TALENS got talent and cancer fighting with Movember :) #movember #researchsaves #cancer

Cancer affects individuals from the youngest to the oldest, both men and women without discrimination if and when cells loose their control and grow without restriction.

TALEN

Well, there is a new talent in town in the fight against cancer – Transcription Activator Like Effector Nuclease or TALEN. Yes, this is a part of the struggle to fix cancer at a cellular level rather than bombard the body with dangerous chemicals designed to kill the cancer cells which unfortunately have serious side effects as they kill healthy surrounding cells as well in the process. Earlier I talked about CRISPR being a precise genome editing process. Part of the gene editing process is creating cuts in the DNA and TALENs are very good at inducing neat double stranded cuts.

One year old Layla, has become the first according to reports to be treated with TALENs that allowed her cancer cells to be modified enough to stop them from being protected. Once the protection was gone, her own immune system woke up and killed cancer cells. The rare form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia was so severe that even chemotherapeutics was not enough. So how do you kill a cell that does not die on its own, you change its DNA :), with designer cells!!!

That said, it is the month of November, or Movember, an awesome charity helping to raise money for men’s health with respect to testicular and prostate cancer. So grow that moustache and help raise awareness and do donate 🙂

and by week 4: Save a bro!!!

I am Bond, James Bond and I know Neuroscience #007 #neuroscience #science #movies #PTSD

Imagine my surprise last night, when I saw a healthy dose of neuroscience specifically neuroanatomy in the latest installment of the #007 franchise. The movie had a limited release last night with it playing at all theaters in America today. The reviews are already out, so I am not in much danger of ruining the plot for anyone, and I will try my best not to.

Enter Fusiform gyrus

Role: Allows Bond’s brain to recognize faces, well, for Bond, the faces of those beautiful Bond women.

Imagine your world if your brain was functioning normally in every aspect except for facial recognition. You don’t recognize anyone and everyone is a stranger to you even though you see them and interact with them.

Fusiform gyrus
Fusiform gyrus

Now, in the movie, a menacing drill goes into Bond’s head, with the evil head of Spectre literally bringing a new meaning to the sentence,” I am the man in your head.” He wanted to punish Bond by taking away his ability to remember faces, a horrible punishment if your memories of people in your life are important to you.

Then again, there are probably some faces you would like to forget, but that has deep implications on moral and ethical level. Other movies that dealt with this subject include Jim Carrey’s Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind.

So, the question is as we get closer each day to understanding the brain at a deeper level is, do we want the ability to control our memories?

It is an important area of research in PTSD, to prevent the harmful effects of really traumatic memories.

The sickening feeling you feel in your stomach when you suddenly see a picture of your ex or someone who hurt you deeply is a physiological reaction coming from the brain because of the association of terrible memories with the image or person.

Traumatic memories whether you would like to admit it or not, do shape us and affect us deeply at our sub conscious level.

Check out this journal article on PTSD research http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11682-015-9444-y

Now, back to the movie :), I cannot tell you if the needle went exactly in the right place or what happens next but do go check out the movie.

Spectre (2015) first show
Spectre (2015) first show

Psychology majors and psychologists are absolutely vital. #ThisPsychMajor #researchsaves

Being a very molecular and genetics sort of science nerd, I have always sought to answer questions concerning the brain and its manifestation i.e. our behavior, choices and perceptions from that view point. While neuroscience is paramount to answering questions at the molecular level, it is absolutely vital to have individuals who are able to statistically study behavior and other outward characteristics of individuals and populations and come up with brilliant correlations and theories.

That is where the psych major comes in, especially one who chooses to study it further at a graduate level and pursue research in the field, or those who choose to practice it in its various professions such as a counseling, clinical and many more.

Even an undergraduate degree in psychology gives graduates the tools necessary to work in many fields that can directly use their skill set to enhance their productivity and work environment.

Jeb Bush, click on photo to see the original Washington Post article and photographer info.

So, while I consider myself more on the molecular side of things and in the future, even on the clinical side, I stand with my colleagues in the field of psychology, whom I recognize to play a very VITAL role in understanding the human brain from a macromolecular level. So while words like NMDA turn me on, I don’t really have the tools to study behavioral patterns at a much larger level in a population.

