consuming avocados reduces LDL levels while bacon increases them. Likewise, eating a serving of fatty nuts everyday could reduce weight loss rather than eating a chocolate chip cookie because not all the fats in nuts are digested, rather they get excreted without being absorbed.

Perhaps next time when you go shopping for groceries, you could do some more research beforehand on what “fatty” foods would be more beneficial than harmful for you. Remember that many fats are good for us and play important roles in managing our everyday health. When consumed in proper amounts and balanced with the rest of our diet, fats can not only reduce our risk for disease, but also help assist in weight loss.

References:

https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/connection-between-hdl-ldl-fats-9580.html

http://www.industrialsectors.com/the-perfect-cholesterol-ratio-for-an-individual

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/healthy-vs-unhealthy-fats#saturated-fats

https://www.weightwatchers.com/us/article/unhealthy-vs-healthy-fats

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/nuts-and-weight-loss#section1

Sherry Chow
Swyer Syndrome: A Look into Women with a Y-Chromosome

When we refer to our sex, what do we really mean? While it is easy to say that sex merely refers to what type of genitals we have, in reality, it is a little more complicated than that.

All humans have a pair of chromosomes. Females contain two X-chromosomes, while males have one X-chromosome and one Y-chromosome. This means that all humans have at least one X-chromosome. This chromosome is vital to the proper formation of our body. The X chromosomes also contains information relating to the formation of female-specific sex characteristics, such as the formation of a uterus, vagina, and ovaries. The Y-chromosome, on the other hand, is much smaller, and mostly contains information related to the formation of male-specific characteristics, such as the formation of male genitals. A fetus will, by default, be a female (as, barring any severe genetic disorders, it will always have at least one X-chromosome), and will only become a male if they also have a Y-chromosome. Otherwise, females will simply have an extra X-chromosome in place of a Y-chromosome. Thus, the chromosomal makeup for females will typically be XX, while the chromosomal makeup for males will be XY. Note, however, the use of the word “typically.” While genetic sex (an individual’s sex chromosomes) will typically match with their phenotypic sex (an individual’s genitalia), certain chromosomal disorders can trigger a discrepancy between the two. One such disorder is called Swyer Syndrome.

Swyer Syndrome refers to a chromosomal disorder in which a genetic male has a dysfunctional Y-chromosome. Specifically, the parts of the Y-chromosome which control the development of male genitalia are unable to function. As explained before, all fetuses will be female by default, unless a Y-chromosome is present. If the Y-chromosome is unable to actually alter the development of the fetus, however, the fetus will remain a female despite having a Y-chromosome. This fetus will thus be phenotypically female despite being genetically male, meaning that the fetus will develop female external genitalia, despite being genetically male. This alteration is not without consequence though. For one, the female will be unable to develop functioning ovaries due to only having one X-chromosome. Instead, benign tumors called gonadoblastoma will develop in place of the ovaries, rendering the female genetically sterile, and thus unable to achieve menstruation.

Another consequence is that the female will begin to experience hormonal imbalances starting at puberty, due to the presence of the Y-chromosome. While the Y-chromosome is unable to allow the formation of male genitalia, its partial functionality still reduces the overall estrogen levels of the female as she reaches puberty. If left untreated, these lower estrogen levels can prevent the female from developing certain secondary sexual characteristics. This means that females with untreated Swyer Syndrome will typically be taller than the average woman,  with smaller breasts, and an overall body type closer to that of a eunuch (a male castrated before puberty) than a of mature woman. Other negative health side effects include reduced bone mineral density, and higher risk of developing cancer due to the presence of gonadoblastoma in the body.

Swyer Syndrome can be difficult to treat, as it is symptoms don’t typically manifest until puberty, and it can only be properly diagnosed with an MRI scan. Upon identification, Swyer Syndrome is typically treated with hormone therapy throughout puberty, where additional estrogen is supplied to the patient to compensate for their own body’s lack of it. The gonadoblastoma are also typically surgically removed, so as to eliminate the cancer risk they present. With these treatments, a woman with Swyer Syndrome can avoid some of the more severe medical disorders caused by Swyer Syndrome. Furthermore, while women with Swyer Syndrome don’t have functioning ovaries, the rest of their genitalia should function normally. In fact, a woman with Swyer Syndrome can even successfully carry a fetus to term, should they opt to receive a donated ovum (though their uterus is usually smaller than those of genetic females, often necessitating a C-section). Overall, with the correct treatments, a woman with Swyer Syndrome can live a fairly normal and healthy life.

References:

“Swyer Syndrome : Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity.” LWW, journals.lww.com/co-endocrinology/Fulltext/2014/12000/Swyer_syndrome.13.aspx.

George Galanis
Is Someone I Know a Psychopath?

Psychopaths are popular in the realm of American films like American Psycho, No Country for Old Men, and The Silence of the Lambs, to name just a few. According to a paper published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, researchers analyzed 400 of the most iconic psychopathic characters in film, judging how realistic or incredible each portrayal is. One thing can be said for certain: taking a look into the entertainment industry, many people have an interest in the topic of psychopaths. Then comes the question: is there anyone around me who is a psychopath?

It is estimated that 1% of the population is a psychopath. This may mean there is a fair chance that you walked past a psychopath today as you were going about your day. It may also mean that someone close to you can potentially be a one. Unlike in movies, many of which portray psychopaths as cool, intelligent killers, psychopaths within our society are difficult to spot. Psychopathy is a real mental disorder associated with lack of conscience and empathy. People with psychopathy may have amoral and antisocial disorders and may lack the ability to form meaningful relationships. The condition involves a lessened degree of physiological response, like sweat, when exposed to an emotional stimulus. This may contribute to their apparent lack of affect. Psychopathy is a spectrum disorder, which means it’s not an all or nothing condition -- we can all have a little psychopath in us. It is diagnosed with the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, which looks for traits such as sexual promiscuity and impulsivity.

The treatment of psychopathy has not been explored extensively. This may be due partly to inaccurate representation in media on the reality of psychopaths. There has been little clinical research of funding that go into psychopathy research, compared to other psychiatric disorders. Although psychopaths may be a small percentage of our community, they may have considerable impact within society, especially if they are in positions of political power or if they happen to be close loved ones. So far, treatment for psychopathy remain unfruitful, and conventional psychotherapy also seems ineffective. Although the neurobiological condition may not be treated, behaviors can be changed, so long as the individual with psychopathic symptoms is willing to do so. No drug so far can induce empathy in a person who does not have the capacity to care. We must understand that the brain of a psychopath is unlike that of our own, possibly linked to a stunted paralimbic system at birth.

At this point, it is near impossible to help an adult who is psychopathic. However, the field of child psychopathy seems to provide hope for young individuals with psychopathic symptoms, granted they receive early diagnosis and proper treatment. Researchers created a checklist with which to rate toddlers on behavioral traits that may indicate future psychopathy. These include lack of guilt after misbehaving, ineffectiveness of scolding, deceit, and lies. Studies show that children who score high on this scale tend to have greater behavioral problems as an older child. Currently, there is a treatment called “decompression treatment” that has been used on juveniles who had gotten in trouble with the law and had psychopathic symptoms. Only 10% of those who received this treatment were rearrested, compared to 70% in the no treatment group.

Though there is no 100% cure for psychopathy; however, if detected at birth, an individual’s psychopathic behavior, at the very least, may be reduced. This provides some hope for future treatment in this neurological and psychological disorder. Unlike how the media treats psychopaths, we must understand that they are humans, just like us, though their brains may be wired differently. Of course, society cannot excuse psychopathic behavior, particularly in the context of harming others. This is why it is important for not just advancements in the treatments of psychopathy, but in better public understanding of the condition.

References:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201611/can-we-identify-psychopathy-in-young-child

https://modlab.yale.edu/news/can-psychopaths-be-cured

https://neuroinstincts.com/treatment-psychopathy/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/psychopathy

https://www.maxim.com/entertainment/least-most-realistic-psychopaths-movies-2018-01

Mary Yoshikawa
Work Hard, Play Hard, Sleep Hard

We’ve all heard the typical sayings used to motivate and comfort an athlete: “You can do it if you put your mind to it!”, “Eyes on the prize!”, and “Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard!” However, a crucial piece of advice that athletes should be reminded of more often and not take lightly is to get a good night’s rest.  It’s funny to think that how well you perform can depend partly on how well you sleep and for how long. Whether it is observing changes in activity from sleep deprivation or sleep extension, multiple studies strongly suggest good sleep for improved athletic performance.

A study at Stanford University was done on the men’s varsity basketball team during the National Collegiate Athletic Association seasons from 2005 to 2008. Data was recorded during the basketball player’s normal sleeping hours and was used as a baseline to establish a sense of normal physical performance. The baseline was approximately 6.8 hours and was maintained for 2-4 weeks.  A period of extended sleep was then initiated and lasted for 5-7 weeks. Researchers compared free throw shots and field goal shots made by each participant after a specific number of attempts during baseline sleeping hours and during extended sleeping hours and found an increase in mean shooting percentage for the latter. Extended sleeping hours were also associated with decreased sprint times, faster reaction times, and lower self ratings of fatigue.

Another study focuses on both the effects of lack of sleep. A meta-analysis study described in the article “Sleep, circadian rhythms, and athletic performance” analyzed up to 113 already published articles related to sleep and exercise. Several articles indicated that sleep deprivation ranging from 30 to 60 hours did not affect certain muscle strengths and movements such as knee flexion torque, elbow flexion or extension strength. Endurance of the knee flexors and extensors was also not affected in 40 meter dashes. Although there were exceptions to some muscle movements, the data overall supported that activities of high power output for a short period of time are not affected by sleep deprivation of a couple nights or less. A possible explanation for these outcomes across different research studies is that sleep decreases motivation. Although the tasks mentioned require motivation, they do not require a high level of it. Therefore, sleep deprivation does not come in effect in short but high power activities.

The effect of sleep deprivation on activities of longer duration is another story however. One study from the meta-analysis reported that activities such as sprinting and 50 minute exercises of repeated deep squats were negatively affected by 30 hours of sleep deprivation. Additional studies showed that two to three nights of sleep deprivation decreased treadmill walking distances as well ergometer cycling distances. The decrease in distance coverage proposes that sleep deprivation leads to accelerated exhaustion and thus, has a significant effect on long duration physical performance.

All of the studies mentioned do not come without their flaws and limitations. There are other factors to consider such as the athletes’ training regimen, diet, and age as well as the sleep debt of the participants and time of day the activity is performed. What can be confirmed is that optimal sleep can help obtain optimal athletic performance. Who knew sleep could have so much power?


References:

Mah, Cheri D., et al. “The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball Players.” Sleep, vol. 34, no. 7, 2011, pp. 943–950., doi:10.5665/sleep.1132.

Thun, Eirunn, et al. “Sleep, Circadian Rhythms, and Athletic Performance.” Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 23, 2015, pp. 1–9., doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2014.11.003.

Rachanne Nabong
Stem Cell Transplant for Hair Restoration

Androgenic alopecia, commonly referred to as pattern baldness, is the most common form of permanent hair loss in men and women. According to the American Hair Loss Association, roughly 60% of men notice some degree of thinning before the age of 35, and 85% of men have a significant level of hair loss by the time they are at the age of 50. Of those affected by androgenic alopecia, 40% are women – most of whom have already experienced menopause. Despite being concomitant to the aging process, androgenic alopecia often has a negative impact on one's self-esteem. Because we usually associate voluminous hair with youth, attractiveness, and healthiness, it’s unsurprising to notice depression and anxiety in balding individuals.

