Smelling Sunscreen and Tasting Sea Food

Smelling is a marvellous faculty; you’d never know the layers of complexity it adds to your life until you have that stupid cold. This post aims at exploring other areas of smelling your nose hasn’t been in yet!

How does it work?

Can we smell other things?

There’s also a report that witnesses can identify criminals by their body odor. It might be through its ability to trigger memories.

Lastly, if you’re feeling venturous enough, check out the goofy guys at Good Mythical Morning trying to fool their senses by smelling and eating weird combinations *hint in the title of the post*

 

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Why Are They So Resistant to Change?

Some things just don’t budge. Changes in organisms happen very slowly if ever. Ironically, our exceptional “real-time” example of biological evolution is one we don’t want to see. It’s called bacterial antibiotic resistance.

We tackled this topic a while ago here on ScienceBar, here’s a brief introduction if you’re unfamiliar with the development of such a phenomenon.

In a brilliant paper by Baquero et.al, this issue is given a public health perspective, outlining possible intervention strategies that would benefit the community.

To break down the problem, 3 stages of development were described, along with strategies to fight them:

1. Emergence. Most prevention strategies are focused on this stage, using antibiotics to kill off bacteria and prevent any resistance showing up –>Aim to decrease absolute number of resistant organisms, host and environmental colonization.

2. Invasion and increasing the frequency of organisms having resistance within a specific milieu–>Aim to decrease host to host and water/food to host transmission

3. Occupation, as best described when resistant colonies remain in someone’s body or hospital settings –>Aim to select FOR susceptible population and maintain their presence. Sort of having local thugs you can crash when needed, versus needing SWAT for terrorist cells.

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This week’s news featured 2 stories that should help us better understand those stages.

Surprises About Antibiotic Resistance Uncovered Via ScienceDaily

“Recent findings revealed a complicated love story between antibiotic resistance and bacterial virulence. There was an ancient paradigm about the ‘fitness cost of antibiotic resistance,’ but the emergence of the new technologies of high-throughput sequencing has changed the field, allowing researchers to study bacterial pathogenesis at the genome scale,” said Dr. David Skurnik, senior author of a new Bioessays article. “This new, unbiased approached has revealed that unfortunately the worst case scenario of antibiotic resistant bacteria being more fit and virulent was not uncommon, particularly during infection.”

Addressing Antibiotic Resistance: Breath Analysis Aims to Reduce Unnecessary Prescriptions Via ScienceDaily

“To confirm whether patients have a bacterial infection of the respiratory tract, doctors currently have to take a number of different samples (blood and sputum), and even chest x-rays in the case of pneumonia,” explained Kejing Ying, who is coordinating the work and is based at the Zhejiang University School of Medicine.

Breathe in, breathe out

Analysing samples from 60 volunteers, the scientists have found a potentially useful link between the presence of exhaled acinetobacter baumannii derived volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and patients diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia.

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Time for a Smoke Break

It’s officially World No Tobacco day. Apparently the new trend is moving away from disgusting pictures into plain packaging to decrease the attractiveness of the product.

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Image via WHO

In recent news, cigarettes will cost $40 a pack in Australia by 2020 and CDC declared that smoking rates have gone down in 2015. Here’s a fun selection on smoking trends:

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Need to SEE it to Believe it

I think we all remember the first time we saw a wild animal. Whether it’s a tiger, elephant or a bear, moving from this to that was pretty impressive:

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In this case though, animation was devised to replace a phenomenon we could see. Instead of taking children to the zoo to introduce them to the ideas of bears, illustrations and animations replaced the real deal.

In other cases, illustrations are the only way we visualize concepts we know…until we can finally see.

No longer lost in translation: Biochemists watch gene expression in real time Via ScienceDaily

To understand the concept of translation in biology, instructors around the world are using simple animations like this one

or even more complex 3D renderings to facilitate the introduction. These videos were made possible because of indirect evidence gathered ever since Francis Crick first described it. In very abstract terms, knowing proteins are translated from RNA and trying to figure our the mechanism is like having a birds eye view of buildings, and trying to figure out what goes on inside from watching the people going in and out.

Going back to our news, the molecular events were finally caught on tape! Detailed images of transcription were also obtained by another group.

Challenges not only for the micro-world

These obstacles aren’t unique to biologists where technological advances are needed to zoom in closer than is currently possible. They can be inherent to many disciplines:

  • Too far: Detection of gravitational waves was recently celebrated not only because it gives proof of concept but also because of the instrument sensitivity we could achieve. Whether you’re studying stars, black holes or anything in space, having objects so far presents its own set of obstacles. Renderings and animations are a great tool to share the knowledge.
  • Too old: Archeologists have always faced this issue. The most accessible example would be dinosaurs. No one can be 100% sure of what they looked like, but the estimates based on fossils, bacteria and other determinants give us a pretty good clue.

