Monthly Archives: February 2014

Science affirms what I tell my mom: I don’t need a jacket because shivering burns calories

Recent scientific articles confirm that shivering and being cold does indeed help burn fat. An article from Cell Press gives details about Irisin and FGF21, which are cold-induced endocrine activators of brown fat. There are several different types of fat in the human body, and while brown fat is not typically located in the areas that people are trying to lose weight, it can definitely contribute to fitness and overall health. In another article, scientists recommend increasing cold exposure to help promote the burning of brown fat, as one would work out to promote increased metabolic activity. These scientists believe that the burning of brown fat may increase the rate of burning of white fat.

So instead of complaining about this bitterly cold wind, let’s be thankful that we are getting in shape for spring break.

Here is an interesting summary of the article:


New Method for Making Stem Cells

I was inspired by the presentation made in class about stem cells to do a little research on the topic. I found out that on January 29th, a new method for making stem cells was announced in the journal Nature.

Apparently, scientists can take cells from a mouse spleen and expose to them to an acidic environment. Upon doing so, these cells become pluripotent. This is very spectacular because scientists neither have to manipulate the nucleus or tinker with the translation process. This is a phenomenal discovery.

Read about it here:

Black Death’s Effect on the Human Genome

So I saw this article and though it was really relevant to what we are learning this semester! The article explains that by wiping out people with inferior immune systems the Black Plague actually strengthened the immune systems of the population as a whole. It also may account for the current day differences between the immune systems of populations historically exposed to the Black Plague and those that were not.

Bill Nye Vs. Ken Ham on Feb. 4

Hello everyone!

I thought this was really interesting, Bill Nye, a childhood celebrity, will be debating Ken Ham, a creationist, about the theory of evolution. I also thought this video from Bill Nye was interesting as a precursor to the debate (sorry if I offend anyone). Here’s the URL:

The debate is happening tomorrow, Feb. 4th, at 6:00 p.m. You can watch it on,, or

Anyways, I thought it was relevant since we’re starting to touch on the theory of evolution in class.


Leishmania RNA virus

Outside of our little world, there are these things call NTD’s (neglected tropical diseases). One of the most common ones is called leishmaniasis, which is contracted by a sandfly bite, which transfers parasites into one’s body. We don’t really have these sandflies on this continent, so we are pretty safe from this, but check it out…in addition to the disease itself, turns out there is an additional infection spread by a virus that has come to latch itself onto the parasites. The Leishmania RNA virus seems to be an amplifier of all the contracted symptoms from Leishmaniasis. I want so badly for there to be a way to make it so this is no longer an issue. The central American strain of protazoans seem to be becoming resistant to the most common treatment, Antimony. Maybe there is a way to engineer a phage that can kill those little protazoa: it could make a huge difference.

Phage Introns and the mobilome

The SEA Phage members that isolated cluster J Phages all got together and published a paper in PLoS.

This is a great paper to read slowly over this semester as you learn more about phage genomes.

I think it is so interesting how they discovered 2 introns using the alignment tools and then confirmed their hypothesis by isolating and analyzing the predicted proteins.

They described a “luxuriant mobilome”….Maybe we will see something similar?

Cracking Your Genetic Code

Hey guys!

I know we have spent a lot of time in class discussing the mechanisms and techniques of biotechnology, but I wanted to show you this video that really shows the practical medical implications of this technology. “Cracking Your Genetic Code” is a NOVA special from PBS that talks about how different bioinformatics and genomic research is being used in medicine today to help diagnose and treat genetic disorders. There is also a lot of the bioethics conversation incorporated into the video, so you get to see how this new technology may alter society and other aspects of life. It also goes through the history of some of the technology. All in all, this special is really great and well made. I watched it in AP Biology last year, and it is what really got me interested in genomics. It’s available online for free, and it’s only about an hour long. If you want to supplement what we are learning in class, I would recommend this video. Here is the link:

Enjoy! I hope you guys like it as much as I do!

Sleep and Cancer

So I was looking around at news articles this afternoon and I came across this article below. It is about how lack of sleep can accelerate cancer growth. Apparently, mice were injected with tumor cells. Some mice slept regularly, while others were kept awake. The mice who were kept awake showed significantly more tumor growth than those with regular sleep patterns. I think it is so interesting how sleep can have so many healing properties. This article is defiantly worth checking out.