What is “Phantom Pain?”

Phantom pain sensation refers to a person’s feeling related to limbs or organs that are physically not a part of their body. For example, let’s say that a part of a person’s body, such as an arm, was amputated because of an accident. If the person has a phantom pain sensation, then he would feel pain in the position where his arm supposed to exist, even though he doesn’t have an arm (this particular phantom pain related to the limbs are called phantom limb pain).

Then why do these kinds of phenomenon occur? According to the scientists, when a part of a body is amputated, then the region of the brain that was needed for the control of that part of the body is no longer needed, and the neuronal system in the part of the brain falls into disarray. To fill the empty spots in the brain, those parts of the brain take over the tasks of the neighboring neurons and become rearranged to do different things. However, when the brain tries to adapt to the new situation, in some cases this process goes wrong, which eventually causes the phantom pain.

As you can see, there are no apparent causes of the phantom pain discovered by scientists because there might be other reasons other than the cerebral shifts such as inherited nerve damages. However, using fMRI, a method to distinguish the active parts of the brain while it’s working, scientists have discovered that degree of the shifts related to the functions in our brain caused by amputation (and many other factors) is directly proportional to the intensity of pain the patient receives through the phantom pain. Also, researchers found out that a person with a functional artificial limb has felt less phantom limb pain than the patients that do not have it.

Even though it might take some time, a cure for phantom pain keeps on developing as the researches related to phantom pain proceed. I hope that later, the patients would not suffer from their phantom pain, or, in my own words, “false pain.”

 

References

12 July, 2017 – Episode 627 – This Week in Science Podcast (TWIS)

http://www.twis.org/broadcasts/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_pain

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What is CRISPR Cas9?

Have you ever heard about hemophilia? It is a rare genetic disease that disables people from clotting blood. There is not yet therapy for hemophilia. However, a new technology to change the genes related to hemophilia was developed recently. The key point in this new technology is CRISPR-Cas9. It is genetic engineering tool which enables people to cut specific region of DNA and to insert another homologous DNA. Cas9 and guide RNA (gRNA) are important molecules in CRISPR-Cas9.

Cas9, a restriction enzyme, was first discovered in the 1980s. When a virus infects a bacteria, the bacteria cut the intruder’s DNA by using Cas9.

gRNA is made from a small piece of pre-designed RNA sequence. gRNA helps the Cas9 enzyme to cut particular regions of DNA.

CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats. Also, Cas means “CRISPR associated.” Even though this method does not destroy surrounding genes, it is possible to change a particular DNA sequence. Treatments for hemophilia using CRISPR-Cas9 are being studied now in the USA. Researchers say, “If a ‘normal blood clotting factor’ gene is inserted into a hemophilia patient, his or her blood will be clotted.”

In addition to hemophilia, CRISPR therapy related to HIV is also being studied. HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a virus that infects the body immune cells and corrupts the immune system.  One typical thing of HIV is that it can go into the immune cell using the specific receptor proteins that are on the surface of the immune cells. Using CRISPR method, scientists found out that getting rid of these proteins makes HIV unable to infect another cell. Then, without the proteins that enables them to infect other cells, HIVs cannot replicate themselves and therefore collapse.

Also, CRISPR is applied to not only curing genetic diseases but also developing plants and animals. By using CRISPR, researchers made MSTN, which limits the growth of pigs, not perform its role. As a result, researchers were able to get a “super pig,” that has more muscles than normal pigs.

The usage of CRISPR can make valuable crops. In 2016, Dr. Yang and his companions made new mushrooms that doesn’t turn into brown by eliminating the enzymes that cause browning in mushrooms. Korean researchers also developed various crops, such as lettuce that has resistance in harmful insects and bean that decreases the level of cholesterol.

Although CRISPR Cas9 is touted through many positive results, it is a controversial topic. For example, CRISPR Cas9 can be used in manipulating embryonic genes, which causes the whole fetus to change. Some countries prohibit this for ethical reasons. In contrast, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority authorized to alter human embryos in the UK in 2016. Even though there are lots of positive effect modifying genes, we must know that there are some ethical issues that we must concern.

