Monday, January 31, 2011

Proteins, Fusions and Cancer

A synergistic, power couple of proteins binding together and triggering a more aggressive, treatment resistant cancer is not a good sign.

The picture to the left shows API2 and MALT1 binding to NIK. API2 and MALT1 are fused together in certain subsets of lymphoma. The API2 part of this fusion can bind to an enzyme called NIK. When this binding occurs, MALT1 cleaves NIK. This cleaving makes NIK more stable. (credit: University of Michigan Health System)

When NIK is cleaved, the regulatory region is removed. NIK is now an enzyme gone wild. It makes cancer cells that grow very aggressively, spread easily and resist all of the traditional cancer treatments.

The fusion protein is found 30-40 percent of the time in the B-cell type MALT lymphoma which is mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue.

The MALT lymphomas that have this fusion protein have been found to be more resistant to treatment, more aggressive and have larger tumors throughout the body.

NIK cleavage only happens when this fusion protein is bound. Because of this, researchers are looking at NIK as a target for new drug therapies.

click here for the link to this news story and the journal reference.

In the above post I used a hook to get readers interested, used active voice and tried to give the readers a visual via a picture and language of what might be happening during this fusion and subsequent binding.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Crime Scene Investigation: Fact or Fiction

Crime shows sell. It’s the thing that has been keeping bread on the table for people like Dick Wolf (producer of Law and Order) and Jerry Bruckheimer (producer of CSI). They make science accessible to the public. They incorporate kernels of truth, hidden within the finesse of Hollywood. The fancy clothes, the perfect makeup and of course the magic database that knows all. Take this quote from CSI Las Vegas:

Gil Grissom: I just got a page from James Watson.
Nick Stokes: And I got one from Francis Crick. What's going on, Greg?
Greg Sanders: Well, as you both know, Watson and Crick are the granddaddies of DNA. Without their discoveries, I'd have nothing to do all day.
Nick Stokes: What have you been doing all day?

Being a scientist this banter is very entertaining. It was all in knowing Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA. Does the non-scientist viewer glean this information for this banter that will take less than a minute of screen time? Probably not. While reading a report done by the National Science Teachers Association, this topic of ignoring practical and careful science was discussed. Since shows like CSI and Law and Order can out, there are significant increases in students pursuing degrees in criminal justice, criminology and forensic science. The central question that comes from this fact is “Do we really want all this falsely assigned attention?” In a crime lab on CSI, the scientist receives a sample and within the work shift shown in the show, the unknown sample has been identified as a nylon fiber rug made in the 1970’s. In reality, trace evidence may take weeks to identify. Also the DNA evidence is collected, extraction, amplified and identified within hours, where in reality it could take 5-10 days. The disparity between Hollywood and reality lies in the funding. Currently many crime labs struggle with increasing case loads. In a report put out by the National Research Council, it states the primary funding is focused on advancement in DNA technology. The lack of equal funding leaves many loose ends. Also in the report, it discusses the necessity for assessing the validity of certain assay and standardizing practices used in crime labs nationwide. Another thing was laying down guidelines for education of forensic scientists. One of the biggest concerns in the proper collection of data would be that all scientist use valid methods and proper technique when analyzing data. Personally I know I do not watch CSI for the scientific merit hat it exudes, but for the vanity. Hopefully one thing that can come from the inaccuracy of the science presented is a hope for ethical and better regulation of forensic science in the future.

In this blog post, I tried to hook the reader by choosing a popular television show. I tried to avoid using jargon or delving to deep into science of forensic. In this post I was trying to express the importance of understanding proper and practical science. The article I found was focused on the uses of forensic sciences in education. I think as scientists this idea of accessible science through popular culture can be helpful in showing the ethics and applications of science.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oh Blogs

Nothing like procrastination at its best. I finally had some free time to check out some science blogs. I leafed or rather scrolled through a couple and found some that were of interest to me. I really like Viruses throw wrenches in the gears of the immune system.
The immune system has always been very interesting to me plus the author is a peer. He is a guy named Kevin who is getting his PhD in immunology. I like that he has a witty voice in his blog along with recent research and his own knowledge.

The next blog I picked was one called respectful insolence. Even just the name intrigued me.
This guy sounds to me like an intelligent smart ass. He is a surgeon/scientist that said he posts miscillaneous ramblings. I think I like it although im afraid his ego might get in the way of what he is trying to convey. His posts can be somewhat long but I am interested in what this guy has to say.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Overwhelming? Yes.

