Animal Articles

Title: Hidden Epidemic: Tapeworms Living Inside People's Brains

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(Figure 1): A cross-section of a brain with a severe case of neurocysticercosis (cysts in the brain.)
Summary: The article by Carl Zimmer describes the epidemic of tapeworms, Taenia solium, living inside people's brains. Tapeworms have ribbon-shaped bodies and may grow as long as 21 feet inside a body. These tapeworms reproduce through contaminating waste produced by other organisms (examples used are pigs or humans.) By living in intestines and producing eggs secreted in waste, the tapeworms contaminate feces which is then spread around and accidentally eaten. By being eaten, the eggs allow the cycle to repeat. The tapeworm life cycle then depends on contaminated food being eaten and those infected allowing the parasites to spread their eggs. Zimmer states that between 11 and 29 million people are infected with neurocysticercosis (cysts in the brain) in Latin America alone. A study in Peru shows that 37% of people studied show evidence of having tapeworms in their brain at some point.

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Figure 2: The tapeworm life cycle from egg in host #1 (pig) to cyst...#2 (human)
When a parasite's eggs are eaten, they hatch inside of the stomach of the host's stomach and burrow through the outer lining. They then travel through the blood stream to other areas of the body, getting randomly deposited, though usually in muscles (the part humans usually eat.) The tape worm life cycle, shown in figure 2, shows the reproduction of tapeworms and creation of cysts. These cysts hold the larvae and act as a primitive body in the infected area. Figure 1 shows the extent to which the disease can occur. The cysts in the brain usually stay in ventricles, or fluid-filled cavities, sprouting grape vein-like extensions and masking itself from the immune system. Thus, it may stay in the brain feeding on it while growing ever larger and affecting an ever larger amount of the brain.
As expected, tapeworms feeding on an organism's brain have destructive side effects. However the cysts growing in the brain have adverse side effects as well. The cysts may push against a region of the brain, disrupt its function, and severely increase pressure in the brain causing a possibly fatal brain hernia. Brain hernias, otherwise known as cistern obliteration, are the result of uneven pressure on the brain, usually cutting blood flow off from certain parts.
Luckily, not all tapeworms are deadly, and not all tapeworm cysts move on to physical maturity (and thus die, triggering the immune response. However oftentimes this response is hurtful, since the increased inflammation may put the final bit of pressure needed to cause a brain hernia.) In the mid-1980s, a drug named praziquantel became widely available as the first drug able to kill tapeworm larvae in the brain. Paradoxically, though, the drug usually caused as much if not more swelling from the destruction of larvae. Scientists have refined the treatment by combining the drug with immune system repressors and found success, to a certain degree. The drug is expensive and may still cause severe seizures which take years to recover from.
The disease however is treatable and is easily preventable. Tapeworm eggs are only passed down through food that is uncooked. In poorer countries, the animals grown and the conditions the animals are grown in are also conducive to causing tapeworm infestation. Pig vaccination (pigs are the main cohost of tapeworms,) in order to destroy tapeworm eggs immediately after digestion is also possible as well. The article states that there are few resources available and "little recognition of the problem." With the only problem undercooking of food, the eradication of the epidemic seems completely feasible.
Response: At first, my response to the article was "that's absolutely disgusting." With the number of people with the disease likely to be in the millions, it's scary that there isn't a massive media-run campaign to educate the masses of poorer countries to cook food properly. The method to keep one safe from tapeworms feeding on your brain is simply to cook your food well. It's such an easy act to accomplish but many do not realize the importance of it. This article can link to articles about drug treatments, brain hernias, tapeworms and other parasites, and epidemics.
JMcL. This is really gross....How do they cure tapeworms in the brain??