In all cases, no one doubts the presence of stars, dinosaurs or translation just because we couldn’t see it happening with our own eyes. Modeling is a great resource, not only because it makes concepts easy to grasp but also because it evolves.

  • Our model of all eukaryotes assumes that they all would have mitochondria in their cells. A new report indicates that a eukaryotic bacteria was found to survive without them!
  • The world’s first wireless satellite was built and plans to test it are under way. We always assume we need some sort of cables, but look, people challenged the status quo and made it happen.

All are examples of how flexible life is, and how our views and models should always be 🙂

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Scientist of the WORLD

You don’t need a degree to be a scientist, at least not a citizen scientist.

For science enthusiasts around the world, here’s the fascinating world of how powerful you can be:

As SciStarter puts it:

citizen scientist is an individual who voluntarily contributes his or her time, effort, and resources toward scientific research in collaboration with professional scientists or alone. These individuals don’t necessarily have a formal science background.

According to a collection by scientific american, you can volunteer your time/energy to all sorts of projects, from logging your sightings of amphibians to evaluating air pollution for cyclists in urban areas.

Here are some projects people have contributed to:

We hope this inspires you. Let us know if you’ve been part of any projects in the comments!

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Zika Vaccine

This one is a vaccine you shouldn’t be taking.

I know you’re scared and want to protect your children and loved ones, but don’t buy into the hype.

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How would you feel if that vaccine were to cause autism or some other dreadful condition? Haven’t thought of that didn’t you?

Why not?! Some of you still put up a fight against other vaccines. Why stop now? Is it because this disease is fresh in your memory? Is it because you’ve seen the symptoms it may cause?

Well, too bad. That’s what people a while ago thought about polio, measles and smallpox. They also rushed to get some vaccine when it became available. But then a bunch of you forgot how much healthier it made our community. Let’s just throw it all away and to hell with vaccines.

Ladies and gents, there’s no vaccine yet for Zika. There are many for other almost-eradicated diseases. Stop trying to go backwards.

In any case, I won’t be as eloquent as Dear Parents, you are being lied to by Dr. Jennifer Raff. I highly recommend it from anyone suffering form the above condition.

This post is actually to update you on what we know so far, since our intro and its declaration as a global emergency by WHO.

‘Sweaty’ Billboard Kills Mosquitoes To Fight Zika Virus

A recent article via BBC mentions that the blueprints of this sweat secreting billboard are free to use and share. Advertising agencies in Brazil have developed a “Mosquito Killer Board” aimed at attracting and trapping the vectors in order to protect urban residents.

 

On another note, a new paper-based test for Zika is also out. This inexpensive apparatus promises results within a few hours, making efforts to combat this virus more timely.

What do you all think, let us know in the comments!

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The Best Steak You Can Eat!

You know something good is going to happen when science and food meet, all the tools and equipment, the molding and etching, the fire and kinetics, the salts and spices, hence, perfection to last carbon and hydrogen reaction; By the way that’s how you turn a chemist on 😀

Our main dish at the Bar today is a red, sizzling, moist, mouthwatering steak with perfect burn marks guaranteed to boost your level of serotonin and leave you satisfied.


If you ever cooked a steak, you will know how difficult to have the perfect crust from the outside while having the warm, red, blood free inside… you will either end up with raw insides which is not appealing to everyone, or a burned outsides that has its heath risks
(for more info check:  Juicy, Charbroiled & Cancer Free!).

That’s a disaster and painful to look at 😦

To avoid such disasters, we can use science. “Sous-vide cooking” which translates into “Cooking under vacuum” is a technique that perfects your steak with minimum effort, letting thermodynamics do its work. The tools that you will need are:

  • Vacuum, heat resistant bag
  • Cooking scale vacuum machine
  • Temperature regulated water bath (as seen in the lab)
  • Your perfect perpendicular cut red meat
  • Butter, the spices and all the herbs you like
  1. You start by putting the meat in the bag and adding the butter and all the spices and herbs.
  2. You suck all the air out from inside the bag using the vacuum, the latter is a very important step, because it will bring all the meat fibers close to each other, which will aid in the homogeneous transfer of heat in the steak without the air particle coming in its way and disturbing the heat flow.

    Photo credit goes to BusinessWire
  3. You put the bag in the water bath and fix the temperature according to how done you want the meat to be.

Here is a chart that summarises the perfect core temperature for each type of steak:


And remember every time you order a “well done” steak a gourmet chef dies somewhere (well at least from the inside).

