Category Archives: Science Club

Why do people undergo cosmetic surgery?

Why do people undergo cosmetic surgery? It’s a simple question that’s unlikely to yield a simple answer.

Cosmetic surgery’s original intention was to treat the patients who have injured their physical appearances such as physiognomy. However, including Korea, lots of countries’ denizens are undergoing cosmetic surgery in order to achieve “beauty”.

A common comment from those who have gone under the knife or needle is “I do it for myself.” But what does that really mean? Maybe that the patient decided on surgery because of the benefits it confers on the self, not for any effects it might have on others, such as romantic partners or rivals. “I do it for myself” also emphasizes the free will of the patient: he or she doesn’t feel pressured into surgery by outside forces, such as peer pressure, the media, or advertisements.

However, new research published recently has questioned the motives of those who opt for cosmetic procedures and suggests that they may be more complex than many would care to admit.


One of the clearest benefits of cosmetic surgery is that it improves appearance. If it didn’t, nobody would spend the money or go through the pain associated with those procedures.

Most of us would rather be more attractive than our peers because attractiveness confers all kinds of benefits, including the ability to compete for higher-value partners.


Syrian boy who had epidermolysis bullosa is transplanted transgenic cell

Epidermolysis bullosa is a genetic disease that causes blisters and chronic wounds.  Epidermolysis bullosa occurs when the epidermal layer of the skin cannot attach fitly to the underlying dermis by the mutated connective protein. Epidermolysis bullosa is known as an incurable disease. Treatment only cares for blisters and prevent a new one. However, there is a good news. A few days ago, a team announced that a seven-year-old Syrian boy who transplanted transgenic replacement because of epidermolysis bullosa showed some progress.  In 2015, regenerative medicine specialist Michele De Luca met doctors in Germany whose Syrian patient was suffering by epidermolysis bullosa. Laminin b3, a protein that regulates the attaching epidermal cells, was not encoded properly in the patient’s gene. Although Syrian boy met a doctor in Germany, his condition became more severe. He even lost approximately 80 percent of his epidermis. De Luca had experience in transgenic cell therapy. His patients were lack of small patches of the epidermis. On the other hand, the boy needed approximately 80 percent of replacement. However, his condition was the worst and his parents decided to treat their son using transgenic cell therapy. From his biopsy, keratinocyte, a bountiful cell type in the epidermis, was extracted and transducted so that the gene in the boy’s cell encodes the laminin b3. After the cells grow enough to cover his epidermis, they were grafted in two operations.  After the operations, his new skin attached properly to the underlying dermis and had appropriate levels of laminin b3. Now, his skin does not show any defects. According to Michele De Luca, “he’s back to school, he’s exercising, he’s started to play soccer… it’s quite amazing.”

Other scientists showed a positive response.  

“It establishes a landmark in the field of stem cell therapy,” Elaine Fuchs, a skin scientist at the Rockefeller University.

“The work provides in-depth, novel information on skin stem cells and demonstrated the great potential of these cells for treating a devastating disorder,” says Allessandro Aiuti, a professor at the San Raffaele Scientific Institute


Aging? That’s inevitable

Myriads of people, who were eager to stop aging, were desperate to find any solutions to stop the process. Aging is a natural phenomenon or a process that is certainly unavoidable. However, people have firm belief that they can do certain things in order to delay aging process on their skins.

Unfortunately, however, researchers in the University of Arizona just proved that those efforts are futile because it is mathematically impossible to half aging in multicellular organisms like humans.

When aging is happening, two things are getting processed in our body. One, the cells slow down and start to lose function. For example, hair cells stop making hair pigments and make the hair to turn white. The other thing is that some cells crank up their growth rate, which can cause cancer cells to form. This means that when we are old, we have some cancer cells in our body. Even if it doesn’t show as a symptom, we still own those cancer cells. Even the researchers give an example: “even if natural selection were perfect, aging would still occur, since cancer cells tend to cheat when cells compete.”

Overall, although human mortality is an undisputed fact of life, the researcher’s explanation easily and clearly demonstrates the fact that it is inevitable to avoid death or aging.

Is Brain Necessary for a Growing Frog?

The embryonic brain of a frog is busy long before it is completely formed. What it usually does is supervising the process of forming the layout of complex patterns of muscles and nerve fibers by sending signals to the part far from it just a day after fertilization. So, if the brain of a frog embryo is missing, the growth of its body goes wrong, reported in Nature Communications on September 25.

The result of this research from brainless embryos and tadpoles helps the biologists to understand the signals of the brain which are involved in the correct development of muscles and nerve fibers. Scientists have usually researched short-range signals that occur between two neighboring cells, not a long one. So, this research is the first example of investigating long-range signals.

Celia Herrera-Rincon of Tufts University in Medford, Mass., and colleagues devised a simple way to observe the body growth of the brainless tadpole. They got rid of growing brains of the African clawed frog embryos just a day after fertilization. Surprisingly, they succeeded in becoming tadpoles from embryos without the brain and became innovative experiment result showing that some organisms can grow without a brain.

This experiment revealed that brains are not essential to the body growth of embryos. However, there are also side effects of having no brain. The brain directs and guides the behavior of the parts of the body before they fully grow. Normally, muscle fibers form a stacked chevron pattern. But in brainless tadpoles, they form incorrectly bungled pattern. “The borders between segments are all wonky,” says the study coauthor Michael Levin, also of Tufts University. “They can’t keep a straight line.”