Title: Science's Long--and Successful--Search for Where Memory Lives
Summary: PTSD, or Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder, and Alzheimer's are both widespread problems concerning memory, though oppositely. PTSD is the incredible fear and pain combination connected to a specific memory. The original action of the memory likely long since passed, but long-term development was scarred. Alzeimer's is a neurodegenerative disease in which memories are erased or can not be called upon- the polar opposite of PTSD. Both, however, are similar in that they are memory related. Dan Hurley's synthesis article researches the possibility of engram (or the actual physical substrate or "location" of a memory) manipulation (now that it is found) so that those with PTSD may have the specific connection between a memory and fear erased and those with Alzeimer's may rebuild the damaged or lost connection by simply moving it elsewhere.
An experiment by Alcino Silva, codirector of the UCLA Integrative Center for Learning and Memory, targeted the amygdala, an almond-shaped region in all mammals where fear memories are stored. There, Silva and his team proved they can largely remove the connection between a mouse's previously learned lesson that a certain tone will elicit a strong and painful shock and fear once the tone is heard. Though it is uncertain whether the mouse remembers previous lesson "trials," the mouse no longer fears the sound it did pre-experiment. Put simply, scientists have manipulated a mouse's brain into no longer being afraid of something it was previously afraid of. The implications from this ground-breaking experiment are possible treatments of human memory disorders, as discussed earlier. Approximately 3.5% of the population of the United States suffers from PTSD, and the possibility to remove the fearful response from remembering an event is priceless.
An experiment by Richard Thompson went deeper, physically removing only a few cells while removing the response. Thomspon trained rabbits in what is called eyeblink conditioning, where a tone is paired with a puff of air to the eye. Since a puff of air to the eye will always produce a blink of the eye while requiring no experimental conditions (it is instinct,) when paired with a musical tone, the rabbit will begin to associate the two and eventually blink when the tone is heard even though no puff of air is puffed. Thompson removed a few hundred neurons from a point in the cerebellum and the rabbits no longer blinked in response to the tone. Like the mouse in Silva's experiment, the rabbit no longer acted the same way to a response after manipulation of a brain. This proves that memory is localized, and the experiment, done in 1984, follows the results of Silva's.
For years "scientific dogma" stated that engrams are represented throughout regions of the brain, not localized somewhere. Karl Lashley's hundreds of experiments conducted over 30 years (published in a famous paper titled "In Search of the Engram,") showed that even if entire parts of the brain were removed, the animal would retain the association taught to him in the experiment. However Thompson's, and Silva's experiments conflicted directly with this dogma.
CREB, or cAMP Response Element-Binding protein, is a drug essential for forming long-term development through DNA gene regulation. Experiments done on mice with modified CREB showed they did not have the ability to retain information learned on one day when given the same trial the next. CREB is believed to cause neurons to turn into "long-term memory mode" where memories are retained for more than a few days, Quickly the importance of CREB and long-term memory in animals was shown, researchers began to experiment with the substance.
One researcher, Sheena Josselyn, added CREB instead of removing it or modifying it to see its affect on memory power and retention. Implanting the genes coding for CREB into herpesvirus in order to cross the cell and nuclear membrane, an experiment between mice treated with extra CERB and a normal group were tested. The association between a light and a mild shock to the foot was seen five times as strong in the mice treated with CERB. They jumped five times as high when shown the light, since they had more powerful memories (or rather, the response to the memory was more powerful) than the mice without the extra CERB.After many other experiments, Silva and Josselyn, now a research partner with Silva, have experimental data which shows that CERB acts as "steroids to neurons" increasing the ability of neuron to create a long-term memory (and also to increase the power of the response of that memory.) In order to show that neurons with extra CERB were essential to memory creation and maintenance, Josselyn added a chemical receptor for the chemical diphtheria to the herpesvirus genome. So to kill the neurons with extra CREB only adding diphtheria to the brain was necessary. As predicted, when the cells died, the mice infected no longer showed the same response.
Reaction: The ability to manipulate neurons in the brain to change the exhibition of memories is incredible and poses possible treatments in humans in the future. 3.5% of over 350 million in the US is a rather large number, and to possibly help those with Alzheimer and other neurodegenerative diseases is a great sign for the future. What can the future bring? The possibilities with memory manipulation are endless (maybe I just forget them, that's all.) Articles that can be linked with this one are articles concerning memory, neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer's or PTSD.

