Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Guillain-Barre Syndrome: Antibodies Gone Awry

A mother's proudest moment may be when she sees her young child take his or her very first steps.  She may experience great joy as she watches her child grow and develop.  Now imagine if the tables were turned, and instead the child was watching his or her mother learn to walk.  This was the case for Mrs. Pam Novak.  

When Novak was a teenager, her mother, Charmaine Swartz, underwent a surgical procedure.  After the surgery, she contracted a bacterial infection, which most likely triggered the onset of Guillian-Barre syndrome.  This syndrome left Swartz temporarily paralyzed and her daughter upset as she had to endure her mother re-learning how to take her first step.  



Music, Body, and Brain

I am by no means musically inclined or knowledgeable, but the idea of going through an entire day without my iPod is terrorizing.

Early in the morning, I wouldn’t be able to last ten minutes on the treadmill without my embarrassingly titled “Do Work” playlist pushing a fast-paced rhythm through my sleepy body. As I try to understand biological statistics, Bob Dylan or Queen softly rings through my headphones, drowning out the sound of sorority girl neighbors and infusing my mind with a sort of serenity that only good, classic rock can invoke.  And on those nights that I can’t sleep, Claude Debussy hits a few piano keys and I am suddenly unconscious, floating off into Neverland.

I know that I am not alone. Approximately half of the people that I pass on the sidewalk each day are aimlessly wondering to class just like me; white cords gracefully framing their faces and swaying with each step as their minds are transfixed on whatever comes out of the insect-like Apple earbuds that I can’t see under their hat or hair, but know to be there.

So I wonder, what does music really do for us? 

Photo credit: d o l f i

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Keeping a Genome Clear of Clutter

The adage "use it or lose it" is commonly regarded as true for skills including foreign language or athletic ability, but it also applies to genetic information.  The parts of plant cells responsible for turning sunlight into forms of energy useful to cells, chloroplasts, contain their own genomes separate from the rest of the genetic information of the cell.  These separate genomes, plastomes, are the remnants of when c