Saturday, September 20, 2008

Breaking Down Tyrosine

I enjoy watching this show about various patients who have usually rare medical conditions which often leave a whole host of doctors dumbfounded before someone realizes what is actually going on and gives the patient the right treatment. It was funny because just a few hours before I saw this particular episode I was trying to memorize the structure of the standard amino acids (tyrosine being one of them). Well the episode I saw had to do with a newborn who kept throwing up each time she was fed. Also, I remember that her mother had gone to her prenatal checkups regularly and that during one of the last checkups doctors found after some testing, that the baby had abnormally high levels of a particular protein in her blood. Therefore they warned the mother and told her that her baby may suffer from mental retardation and other complications. The mother was very worried but at birth her fears momentarily subsided since the child appeared to be at least normal physically. So the child was taken home where she proceeded to vomit immediately after each feeding. She was taken to her pediatrician who suggested the parents switch the baby to a different type of formula and check back with him in two weeks time to see how the baby had progressed. The child only continued to vomit and soon her parents decided that she was truly sick so they took her to the local emergency room. She was examined by a number of doctors before a liver specialist saw her and realized that her problem was that she was lacking a particular protein which broke down the amino acid tyrosine. Each time she ate and broke down the food, her tyrosine levels would increase to dangerously high levels because she was unable to metabolize tyrosine. So her body would react to the toxic levels of tyrosine the only way it knew how-by throwing up the partially digested food and decreasing the amino acids levels within her body. Fortunately, once diagnosed there is an effective means of treatment which was administered to the sickly newborn immediately. She improved dramatically and today is a healthy eleven year old who lives the life of a normal, vivacious pre-teen. Today pre-natal checkups screen for this protein difficiency, which if left uncorrected is fatal. I find it pretty amazing when I can see how the things we're learning in class can be related and applied to situations we may see one day as a health care professional or have to deal with personally if our own children are afflicted. So that tyrosine is pretty important if I can only remember its structure I'll be set for that exam Tuesday!

sleep and stress

So this week has been stressful I must admit. I am looking around and I see it’s not just me who’s feeling the semester starting to get into full swing. It has been four weeks and yes I’m getting into the groove of things because I realized after a couple of weeks of cutting it close, I needed to make the necessary adjustments or else the semester will not turn out the way I’d like it to.
I think I can see the effects of all the things I am stressing over physically. For instance, I am seeing laugh lines around my mouth which I thought were not supposed to appear until I was in my late twenties or early thirties according to the women I hear complaining on Oprah all of the time. I think it’s the lack of sleep though mostly. I have read in various places that sleep deprivation accelerates the aging process and just recently I learned that it also may factor into increasing the severity of a number of common ailments in old age. I heard O.B./Gyn. on Oprah say once that lack of sleep changes the way your body metabolizes foods and that was when it clicked for me. I understood the links between food, sleep and functioning at least somewhat. It's all interrelated and sleep is like the physiological cornerstone. I need to sleep better and that's the point I'm driving at. A friend of mine put it in perspective when she admitted that she had fallen asleep in the library before class. I think that's just a sign you're pushing yourself a little too hard and you need some sleep, some time to rejuvenate yourself. But she realized it herself and said she was going to go home and take some downtime for herself. It's just finding a balance between work, play and sleep-duh right? No, actually I think we all understand that on some level, knowing that life needs balance is common sense but achieving that balance is what I think gets most of us. So maybe I should go work on striking my balance and get some rest huh? Haha. I'm a piece of work-stressing about stress!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

More on cats...then lobsters

Last time I was commenting on how I do not care much for cats. I just wanted to expand on the whole animal subject by saying that for the most part I like animals. Fish, little hampsters (minus the ones with sharp teeth who enjoy biting your hand as you try to pet them), starfish, whales, dolphins, giraffes, gorillas, pandas, monkeys, lions, turtles, iguanas, mocking birds, butterflies, pigs, tigers, elephants, hummingbirds, camels and koalas-you name it and I'm pretty much happy that I get to share the planet with with them. It's just the common house cat or the feral kind running around campus that I dislike. Specifically, I am more of a dog person. I just like the relaxed way my own dog sets his head on my lap and closes his eyes to rest when I'm sitting there studying or talking with my family. Maybe cats do the same thing but I don't think I could get past my fear enough to let one try to get that close to me.
Also, I was thinking about trying some lobster before this past Wednesday but after the whole "nociception" discussion (even though I think Dr.Z just used the session to reveal what a farse that woman's argument was) I felt guilty about wanting to try it (I've never tasted lobster before). Now I wonder if Dr. Z has ever had lobster and whether or not he thinks it's humane to consume the animal. It's stupid, but I never thought about the fact that even though I think certain animals are tasty, they have brains and can feel pain. I didn't mean for that last part to rhyme, it just came out that way. But I eat the meat of cows and chickens nearly everyday and I'm pretty sure the same is true for them, so maybe I should just stop being so hippocritical and eat some pasta or something else instead. This is getting too ethically touchy so I'll stop here. Plus I don't think I could handle being a vegan and it's getting late and I got a ton of other work to get to so I have got to end this now. Goodnight bloggers, see you in class Monday hopefully.

