Category Archives: News

What is LASIK?

By David Ivanov, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2015

LASIK, or laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, is a surgical procedure commonly used to correct for visual defects or lack of visual clarity. Commonly referred to as laser eye surgery, LASIK is a type of surgery that is used to alleviate visual loss associated with common defects of the eye, such as myopia (nearsightedness), hypermetropia (farsightedness), and astigmatism. Astigmatism, like near and far-sightedness, can be caused by the irregularity in shape of the cornea that leads to blurred vision. For all three cases, corneal remodeling via LASIK can be performed (Thomson, 2015).

The cornea is the outermost layer of the eye, the transparent part that one can touch, and upon which contact lenses are placed. It is responsible for most of the focusing power, and thus is a common culprit in visual defects of the eye. The cornea focuses the light reflected into the eye, through the lens and onto the the retina at the back of the eye, which senses light and converts it to nerve impulses, and transmits the resulting image to the brain for processing. This then produces the image that we ‘see’. While the retina is the part of the eye that is light-sensitive and is responsible for transmitting the image to the brain, the cornea, along with the lens, must focus light reflecting off of three dimensional surfaces so that they strike onto the anterior, or front part of the retina. Without this precise focusing of light rays directly onto the retina, the brain generates a blurred image (NKCF 2014).

Continue reading What is LASIK?

A Work In Progress

By Shadeh Ghaffari-Rafi, Neurobiology, Physiology, & Behavior, ’16

At first, Jerry’s expected springtime pollen allergies didn’t bother him or seem unusual. His allergies caused mild nosebleeds, which he would stop by pinching his nose for five minutes. This past year, however, the bleeding didn’t stop.

Five years ago, Jerry relocated to Iowa for work, as the company he worked for in California closed. For the past five years, everyday, Jerry has been taking two pills, one to alleviate his heart rate, blood pressure, and heart strain and another to lower his blood cholesterol. His doctor recommended that Jerry occasionally take low dose aspirin so his blood would flow more easily, he would feel less chest pain, and avoid blood clots and severe headaches. Although he hiked and went to the gym regularly, for a 5’5’’ 56 year old man, he was slightly overweight at 165 lbs.

A nosebleed, or epistaxis, can range from mild to severe, and sometimes lead to life-threatening consequences, depending on the flow (Fried 2013). The bleeding is due to rupture of small blood vessels inside the nose. Professor of head and neck surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Marvin Fried describes minor bleedings tend to occur “more frequently in children and adolescents” and most are easily treatable, while more severe, rarer cases occur in patients over 50, with blood oozing down the back of the throat, and generally require emergency treatment. Epistaxis may result from mild conditions, including nose picking, mild allergies to pollen or environmental irritants, and moderate conditions such as trauma or prior nasal surgery. In some cases, epistaxis can occur due to life threatening conditions such as leukemia. Family history of severe or heavy bleeding tends toward more severe cases and patients at risk of cardiovascular disease tend to have severe nosebleeds. Dr. Fried emphasizes “epistaxis can be either short-term and disappear quickly or it can also occur in sudden episodes”. In some instances, epistaxis occurs with other symptoms, such as fever, headache, and dizziness. Continue reading A Work In Progress

Can Polio Cure Cancer?

By Briga Mullin, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, ’15

The human body’s immune system has been developed to successfully battle foreign invaders including bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Immunotherapy is the idea that the power of the immune system can be utilized against diseases such as cancer. Typically, the immune system does not harm the body’s own cells, preventing it from being extremely effective against cancer. However with different medical interventions to strengthen the body’s immune response, it is possible to get an effective treatment (Cancer Immunotherapy 2015).

A unique and exciting branch of immunotherapy involves oncolytic viruses, genetically modified viruses that are used to infect tumor cells and fight cancer (Vile, Ando, and Kirn 2002). One example of an oncolytic virus is Oncolytic Polio/Rhinovirus Recombinant (PVS-RIPO), a genetic combination of poliovirus and a strain of the common cold. Continue reading Can Polio Cure Cancer?

Bhutan Rice Fields

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By Elizabeth Ridolfi

This is a photograph of the rice fields in Bhutan, where I did a 6- week field research program through the School for Field Studies in Summer 2014. Bhutan is a small, Himalayan country located near India and Nepal.The spread of rice cultivation in Bhutan is an illustration the effect of global climate change. Rice typically grows in low lying, relatively warm areas with high precipitation certain times of the year. The vast majority of the country’s land area is above 6000 feet, which is considered too high of an elevation for rice cultivation under normal circumstances. Continue reading Bhutan Rice Fields

AGGIE TRANSCRIPT IS RECRUITING FOR SPRING 2015!

Interested in both science and writing? Want some practical experience managing a student-run life sciences journal? Consider applying to the editorial board of the Aggie Transcript, an undergraduate life sciences journal run by UC Davis students!

Editors are expected to solicit and review submission articles, as well as to submit their own pieces of original writing. This is an excellent opportunity for anyone hoping to gain valuable experience in critical analysis, strengthen their written communication, and share their work with others at UC Davis and beyond!