Immortal Jellyfish
The immortal jellyfish, or Turritopsis nutricula, is a very small hydroazoan and has an average length of five milimeters. It is not necessarily immortal like the name suggests, but is “biologically immortal” because it can die from injuries, but if not accidents take place this organism can live forever. It begins its life when a sperm from a male floats to the eggs inside a female’s stomach. The fertilized eggs develop on the arms or in the mouth of the female and are released a couple of days after fertilization. The eggs are then planted on the seabed in the polyp stage and then each reproduces asexually to produce polyp colonies. The polyp colony grows horizontally in grooves and the groove at the top is the fastest to mature and will [[#|free]] itself when it becomes mature enough. This is becomes the [[#|free]] swimming jellyfish form. The first jellyfish takes about two days to leave the polyp colony, and the entire jellyfish becomes sexually mature after a few weeks.
While most species of jellyfish die after reproducing, the immortal jellyfish is able to change back to the polyp stage and begin asexual reproduction again. They do this through many [[#|steps]]. The first of which is when the outer shell of the jellyfish in the medusa stage reverts itself and the tentacles and mesoglea are reabsorbed. The inverted medusa attaches itself to a substrate and gives rise to new polyps to start the cycle over again. It does this through transdifferentiation where all the old cells from the polyp stage are regenerated. This organism is causing many problems because it’s a predator and eats microscopic organisms, it has the ability to move anywhere in the world, and it can’t die. The species was originally from the Caribbean, but they can now be found in Italy, Spain, Japan, Panama, and Florida. It is thought they spread in ships’ ballast tanks, and the immortality allows them to thrive in most environments which is why their population growth is called the “silent invasion” and could potentially ruin oceanic ecosystems. The immortal jellyfish is also being used in stem cell research because its thought they use stem cells for their life style changes, and using the jellyfish avoids a lot of moral controversies. These organisms are being used to [[#|study]] organ reproduction, cancer treatments, and brain injuries.
Although they have the potential to wreak havoc on the oceans, they are giving hope to scientists studying stem cells.
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basic life cycle of a jellyfish, there should be another arrow from the medusa stage to the polyp stage


"First Fully Bioprinted Blood Vessels"

In 2010, the regenerative medicine company Organovo, Inc. made a huge advancement in bio printing technology when data of the first fully bio printed blood vessels was released. The goal for this company is to create tissue on demand for research and surgical applications, starting with blood vessels and eventually developing entire organs.

The extraordinary machine that makes these tissues was the NovoGen NMX Bioprinter, Organovo's proprietary three dimensional tissue constructor. Within ten days, is machine can form an entire collagen structure.

Human donors contribute their primary endothelial, smooth muscle and fibroblast cells which then serve as the native elements of the arteries. The Bioprinter starts with spherical cells and places them in the specific pattern. The cellular "ink" used is based on hydrogel, which can later be removed leaving on the cellular structures. These cells then fuse together to form the final tissue and so far, Organovo has successfully printed tubes cylinders and sheets.

“Brain Chip Helps Quadriplegics Move Robotic Arms with Their Thoughts”
Quadriplegics are individuals that suffer paralysis of all four limbs, and loss of sensory and motor control from the neck down. Usually, doctors can do very little to help quadriplegics, as paralysis is a permanent condition. Paralysis patients have forever been destined to lives in wheelchairs with the constant assistance of others. Amazingly, there is now another option for quadriplegics. In the article "Brain Chip Helps Quadriplegics Move Robotic Arms with Their Thoughts," Susan Young describes work of Brown University researchers—a newly developed and tested robotic arm that can be controlled by the thoughts of a human brain.
In order for this miracle to take place, an electronic brain chip is implanted onto the surface of paralyzed patient's brain. This implant is four millimeters long on each side, and has 96 hair-like electrodes that penetrate the arm controlling region of the motor cortex. Once implanted, this brain chip records the impulses of dozens of neurons that have been generated by the patient's intent to move. The recorded electrical patterns are then transmitted to a computer where they are translated into commands for the robotic arm. In a clinical trial, a paralyzed woman was able to use the brain-chip system to control the robotic arm enough to have it pick up a coffee drink, drink it and put it back.
Though this development has been a success so far, scientists see it as only a step in the right direction. The larger goal of these scientists is to "develop technologies that can restore the ability to communicate and move and to give independence to people with neurological disease or injury." A neuroscientist from Brown University, John Donoghue , hopes that the implant will eventually be able to stimulate the patient’s own muscles, eliminating the need for the robotic arm.

...not my actual article but i just thought these were cool "13 Amazing Facts About Animal World"

For my second article I decided to do one one a recent medical discovery. I found an interesting article about an experiment done by Adrien M. Owen on patients that are in a vegetative state, meaning that a patient is unresponsive and is not aware of their surroundings, but have random movement like yawning. The patients are in a coma-like state for an extended period of time ranging from a month and on-ward. These people are usually placed on life support and the decision is left up to the family to end their life. I was reading that a new study came out that proves that some of the patients in the vegetative state have active minds and can communicate. The way the scientists figured this out was by putting a scanner that was put on their heads and then each individual was told to imagine themselves playing tennis and then they had to imagine themselves roaming around their house. Before the patients were asked to do this, the scientists used conscious people to deteremine which part of the brain was used for those images. After the unconscious patients were asked, their brain scans were examined and some patients used the same part of their brains as the conscious people to imagine the tasks. These patients were then asked a series of yes and no questions. If they wanted to answer Yes they needed to think of playing tennis and would therefore highlight the specific part of their brain. A No question would result in the patient imagining themselves wandering through their house. These tests showed that a couple patients tested that were in the vegetative state could understand and communicate. This gives hope to families who realize their loved one might still be in there somewhere, but it also challenges the thought of taking them off of life support if they show that complex brain activity. Of the fifty-four patients tested, five showed this amount of thought and one patient was able to answer five out of six autobiographical questions correctly.
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"Alzheimer's Detected 20 Years Before Symptoms Show"


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Summary: This article describes how your car might soon become a medical device for your daily care. Ford has seen an opportunity to add computers to new models. These computers would act as monitoring devices, and then warn you when your health was at risk. For example, it would include seats with electrocardiograph with sensors that monitor the heart. If your condition got worse then car would warn you, preventing more accidents to be caused from heart-related issues such as heart attacks. Ford also talked about allowing wireless medical devices to be activated in your car. For example, people with diabetes who use a wireless glucose monitor, would have it synced with the car. If blood sugars were to drop or rise to levels that are unsafe for driving, the car would then alert you of this. Even though people may be reminded of these alerts before they even enter the car, it's just another device to ensure that the driver is well enough to drive safely.

“First Fully Synthetic Organ Transplant Saves Cancer Patient”
Surgeons in Sweden transplanted a fully synthetic trachea into a man with [[#|lung cancer]]. The trachea was created entirely in the lab using a scaffold of porous polymer and tissue grown from the patient’s stem cells. The process took about two weeks. Building a synthetic trachea is monumental, but building a complex organ such as a kidney or a lung would be much more challenging. If this process becomes possible with other organs, they would be much more beneficial than waiting for a donor organ due to a short wait time and no rejection. Scientists already anticipate a shorter amount of construction time for future organs after this first-time effort.
I think that this article is fascinating. I think it’s amazing how these scientists were about to construct a fully functioning, fully synthetic organ and transplant it into a patient. If this process can be done for other organs, it could change how organ transplants are done. People would no longer need to wait on long lists for donor organs to become available, and the rejection rate would decrease significantly due to the ‘organ’ being made from their own tissues.


"Tiny Robots Mend Broken Hearts"

"Paralyzed Rats Walk Again"


Summary: Researchers in Switzerland have discovered that rats paralyzed from a spinal-cord injury can learn how to control their hind limbs again with assisted walking therapy and chemical stimulation. Although similar experiments have shown that this is successful, those previous experiments were only able to generate involuntary movement which is thought to require no direct communication from the brain. These researchers in Switzerland used electrical stimulation to activate neurons in the lower spinal cord of the paralyzed rats while the rats are held up in a rehabilitative device that forces them to use their hind legs to walk. This establishes new neural connections between the motor cortex and lower spine which eventually leads to the rats being able to voluntarily move their hind legs. After two to three weeks of this intensive treatment, the rats were able to take their first voluntary steps. Experts say these results are promising for victims whose spinal cord has not been completely severed through.

Reaction: I was astounded after reading this article. I know how debilitating spinal cord injuries can be and how hard scientists are working on treatments for these patients. In First Aid/CPR class I have watched many 9-1-1 videos involving people whose spinal cords have been cut and it is so sad. I felt happy once I finished reading this article and it gives me hope for the future. It would be great if scientists could figure out how to shift this treatment to human patients.

"Cancer Breath Test Enters Clinical Trials"


“High Blood Caffeine Levels in Older Adults Linked to Avoidance of Alzheimer’s Disease”

This article from Science Daily describes the results of a recent study that linked high blood caffeine levels to a lower likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. Researchers from the University of Southern Florida and the University of Miami say that the “case control study” is the first direct evidence that caffeine intake is associated with a reduced risk of dementia. The study involved 124 people between the ages of 65 and 88.
The results showed that older people with mild memory impairment who drink moderate amounts of caffeine are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. These results are consistent with a study conducted on mice, which indicated that daily caffeine intake throughout adulthood can protect against Alzheimer’s later in life.
The study also focused on patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or patients who already experience some memory loss and show early signs of Alzheimer’s. 15% of MCI patients develop Alzheimer’s. In the study, all of the patients who did develop Alzheimer’s had caffeine blood levels below the “critical level” of 1200ng/ml, while none of the patients with blood caffeine levels above the critical level progressed into Alzheimer’s.
Scientists predict that caffeine interacts with an unidentified component of coffee to boost levels of critical growth factor in the blood, which appears to help fight of Alzheimer’s.
The study notes that caffeine will not prevent Alzheimer’s only reduce risk and suggest that, since neurodegenerative diseases usually start one to two decades before the symptoms are evident, people should take steps to prevent Alzheimer’s early in life.
Additionally, moderate caffeine intake also appears to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, stroke, type II diabetes, and breast cancer.

So the topic that I chose was arthroscopy. My dad has been having knee problems since he was in his thirties, and has had several open knee surgeries. However, like most knee surgeries, his didn't do much. He's received bolts in his knees and several knee reconstructions, which haven't done much, and have caused more problems than they have solved. He was seriously contemplating getting a knee replacement. For you guys that don't know, a knee replacement is when doctors go in and saw off your knee cap, at about 2 to 3 inches both above and below the knee, and then replace your knee with a prosthetic knee that it's made entirely of metal, and is incredibly similar to a door hinge. This type of surgery is considered incredibly painful and is almost impossible to recover from. Most people that undergo this surgery live with excruciating pain for the rest of their lives. However, within the last few years, doctors have developed a new type of joint surgery called arthroscopy that allows them to "visualize, diagnose, and treat problems inside a joint." In most open knee surgeries, surgeons are forced to cut open and expose the entire knee in order to get a clear view of the knee they will be working on. However, in arthroscopy, instead doctors simply make a few small incisions in the knee, in which a specialized camera called an arthroscope is inserted into, and the other incision or incisions are used to insert tools, such as scraping devices, scissors, or tools used to repair tendons or ligaments. Many knee problems occur from three major factors: calcium buildup, cartilage/ bone being worn away, or ligament damage. Arthroscopic surgeries are able to address all of these serious problems, by scraping away excess calcium deposits under the knee cap, removing broken fragments of bone or cartilage, or even reattaching or adjusting ligaments. Unlike most knee surgeries, which can take hours (I remember my dad's longest being over 6), arthroscopic surgeries usually last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, and is both more effective and affordable. In addition, recovery is also much easier and significantly less painful than traditional open knee surgeries. After the surgery, the doctor will apply a dressing to the patient's leg (like a gauze pad or even small band-aids over the incisions) to prevent the possibility of infection, and allow the small cuts to heal. He then may prescribe the patient painkillers, and recommend that he or she take an over the counter drug like aspirin, to thin their blood and reduce the possibility of a blood clot occurring. Recovery usually only takes a few weeks before patients are able to drive and function just fine, with full recoveries in around 2 months. The few known risks associated with knee arthroscopy are incredibly infrequent and treatable, such as blood clots or infections. The only true exception to the post surgery recovery period is when a patient has had extensive ligament reconstruction. That being said the recovery period is still well under 3 months before they are able to recover fully. Arthroscopic surgery has revolutionized the way people are able to deal with joint issues, and it has not only saved people money due to its affordability, but it is single handedly the reason why my father is still able to walk today.

First Bio-printed Blood Vessels...
First Bio-printed Blood Vessels...


Title: UGA Reports Cancer Breakthrough
Researchers from UGA and the Mayo Clinic in Arizona have made a vaccine that is able to reduce the size of carcinogenic tumors in mice. These mice mimic 90% of breast cancer and pancreatic cancer cases. As researcher geert-Jan Boons said, “It activates all three components of the immune system to reduce tumor size by an average of 80 percent”. This is a giant step for cancer researchers everywhere. Because of the change of the sugars on the cancer cells surface area, and because they originate whithin the body, the immune system usually does not recognize them as it would foreign cells. The mice used in the study develop tumors that express the protein MUC1 on the surface of the cells. The vaccine developed trains the immune system to target cancerous tumors with their specific sugar structures on proteins like MUC1.
It was found that MUC1 is expressed in more than 70% of all cancers that kill. More than 90% of those cancers express MUC1 with the shorter carbohydrate. The vaccine can keep the patients in remission, and it can help prevent the growth of a cancerous tumor in patients that are at high risk for certain cancers. In patients that already have been diagnosed with cancer, the vaccine can work along side with chemotherapy. In the United States alone, 35,000 people are diagnosed each year with a very aggressive kind of cancer called “triple-negative”, which do not respond to hormonal therapy. In 90% of these “triple-negative” cancers MUC1 is expressed. The vaccine has potential to treat these patients.
Boons vaccine is synthetic, allowing its components to be manufactured in a lab with an assembly line. The three components of the vaccine are an immune system booster, known as an adjuvant, a component that helps in the production of T- cells, and a carbohydrate-linked peptide bond.
Now that the researchers know the vaccines effect of their mice, they are now testing its effectiveness on human cancer cells in culture, and plan to weigh its toxicity. The plan, if this testing goes well, is by late 2013 phase I clinical trials will be held to test the safety of the vaccine.

Title: How Selective Hearing Works in the Brain
For years researchers have been studying the human’s ability to focus on a single vioce in a room full of people talking and making conversation. Using multi-electrode surface recordings from the cortex of people in this situation, Dr. Chang of UCSF demonstrates that the human auditory cortex holds features that help with this so-called “selective hearing”. He worked with three patients undergoing brain surgery for severe epilepsy. Electrodes placed stretegically in the brain, recorded activity in the temporal lobe, which holds the auditory cortex.
In the experiments the patients listened to two speech samples at the same time and were asked the defferentiate the phrases spoken by each of the speakers. Researchers found that the neural reactions in the audutory cortex replicated those of the speaker the patient mentioned. With this information, the researchers were able to indentify when the patient’s attention went from one speaker to the next. These finding show that the representation of speech in the auditory cortex not only reflects the external auditory enviornment, but what humans want and need to hear.
Dr. Chang said with this new technology and information, one day researchers and doctors alike may be able to decode the intentions and thought of paralyzed patients that are not able to communicate.
Our auditory cortex allows us to walk into a noisy room and have a private conversation with ease. With the new technology coming out, humans will be able to communicate much easier with eachother in the near future.