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SCIENTIFIC TAR HEEL

ENGL 105 Fall 2016

Blue Light

Why your brain hates the electronics you love Biodiversity Loss & Global Economies The Future of Personalized Nutrition The Effects of Maternal Smoking


Athlete’s

An


Athlete’s use of supplemental creatine to help boost energy and heighten training results.

Fix Photography by Scott Webb


This article was written by Caroline Todd, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Caroline is planning on studying Chemistry and Biology and hopes to get a degree in Pharmacy.

Q

uadriceps straining and breath heavy, the cyclists pedal through the streets in one tightly packed peloton. Each one is pushing themselves far beyond their comfort zones, dismissing pain left and right. As the cyclists reach the hill, one pushes out front and leads the way to the finish line. This cyclist, the winner, the greatest, was the one cyclist on creatine.

Creatine is a compound formed in protein metabolism involved in the supply of energy for muscular contraction. Athletes use this supplement to legally “heighten” their results by increasing lean muscle mass and fast reaction times. But, what does the world really know about creatine? Do athletes really know what they’re putting into their body and how it works? Read more to find out. BRAIN POWER

Creatine, similar to caffeine, is a commonly used supplement to aid exercise training and performance. The supplement has been proven safe and effective if taken properly. Creatine has also shown some other benefits such as improving brain power. As creatine fuels your body, it also increases the energy available to your brain. The more energy your brain has, the better it functions.

The Royal Society worked with students at the University of Sydney and Macquarie University in Australia to determine whether or not creatine affected working memory and general intelligence. They conducted an experiment on 45 vegetarian young adults (i.e. college students). It was important that the subjects were vegetarian because creatine and amino acids have very similar effects on a body. Therefore, subjects who ate meat regularly paired with subjects who do not may have created varied results.

in brief Creatine can be put into the body naturally and through supplement. Creatine is often found in meats, fish, and eggs.

Studies suggest creatine can increse memory recognition and improve heart function.

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Supplemental creatine gives the body more energy and provokes lean, strong muscle mass.

When first taking supplemental creatine, the body will experience a weight gain of 1-2 kg.


Many cyclists use creatine for endurance purposes. The creatine helps them recover after long workouts and gives them more energy in their next workout. Photography by Nick Hall.

The experiment showed positive results for “improved recognition memory and reduced mental fatigue” after the subjects had taken creatine for six weeks. Taking the supplement ended up improving brain function. The journal also claims that many other studies even show positive results of improved heart function after taking supplemental creatine (The Royal Society 2003). Creatine can improve your heart and your brain, but what more could it do for you?

TAKING CREATINE

There are many studies that indicate creatine supplementation safe. Most athletic federations and organizations, including the World Anti-Doping Agency, do not consider creatine a banned substance although creatine is technically part of the steroids family. Creatine is considered a steroid, even though it isn’t one,

because it produces similar results. Because creatine is naturally found in muscles and foods high in amino acids, the supplement is not a steroid itself. Creatine is synthesized endogenously in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas, with daily production yielding to roughly one gram per day. This process means that creatine entering the body is completely natural and anybody can instinctively absorb the supplement safely. Also, 95% of the body’s creatine is stored within skeletal muscles readily available to be used during exercise. While exercising or training intensely, creatine increases ATP (energy) availability, ultimately giving the athlete more energy to enhance their performance. In a 12-week study, Jeff Volek alongside many other scientists found that creatine supplementation led to “statistically significant improvements in body mass, fat free mass, bench press, squat, muscle fiber cross-sectional area, and bench press volume during

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studies report negative effects on glucose homeostasis (the regulation of blood sugar levels) which is why people with diabetes should avoid creatine supplementation altogether. Dr. Rae from The Royal Society claims that the supplement can have some antisocial effects and can make you a “considerably less fragrant person” (The Royal Society 2003). Therefore, by taking creatine, you run the risk of losing some of your personality and flare.

Diagram of how creatine is absorbed by the body. The muscle uses energy to contract and then releases energy through movement. The creatine then works with the released energy to enhance the muscle contraction.

training sessions” (Trexler 2015). Thus, creatine can help athletes battle endurance and strength fatigue. Creatine can also improve high-intensity sprint performance. Because the body is able to quickly metabolize and refuel muscles with more energy, the body can use its strength to exert more force and move more quickly. Athletes figure if they can take the supplement every day before training, then each day they will be able to push a little further or go a little faster. Another study concluded that creatine supplementation can reduce “muscle cell damage and inflammation following the exhaustive exercise” (Robson 2016). Creatine can also promote complete recovery from daily intensive exercise. Being able to recover fully from a workout can seriously benefit committed athletes who practice day to day.

SO WHY DON’T WE ALL TAKE CREATINE? Many studies have observed the supplementation of creatine for shorter stretches of time but long term effects are still unknown. Some 6 Scientific Tar Heel, September 2016

Also, creatine should only be taken alongside difficult, intense workouts. So, really, only athletes who exhaust their bodies day by day should be taking the supplement. Creatine is an osmotically active substance, which means it increases protein synthesis by providing water to your muscle cells. Taking creatine in general will often increase body weight by 1-2 kg due to water weight. However, after the initial weight gain, any further increase in body weight is likely due to increase in muscle mass. In a study based on cyclists, Dr. Ziegenfuss and fellow researchers found that after taking creatine for three days, “subjects experienced increased total body mass of, on average, 0.9 kilograms, a 6.6% increase in thigh volume, and increases in performance in all six sprints” (Robson 2016).

Creatine improves sprint performance and long distance endurance. Photograph by Braden Collum.


HOW DO I DECIDE?

Creatine supplements are often sold in various flavored powders. Creatine must be taken with a sufficient amount of water. The factory-made powders make consuming the right amount of creatine and water very easy.

The only real concern of creatine is taking too much of it. Like any vitamin or supplement, overdosing can cause side-effects such as stomach pain, diarrhea, kidney problems, etc. Diarrhea and nausea can occur when too much creatine is taken at once and stomach cramping can occur when creatine is supplemented without sufficient water (Creatine - Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects). Easy fixes for these small issues are taking the creatine with water. Creatine is sold in various flavored powders and is easy to mix in smoothies or just plain water. It is important to mix creatine with other healthy ingredients such as fruit, vegetables, and pure juices with no added sugars or concentrates. To monitor creatine supplementation, it is best to schedule the time and amount of creatine you take each day while considering the amount of meats, eggs, and fish – all items with sufficient natural creatine – consumed on a specific day. Scheduling the supplement will help your body process the supplement better and apply its benefits to the body. Creatine should also not be taken an hour before sleep because, similar to caffeine, it will increase your energy and might cause you to be restless.

A lot of people, mainly athletes, consider creatine but do not know if their workout fits the bill. The only advice I can give is to give it a try for a couple weeks and see how you feel. As stated above, creatine only works effectively on people who take it preceeding a high-intensity workout and the supplement tends to benefit people who are trying to bulk up. Many weight lifters take creatine to help push the process along. Weight lifting aside, endurance based cardio athletes can also benefit from the supplement. Many cyclists and long-distance runners, swimmers, etc. use creatine to increase energy in their muscles. With creatine, their bodies are able to push a little harder than they usually do to go the extra mile. All in all, each person should take whatever supplement works best for them, as long as they understand the effects of the added substance.

more to explore Creatine - Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects. Independent Analysis on Supplements & Nutrition. [cited 2016 Sep 14]. [Internet]. Available from: https://examine.com/supplements/creatine/ Kalhan SC, Gruca L, Marczewski S, Bennett C, Kummitha C. 2016. Whole body creatine and protein kinetics in healthy men and women: effects of creatine and amino acid supplementation. [cited 2016 Aug 31];48(3):677–687. [Internet]. Available from: http://link. springer.com/article/10.1007/s00726-015-2111-1#copyrightinformation Robson D. 20 January 2016. Creatine: Why Use It? Scientific Support To Back Its Benefits. Bodybuilding.com [Internet]. [cited 2016 Sep 14]. Available from: http:// www.bodybuilding.com/fun/drobson181.htm The Royal Society. 13 August 2003. Boost your brain power: creatine, a compound found in muscle tissue, found to improve working memory and general intelligence. ScienceDaily [Internet]. [cited 2016 Aug 31]. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/08/030813070944.htm Trexler E. 23 June 2015. Effects of creatine, coffee, and caffeine anhydrous on strength and sprint performance. [Internet]. [cited 2016 Aug 31]. Available from: https:// cdr.lib.unc.edu/record/uuid:206ae5c7-9b0c-454d-88ceda0d4cd17024

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Super v Super

On the Mechanisms of Antimicrobial Resist Fields of Antim


Bugs s. Drugs

ance and Advancements Being Made in the icrobial Drugs


O

Jonathan Landon Powell, born Feb. 3rd, 1998, is an American scientific journalist who has written many articles for Scientific American and its affiliates, and has achieve global acclaim as a writer.

nce thought of as some kind of “miracle drug,” penicillin was discovered in the year 1928 and changed medicine in the most drastic of ways. Diseases that were previously untreatable were suddenly manageable, or even curable, thanks to the discovery of this first antibiotic drug. Penicillin became the go-to drug for every sickness, and doctors everywhere began to prescribe penicillin to patients who had even the slightest cold, as they thought it was the cure to any infection. While penicillin saved the lives of many people, it was implemented into the practice of medicine without adequate study or understanding by the majority of the medical and scientific communities; the property of antibiotic resistance was not accounted for, and therefore became what may be the downfall of antibiotic drugs. The over-prescription and general overuse of antibiotics is almost directly resultant of misconceptions regarding their properties by society as a whole. The overuse of antibiotics has led to an overall increasing trend of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that is culminating in the formation of “superbugs” that are resistant to many, or all, of the strongest antibiotics around. Though antibiotic resistance is becoming more and more prominent in populations of bacteria, advancements are being made in the realm of antibiotic drugs that can have effects on bacteria that are resistant to many other drugs.

Defining Antimicrobial Resistance: A look into deferent perspectives on what antimicrobial resistance actually is.