The ubiquitous nature and the emotional effects of androgenic alopecia demonstrates the exigency for hair loss treatments. In 2018, the Hair Loss Treatment Manufacturing Industry made 4 billion dollars in revenue and grew by 4.3%. Currently, the most common treatments for androgenic alopecia are minoxidil, finasteride, and hair transplants. Minoxidil and finasteride are both FDA-approved drugs that minimize the levels of Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) produced in the scalp. DHT is a chemical derivative of testosterone produced during androgen metabolism that is heavily linked to hair loss in men and women. Although helpful in slowing down hair loss, the results diminish once one stops taking the drugs. Therefore, minoxidil and finasteride are not long-term solutions in treating androgenic alopecia.

Hair transplantation is a surgical technique that involves removing hair follicles from a region of the scalp and transplanting them to the balding areas of the scalp. After many months, the transplanted hair would eventually grow back. Although this solution is a long-term solution to treating androgenic alopecia, an individual is limited by the amount of hair they have left. Also, depending on the surgeon and the quality of the procedure, the results can sometimes look unnatural.

However, using regenerative medicine as an approach seems to provide an answer to the drawbacks that arose using the previous methods. The idea behind stem cell therapy involves renewing ones dead hair follicles and adding growth factors to promote hair regrowth. Stem cells possess the potential to develop into many types of cells in the body. Such cells are responsible for creating new cells such as erythrocytes, cardiomyocytes, and neurons. However, in cases such as hair follicles, our body may not always replace them. Certain stem cells have the unique ability to revive old/damaged cells in the body. Exploiting this feature, scientists were able to develop a procedure similar to a regular hair transplant, but instead of transplanting individual follicles, stem cells are transplanted. It begins by taking a donor region with the hair follicles, reproducing them, and then implanting them back in the balding regions.

Researchers have been experimenting with methods to culture hair follicles for many years. Hair follicles are developed from unipotent epithelial stem cells and multipotent mesenchymal stem cells. By replicating this process in-vitro, these researchers were able to grow new hair follicles. However the yield wasn’t high enough to be able to restore a patient's full head of hair. Japanese researchers were able to improve upon this method by introducing an oxygen-permeable-mini-chip to dramatically increase the yield in harvesting follicles. This chip is a small polymer than has wells in it. The follicles in these wells are covered with a collagen mesh layer and then transplanted into the balding regions of the scalp. When transplanted into the skin of immunodeficient mice, regrowth was observed in only 18 days. An obstacle was that the mice had to be immunodeficient in order for this to work because their bodies would otherwise recognize the stem cells as foreign invaders and attack them. Doing this to a human would have been unwise because it would increase the likelihood of developing an infection. However, by harvesting stem cells from the patient themselves, this would no longer be an issue.

The results seem promising and we already possess the technology necessary to carry out this procedure. Scientists are still working out the smaller details but say that treatments should be ready by 2020. Estimates for this procedure range from 3,000 to 10,000 dollars depending on the patients level of hair loss. If successful, this can change the current state of the hair restoration market and the way people view modern medicinal techniques.

References:

https://www.chicagohairinstitute.com/blog/2018/06/29/hair-loss-statistics-191787

https://www.everydayhealth.com/skin-and-beauty/psychological-effects-of-hair-loss.aspx

https://www.gminsights.com/industry-analysis/hair-transplant-market

https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-trends/specialized-market-research-reports/life-sciences/otc-medicines/hair-loss-treatment-manufacturing.html

https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/androgenetic-alopecia#statistics

https://bioinformant.com/stem-cell-treatment-for-hair-loss/#grow

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3496047/

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-02-baldly-japan-scientists-regrow-hair.html

https://www.healthline.com/health/stem-cell-hair-transplant

Kieran Bissessar