The study of receptors are a part of  molecular neuroscience, neurochemistry, neuropharmacology etc.
The study of receptors are a part of molecular neuroscience, neurochemistry, neuropharmacology etc.

It is only when different individuals such as neuroscientists, psychiatrists and psychologists work together, can we as a society take more steps to prevent tragedies that plague this nation such as mass shootings that seem to take place here more than any other country in the G8. Imagine what would have happened had any of those shooters gotten help from a therapist, how many lives would have been saved. As for Jeb Bush, well, one shouldn’t try to change his opinion, because if in fact there is some truth to a psychology major not being able to find a job, then he should look into creating employment opportunities or increase funding for graduate schools so more psychology grads can pursue higher studies.

#ThisPsychMajor can help!!

Sleepy crocodiles and one eyed monsters. #researchsaves #crocodiles #snakes #science

As a child, we used to return to the city of Trichur, in Kerala, India every summer to stay with my grandparents. The Trichur(Trissur) zoo holds a special place in my heart and memories for two reasons, the crocodile that I would never see and the king cobra that would never move. I remember running to the crocodile pond and staring down into the green algae filled pond to see the crocodile each year but I never saw it. One summer, I fancied I saw a shoe floating in the water and imagined the poor soul to whom the show belonged to. The reason why I probably never saw the crocodile was because it was usually submerged under the green still water with only its eyes sticking out and from a height of 50 feet, it was hard to spot two dots in the murky green water.  Twenty years later, scientists now in the Journal of Experimental Biology have found out conclusively that crocodiles can sleep with one eye open and by extension one half of their brain active while the other half sleeps.

Why?

Well, unless you live with immature room mates who like to walk in while you are sleeping as a prank, then you don’t really need to keep one eye open as the old adage goes. However, for animals, the cost of sleeping fully is a very steep one as they could fall prey to predators or on the other side of the equation, loose potential prey.

To understand how difficult this is, try, sleeping with your eyelids on one eye open. Yes, it is very difficult for us- Homo sapiens, keeping the eyelids open forcefully will cause our eyes to dry out without being able to blink.

Crocodiles can and they can actually regulate the amount of activity their open eye can process depending on the type of environment the paper says. Put a human in the vicinity and that one eye is more active while the other one sleeps, constantly keeping a vigilant ‘eye’ on the human threat. Why is this important to us? Well, for a neuroscientist, it tells us just how much the brain can adapt to help a species in its environment.

Yes, their brains cannot derive multivariable calculus equations like mine can, but hey, they can sleep with one eye open, a very cool adaption which makes them the king of their environment like I am in calculus class.

Yes, they grow up to 18 feet and carries enough venom to kill an elephant. Click on the photo to learn more.
Yes, they grow up to 18 feet and carries enough venom to kill an elephant. Click on the photo to learn more.

The king cobra, well thats another post about the conservation of energy in cold blooded reptiles, I swear, I thought it was made of rubber because it never moved.

Have a good day 🙂

Oct 21st 2030. Alien superstructure and back to the future. #deathstar #starwars #alien #backtothefuture #science

The DeLorean rushed through time and Marty McFly arrived in the future on Oct 21st 2015, thirty years from 1985.

Delorean Time Machine

The world he saw was vastly different from the one he was used to. The movie made predictions in 1985 about what 2015 would look like and it is interesting to point out that even for us today on Oct 21st 2015, we would look to the future 30 years from now and wonder how much our lives would have changed. What that really means, for a lot of people is how much our lives would change with innovation in technology.

So as a first, I am asking readers to post comments as to what they think the future will look like, what changes do you expect science and the society it serves to make?

Maybe, it will have a lot to do with this piece of news creating a lot of buzz in the astronomy world recently. Perhaps the greatest thing we can all look forward to is the participation of all ‘citizens’ in scientific endeavors. Scientific American in their article aptly points out how this superstructure would not have been found by computer algorithms but by citizen scientists working together peering over thousands of images from the Kepler telescope.

Science and technology will be changing our lives even as I write this post, what will it be like on Oct 21st 2030? I will be exactly 65 years old and a day but other than that, it is all up to our imagination and scientific innovation 🙂

Adios