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Origin and Mechanisms of Antibiotic Resistance: Individual methods of bacterial resistance are discussed in detail alongside the ways drugs can counteract these methods


Figure 1 (left) and Figure 2 (above). E. coli bacteria are shown alongside a photo of common antibacterial Amoxicilin. Image credit (freesource photos).

DEFINING ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), antimicrobial resistance is the condition of ineffectiveness of medicines against microbes because of changes that occur when they come into contact with the said medicines as treatments of the infections of the aforementioned microbes (2016). Antibiotic resistance is a form of antimicrobial resistance that is specific to bacteria and the ineffectiveness of antibiotics in treatments of bacterial infections. Bacterial resistance can also be resultant of specific genes or mechanisms that are present in the individual bacterium, which are either intrinsic or acquired, and can be pre-existing components of the cell that allow for antibiotic resistance (Kahlmeter 2016). These definitions, however, are relatively abstract in regards to the clinical definitions of resistance, which need to be more concrete as clinical treatment is more science than art. This leads to the development of a more specific and concrete definition of resistance based on the relationship of the effect of medicine on bacteria. There exist international organizations, such as the European Committee on Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing, that are in charge of determining the susceptibility of certain microbes to certain antimicrobial pharmaceuticals, and thereby create the concrete definition of resistance needed in the scientific field (Kahlmeter 2016). The presence of an antibiotic drug in a culture of bacteria will prevent the growth of that population of bacteria at a certain dose, and the lowest dose that will effectively inhibit the growth of the bacterial population is named the Minimal Inhibitory Concentration (MIC), and is used to determine the clinical breakpoint, which is

the point between the success and failure of a drug (Kahlmeter 2016). This clinical breakpoint is dependent upon an index that measures the concentrations of antimicrobial drugs’ success by the microbes’ relative susceptibility to the drugs; when finding the MIC, the need for a low concentration of the drug would suggest that the microbe is susceptible to the treatment, while a high concentration would suggest that the microbe is resistant, and any concentration in between would suggest an intermediate effect on the bacteria (Kahlmeter 2016). In a society in which globalization is ever reaching new heights, the spread of resistant bacteria is a constant threat, but as Kahlmeter (2016) suggests, the lack of international cooperation and adoption of clear, universal standards for the classification of microbial resistance by individual countries and international organizations creates the potential for the misadministration of effective methods of counteraction against resistant or potentially resistant bacteria, which would be disastrous for medicine and the preservation of life on a global scale As dangerous as the future may seem, advancements are being made in the treatments of resistant microbes. However, to fully understand these advancements, investigations into the mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance must be made. ORIGIN AND MECHANISMS OF ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE While antimicrobial resistance has become one of the primary concerns of the medical community only over the last few decades, the concept of resistance itself has been around for as long as the microbes themselves (Munita and Arias 2016). Antimicrobial resistance is September 2016, Scientific Tar Heel 5


Figure 3. Visual representation of the methods of genetic aquisition of resistance, mechanisms of resistance, and target sites of antimicrobial drugs. Image credit (Chellat et al. 2016).

largely thought of to be resultant of evolution by the microbes facilitated by the interactions of the microbes with their environments (Munita and Arias 2016). As is represented by Alexander Fleming and his discovery of Penicillin from the fungus Penicillium rubens, the large majority of antimicrobial compounds are made up of naturally occurring compounds, so the majority of resistances are intrinsic and were developed through evolutionary contact between microbes and their environments (Munita and Arias 2016). In regards to evolution, and more specifically genetic mutation, Munita and Arias (2016) explain that in a situation where there is a population of microbes in contact with an antimicrobial compound, there would inevitably be genetic mutations, per the trends of the natural world, which would give microbes resistance to the compound. These resistant bacteria would be the only ones to survive, and would therefore procreate to form an entirely resistant generation of microbes. Another method of genetic development of antimicrobial resistance is through Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT); this allows for genes that code for resistances in certain bacteria to be transferred to the genomes of other organisms, even ones that are different from the organism from which the original DNA came (Munita and Arias 2016). The three most common methods of HGT used by bacteria are transformation, which is the application of naked, free-floating DNA in the environment to the cell’s own genome; transduction, which occurs through contact with a extracellular body, such as a virus; and

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conjugation, which is the transfer of DNA from cell to cell, mediated by physical contact (Munita and Arias 2016).Transformation is similar to a robot picking up parts from its environment to use for its inner workings, while transduction is similar to someone coming along to make changes to the robot, and conjugation is similar to another robot giving it its own parts. Just as there are varying ways microbes can acquire different types of DNA, there are also many ways that this acquired DNA can work to cause resistance to the different kinds of antimicrobial compounds. Antimicrobial resistance operates through modifying the antibacterial molecule itself, decreasing the antimicrobial’s ability to penetrate deep into the cell, modifying the target sites of the antimicrobial, and adaptation that spans the entirety of the cell (Munita and Arias 2016). Enzymatic Resistance One extremely effective method of resistance is for the cell to produce enzymes that cause the antimicrobial to be completely ineffective, either by chemically altering it to be inactive or by completely destroying the molecule (Munita and Arias 2016). Chemically, the enzymes alter the atomic structure of the molecules in the antimicrobial through a variety of different types of reactions so that it has less of an avidity to bond to its target (Munita and Arias 2016). Entirely destroying the antimicrobial depends on the use of the enzyme, β-lactamase, to destroy the β-lactam ring structure in an antimicrobial compound, which is imperative to the molecule’s structure (Munita and


Arias 2016). Because enzymes are proteins and are created through protein synthesis, one effective way antimicrobials can counteract this resistance is to disrupt the process of the creation of the enzymes themselves by interacting with the different subunits and individual processes of protein synthesis (Chellat et al. 2016). One method of attacking the enzymes that inhibit antimicrobial drugs’ effects is by inhibiting the β-lactamase molecules by permanently bonding to them. This is extremely effective when it works, because many effective antimicrobial drugs are based on β-lactam ring structures and β-lactamase inhibition protects them, but β-lactamase inhibition only works on a few types of β-lactamase enzymes (Chellat et al. 2016). Resistance by Decreased Penetration As many antimicrobials have intracellular targets for their action, decreasing their ability to penetrate deep into the cell can prove to be an effective measure for resistance. Two methods used to achieve this are decreasing the permeability of the cell membrane and the use of Efflux pumps (proteins in the cell membrane that move specific molecules in and out) in the cell (Munita and Arias 2016). Selective permeability of the membrane easily keeps hydrophilic compounds out of the cell by preventing entrance through osmosis, and other compounds can be kept out by changing either the type, quantity, or function of the channel proteins (Munita and Arias 2016). Efflux pumps and efflux systems are substrate specific pumps that remove cytotoxins from the cytoplasm that have crossed the cell’s membrane through any means (Munita and Arias 2016). It is difficult to reverse these methods once they are actually in place, but certain measures can be taken to increase the antibiotic’s ability to permeate the cell’s membranes. The synthesis of the cell wall is often attacked by disrupting the processes of its formation, and the protein synthesis processes that form the channel proteins and pumps in efflux systems can be disrupted as well to better allow antimicrobial access to the cell (Chellat et al. 2016). Resistance by Modifying Target Sites Antimicrobials all have target sites upon which they act, and cells can achieve resistance to the antimicrobial is by protecting the active site, modifying the site through the use of enzymes or some other means, or by replacing or bypassing the active site (Munita and Arias 2016). Protection of the active site inside the cell originates from either intrinsic or acquired DNA and occurs through the production of proteins that dislodge or otherwise counteract the effects of the antimicrobial (Muni-

ta and Arias 2016). Modification of the active site occurs through either point mutations that affect the structure of the active site and thereby prevent the antimicrobial from acting on the site as it should, or by having enzymes alter the structure of the site by adding methyl groups or other means of altercation (Munita and Arias 2016). Some cells create other structures similar to the target sites that perform the exact same function, but do not interact with the antimicrobial compounds, which effectively bypasses the need for the structure that is the target site of the drug (Munita and Arias 2016). While this is a largely successful method of resistance, the modification of active sites by enzyme interaction is one process that can be disrupted by antimicrobial drugs that attack the synthesis of enzymes in by interrupting protein synthesis (Chellat et al. 2016). Genetic Level Inhibition Since many of the microbial methods of resistance revolve around the formation of proteins, or other compounds, and the formation of compounds originates in the cell’s genetic material, it is only logical that the best drugs would attack the resistance at its source: the DNA (Munita and Arias 2016; Chellat et al. 2016). Specific genes that are known to code for certain proteins can be specifically attacked with drugs that bind to their relative transcription factors, and thereby eliminate the effect of the proteins that they would give directions for synthesis (Chellat et al. 2016).

Bibliography Chellat MF, Raguž L, Riedl R. 2016. Targeting antibiotic resistance. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. [Internet]. [2016 Sep 1]; 55(23): 6600-6626. Available from: http://onlinelibrary. wiley.com/doi/10.1002/anie.201506818/epdf Kahlmeter G. 2016. What is antibiotic resistance?. Pharmaceutical technology Europe [Internet]. [2016 Sep 1]; 28(5): 8-9. Available from: http://search.proquest. com/docview/1792396475/fulltext/6ECD9438EAE942F5PQ/1?accountid=14244 Munita JM, Arias, CA. 2016. Mechanisms of antibiotic resistance. Microbiology spectrum [Internet]. [2016 Sep 1]; 4(2): 1-24. Available from: http://www.asmscience. org/content/journal/microbiolspec/10.1128/microbiolspec.VMBF-0016-2015 World Health Organization. 2016. Antimicrobial resistance. World Health Organization. Washington (D.C.): World Health Organization; [2016 Sept 15]. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs194/ en/

September 2016, Scientific Tar Heel 7


Spherical W

On T


Wheels

The Way


This is how BB8 looks like in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

D

Gabriella Feng is a student at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She majors in Economics and has huge interest in business.

o you still remember the cute robot BB8 from Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Although it exists only in the film, we cannot help dreaming of having it in real life. However, shocking news is about to overwhelm the public - wheels are going to be reinvented, featuring close to the BB8! At this year’s 86th Geneva Motor Show, Goodyear Company brought forward a blueprint of wheels under two new concepts: Eagle-360 and Intelligrip, meaning that the wheels can be spherical and detective. Although this new type of tire is still hypothetical, this bright idea gives us huge expectations for the renewal of car wheels. With the fast upgrading pace of science and technologies, maybe we will see some “BB8” in real life in just a few years.