Creepy cats and yeasty balloons

So this week I can’t think of much to write about to be honest except two things which come to mind: Feral cats and yeast. I didn’t know what “feral” meant exactly but I asked my older brother and he said that a feral cat was one which was at one time domesticated but chose to return to wild ( I guess to live on its own as a stray). Lovely, I’m a wild, mangy cat. Yep, that’s my group. I just do not care for these animals, I don’t know why, but I’m not comfortable around them. I apologize to anyone who reads this and is offended but everyone has their own idiosyncrasies, right? My mother feels otherwise and has two of her own (one grey and the other a yellow tomcat who looks like the heinous one Dr.Z had on the feral cats slide in class). Again I do not dislike them; it’s just that with their yellow eyes and sharp claws they make me wary. Maybe I had an unpleasant run in with a cat as a baby or a young child and I either am subconsciously suppressing it or truly can’t recall it. I think I have this fear in the back of my mind that someday I’ll just be walking along and accidently step on a cats tail or do something to inadvertently piss one off and it’ll just leap up and slash my jugular with its claws (or if declawed, use its teeth to do so). I know, highly unlikely but that’s just me.
Oh and about the yeast: I got a call from my friend who’s just spent her first week teaching high school freshman biology. She wanted to make the class interesting and use experiments to help reinforce the concepts she’s teaching them. So she was trying to mix yeast, water and sugar together in the right proportions so that when these ingredients are heated then placed into a balloon, they expand and inflate it. She wasn’t given specific amounts of how much of each ingredient she should use so she did some troubleshooting and finally after multiple attempts and much frustration, enjoyed success! She called me when she finally got the experiment to work and I was happy for her. I liked my high school freshman biology teacher (she was a sweet lady) but to be honest, I didn’t learn a single thing about biology that year because all we did was hurriedly copy biological notes from the overhead and turn them in for a grade. Sorry, but I don’t learn like that. At the end of the year I still didn’t even know how to properly draw out a Punnet square! I just wanted to mention it because I think my friend’s enthusiasm over the inflation of the balloon is noteworthy. I would have preferred to have someone like her as my teacher any day out of my freshman year in high school. Just a thought, you know.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Presidential Debate-Ahhhh!

I'm supposed to post about whether or not I think it would be worth while to have a Presidential Science Debate and I definitely think it would be beneficial to do so. I feel that Science plays an important role in each and every life and so to progress as a nation and to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life for people across the globe, we need to know what our leader for the next four years (be it John McCain or Barack Obama) thinks about the subject. I read some of the responses (and skimmed others) which were posted on the website Dr. Z thoughtfully provided (Thanks, you went the extra mile :-) ) and for the most part my confidence in the candidate I am partial to was reinforced. I admit that I was unfamiliar with some of the terms used in the responses, but it's not like I can't Google them and figure things out. Anyway, from what I did understand, I have concluded that I share my candidate's views on a number of science oriented topics and was pleased to find detailed responses to questions on how exactly they would deal with issues like the energy crisis, stem-cell research and promotion of more rigorous math and science curricula in our nation's schools. I preferred reading the details of how they plan to work to ameliorate our nation's situation in terms of these and other various topics as opposed to listening to a speech where I have found they (both candidates) tend to gloss over the steps they would take to resolve these problems and instead use language to appeal to the emotions of public. The site was very helpful and informative in my opinion.

I like P.B.S.

So Dr. Z has asked me to write about which scientist I would invite to visit and speak at UTPA if I could ask any living biologist...interesting. At first I had a tough time coming up with someone I would ask and why, but after a while I remembered an individual I saw a program on a few weeks ago. I was up late one night and I found an interesting piece on P.B.S. about a young, female scientist showing so I stopped flipping through the channels and watched. It described her life so far like this: She was born I believe, in Israel and immigrated with her family to the East Coast of the United States at the age of two. Once she reached school age it was clear that she excelled academically especially in the areas of math and science. She ended up having a real passion for these subjects and decided to pursue her studies in these fields at Harvard University. She went onto develop an algorithm which is now commonly used in genetic research and currently teaches Genetics at Harvard. Her brilliance and youth were initially what captivated my attention but as the program went on, I began to notice as I was listening to her speak about her work, that she really, honestly loved what she did. She said a couple of things which caught my attention more than anything else. One of them was that when asked to describe herself she said, "I am a scientist." She gave a much more detailed response than that but ultimately, fundamentally that's who she said she was and the fact that she said it with such enthusiasm was what left an impression on me. The memory stuck in my brain and after some time spent thinking about Dr. Z's prompt for the week I was able to recall her-the way she spoke with such passion and fluidity about her work-it was fascinating to watch. The other thing she said was something to the effect that if you do what you love, you'll be alright. I don't think that's true 100% of the time, but I'd like to believe it's true for the most part. I know, I know, I'm young and naive but what the heck? This is starting to sound too much like the conclusion of a Grey's Anatomy episode so I'll stop now and say that I'd invite Pardi (that's her first name, I can't remember her last name right now) because she loves her science (which happens to be a field of Biology-Genetics) and it's always refreshing to listen to someone speak about something they genuinely love.