When I first learned that we would be in charge of creating our own blogs as a group and posting to them on an individual basis, my first reaction was pure excitement! I jumped on my laptop and opened my browser as soon as I got back from class. I immediately started tinkering with the fonts, backgrounds, and different layouts of the actual site, but as I thought more about the actual posting part I quickly became overwhelmed...How is one blog supposed to "flow" with the works of four very different authors?...How am I supposed to compose all of my jumbled thoughts into one cohesive, eye-catching and magnetic post at a time?!...The whole world is going to be able to read this so how much do I share, how much do I conceal, how much factual science should I talk about and how much prose should I throw in to keep my reader reading?!? Well, I do not know all of the answers to these questions but I am certainly learning the ropes as I skim some of the more sophisticated and weathered blogs.

A blog that kept me reading for more was Sandwalk. It is written by a biochemistry professor at the University of Toronto and the extended title of the blog describes its content perfectly: Strolling with a Skeptical Biochemist. The blog consists of a smattering of topics, some of which I do not necessarily agree with, but nonetheless will read in order to see other views of the topic. This blog serves as an awesome footbridge to a lot of very valuable information. Another blog that caught my eye was The Last Word on Nothing because it again has a large amount of different information that keeps my attention until the end. Although I have noted two blogs that have a general theme to them, I think I would enjoy a more specific blog more. Perhaps one on strictly neuroscience, or chiropractic, or maybe even one's journey through undergrad (with a science degree) through grad school and even their post-grad travels? I guess we'll see...

"You know Amy, I think blogging is for you"

So I was sitting here at the computer browsing through some blogs and for a while nothing really caught my eye. I was telling myself "ya know Amy, I just don't think blogging is for you" and as if my computer wanted to slap me right in the face, the next blog that popped up kept me staring at the computer screen contently for a good half hour before I had to leave my apartment. Where else can you find information about amoebas practicing agriculture, contagious cancers (yep, new to you right?), and that if you write down all your worries about an exam 10 minutes prior, you'll do better on the exam? This is exactly the random information that I love learning about. I've decided blogs without a specific theme in mind are the best for me, and most likely what my own blogging will be like. Where did I find out this cool information you might ask? Well here it is: Not Exactly Rocket Science. I was completely convinced that I had awesome skills and found the most perfect "THIS IS FOR AMY blog" only to keep reading and find out that they had just received their 4 millionth page view. Apparently this is the "BLOG FOR EVERYONE" and I'm just catching on.

Now that I was getting the hang of it, I kept on browsing and found another blog site. Hmm, I wonder what kind of topics this one had? You guessed it, completely random science topics like how certain bacteria can improve learning, that there's a fish called a blobfish that's nearly extinct (and rather ugly if I do say so myself), and that a study determined that binge drinking can cause fewer stem cells which can cause reduced memory and spatial skills. Sounds weird? Sounds just perfect for the blog Weird Science.

I think blogging is something I can definitely get used to. The writing a blog might be a little tricky for me, but when I find blogs like this, the reading part will be no problem. Stay tuned for the random science that I scrounge up and my attempt at a smooth transition into the blogger world!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stop, Collaborate and Listen

So blogging for the first time can be very intimidating, especially after reading all these witty blogs. So while exploring the “Blogosphere,” I discovered Dr. Isis. She writes the blog On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess. What first attracted me to this blog was the name. Then when I began reading, I realized she was speaking to all female scientists out there. She always has some hilarious videos she adds to her blog. Her ability to relate pop culture to science is refreshing. She also takes time to call out injustice and puts the spotlight on the trials that come with being a female scientist. Overall the blog was about embracing science and life and figuring out how that two fit together. Another blog that caught my eye was Bioephemera.This blog had an eclectic mix of posts. The blogger, a molecular biologist, seemed to move away from the ordinary scientific topics, and blended science, art, and just random science related facts. One of my personal favorite posts was about an artist who made an anatomically correct dress depicting the major body systems. So I guess the things that attracted my attention were the unconventional, the bloggers who were thinking outside the box. Those who were taking their other interests and mixing in their love of science.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

This is the beginning of our amazing blog. Expect to see new postings from four amazing (almost) scientists: Beth, Amy, Heather and Daphne. We hope you will follow us!