EAGLE-360 Concept Eagle-360 is the concept that wheels are constructed as spheres, instead of the traditional circular shapes. It allows the cars to move in any direction and have enough freedom to slide on the road. In the 3D video revealed by Goodyear at the show, Eagle-360 proposes having no axle to connect the car body and the wheels. Instead, it adopted the idea from some of the contemporary trains that the wheels be connected via magnetic levitation. This means that the whole body of a car is suspended and supported only by magnetic force. in brief The new concepts of wheels are about to lead us into a new generation of science and technology, as well as bringing some scenes from films into real life.

4 Scientific Tar Heel, Spetember 2016

This is the general blueprint of Goodyear’s hypothetical spherical tires. they will be connected to the car body via magnetic levitation and automatically adjust itself to driving conditions.

Description The idea of spherical wheels have already been put forward and studied in recent years, and Goodyear may not be the first one. A team of engineering students from San Jose State University launched their assumptions several years ago, explaining in detail the scientific theories lying behind the spherical wheels and the inner structure of this new concept wheels. They point out that from an engineering perspective, the center of concern is about


San Jose State University students’ research and blueprint certainly brings us hope for the successful upgrade of spherical wheels. Although Goodyear did not point out how they are going to realize this hypothesis, this student team’s analysis let us have a general idea of the feasibility of Eagle-360 and the possible technique issues scientists may encounter in the future. This is a draft of San Jose State University students’ ideas on spherical wheels. They try to endow tires with a new degree of freedom and multiple functions. This piccture shows their work on controlling balance.

controlling; their project is mainly modelled after a system called “inverted pendulum,” which “aims to keep an inherently unstable system from falling into it’s stable state by having almost instantaneous response to outside disturbances” (Spherical Drive System 2011-2012). Then they further decomposed their project into several main parts to separately solve the issue of ball inverted pendulums, including Wheels, Drive System, Control System, Power Management, and Frame and Body Design. In the Drive System of the main parts, these students find that most vehicles operate based on having an axle to immobilize. However, since it is hard for a sphere to move with an axle attached, there will be no axle, and the moving power is almost thoroughly relying on the contact friction, which should be affected at the least amount. Thus, they are able to determine that stepper motors1 and BLDC2 motors are the optimal choices for spherical-wheel cars. What’s more, in the power management part, they find that providing adequate energy is the main trouble and focus of the project. As they need to come up with ideas to store energy for controllers, motors, and for further improvements like sensors, they proposed the idea of using “fiberglass & carbon fiber” (Spherical Drive System 2011-2012) to construct car body, which can save space and reduce weight.

Functions Goodyear’s research has shown that “young drivers are looking for smart and sustainable cars to be part of future mobility and that reliability and safety are key for them.” (Straight 2016) What’s more, cars are increasing at such a rapid speed that space and traffic are becoming the main problems for the society. Under these circumstances, Eagle-360 is the very solution to all concerns; this concept is not proposed just to show an artificial and innovative imagination as to what wheels can look like; instead, it is indeed addressing people’s concerns in real life.

The Spherical Tires under the Eagle-360 allow cars to move not only backand and forward, but also sideways. Thus, it’s super convenient for drivers to freely dodge other cars on the road.

For example, let’s imagine there is a parking lot with three lines of parking spaces. Normally, everyone has to back his/her car and turns to other directions; the end of the parking lot also has to leave out room for cars to turn. However, for Eagle-360 cars, as cars can move in any direction without owners’ moving the steer but simply just letting them slide, congested spaces may be far more than enough for cars to move

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Intelligrip Concept The Intelligrip is a more commonly seen and proposed idea by manufacturers. It is applied by adding a detectable sensor to the car. By communicating with the car’s controlling system, it constantly assesses road conditions, weather changes, and tires’ overall state, and reports the datas back to the drivers. It is also able to “adjust the stopping distance, cornering, and stability” (Szondy 2016). Goodyear claims that this idea may be possible for inventing the autonomous vehicles in the future. (Straight 2016) While the drivers are parking cars, instead of being turned around, cars can be moved sideways to slide into the parking space. This allows more spaces to be created and much more convenience for drivers to park cars.

out; owners don’t have to worry about hitting or sideswiping. The lines may also increase to four or even more, and there’s no need to leave out certain room at the end. Articles about this wheel precisely describes that rather than being required to undergo a series of three-part turns and back-and-forth shimmying to get into a tight parking space, spherical wheels that can move in any direction would allow you just glide into any available spot without changing the orientation of the vehicle (Dockrill 2016). For another aspect, as the car body and the wheels are not connected via solid axle, the magnetic levitation offers cars the ability to reduce bumping levels and maintain a better balance, thus creating a comfortable condition for the car drivers. These advantages fully confirmed the words of the President of Goodyear Emea, Jean-Claude Kihn’s that “though this is purely a concept tire, it showcases some of Goodyear’s best innovative thinking and how the needs of future drivers can be addressed” (Straight 2016). Therefore, if Eagle-360 can be successfully invented as hypothesized, the whole society can benefit from it, and driving a car can be more convenient. 6 Scientific Tar Heel, Spetember 2016

Theories While the student team from San Jose State University are researching about each component in the project, the Control System clearly identifies the principle of the Intelligrip. The control system takes readings from the detect sensor and determines a response that may be optimal for the car to maintain stability and balance based on the input data. While we expect the cars to have multiple functions, there will be various motors and sensors, so the Control System will be responsible for combining all the data readings and feeding back useful and reliable information. The control system will also be able to react fast to lower the speed and maintain balance while detecting the car running at a high speed. Goodyear claims that they’re already starting on the plan, and they try to enhance the “Electronic Stability Control Systems,

Since the wheel is spherical, it is relatively hard for any axle to connect them with the car bodies. Thus, modern trains’ magnetic levitation concept is being adopted and applied to car wheels.


Brake Control Systems, and Suspension Control Systems” (Szondy 2016). They hope to realize some of the Intelligrip’s technologies in the near future. Benefits The Intelligrip Concept is indeed designed for the public’s needs, especially addressing the safety issues. While we’re squeezing ourselves among the high volume of cars on the road, this type of wheel can help us avoid danger to a great extent, as well as dodge any possible threats lying ahead. It allows the driver to reduce interaction and intervention in self-driving vehicles to the greatest degree (Szondy 2016).

Conclusion Rather than firmly determined to make it happen, Goodyear Company mainly brings forward these ideas to inspire people and light up hopes for the reinvention of the wheels. Their hypothesis is likely to bring scientists and specialists within the industry together to work on this project. As Goodyear’s senior vice president and chief technician officer says, “Goodyear’s concept tires play a dual role in that future both as creative platforms to push the boundaries of conventional thinking and testbeds for next-generation technologies” (Szondy 2016). Maybe in the near future, we’re able to see a car closely featuring the BB8 from Star Wars in the real life. QUICK CHECK 1. Stepper Motors: They are DC Motors that move in discrete steps. It can be used to reach precise positioning and speed control. 2. BLDC Motors: They are also known as “Electronically Commutated Motors (ECMs), which are powered by DC electronic source through an ontergrated switching power supply. It produces an alternating current electric signal to drive the motor.

This picture is screen captured from Goodyear’s video exhibited on the Geneva Motor Show. The sensors can register road conditions and adjust the speed of the vehicle. While crossing roads covered with water, sensors can detect it and allow wheels to make adjustments.

Another point worth mentioning is that the sensors can further manage car wheels’ tread wear, which is printed by a 3-D printer. In this way, they can extend mileage and allow tread customization. (Straight 2016)

more to explore Dockrill P. 2016. Watch Goodyear unveils the future of tyres, with spherical, maglev wheels. [Internet]. ScienceAlert. [cited 2016 31 August]; Available from: http://www.sciencealert.com/watch-goodyear-unveilsthe-future-of-tyres-with-spherical-maglev-wheels Straight B. 2016. When is a wheel not round? When it is a sphere. Of course. [Internet]. Penton Business Media, Inc. ProQuest LLC. [cited 2016 31 August]. Available from: http://search.proquest.com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/ docview/1775097214?pq-origsite=summon Szondy D. 2016. Spherical tire takes autonomous cars sideways into the future. [Internet]. Gizmag PTY LTD. [cited 2016 31 August]. Available from: http://newatlas.com/goodyear-tires-autonomous-cars/42135/ Spherical Drive System. 2011-2012. Concept. [internet]. Spherical Drive System. San Jose Statement University. [cited 2016 31 August]. Available from:

This is what IRobot Cars generally look like. All the related ideas and inventions on the way are utilizing spherical drive system.

http://sphericaldrivesystem.com/concept/

Spetember 2016, Scientific Tar Heel 7


Your Food. Your Way.

title page

A closer look into the world of personalized nutrition


e spread


Hailey Cole, a UNC student athlete interested in how food impacts the human body, has done current research on the idea of personalized nutrition. Looking closely at the benefits of personalized nutrition, she gives in in-depth preview on the upcoming ideas in the nutritional world.

N

early 45 million Americans try a diet plan each year, spending close to $33 billion dollars on products meant to assist in the process of losing weight. Although some commercial diets can yield good results, none have been proven to be as effective as personalized nutrition. Personalized nutrition is a form of dieting suited specifically to the individual, incorporating their personal needs rather than a generic need for “healthy food.” The foods an individual needs differentiate based on their body type, goals, and fitness plan. All of these things impact what food will work best to help someone on their way to a healthy lifestyle. This method has proven to be healthy, effective, and a more desirable way to diet. How It Works Personalized nutrition is a uniquely developed diet with a process that is fairly easy and quick. Usually, a nutritionist asks the client to log their food and fitness activity for a week or two, after logging this information, data is drawn based on the client’s protein, fat, carbohydrate, and fiber levels as well as calorie intake. The net calories are calculated by incorporating fitness levels, which allows the nutritionist to evaluate how many calories the client burns compared to how many they consume. The nutritionist then works with the client to plan a diet, specifically made for them. The nutritionist will assist the client in choosing foods that will be most beneficial to their lifestyle, while allowing them to integrate foods that they enjoy eating.