The editorial board meets weekly and editors are offered 1 unit of credit. To apply, please submit a writing sample and a cover letter to: aggietranscript@gmail.com.

The letter should discuss why you are interested in being part of The Aggie Transcript, what you can bring to the journal, and what you hope to gain from this experience. The writing sample should demonstrate strong written and literacy skills in the biological sciences.

The deadline to apply is: April 13, 2015 (Monday)

If you have any questions or concerns,

email us at: aggietranscript@gmail.com

Vector and Disease Management Research to Reduce the Effects of Pierce’s Disease in California’s Vineyards

By Natalie Swinhoe, Anthropology and Evolution, Ecology, and Biodiversity, 2015

Pierce’s Disease in grapevines is a major threat to California’s viticultural economy. Caused by the bacterial strain Xylella fastidiosa, the disease blocks water transfer in the xylem of stems, leading to water stress and eventual death. Until the 1990s, the only carriers for the disease were native Blue-Green Sharpshooters, Graphocephala atropunctata. However, between 1994 and 2000, a devastating outbreak occurred in Southern California, destroying more than 1000 acres of vineyards (Ringenberg et al., 2014). This epidemic was caused by a new nonnative vector- the Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter, Homalodisca vitripennis (Tumber et al, 2013). Compared to the Blue-Green Sharpshooter, the Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter has a much greater capacity to spread Pierce’s Disease because it can fly further and feed on a larger variety of plant parts (Alston et al., 2013, Baccari and Lindow, 2010).

Continue reading Vector and Disease Management Research to Reduce the Effects of Pierce’s Disease in California’s Vineyards

A Breakthrough in Breast Cancer Treatment

 Exciting, new gene therapy treatments for breast cancer are on the verge of making a breakthrough. With proper funding, these procedures could reduce the need for the surgical removal of organs.

By Rayan Kaakati, Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior

Being born female automatically enters one in a game of Russian roulette: About 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime; for American women, breast cancer is the second leading cause of death (U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics).

Breast cancer is a disease that starts in the tissues of the breast and is statistically fatal for one in thirty-two women (Breast Cancer Facts). Many women, throughout recorded history, have succumbed to this malignant disease. Rapid advancements in research have been very promising for cancer cell-targeting medications and for gene modification techniques.

Medicine in the twenty-first century is still resorting to what the ancient Chinese and Arab doctors used to practice: “If cancerous, cut it out if possible,” or in current-day terms, order a “lumpectomy” or a “mastectomy” (if the entire breast is to be removed). In recent years, a toxic chemo “smoothie” and an intensive radiation regimen have been added, coupled with hormone therapy.  While these medical procedures are credited with saving thousands of lives, they are still primitive compared to current, promising research works.

Continue reading A Breakthrough in Breast Cancer Treatment

SV2A is a Galactose Transporter

By Marisa Sanchez, Molecular and Cellular Biology ’15

SV2A is a synaptic vesicle protein, which participates in the regulation of neurotransmitter release in humans. SV2A is expressed in neurons and endocrine cells. The exact function of SV2A is still unknown, but it has been identified that SV2A is the binding site for the antiepileptic drug, levetiracetam. Levetiracetam reduces presynaptic glutamate release, especially in neurons with high frequency firing. Abnormally enhanced glutamatergic neurotransmission with high frequency neural firing is found in epilepsy and several neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. Continue reading SV2A is a Galactose Transporter

Learning from Drought in California: Past and Present

By Marisa Sanchez, Molecular and Cellular Biology, ’15

The most current drought in California is considered to be one of the worst droughts in the past century, and many wonder if this severity is due to climate change. However, California has had a long history of unpredictable weather fluctuations, and is familiar with severe droughts. Many droughts can have devastating effects, particularly in the agricultural industry and the hydropower industry. Most Californians have also experienced the effects of a drought first-hand, such as having enforced water rationing. Even though, California’s history has shown that most droughts have devastating effects, droughts can also great learning experiences.

Continue reading Learning from Drought in California: Past and Present

From Embryo to Tumor: the widespread applications of Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition

By Briga Mullin, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, ’15

What do a smoker, a two week old embryo, a child with a broken wrist, and a metastatic tumor all have in common? While these are a diverse group of conditions, they all have cells that are experiencing the same process known as epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Mesenchymal cells are non-polarized, mobile, invasive, and their main function is to secrete extracellular  matrix. In contrast, epithelial cells form our skin and the linings of our internal organs. They are normally polarized which means they have a directional structure and are uniformly oriented and are attached to a membrane to form a layer of epithelial tissue.  Under certain conditions an EMT will occur and epithelial cells will change  their transcription patterns, produce new proteins, destroy the basal membrane they are attached to, and totally convert their phenotype to become motile  mesenchymal cells.  EMT can be triggered by a variety of conditions and can yield very beneficial or extremely detrimental results depending on the circumstances. Continue reading From Embryo to Tumor: the widespread applications of Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition