Tag Archives: research

Data Reproducibility: The Chink in Science’s Armor

By Christopher Fiscus, Biotechnology, 2015

Science is an additive discipline in which each novel contribution builds upon the breadth of existing scientific knowledge and acts as a launch pad from which to pursue further study.  The scientific community is currently in the midst of a crisis: many studies are not reproducible, meaning that results cannot be adequately verified by other scientists.  According to estimates, approximately 75-90% of preclinical studies published in high-impact journals, such as Science and Nature, cannot be replicated (Begley and Ioannidis 2015).  This lack of reproducibility undermines science as a vehicle for human progress as it means that new research avenues are being pursued based on presumptive hypotheses and unverifiable findings.  The result is a widespread waste of resources, a loss of public trust in the scientific establishment, and a reduced applicability of science as a tool to better the quality of human life.  Potential solutions to this crisis include improving researcher training, employing more rigorous peer review, and increasing the transparency of scientific literature.      Continue reading Data Reproducibility: The Chink in Science’s Armor

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

The hunter-gatherer gut microbiome

By: Jenny Cade, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology ‘15

In a paper published in Nature Communications on April 15, researchers profiled the gut microbiota of a group of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania known as the Hadza. They compared the results to those of people living in Italy, and found that the two groups have very different species composition. The Hadza don’t only have different kinds of gut microbes than Westerners, but a more diverse collection of microbes as well. The researchers say that this is most likely due to the dramatic difference between hunter-gatherer and Western diets.

Continue reading The hunter-gatherer gut microbiome

Engineering Hepatitis Virus-like Particles for Oral Vaccine Delivery

By David Ivanov, Biochemistry ’15

Oral vaccines are known to be a convenient and effective method for treatment or prevention of diseases caused by pathogenic microorganisms. The difficulty of developing such vaccines is due to the often inhospitable environment of the stomach and intestinal tract because of low pH, or acidity, as well as enzymes that can digest or destroy biological molecules. Using a virus-like particle to deliver the vaccine is an advantageous method for getting around these and other barriers in the host organism.

A virus-like particle, or VLP, is a biological particle that resembles a virus, but contains no genetic information and thus cannot infect host cells. VLP’s can be formed by inserting and expressing just the genes for creating the viral capsid, which is a shell made up of protein subunits that protects the infectious genetic information in wild-type, or normal, viruses. The expressed capsid proteins can then self-assemble into the VLP. The capsid also has domains, or structural areas, that are responsible for recognizing suitable host cells to infect and inserting the viral genome.

Continue reading Engineering Hepatitis Virus-like Particles for Oral Vaccine Delivery

Prenatal Exposures and Risk for Chronic Diseases Later in Life

By Marisa Sanchez, Genetics ’15

Most people know that poor diet, lack of exercise, and smoking as an adult can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and Type II diabetes. However, research over the past couple of decades has shown that risk for CVD and type II diabetes could begin as early as prenatally through adverse exposures, such as overnutrition and placental insufficiency. Some mechanisms involved in determining risk for CVD and Type II diabetes are oxidative stress, inflammation, lipotoxicity, and epigenetics. Continue reading Prenatal Exposures and Risk for Chronic Diseases Later in Life