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What’s So Special About It? If five people were given the same exact diet for a week, none of their bodies would react the same way. In fact, they would all react drastically different. This is because everyone’s body processes and metabolizes food in a different way. Having a personal diet ensures that the client is getting the best possible food for their personal goals. Commercial diets allow people to live a healthier lifestyle, but do not allow people to manipulate the results based on their personal preference. This is what makes personalized nutrition special compared to the generic “TV diet” that you see advertised on a daily basis. Giving people the power to decide what they eat, how much they eat, and what results they want make a diet much more desirable. This stress


Fresh Markets always have a great supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. With a large variety, you are almost guaranteed to fine what you prefer

free approach may take longer than calling a 1-800 number, but the results are far more rewarding in the end. Give Me The Stats This new approach can easily be defended through claims stating that everybody deserves and needs their own diet, but now let’s look at how effective personalized nutrition really is. Personalized nutrition can be understood through a study conducted through Newcastle University. This experiment was tested among 1,607 individuals across European countries through the “food4me” website. The participants were randomly assigned to four treatment groups as well as a control group. The subjects in the treatment groups were designated to three different diet plans, personal diet based on current diet, personal diet based on current diet as well as phenotype, and personal diet based on phenotype and genotype. The subjects of the control group were all given a generic diet to follow for six

months. The participants followed this diet for six months, and 80% of them successfully completed the study. Out of the 80%, researchers concluded that the subjects in the treatment groups had far better results than those in the control group. Not only did they see improvement in their health, but overall they had developed a taste in healthier food, consuming more fruits and vegetables by preference and less red meat and saturated fats. This study proves that not only will a personalized diet help one’s nutrition for the duration of their diet, but will be beneficial

September 2016, Scientific Tar Heel 5


Portion size plays a larger role in dieting, but not necessairily in personalized nutrition. One portion size cannot be the same among two people.

for their long-term health. Generic diets only touch the surface of one’s lifestyle, benefiting users only for the time they are following the diet. Whereas with personalized diets, dieters may gain knowledge on what foods work for them and continue applying this knowledge on a daily basis. Sugars And Carbs and Fats, Oh My

Recently, new dietary guidelines have been published by the federal government advising people to consume less sugar and less protein. Although this could be very good dietary advice for someone, it will most likely not be sufficient for everyone. Eran Elinav, an immunologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, claims that “The same dietary advice cannot be good for everyone, because we are all different” (New York Times 2016). In hope to build a dietary counseling business, Dr. Elinav and his team conducted a study to better understand the effects of personalized nutrition. This study among 800 volunteers looked closely at how certain foods impact an individual’s blood glucose level. The glucose response found when these 800 subjects ate the same food was astonishing. For example, when these adults were fed 6 Scientific Tar Heel, September 2016

chocolate ice cream, some had an immense increase in blood sugar, while others showed nearly no effect. This alone shows that no matter the food, your body will not react the same as someone else’s. This pattern was not only seen in the consumption of sweet foods. The scientists saw variations in blood glucose levels when subjects ate foods such as sushi and whole grain bread as well. Fish and whole grain based breads are considered healthy, yet did not yield healthy results in all of the subjects. Because we process food differently, our body pulls different things from foods than another person’s body would. For example, if Sandra and Mike both eat the same dinner, Sandra’s body may pull more energy from their dinner whereas Mike’s may pull more sugar. Because of this, their bodies will react differently from one another, and it will have different consequences on each of them. Taking information like this from the study, Dr. Elinav decided to go a step further to incorporate other factors that affect how your body processes what you eat. Looking at things such as, gut bacteria level, family history, and medications, the team developed an algorithm that could predict their blood glucose response before eating the meal. They plan to use the algorithm to develop a diet plan individualized to people, a new step in personalized nutrition. This method could be effective and quicker than the current process used to develop a personalized diet, and this team of Israeli scientists are determined to make history. Tell Me What Ya Want Stacey wants to diet, but is not quite ready to commit to a “cookie cutter diet”, as in a meal plan that tell you to eat four servings of fruit, five servings of vegetables and twelve glasses of milk each day, no more, no less. Nobody wants to be told exactly what to eat and


how many times to eat it each day, especially when there are better options. Personalized nutrition not only satisfies what you need, but also what you want. Meaning that this diet is much more appealing to the taste buds, as well as the scale. People grow up in all different types of cultures, and with different cultures, comes different foods. Food preference is developed throughout a person’s lifetime. For example, someone who grew up in a household with strong Greek culture is more likely to prefer souvlaki rather than a french croissant. This idea makes certain diets “unattractive” to people because they were not brought up eating the foods that the diet entails. One of the multiple benefits of personalized dieting is the ability to customize your diet based on your personal preference. Choosing from a range of foods that will meet dietary needs while satisfying your stomach. Studies show that people are more likely to follow a diet if they get to choose what they are consuming. Nicola Pirastu and Antonietta Robino from the department of medical, surgical, and health sciences at the University of Triesta, Italy wrote an article summarizing what they claim to be the “key” to personalized nutrition. They write, “it is very important to increase our understanding of the physiological mechanisms that drive food choice and thus its consumption.” These physiological mechanisms are developed through our lifetime, as discussed earlier. These mechanisms dictate what we like and do not like, which ultimately decides what we eat and do not eat. Personalized nutrition is one step ahead in this process allowing the individual to consume foods they enjoy, making dieting less of a hassle. This teaches dieters how to eat properly without drastically changing their daily diet. Making the benefits much more long-term which yields better overall results, as well as

reviews from the dieters. The multiple aspects of personalized nutrition may seem overwhelming, but the main focus of the information is the difference the specificity of personalized diets make in comparison to other methods. Though specificity may seem small, the long term results of this method are much more rewarding to the individual, as well as efficient. However the only way you can really find out is if your try it for yourself.

more to explore Murphy K. 2016. A personalized diet, better suited to you. The New York Times [Internet]. Available from: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/11/a-personalized-diet-better-suited-to-you/?_r=0 Newcastle University. 08-16-16. Personalized nutrition is better than a “one size fits all” approach in improving diets [Internet]. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160816092217.htm Pirastu N, Robino A. 05-12-15. Uncovering the genetic basis for food preferences: the key to personalized nutrition plans? [Internet]. Available from: http://search.proquest.com/docview/1700643417?pq-origsite=summon https://unsplash.com http://www.food4me.org/

September 2016, Scientific Tar Heel 7


The Blue

Why your brain hates


Light Blues the electronics you love


Drew Pascual is currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently a pre-business major, who dabbles in studies of the brain and sleep patterns in his free time.

Nighttime electronic use can have damaging effects on our eyes, and disrupt critical brain chemistry. Image courtesy of Authority Nutrition

Chances are, you’re reading this article on an electronic screen of some sort, as this seems to be the norm society is moving towards. As technology evolves, so does the way we process and view information. The average American is moving away from their nighttime ritual of a chapter in their favorite book, to binge watching Netflix on their plasma screen. Although there is boundless benefit to using technology to augment our lives, these gains can come with great detriments to our health. Many Americans are

unaware of the harmful effects “Blue Light” has on their health, more specifically their sleep, that comes as a silent killer with each use of a computer, phone, or TV screen. Blue Light is one of the many types of UV radiations emitted from the sun. The Blue Light wavelength range is the color spectrum unabsorbed by the atmosphere that causes the sky to appear blue. Although blue light is most notable for its prevalence in nature, it is also the spectrum that many

in brief Blue Light is a spectrum on the visile light range, that is naturally emitted from the sun. It is also emmitted from many popular electronics.

An overabundance of Blue Light exposure can have adverse health effects on an individual, especially disrupting sleep patterns

4 Scientific Tarheel, September 2016

when exposed to at night. Blue Light is prevalent in many electronics the modern world uses every day, making avoidance difficult.

Methods can be attained to reduce the negative effects, however Blue Light LEDs will continue to be at the forefront of consumer tech.


Blue Light has a measurable negative effect on retinal health.

Image courtesy of National Geographic

consumer electronic LED screens attempt to mimic. So, if we are exposed to Blue Light all day, how can it be that bad for us in our phone screens? The problem arises when the sun goes down and natural Blue Light virtually disappears; we continue to expose ourselves to blue light through the use of consumer electronics, which has a sizeable effect on our brains. When exposed to Blue Light after sundown, this exposure tricks our brains into discerning it is still daytime, causing the natural sleep-wake cycle in our brains to become delayed. So, if you have ever laid in bed for long stretches of time, wondering why you can’t fall asleep, your late night electronics use could be a contributing factor. There are two main effects Blue Light has on our brains that regulates our sleep patterns: melatonin suppression, and circadian

rhythm disruption. Melatonin is a hormone found in the brain that suppresses the central nervous system and relaxes the body. Circadian rhythm is the natural sleep-wake cycle our brain transitions through every day. According to a 2011 study by The Journal of Applied Physiology, Light suppresses melatonin in humans, with the strongest response occurring in the short-wavelength portion of the spectrum between 446 and 477 nm, otherwise known as blue light. As a result, rhythmic patterns of light discombobulates the circadian production and seScientific Tarheel, September 20165


ue to dominate the industry. Now, as more and more information on the disruptive factors our modern lifestyle choices have on our health and our sleep, it was already too late as blue light LED screens had become the norm of the electronics industry.