 As for the time needed in the water bath, here is a well detailed reference from ChefSteps that can guide through the times and temperatures needed according to the type of steak you like (Link).

I’m sure now you are thinking… well why don’t I use the kitchen meat thermometer while cooking, which will aid me to know the temperature in the inside of my steak?!
Well the answer is: Equilibrium.
When you cook your steak on the stove the surface of the steak is a lot more hotter than its core, so when you achieve that perfect temperature, the cooking process will continue even when you remove the pan away from the flame. Whereas, in sous-vide cooking the core and outer layer are in thermal equilibrium so you will end up with a perfect balanced cooking temperature.

Finally, You remove the meat from the bag, where you will find a mushy steak that lack the crust. You heat a pan to a high temperature and grill it for few seconds on each side in order not to disturb the equilibrium and achieve those “sexy” and caramelised lines, hence your perfect steak:

Photo credit goes to Cnet

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Science Doesn’t Lie, But Scientists…

How did we define the “normal” values of blood cholesterol, glucose, pressure, and body temperature…? The answer is statistics. By collecting data from populations, we started seeing where the majority of people stand, in order to define the “normal” values.statistics.jpgThe latter is a straightforward application of statistics, but when we started comparing groups to each others (i.e. testing a new drug in diseased v.s healthy populations) things started to get complicated. We needed a way to make sure that the data we collected is not due to chance or any other artefact.
3ngU8.pngConsequently, rules for randomization, data collection, bias …etc were established, and references such as p-values, confidence intervals and others became very crucial in deciding if the hypothesis we are testing is true or not (i.e. the drug is effective or not).correlation.png

The most famous of the above values in the medical field is the p-value. It tells us if we can accept or throw away the “Null Hypothesis”; which is the hypothesis that there is no difference between the tested groups.

P values evaluate how well the sample data support the devil’s advocate argument that the null hypothesis is true. It measures how compatible your data are with the null hypothesis. How likely is the effect observed in your sample data if the null hypothesis is true? […]

  • High p values: your data are likely with a true null.
  • Low p values: your data are unlikely with a true null.

From MiniTab

On the other hand, looking only on the p-value will definitely lead to a misinterpretation of the statistical data, and here’s where a scientist can mislead their readers.

Science doesn’t lie but scientists well… that’s a different story!
By Lissette Padilla from DNews.

Last-line-of-defense-statistics.gifLet’s take this statement:
Drug X lowers blood glucose level, and this result came from a study  with a p-value of 0.01 (which is less than 0.05, hence statistically significant).
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As a first impression, I can say wow!! that drug is actually a miracle… but this is not enough! In reality if we had such an effective drug we could have cured diabetes once-and-for-all. But again, Looking ONLY on the p-value is NEVER enough in any case… and here’s why;

According to MiniTab three things a p-value can NOT prove:

  1. It tells us that we have a difference between the groups that are being tested, but it can not reflect the magnitude of difference.
    In our case, we won’t know if drug X will lower blood glucose by 2 or by 100 units just by knowing the p-value.
  2. It tells us we can refute the null hypothesis but in reality this isn’t enough to prove that our alternative hypothesis is true. In simpler terms, you only need one example to prove that a hypothesis is wrong, but alternatively one example is not enough to prove that a hypothesis is true.
    Back to our case, we are sure that there is a difference between the tested groups, but we can not prove that the latter is due to drug X just by looking at the p-value.
  3. Finally, remember that the p-value doesn’t tell us anything about what we are observing… it only tells us the odds of observing it.
    So by only knowing the p-value is statistically significant doesn’t prove that taking drug X  will definitely regulated your blood sugar.

What we just discussed can cause a misdirection of a whole field of studies… we will be elaborating more in a future post about Evidence Base Medicine and its impact on the medical advancement.

And finally, here is how DNews compiled all these ideas and refreshed our memories about the p-Value in one of their fun and informative videos:

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We Now Have a Microscope That Can Manipulate Brain Cells

For the organ allowing us to think and resolve problems, the brain is still pretty unknown to us. We are still characterizing regions with responses we didn’t know they could perform. Not many dreams about being able to peek into their stomach, but much can still be said about our other control center:

To brighten up our quest for knowledge, some exciting brainy news surfaced last week:

Blood-Brain Barrier Breakthrough Reported by Researchers

“We can open the BBB for a brief window of time, long enough to deliver therapies to the brain, but not too long so as to harm the brain. We hope in the future, this will be used to treat many types of neurological disorders,” said Margaret Bynoe, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Bynoe is senior author of the study, which appears in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

brain-activityBynoe’s team was able to deliver chemotherapy drugs into the brains of mice, as well as large molecules, like an antibody that binds to Alzheimer’s disease plaques, according to the paper. Via ScienceDaily.

New Microscope Controls Brain Activity of Live Animals

The tool they have devised is essentially a microscope that points into the brain of a live mouse, zooms in on a few thousand cells and uses sophisticated lasers to manipulate electrical signals between individual neurons.

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So far, the team has conducted preliminary tests of the instrument by mapping the effects of small perturbations, such as wiggling a whisker, and then creating holograms that induce the neurons to fire in the same — or slightly different — patterns. In a series of tests that are still underway, they are working with mice trained to push a specific lever when they see a certain shape in order to develop holograms that “trick” the mouse into seeing, for example, a circle where none exists, or to make the mouse perceive a square as a circle. In the near future, the team hopes to apply the microscope to studies of memory formation. Via ScienceDaily.

Think our brains are the only ones worth investigation, check out the octopus system:

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This Might Change Medicine as We Know it

After the interesting post Bacteria in a Barbie WorldMagdalena Assaad shared with us this extremely interesting article she wrote about a huge update in transplant medicine. Cheers to revolutionising ideas !

Cardiovascular disease is the leading global cause of death : according to the World Health Organization, an estimated 17 million people die yearly of cardiovascular ailments, most of them due to heart disease, and this number is expected to exceed 23.6 million by 2030. More than half of the patients do not benefit from drugs, and the best solution is to obtain a new heart.

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Consequently, the demand for hearts keeps increasing while the availability is almost the same. Out of the 4,000 Americans waiting for their heart transplants, only 2,500 will receive new hearts in the coming year. And even when a heart is obtained, there’s a high risk of the host body rejecting the transplanted organ by initiating an immune reaction against the foreign heart cells.

Scientists have been looking for effective permanent solutions for these problems while minimizing the complications that may arise after the procedure, and the answer found is to make synthetic organs from the patient’s own cells.

A team of scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School is working on this project, using adult skin cells to generate human heart tissue and their study was published recently in the journal Circulation Research.

stem-cell-complex-body-parts-121017-679157-Looking at this solution, one might find it trivial, considering that scientists grow cells in labs very frequently, however this particular solution is far more complicated, since the grown tissues are not intended to fill a petri dish, but have the architecture of the needed organ, the heart with its cavities that are naturally meticulously designed to complete their functions perfectly.

Cells are usually easily grown on scaffolds, and scientists needed a scaffold for their cell culture. In previous research, 3D heart segments were fabricated by 3D printers using biological material and these structures can serve as scaffold on which heart tissue can be grown, yet the group of scientists opted for a better procedure.

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They used a detergent solution that strips a donor organ (not fit for transplantation) of cells that may launch an immune response in the recipient: the cells were turned into pluripotent stem cells by using adult skin cells and messenger RNA while the remaining of the heart would serve as a scaffold.

Pluripotent cells have the ability of specializing to any type of cell in the human body. For this experiment they were transformed into two different types of cardiac cells that develop and grow on the scaffold when bathed with nutrient solution.

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After two weeks, the networks of lab-grown heart cells resembled immature but intricately structured hearts. Once given a burst of electricity, the hearts started beating.
Any heart cells grown in this way are recognized by the patient’s immune system as “friendly”, as long as the original skin cells are obtained from their own body in the first place. In other words, these lab-grown hearts will be specially designed for the patient and won’t be rejected once transplanted.

Regrowing a whole heart would take tens of billions of cells, while this study manufactured only 500 million cells so far. The team is still improving methods to generate more cardiac cells at a faster time, help the cells mature more quickly and perfect the body-like conditions in which the heart develops.

If successful, this project might change medicine as we know it, where cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure won’t be seen as life threatening risks. Additionally, other organs may be made of stem cells as well. The long organs waiting list will cease to exist, while patients can obtain a second chance for living happy healthy lives.

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Cocktails Ingredients:

“Stem Cells Grow Beating Heart : Dnews”. DNews. N.p., 2013.

Andrews, Robin. “Beating Human Hearts Grown In Laboratory Using Stem Cells”. IFLScience. N.p., 2016.

Ossola, Alexandra. “Scientists Grow Full-Sized, Beating Human Hearts From Stem Cells”. Popular Science. N.p., 2016.

Heart Disease And Stroke Statistics – At-A-Glance. 1st ed. the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee, 2014.

Picture :

“Amazing!! Scientists Can Now Grow A Human Heart Outside Of A Human Body From Stem Cells | Science | Blog | Qatar Day”. Qatarday. N.p., 2016.