References

http://www.alphr.com/bioscience/1001654/darpa-offers-50-million-to-make-crispr-gene-editing-safer
http://news.mk.co.kr/newsRead.php?year=2017&no=461478

http://science.ytn.co.kr/program/program_view.php?s_mcd=0082&s_hcd=0010&key=201706011107334239

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pp17E4E-O8

http://www.yourgenome.org/facts/what-is-crispr-cas9

Researchers Look at Genetics That are Linked to Chicken Weight Gain

To help farmers in their quest to increase the weight of their roosters and hens, researchers have been interested in searching for the specific genetics behind weight gain in chickens, known scientifically as Gallus gallus.
Using a distinctive experimentally-bred population, scientists from Uppsala University researched the genetic architecture behind chicken weight. Led by Örjan Carlborg, the research team used two different bred lines of Plymouth Rock chickens to explore weight adaptation. In their study, the researchers used an advanced inter-cross line which was founded by breeding the low and high weight lines after forty generations of selections. In the high-weight line, the average 8-week body weight was 1.412kg compared to the low weight counterparts that weighed 170 g. (About 12 % of body weight compared to the high weight line)
Using the 15th generation of the inter-cross line between the low and high weight lines, the scientists identified 20 genetic loci. Examination of these genetic loci allowed scientists to explain over 60 % of the additive genetic variance for the particular trait.
The researchers further focused on few genetic hotspots (7 of 20 genetic loci), referred to as quantitative trait loci. They found that only two could be mapped to one, well-defined loci; others had linked loci with numerous gene variants. The comprehensive dissection of the loci that contribute to the polygenic adaptations in chicken lines does provide a good understanding of the genome-wide mechanisms that are involved in the long-term selection responses.
Although the selection responses for weight were due to numerous loci of small individual effect, the genetic mechanisms in the specific loci were more complex than presumed in the model. The researchers now hope to further examine this chicken model system to increase understanding of the genetic mechanisms of weight adaptation.
References
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170718221902.htm
http://www.poultryworld.net/Genetics/Articles/2017/7/Scientists-look-at-genetics-behind-chicken-weight-gain-161926E/

Major Study has Identified Common Genetics Variants Linked to Muscle Strength

In a genome-wide association study, scientists from the University of Cambridge have identified 16 genetic variants that influence muscle strength in humans. The findings were published last week in the journal of Nature Communications.
According to senior author Professor Nick Wareham, the study highlights the role played by muscle strength in the prevention of the complications and fractures which often follow a fall. The researchers used data on hand grip strength from over 142,000 participants in the UK Biobank study and over 53,000 additional participants from the UK, Denmark, Netherlands, and Australia.
According to Dan Wright, an author and a Ph.D. student at the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, the very large number of participants in the UK Biobank offer a powerful resource for recognizing genes that are involved in complex traits like muscle strength.
The 16 genetic variants associated with grip strength are POLD3, ERP27, TGFA, HOXB3, PEX14, GLIS1, MGMT, SYT1, LRPPRC, GBF1, SLC8A1, KANSL1, IGSF9B, DEC1 ACTG1, and HLA. Most of the highlighted genes play a role in biological processes relevant to the function of muscle, including function and structure of muscle fibers, and the communication of muscle cells with the nervous system.
Using the 16 genetic variants, the researchers were able to examine the hypothesized causal link between adverse health outcomes and muscle strength.
References
http://www.sci-news.com/genetics/common-genetic-variants-muscle-strength-05035.html
http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/common-strength-genes-identified-for-first-time

10% of Brain??

‘So how much percentage of brain did Einstein took advantage of?’

 

This is a question we ask ourselves after being mesmerized by the catchy internet phrase; people use only 10% of their brain.

However, this is an error made by two Harvard psychologists William James and Boris Sidis while they were studying a very high IQ child named Willian Sidis(adulthood IQ between 250-300). They claimed that people only attained a fraction of their mental potential. This statement has been misinterpreted my times resulting in the myth.

In fact, it has been proved that humans use all parts of their brains for different tasks throughout their life.

The human brain is very perplexing. Along with some mundane acts-just some millions-, brain carries out manifestos and comes up with neat solutions to equations. It also analyzes human emotions, experiences as well as the repository of memory and self-awareness.

So basically, this mistake made by some psychologists is so wrong that it is even laughable. What is correct, however, is that at certain moments in anyone’s life, such as when we are simply at rest and thinking, we may be using only 10 percent of our brains.