Flooding our eyeballs with stimulating blue light at night can and will affect your sleep habits, beginning a snowball effect of poor health. Image courtesy of National Geographic

cretion of melatonin. In mammals, exposure to light of sufficient intensity can suppress high nocturnal melatonin secretion. Although many do not realize it, nighttime blue light exposure has a measurable effect on the hormonal secretion patterns of the brain, which leads to the physical inability to fall asleep. With the brain being biologically reprogrammed by blue light to fall asleep later, this effect is difficult to reverse. Another 2010 paper published on the subject of circadian rhythm prevalence in human sleep patterns found that light and more specifically blue light is one of the single greatest contributing factors to circadian rhythm disruption and sleep deprivation of the 21st century. Up until 20 years ago, light was thought of by the scientific community to have minimal effect on human circadian rhythm patterns. During this time, the LED light system was born, and consumer electronics continued to grow into popular culture. Little concern for our brain function was taken into account when developing products. Rather, the relatively cheap, sunlike screens of light emitting diodes contin6 Scientific Tarheel, September 2016

A Harvard study investigated a possible connection between blue light related circadian rhythm disruption and weight gain. The researchers put 10 individual on a schedule of various intervals to disrupt their circadian rhythm patterns to varying degrees. Their blood sugar levels increased to an alarming prediabetic state, and levels of leptin, a hormone that leaves people feeling full after a meal, went down. This is because the body has been tricked into staying awake, causing it to crave caloric energy when really you are trying to go to sleep. This could contribute to late night snacking and provide for a feeling of an emptier stomach upon waking, resulting in increased eating. The effects of blue light can have a multitude of unfavorable effects on our health if we leave this epidemic ignored. Flooding our eyeballs with stimulating blue light at night can and will affect your sleep habits, beginning a snowball effect of poor health. Study after study have shown that if you trick your brain into staying awake, there is a price to pay for these growingly popular habits. What Can You Do? There is no way to effectively reduce the effect blue light has on our brain, as it has been shown to consistently interfere with sleep patterns if you are exposed to it. For-


tunately, there are many methods readily available to help reduce blue light at night all together, while still being able to enjoy the entertainment that comes from our electronics. A 2010 study aimed to measure the effects of other forms of light on our brain function. The study found as expected that red light on the visible spectrum had little or no impact on melatonin secretion in subjects tested and found minimal circadian rhythm alteration compared to the baseline. Some electronics such as TVs have options to decrease the amount of blue color in the display, making for a sleep-friendlier viewing experience near bedtime. Also, some fluorescent light bulbs tend to emit more blue light than their tungsten counterparts, so opting for a warm-colored light bulb could also reduce the blue light effect. Some independent companies are already taking advantage of the market for designs that reduce blue light. Consumer reading devices such as “Kindle” aim to mimic a paper book, with very low light emitted. The paper-screen trend has been growing increasingly popular in the consumer electronics sphere, due to their easy to read nature and low light emittance levels. Still need your computer or phone fix before bed? There are apps and software out there that got you covered. For computers, software like “f.lux” tracks the sunrise-sunset pattern of the day and will visibly reduce the amount of blue light emitted from the computer screen, opting for warmer colors that are easier on the eyes around night time. Apple has recently installed a “night shift” mode in its latest software update for

its massively popular iPhone line, which is designed specifically to reduce the harmful effects of blue light when using the iPhone at night. Conclusion With this newfound information, one could hope to finally get that much needed rest. As our society moves toward a more interface-friendly world, LED backed screens will continue to be at the forefront of modern displays. One must first be aware of a problem in order to resolve it. Although many Americans are left in the dark about the symptoms of the electronics they use every day, the steady growth in awareness will bring about new revolutions in design aimed at reducing the negative effects within the design itself with prudence and discretion. Any American engulfed in their electronic device can use it to a safer degree, resulting in a much needed, much desired, good night’s sleep.

more to explore Planetary Construction Zones in Occultation: Discovery of an Extrasolar Ring System Transmiting a Young Sunlike Star and Future Prospects for Detecting Eclipses by Circumsecondary and Circumplanetary Disks. Eric E. Mamajek et al. in Astronomical Journal, Vol. 143, Article No. 72; March 2012. Planetary Construction Zones in Occultation: Discovery of an Extrasolar Ring System Transmiting a Young Sunlike Star and Future Prospects for Detecting Eclipses by Circumsecondary and Circumplanetary Disks. Eric E. Mamajek et al. in Astronomical Journal, Vol. 143, Article No. 72; March 2012. Planetary Construction Zones in Occultation: Discovery of an Extrasolar Ring System Transmiting a Young Sunlike Star and Future Prospects for Detecting Eclipses by Circumsecondary and Circumplanetary Disks. Eric E. Mamajek et al. in Astronomical Journal, Vol. 143, Article No. 72; March 2012.

Scientific Tarheel, September 20167


Pregnant and Puffing?

How Maternal Smoking Can Lead to Unprecedented Effects on the Unborn


Rhianna Marusek is a student and researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research includes the latent health effects caused by nicotine and cigarette smoke on certain nonsmokers.

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our sister announced she was expecting three weeks ago. At the time, you were ecstatic with joy whenever you thought about your niece or nephew. Little did you know, your sister had taken up smoking a few months prior to her pregnancy—and man, is she addicted. You worry about the baby, without knowing what exactly worries you. Perhaps you fear birth defects. You want to tell your sister, but you decide against it. “It’s her decision,” you reason. The baby is born, and fortunately, his skin isn’t blue. His brain isn’t abnormal in size. There are no apparent signs that your sister’s cigarettes had any effect. Six years go by. Johnny’s legs seem to have stopped growing. He looks a little stunted, but you shake it off as a delayed growth spurt. Four more years go by. His legs still haven’t grown, and what’s worse: his teachers claim he has ADHD. He cannot pay attention in class. You begin to wonder what could have caused this. Would you ever have thought your sister’s smoking is the culprit? A HISTORY OF SMOKING It’s the twenty-first century. It’s been instilled in our heads that smoking is harmful to our health. The effects range from the commonly known lung cancer to increased risk for cardiovascular disease to even increased infertility. Cigarettes contain various poisons, such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, gases known for their ability to quickly incapacitate the inhaler, resulting in immediate dizziness and sickness, and eventually leading to death with overexposure. Out of the seven thousand varying toxins, sixty-nine have been proven to cause cancer in smokers (CCF 2014). It is hardly surprising users suffer from such a wide range of effects. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the 1920’s that smoking cigarettes was ever linked to lung cancer. Before this time, there was very little speculation about cigarettes and any who believed them to be harmful were ignored. In fact, newspapers refused to print the linkage between smoking and lung cancer so as not to

Scientific Tar Heel September 2016

Above: The Effects of Tobacco Use in the Womb

Courtesy Naijaeforum.com


Above: Typical Cigarette’s Composition

Courtesy teens.drugabuse.gov

offend the tobacco companies that advertised in their papers. It was only in the 1950s and 1960s that medical reports were finally published confirming tobacco usage led to a number of diseases (Brandt 2007). However, this news came a little too late for some. By this time, many users were addicts, and quitting smoking seemed too hard a task. Fortunately, we are able to make an educated decision regarding our willingness to smoke today. Presented with the undeniable facts, many have chosen to avoid such an activity, but others disregard the truth and take up smoking anyway. And society lets them. As long as smokers avoid smoking around nonsmokers, does it matter what they are doing to their selves?

of prematurity. As the baby’s birth weight goes down, complications begin to arise, such as the rupturing of fetal membranes or even the premature detachment of the placenta (Sears 2016). Impaired physiological development can result due to a lessened supply of oxygen and increased level of nicotine inside the baby’s blood, thus increasing the risk of SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, after birth. Once the baby is born, assuming the child is not a stillborn, doctors may scramble as the fetus’ heart defects complicate care. The baby may appear very small

Perhaps it does, especially if the smoker is a woman expecting. Maternal smoking can lead to adverse effects on the unborn both short-term and long-term, ranging from immediate abnormalities inside the womb to a lack of development cognitively and physically, as well as the risk of behavioral changes in later years. IN THE SHORT RUN Just like in the hypothetical situation above, people often look for immediate defects on the recently born to gauge whether or not maternal smoking had any effect on the baby’s growth and development. Smoking while pregnant increases the likelihood

Above: The Effect of Maternal Smoking on Growth of Child

Courtesy Scielo.br

Scientific Tar Heel September 2016 5


Above: Behavioral Problems Related to Maternal Smoking

Courtesy Drugabuse.gov

in size, not even more than five and one-half pounds. Or perhaps the mother is lucky, like your sister was, and the baby shows no obvious signs of impairment. But that does not mean the child is safe. THE MIND First and foremost, smoking hinders brain development. Many animal trials have proved the presence of nicotine in the body compromises fetal brain growth. In the early stages of development, the brain is extremely vulnerable to low levels of oxygen, an unfortunate consequence of an abundance in nicotine in the blood. Also, nicotine is poisonous to areas of the brain that pertain to the heart and breathing functions (Sears 2016). Mothers who smoked while pregnant, thus having an increased level of nicotine in their bloodstream, are also credited with increasing the risk for their off-

Scientific Tar Heel September 2016

spring to develop schizophrenia in later years. A recent study, conducted by researchers from Columbia University, the New York State Psychiatric Institute and other colleagues in Finland, confirmed this claim. By evaluating approximately one thousand cases of schizophrenia among children born in Finland from 1983-1998 and comparing their findings to matched controls, these researchers have provided the most definitive evidence to date that there is a relationship between maternal smoking and schizophrenia. They found that a “higher maternal nicotine level in the mother’s blood” contributed to this relationship (Niemelä et al 2016). THE BODY Smoking during pregnancy can stunt the baby’s growth. The nicotine entering the mother’s body will actually narrow her uterine blood vessels, causing a reduced flow of blood to the baby. Carbon monoxide also enters the mother’s bloodstream, blocking oxygen from getting to the fetus. Essentially, her smoking will smother the defenseless child (Sears 2016). In a recent study, smoking while pregnant was


found to have a significant influence on the leg growth of children over a long period of time. Researchers assessed 7 to 10 year olds, using information provided by parents about smoking patterns during pregnancy and the recorded birthweight of their child to determine whether or not maternal smoking had a direct effect on stunted leg growth. Essentially, combined with paternal smoking, a mother’s smoking while expecting did result in the offspring having relatively stunted legs. This was most likely due to fetal hypoxia, which is where the child is deprived an adequate supply of oxygen. This is caused by the carbon monoxide contained in smoke. Its presence most likely decelerated the growth of the long bones of the fetus’ legs (˙ Z˛adzi´nska et al 2016). THE SELF We have seen how maternal smoking impairs development both cognitively and bodily, and can even result in the development of certain mental incapacities. But maternal smoking can have effects that go even further. In later years, the presence of certain abnormalities can seem to appear in the child. Just like with your hypothetical nephew, who seems to have ADHD, these abnormalities correspond to the child’s behavior. A study led by Yale University found that “early exposure to nicotine can trigger widespread genetic changes that affect formation of connections between brain cells long after birth” (Jung et al 2016). Maternal smoking exposes the child to nicotine, causing certain changes in the child’s DNA as the nicotine attacks a regulator responsible for coding various DNA sequences. These changes will influence the activity of the genes that are paramount to the formation and stabilization of synapses between brain cells. If these connections are not developed fully, the child will have trouble focusing—a sign of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other behavioral disorders (Jung et al 2016). Furthermore, this claim is also relevant to the formation of addictions, such as alcohol and drug abuse, and certain conduct disorders as the child ages. THE TAKEAWAY It is common knowledge that cigarettes are bad for one’s health, and it is up to one’s own discretion whether or not to partake in smoking. But in the

event of pregnancy, there are innocent lives at stake. These lives were never given a choice, but instead were forced to live with their mother’s decision. Smoking while pregnant does not only affect the mother, but the child, as well. It impairs cognitive development, impedes physical development and function, and leads to behavioral abnormalities such as ADHD and conduct disorder, to name a few. It is my hope that you have finished reading this article with a greater knowledge of the daunting effects maternal smoking can cause on the unborn, even long after birth. If you are the mother in question, I hope that this article has given you something to ponder. But ultimately, it is your decision. If you are a concerned father or family member, use this knowledge, and spread the word. more to explore

Brandt AM. 2007. The Cigarette Century: The rise, fall and deadly persistence of the product that defined America. New York: Basic Books. [CCF] The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. 09-05-14. Smoking and your health [Internet]. Available from: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments_and_ procedures/hic_Quitting Jung Y, Hsieh LS, Picciotto MR, Zhou Z, Coman D, Heath CJ, Hyder F, Mineur YS, Yuan Q, Goldman D, et al. 2016. An epigenetic mechanism mediates developmental nicotine effects on neuronal structure and behavior. Nature Neuroscience [Internet]. Available from: http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v19/n7/ full/nn.4315.html Niemelä S, Sourander A, Surcel H-M, Hinkka-Yli-Salomäki S, McKeague IW, Cheslack-Postava K, Brown AS. 2016. Prenatal nicotine exposure and risk of schizophrenia among offspring in a national birth cohort. American Journal of Psychiatry [Internet]. Available from: http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/ appi.ajp.2016.15060800 Sears W. 13-09-16. How smoking harms babies in the womb [Internet]. Available from: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/parenting/child-rearing-and-development/bringing-baby-home/how-smokingharms-babies/how-0 ˙ Z˛adzi´nska E, Koziel S, Borowska-Strugi´nska B, Rosset I, Sitek A, Lorkiewicz W. 2016. Parental smoking during pregnancy shortens offspring’s legs. Journal of Comparative Human Biology [Internet]. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jchb.2016.06.002

Scientific Tar Heel September 2016 7


SUGA, SUGA

Technological, Pharmaceutical, & Nutritional Advancements within Diabetes


Brooke Burns, a UNC grad student is conducting research on the most recent diabetes advancements.

T

hroughout the night Rocky wakes up every hour craving a sweet. But, he knows his limits pertaining to his type two diabetes. Possible side-effects linger in his mind while trying to control himself from eating the foods that he craves every waking second of the day. Even if he were to give in, this is nothing that an insulin shot could cure. Though Rocky’s insulin shot does tame his symptoms, he refuses to take it because of the painful side-effects. Everytime he manages to take his insulin shot he experiences the feeling of every limb on his body falling asleep simultaneously. Along with this, whenever the shot is inserted into his stomach, it bruises repeatedly over and over again like a never ending cycle. Along with this bruise comes irritation and pain which is something Rocky refuses to experience everyday. When people are diagnosed with diabetes they seem to think there is no hope for controlling their condition. However, with good nutrition it can only get better. In fact, research has shown good nutrition can improve insulin sensitivity, a decrease in the chances of obtaining type two diabetes, and a decrease in the blood sugar levels. Also, the shot sensitivity could be eliminated all together with the new findings of an insulin pill. On the technological side, an artificial pancreas is currently being tested which would exert the amount of insulin needed for the particular person.

4 Scientific American, January 2017

Go Green

Research has shown that diabetics who follow a vegetarian diet can manage their diabetes much more easily. Researchers have also found that caloric and carbohydrate restrictions were not useful if the vegan diet was followed. Both the vegan and vegetarian diets also promote weight loss and lower the blood glucose (sugar) level in type two diabetics. These two diets are also low in saturated fat and cholesterol-free as compared to a traditional American diet.


Above are the latest tools that are used to configure sugar levels. To the right are many colorful and delicious foods that would be better food choices for diabetics.

Reduced Caloric Intake

In an article by Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, it has been proven that calorie restrictions will improve insulin sensitivity as well as reduce the incidence of diabetes in obese individuals (MCCRM). Most people with diabetes hate taking an insulin shot everyday as it will most likely end up bruising and becoming painful. By obtaining a healthy diet, this would no longer be an issue. Insulin sensitivity will decrease accompanied by a healthy diet. Each person’s body will react differently to different foods so each person’s diet may have to be structured differently than another’s. To cut the risk of developing diabetes, there are new findings that a diet rich in fiber will lower the risk of type two diabetes. The study lasted eleven years and

consisted of 29,000 participants in eight different European countries. When having a fiber intake higher greater than twenty-six grams there was an 18% lower risk of developing diabetes, compared to the lowest fiber intake which is less than nineteen grams per day. This study also concluded that those who had a daily fiber intake of ten grams decreased their chance of diabetes by 9%. Those who increased their cereal fiber by ten grams decreased their chances by 25%. These results are a result of slowed nutrition absorption, altered fermentation in January 2017, ScientificAmerican.com 5


Insulin shots, the most outdated treatment for diabetes.

the large intestine, and prolonged release of hormonal signals, all in contrast to the high fiber diet (Diabetologia). All in all, this study was researched among a large population of diabetic people and time and has proven it to be accurate. According to an article on Plus One conducted by multiple scientists, eating a strictly vegan diet will decrease glycated hemoglobin levels. This diet would consist of no meat, fish or poultry. This study shows that after the participants took part in the twelve week vegan diet their sugar level dropped 7.5%. Also, Nutrition Reviews (Vol. 67(5): 255-263) states that during clinical trials individuals with type two diabetes who stay on a low-fat vegan diet improve their glycemic control to a greater extent rather than the conventional diabetes diets.

So 2001

Insulin shots are currently the most popular way to obtain insulin. Every 6 Scientific American, January 2017

type two diabetic can expect the burden of taking an insulin shot once a day and experiencing the many side-effects that come along with it. Some of these side-effects include pain, redness, irritation, low blood sugar, sweating, shaking, fast heartbeat, hunger, blurred vision, dizziness, and tingling of the hands and feet. This shot is the only way to obtain insulin because the stomach is too acidic to take it any other way. Insulin is a protein that will be eaten away within the stomach and the small intestine, which is the reason that few companies have taken on the dirty deed of attempting to create something that the stomach will not ruin.

How It Works

The McCourt/Mielnicki lab has successfully capsuled insulin into protective polymer shields that will dissolve in the intestines before it reaches the harmful stomach acids. These capsules are called ‘Cholestomsomes’, and they are made of naturally occurring lipid molecules (Fats, oils, waxes, and sterols) that the stomach fails to break down. The researchers used computer modeling to show that when the lipids are assembled into a sphere, they form neutral particles which are in turn not affected by stomach acid. This means that the basic coating in which the drug is contained in will let the pill disolve in the intestines before it reaches the acidic stomach. When the Cholestomsomes reach the intestines, the body recognizes it as something to


absorb due to the coating. The pill will pass through the intestines, into the bloodstream, and then cells take them in and break them apart which releases the insulin into the body. This treatment would make life easier for the 29.1 million people in America who have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Lazy Pancreas

The necessity of an insulin shot comes forth when a person’s immune system destroys the pancreas cells that produce insulin, this is the process where blood sugar is converted to energy. This explains why diabetics may feel slow and sluggish when forgetting to take their insulin shot. Recent research may have solved this ever so common problem. Researchers with Dr Hood Thabit of the University of Cambridge, UK have designed an algorithm that would work with an artificially inserted pancreas to exert the exact amount of insulin needed for that particular patient. The pancreas would monitor blood sugar levels and compute an automatic insulin dose which would then be released and delivered quickly. This algorithm has been designed to work with implanted medical devices, and specifically the pancreas. This pancreas could overcome the common delays experienced daily with current methods of treatment. Computer testing with the algorithm has simulated the rise and fall of glucose which will correspond with when the patient is asleep, and the meals that they eat

throughout the day. When researchers tested this technological advancement, it maintained the blood glucose target range 80% of the time. The device is soon to be tested on animals and humans and is expected to be very high in demand for those in need. With this device, it will seem to the patient that they no longer have diabetes, the artificial pancreas will work as a normal healthy person’s.

This diagram shows how the artificial pancreas will work.

more to explore American Chemical Society. 2016 Aug 24. Insulin pill could make diabetes treatment ‘ouchless’. ScienceDaily. [ 2016 Sep 1]. https://www. sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160824084250.htm American Chemical Society. 2015 Jul 1. Implantable ‘artificial pancreas’ could help diabetes patients control their blood sugar. ScienceDaily.[Internet}[cited 2016 Sep 1].Avaliable from:https:// www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150701140903. htm Meal Planning for Vegetarian Diets.14 May 2014American Diabetes Association. [Internet] [2016 Sep 1]. Avaliable from :- http://www. diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/ meal-planning-for-vegetarians/

January 2017, ScientificAmerican.com 7


EPO-ssible Cure How scientists may have found a cure for the cognitive effects of mental illnesses in an already exisiting drug


Madison Wright is a researcher in the neuroscience department at UNC Chapel Hill. She focuses on mental illlness research to discover improved treatment methods and even a possible cure.