Nerve fibers spreading on the body of the tadpole were also abnormally grown in the brainless frog embryos. Nerve fibers surrounding the bodies of the tadpoles formed a confusing pattern in the wrong places during their growth. Muscle and nerve abnormalities have been found to be the biggest problems, and major organs such as the heart are also thought to be defective in those embryos, and further research is required to clarify those defects.

In addition, the growth process of brainless embryos was interrupted by certain substances that would not interfere normal embryo’s development. Therefore, it might be reasonable to conclude that the brain of a frog embryo blocks harmful substances at the beginning of its growth.

Scientists were also interested in how the brain transmits long-distance signals to distant cells during the growth process. They do not know the exact process but have some idea about it. Injection of chemical messengers and proteins like acetylcholine and  HCN2 improved the development of muscle system in brainless frog embryos. However, further research is needed to find out if those injections are actually mimicking the process of the embryo’s brain.

Although frogs and mammals cannot be identified as same, it seems plausible that this principle can be applied to humans because the substances forming the bodies are fundamentally same in both organisms.



Have you ever seen a slumberous jellyfish?

Have you ever heard a story that an invertebrate without a brain sleeps? I know it is unbelievable for you. However, it was reported September 21, 2017, in the journal Current Biology that sleeping of invertebrates without a brain might be possible. Paul Stenberg and other researchers involved in Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator observed the upside-down jellyfish Cassiopea. They are known to live in very clear tropical water. They have unusual characteristics. They rest upside-down on the bottom of the water and they are silver dollar–sized, but they pulse like other types of jellyfish. The researchers videotaped the jellies with their iPhone, and they finally figured out a clue for sleeping. Their pulsing activities at night was considerably lower compared to daytime. When the researchers dropped the food, their pulsing came back to normal pulsing as if the smell of coffee wake up at morning. They also found another clue of sleep by dropping the floor out from the slumberous jellies. They put Cassiopea inside a PVC pipe with a mesh bottom. Lowering the pipe, they made Cassiopea float in open water. As a result, Cassiopea showed slow responses to stimulations. The results bring us to many questions; Do you need neurons to sleep? ; Do you need more than one cell to sleep?



Clone Editing by using CRISPR

Fascinating, marvelous, and astonishing would be the appropriate words to describe people’s reactions when they see this provocative topic. Nowadays, scientists can edit the clone by using the method called CRISPR, and Chinese scientists have proved that it is plausible. The intention was to fix genetically malfunctioning genes in human embryos in order to prevent future disorders caused by those genes. The researchers created cloned embryos with a genetic mutation that could cause fatal blood disorder. In addition to that, they were able to precisely correct the DNA by changing the sequence of genes into the normal type.

CRISPR is an abbreviation of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats,  and this method was used by the scientists to modify the gene sequences. Huang’s team used ‘based editing’, a modification of CRISPR-Cas9. By using this method, they were able to introduce an enzyme to specific gene sequences but does not cut the DNA. Instead, the Cas9 enzyme was disabled and tethered to another enzyme that can swap out individual DNA base pairs. It is a common knowledge that hundreds of genetic diseases are caused by single-based changes, or ‘point mutations’; however, thanks to the CRISPR, scientists were able to edit the point mutations during the embryonic stage and could potentially stave off such conditions. Apparently, Huang and his co-workers were able to convert the genes from 8 embryos out of 20, which is the pretty low rate to be considered for clinical use, but still, the efficiency was high relative to that achieved in other gene-editing studies.

Apparently, Huang and his co-workers were able to convert the genes of 8 embryos out of 20, which is a pretty low rate of success to be considered for clinical use, but still, the efficiency was high compared to that achieved in other gene-editing studies. Some scientists argue that this method could cause off-target effects-unintended genetic changes during the conversion. However, the authors reported that none of these problems were found during the experiment. In the future, in order for this method to be used practically, the scientists would need to improve the rate of successful conversion of certain genes.

Is olfactory sense crucial to bird’s navigation?

Researchers from universities of Oxford, Barcelona, and Pisa have done an experiment about bird’s navigation; they embark an experiment to find out whether the sense of smell is important to the birds for navigating.  They progressed an experiment with the bird named “Scopoli”, separated by three parts:

  1. Temporarily anosmic group
  2. Group carrying small magnets
  3. Control group

The researchers made these three groups of birds to have a trip across the ocean. As a result of the experiment, all of these three groups of birds came back to their home, where they are sent. Therefore, we can conclude that olfactory sense is not a necessary sense for navigation of birds. However, the researchers analyzed the route that the three groups of birds flew and found out that the idea “Olfactory sense is not necessary for birds to navigate” was a misconception. The orientation that the birds of the first group made over the ocean was significantly different with that of the control group. The orientations of the first group’s birds were curiously straight but poor, although the third group’s birds’ orientations were well oriented.

Through this experiment, the researchers were able to find out the significant fact that the olfactory sense is crucial for the birds to find the way back to their home.






06 September 2017 – Episode 635 – This Week in Science Podcast (TWIS) / The bird nose knows, ya know??