Although it is ironic, people can use 100% of their brain when they don’t even understand half of this soft tissue.

 

Hackers’ treasure box – ‘Cloud’

Lots of people – almost all people maybe- use ‘cloud’ for their own warehouse of private information. ‘Google Drive’ and ‘I Cloud’ can be the examples of those named ‘Cloud’. Not in the internal storage such as a computer or mobile phone, but in the external storage server, people can download or upload their files. These cloud systems made people’s lives so much comfortable.

iCloud :: 아이클라우드 사용법 1탄, 기본적인 설정 및 아이클라우드 소개

However, ‘I Cloud’ -the cloud system served by ‘Apple’ company- had recently been hacked by the unknown hackers!!! According to a BBC News report in January 2014, hundreds of British and American celebrities’ pictures had been spilled. Following to this incident, lots of people are worrying about their private information being spilled out. Then, why are the hackers aiming to hack these ‘Cloud’ systems despite their advanced security systems – which leads hackers to spend lots of money?

Before hacking the server, the hackers approximately measure how much money would be spent and be earned after hacking the server. This is because the reason why hackers hack is just to get the incomes. For Cloud Systems, however, they can give more than hackers pay to hack the servers’ security systems. There are three big reasons why Cloud Systems give much benefit to the hackers.

The first reason is that the Cloud Systems contain a lot of important information in them. From individuals to large businesses, big data are stored in the Cloud Systems. Thus, the hackers can hold a mortgage on the information and earn much money. The second reason is that since the Cloud Systems are one of the kinds of server systems, diffusion of malignant codes is easily done. For example, the hackers can make malignant codes as the update files falsely and make people to be infected in those codes readily. Lastly, since Cloud Systems are made to share files among people, malignant codes can be shared among people easily. To be specific, sharing infected files with other people make other people’s files to be infected, too.

Cloud Systems are commonly used among lots of people in this world. The security systems on the server were not that weak systems, too. However, the hackers decided to hack since the server makes more benefit to the hackers more than they need to spend for passing the security systems. This is the matter of course, but the Cloud Systems necessarily need to be reinforced in security systems until the hackers profit being canceled out. After then, the hackers might lose the motivation to hack the Cloud System Servers and the private information. I hope this world to be safer in the online world, too.

References:

http://www.sciencetimes.co.kr/?p=162359&cat=135&post_type=news

Could humans ever regenerate the heart? The answer is YES.

 

Nowadays, there are a lot of people who need the organs immediately, but there are not that many supplies of organs to fulfill their needs in order to save their life. However, recently, the scientists figured out that the answer for whether it is possible to regenerate the organs turned out to be YES. In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the University of Florida scientist and colleagues found genes known to form hearts cells in humans and other animals in the gut of a muscle-less and heartless sea anemone. However, this is not just a simple, ordinary creature. It has very unique superpower-like abilities, which is it can be cut into many pieces and each piece will regenerate into a new animal. They figured out that this is very useful because they can modify the genes in this sea anemone and cut it into tiny pieces, then it’s population will automatically increase and it would make a new animal.

But how does it work? Usually, in humans, it doesn’t work. If we take the skin off and try to regenerate into the heart, it is impossible to do it. The reason why it is impossible is that we do have ‘lock down loops’. This is the thing when the genes are turned on once, they tell each other to stay on in an animal’s cells for its entire lifetime. In other words, animals with a lock-down such as vertebrates and flies on their genes cannot grow new heart parts or use those cells for other functions. Thus our skin cell can only produce skin cell.

On the other hand, apparently, in sea anemone embryos, the lock-down loops do not exist. Which means one cell can easily change to other cells and be part of it naturally. Scientists can easily modify the genes and make it into a heart, which can save one’s lives. Moreover, according to the website, the study supports the idea that definitive muscle cells found in the majority of animals arose from a bifunctional gut tissue, that had both absorptive and contractile properties. And, in the sea anemone tissue, it has characteristics of the heart cells which is rhythmic peristaltic waves of contraction. Thus, this might be the key to produce not the artificial organs, but the real organs made from the animal.

 

References: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170626190625.htm

https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-could-one-day-regenerate-a-human-heart-suggests-a-new-study