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ue to the delicate nature of mental illness that can involve slight imbalances of chemicals in the brain, it is very difficult to treat with medication. Thanks to a study conducted by the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology scientists have found that erythropoietin (EPO), most commonly known for its use as a performance-enhancing sport drug, may improve cognitive function in patients suffering from depression or bipolar disorder. This drug has the potential to offer long-term treatment for one of the most common and one of the most everyday-life hindering mental illnesses. WHAT IS EPO? According to the American Society of Hematology, erythropoietin (EPO) is a drug used to treat anemia, a disease in which someone has a shortage of red blood cells. Even though it is most commonly known for its use as a performance-enhancing sport drug, EPO has been used by millions of anemics worldwide to combat the disease due to its difficult to treat nature. Since anemia is a shortage of red blood cells, it is difficult to simply recreate naturally occurring cells in the body. What makes EPO so effective is its production through recombinant DNA technology. This technology uses methods of genetic recombination, such as molec-

ular cloning, to combine genetic material from multiple sources to create sequences that would normally not be found in the genome, or genetic material of an organism. EPO treats anemia by imitating the hormone erythropoietin and causing the body to produce more red blood cells. Scientists at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology saw this drug’s potential for its use as treatment for mental illness due to its ability to imitate a naturally occurring hormone, or chemical messenger, of the body. Since mental illnesses are generally characterized as abnormal chemical levels in the brain, they believed it may be able to combat some mental illnesses.

in brief Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hormone imitating medication prescribed to anemics to produce more red blood cells due to their inability to produce enough naturally.

Scientfic Tar Heel, September 2016

EPO has been found to have the same hormone imitating effects on neurotransmitters in the human brain, potentially reversing cognitive damage from mental illness.


Current medication only covers up the cognitive effects of mental illnesses instead of providing long-term relief.

WHAT IS DEPRESSION AND BIPOLAR DISORDER? Mental illnesses are one of the most widespread afflictions in the United States, with almost 20% of adults experiencing depression in any given year. Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States, with 15 million adults experiencing it in the past year. Bipolar disorder, which involves episodes of depression, occurs in 2.6% of adults (NAMI 2016). According to the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, around the world these two mental illnesses affect hundreds of millions of patients. Depression is the most common mood disorder and is characterized by constant sadness and feelings of hopelessness. Symptoms also include but are not limited to decreased energy, difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation, and thoughts of death or suicide (NIMH May 2016). Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depressive illness and causes abnormal shifts in mood, activity levels, energy, and the ability to carry out everyday tasks. Manic episodes are characterized by feeling extremely happy, being jumpy, having trouble sleeping, and doing risky things such as gambling. Depressive episodes have the same symptoms of depression that cause the patient to feel very sad and empty (NIMH Apr 2016).

CHEMICALS IN THE BRAIN So how do chemicals play a role in these two mental illnesses? According to the Mental Illness Fellowship, there can be an insufficient amount of neurotransmitters, or too many, or the brain can have problems actually using the neurotransmitters, an issue called malabsorption. Some significant neurotransmitters related to depression and bipolar disorders are dopamine, serotonin, gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), glutamate, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine. Two important structures of the brain that these six chemicals affect most are the frontal lobe and temporal lobe. The frontal lobe is in control of movement and coordination. It is also commonly attributed to controlling behavior, personality, emotional state, and short-term memory and planning. The temporal lobe manages hearing, smell, and taste. Therefore, it receives impulses from the inner ears, nose, and tongue. Attached to it is the hippocampus, which regulates emotions and memory.

Scientific Tar Heel, September 2016


ponent to relaxation. Therefore, too little in the frontal lobe leads to anxiety disorders (BMP 2016). Glutamate is what facilitates the transmission of electrical signals throughout the body to signal it what to do when the brain sends a command. It is abundant throughout the human body, but is predominant in the nervous system. It is the most prominent excitatory neurotransmitter in the body, making it the opposite of GABA. In large amounts it makes people suffering from bipolar disorder jumpy and energetic, and when it is lacking it makes them lethargic (MH 2016). Acetylcholine controls mood and the autonomic nervous system, according to the Mental Illness Fellowship. When there is too much of it in the temporal lobe, it causes depression. Norepinephrine also controls mood and activation level. It prepares the brain and body for action, and in low releases it causes sleep. It is often attributed to the “fightor-flight response.” A lack of norepinephrine in the temporal lobe causes the lethargy and fatigue of depression and depressive episodes of bipolar disorder (MIF 2013).

“Many people consider mental disorders to only affect mood, but in reality they also affect the brain’s cognitive function, or ability to process information.” The three primary neurotransmitters of depression are dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine (AAD 2013). In addition to the neurotransmitters of general depression, sufferers of bipolar disorder are also affected by gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), acetylcholine, and glutamate (MH 2016). Dopamine controls mood, movement, and activation level, or the amount of chemicals needed for a reaction to occur, specifically in the brain in this case. (MIF 2013). Therefore, dopamine typically affects the frontal lobe. When dopamine is lacking in the brain, it leads to some forms of depression, muscular rigidity, and tremors found in Parkinson’s disease (BMP 2016). Serotonin is important for controlling mood as well, in addition to sleep, appetite, and aggression (MIF 2013). Too little in the frontal lobe is linked to depression and some anxiety disorders, and is most strongly linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) (BMP 2016). Gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) is the most potent depressive neurotransmitter and it controls many sedative and depressive actions, making it the key com-

Scientfic Tar Heel, September 2016

WHERE DOES EPO COME INTO PLAY? Many people consider mental disorders to only affect mood, but in reality they also affect the brain’s cognitive function, or ability to process information. This makes it more difficult to “retain a job, pass an exam, or maintain a relationship,” which are all necessary components of most people’s lives (ENCP 2016). Since erythropoietin is a drug designed to imitate the function of a naturally occurring hormone in the body, scientists at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conducted a study with seventy-nine patients suffering from depression or bipolar disorder to test EPO’s abilities outside of anemia treatment. Through this study a group of Danish scientists intended to discover if EPO could restore cognitive function in patients suffering from depression or bipolar disorder. THE STUDY To assess the cognitive function of the patients, the scientists randomly assigned the them into two controlled trials. Forty patients in the first group received EPO for nine weeks, and the remaining thirty-nine received a placebo. A placebo is a treatment that has no effect, but the patient’s expectation to improve can make them believe they were given the real treatment. This is called the placebo effect and is used to test the actual effectiveness of the treatment, accounting for patients’ perceiving they are improving, which affects the results. To record the progress of the patients, the scientists employed a range of cognitive tests over the nine-week period. These tests involved verbal memory, attention span, and planning ability.


THE FINDINGS Over the course of the nine weeks, the scientists found that the patients given EPO benefitted from the drug and their performance on the cognitive tests continually improved. The lead scientist, Dr. Kamilla Miskowiak said that patients treated with EPO showed a cognitive improvement “five times greater” from “their individual baseline levels” as compared to the patients given the placebo. “EPO-treated patients showed 11% improvement while placebo treated patients improved only by 2%.” Not only did EPO improve the cognitive abilities of the patients that were treated with it, but this improvement lasted until six weeks after completion of the treatment. The scientists also found that patients who did poorly in the neuropsychology tests showed greater improvement. This means that if EPO is used in future cognition treatments it can be tailored to patients based on how well they do on neuropsychological tests. These findings show that EPO’s ability to imitate hormones was able to somewhat repair the imbalance of dopamine, serotonin, gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), glutamate, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine. Based on the results, EPO seems to mostly affect the frontal and temporal lobes since cognitive abilities including verbal memory, attention span, and planning ability of the patients were tested and found to improve. CONCLUSION The scientists at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology are well aware that their study was small and they need bigger studies to confirm their findings are accurate for the general population. Since EPO is already used by many people, scientists already know about the safety and risks of it. Since EPO increases the production of red blood cells, people who have previously had blood clots cannot use EPO. Due to the increased risk of unwanted blood clots from smoking, smokers also cannot take EPO. While the study had promising results, it cannot be prescribed yet for depression and bipolar depression treatment without further testing. “The WHO [World Health Organization] estimates that around 350 million people suffer from depression, with a further 60 million suffering from bipolar disorder, but the drugs normally used to treat depression and bipolar disorders don’t have any major effect on cognition” (ENCP 2016). As many as 70% of patients in remission from bipolar disorder, and up to 40% in remission from depression continue to have cognitive problems. Even though there is no effective treatment yet to target these debilitating cognitive problems, this study could pave the way to proper mental illness treatment that will not only allow people to return to normal lives, but also cognitive functions.

more to explore [AAD] AllAboutDepression.com. c2013. Biological causes of depression. All About Self Help, LLC [Internet]. [cited 2016 Sep 21]. Available from: http://www.allaboutdepression.com/cau_02.html [ASH] American Society of Hematology. Dec 2008. The story of erythropoietin. American Society of Hematology [Internet]. [cited 2016 Sep 21]. Available from: http://www. hematology.org/About/History/50-Years/1532.aspx [BMP] Best Masters in Psychology. c2016. The science of mental illness. [unknown publisher] [Internet]. [cited 2016 Sep 6]. Available from: http://ig.bestmastersinpsychology.com/mental-illness.jpg [ENCP] European College of Neuropsychopharmacology. 18 Sep 2016. Hormone EPO shown to improve brain sharpness in patients with depression and bipolar disorder. ScienceDaily [Internet]. [cited 2016 Sep 21]. Available from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160918175955.htm [MIF] Mental Illness Fellowship. c2013. Understanding the brain and mental illness. Wellways Australia Limited [Internet]. [cited 2016 Sep 6]. Available from: http://www. mifellowship.org/sites/default/files/styles/Fact%20Sheets/ Understanding%20the%20brain%20and%20MI.pdf [MH] MentalHelp.net. 7 Aug 2016. Neurochemistry and endocrinology in bipolar disorder. CenterSite, LLC [Internet]. [cited 2016 Sep 21]. Available from: https://www. mentalhelp.net/articles/neurochemistry-and-endocrinology-in-bipolar-disorder/ [NAMI] National Alliance on Mental Illness. c2016. Mental health by the numbers. NAMI [Internet]. [cited 2016 Sep 21]. Available from: http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/ Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers [NIMH] National Institute of Mental Health. Apr 2016. Bipolar disorder. National Institutes of Health [Internet]. [cited 2016 Sep 21]. Available from: https://www.nimh.nih. gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml [NIMH] National Institute of Mental Health. May 2016. Depression. National Institutes of Health [Internet]. [cited 2016 Sep 21]. Available from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/ health/topics/depression/index.shtml

Scientific Tar Heel, September 2016


Why is still on th the


Obesity he Rise in U.S.? The number of people exercising has increased in recent years, so why hasn’t obesity dropped?

Image from Google Images.


Originally from Dallas, Texas, Melissa Kuan is a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill. She plans on majoring in pre-pharmacy and exercise and sports science. In her free time, she enjoys dance, swimming, yoga, and reading.

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yms and a variety of exercise programs have been popping up around the country. More and more people seem to have memberships to Lifetime Fitness, SoulCycle, boxing gyms, and Crossfit. So if more people are engaging in physical activity and exercise, shouldn’t that mean obesity would have decreased? That seems to be the logical reasoning, but in reality it hasn’t happened that way. Over recent years, the number of Americans who are overweight and obese has increased dangerously, even with more physical activity.

Last year, an article published in the LA Times reported that according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of obese adults has gone up in the two years leading up to 2014; additionally, all Americans regardless of age were more likely to be obese in 2013 and 2014 than in 1999 and 2000. As of last year, over one-third of adults and 17% of children and teenagers were obese (Gholipour 2013). Why is this the case when more people are getting sufficient exercise? According to a study by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), the number of Americans getting the recommended amounts of physical activity increased significantly from 2001 to 2009, as much as a 17% increase for males and 18% for females (Lebowitz 2013).

Obesity and why it matters Everybody knows what it is in general, but what exactly categorizes someone as obese? Most people have heard about BMI, or body mass index, which is what is most commonly used to measure obesity. But many people do not know what constitutes the range for normal, overweight, or obese, or what the number means. BMI is found by dividing weight in kilograms by height squared in centimeters. A normal BMI falls between 18.5 to 24.9, a BMI that is 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and anything greater than 30 is considered obese. Obesity increases the risk of many health problems, including: diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, some cancers, high blood pressure, stroke, reproductive problems, and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic Syndrome is “the combination of obesity, hypertension, and dyslipidemia”

in brief Obesity has continued to increase in recent years, even with more people getting sufficient physical activity. In 2015, over one-third of American adults were obese.

Greater risk for many health problems are associated with obesity, such as heart disease, cancers, and strokes. Any amount of weight loss reduces these risks.

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Exercise alone or diet alone cannot produce results in weight loss. Both are important to living a healthy lifestyle.

Obesity causes higher healthcare costs and compromises quality of life. Efforts need to be made to help solve the health problem that has such a prominent impact on society today.


The number of memberships at gyms and fitness centers has significantly increased from 2000 to 2015. Source: IHRSA. “Total Number of Memberships at Fitness Centers / Health Clubs in The U.S. from 2000 to 2015 (in Millions).” Statista - The Statistics Portal. Statista. May 2016.

(Daniels 2006). Why should people care to do anything about obesity instead of accepting their weight? With any amount of weight loss, the health risks decrease accordingly. Because of the many health risks, obesity actually shortens lives significantly. In 2014, a study by PLOS Medicine “calculated that people with a body mass index of 40 or above lost 6.5 years to 13.7 years of life as a result of obesity”(Kaplan 2015). Since obesity often brings a multitude of health problems and cumbersome economic spending, it has continuously been a nationwide epidemic. Demographics of Obesity An LA Times article compared a few demographic groups, based on age, race, ethnicity, and gender. In it, the article mentioned a CDC study that found that older people were more likely to be obese than those in younger age groups, around ages 20-30. This shows that as we age, lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise have more and more impact. There were bigger differences in rates of obesity between racial and ethnic groups. The lowest rate was Asian American adults at 11.7%, while the highest was African Americans at 48.1%. While obesity in children is not measured the same way as for adults, the percentage of obese kids is still higher than it should be. In order to be classified as obese, a child needs a BMI in the 95th percentile or higher in their gender and age group. This means only 5% of children should be obese, but it was found that 17% were. Obesity in children has remained around 17% since 2003. However, the obesi-

This graph shows how the percentage of obese Americans has continually increased from 1999 to 2014.

ty rate has steadily increased for adults. While obesity is more prevalent in women than in men, there was not a significant difference in obesity in girls than in boys. Childhood obesity, however, also became more prevalent with age, as it did with the adults (Kaplan 2015). Causes of Obesity The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) considers obesity to be a complex problem with many factors aside from eating and exercise habits, including cultural norms, work, and technology (Pronk 2015). Some other specific reasons why obesity is on the rise include diet, socioeconomic status, exercise, and culture. An article from The American Journal of Nursing looked into these different reasons. While genetics makes some obese people, around 50-90% of them, more susceptible to the effects of an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, this can be combatted by being especially wary of this. In terms of people’s diets, overeating is extremely prevalent

September 2016, ScientificTarheel.com 5


tends to increase appetite instead of curbing it (Lebowitz 2013). Another reason could be that the people working out are not the same ones who are gaining weight, since the IHME study gathered averages from different U.S. counties and did not look at individuals.

Obesity is more prevalent among women than in men. This graph shows the exact percentages among American adults.

among Americans. Socioeconomic status also contributes to obesity because of the low cost of packaged foods, so people who are less well-off opt for high-calorie foods instead of fresh fruits and vegetables. These people may also live in neighborhoods that don’t have the resources for outdoor activity, which further contributes to lack of physical activity. Exercise is an important factor because it impacts resting metabolic rate, which is how fast your body uses energy while at rest. Since most calories used in a day are used at rest, it is easier to maintain weight if this resting metabolic rate is increased. This can be done with more physical activity. However, many people do not exercise because of their jobs, which often requires sitting in an office for a large chunk of the day and leaves little time to exercise outside of that. Since technology has made jobs more sedentary, people have to purposefully plan exercise into their day. Education level also impacts amount of physical activity: 45% of those with a college education exercise regularly while only 30% of those who finished 9th grade or less exercise regularly. Culture influences people’s eating and exercise habits, which are formed during childhood and carried into adulthood. After comparing diets that restricted carbohydrates, limited calories, or limited fats, it was found that calorie restriction was the most efficient method for weight loss, and was actually more important than what foods the diet consisted of (Daniels 2006). Possible reasons why obesity is rising if people are exercising Just like the saying “Abs are made in the gym but revealed in the kitchen,” one theory suggests that people eat more when they exercise, which could be why they are not losing weight and could even end up gaining weight. This is especially true for high-intensity exercise, which 6 Scientific TarHeel, September 2016

How to Start Studies found that those who are able to lose and maintain weight are the ones who embark on a combined diet and exercise program. The people who succeeded most often did so because of health concerns. However, aside from the health benefits of exercise (better cardiovascular health, lowering blood pressure, reduce stress, anxiety, and depression) and a nutritious diet (prevention of certain conditions and diseases), there are many other ways to get motivated to take action against obesity, including reasons such as meeting up with friends to exercise, improving one’s appearance, or boosting self-confidence. Other important factors for weight loss besides motivation are family support, self-discipline, and fewer attempts to diet recently (Daniels 2006). Widespread Effects of Obesity Aside from physical health risks, people who are obese are more prone to lower self-esteem and depression. These people, especially women, also face discrimination and stigmatization from society, receiving less respect because of their weight. Obesity has a broader effect on society as well. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), obesity causes higher healthcare costs and compromises quality of life. Obese people have higher medical and absenteeism expenses compared to normal-weight workers, resulting in $400-$2000 more per person each year, putting a strain on employers and companies. Solutions? In order to combat obesity on a broader basis, social norms need to change and workplace wellness programs and other efforts should be put in place. Activities should extend to the community in order to have enough reach, which can be seen as an investment that will benefit the both the company and the community. Knowledge about exercise and how to effectively lose weight should be spread. Another article in the American College of Sports Medicine journal studied how exercise programs affect obese children and adolescents. It compared treatments, such as diet only, diet and exercise, and differently structured exercise programs. The exercise programs varied in frequency of activity per week, and whether they were lifestyle activities, calisthenic exercise, or aerobic, planned physical activity. At the follow-ups, it found that


the lifestyle exercise group had a lower percent of obesity than the other two groups. This shows how important it is to incorporate exercise into one’s lifestyle by walking, biking, etc. It concluded that there were consistent results for diet and exercise (Epstein et al., 1996). Conclusion It is evident that something needs to be done to help solve the health problem that has such a prominent impact on society today, crippling people personally, socially, and economically more than ever before. If more people are within range of a healthy BMI, then there will be less spending on preventable health issues, and people will live longer lives. This is important because the number one cause of death, cardiovascular disease, can be effectively prevented by maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise. With greater awareness about how exercise does not necessarily result in weight loss, more people can lose weight and thus reduce obesity in the population. With that, more people’s productivity will improve, which will benefit individuals, the companies they work at, local communities, and the nation overall.

The graph above compares rates of obesity in different racial/ethnic groups.

People exercising at a gym. In recent years, the number of Americans getting the recommended amounts of physical activity has significantly increased. Image from Google Images. more to explore Daniels J. 2006. Obesity: America’s epidemic. The American journal of nursing. The American journal of nursing 106:40–49. Epstein LH, Coleman KJ, Myers MD. 1996. Exercise in treating obesity in children and adolescents. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise [Internet]. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise [Internet] 28:428–435. Available from: http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/8778547 Gholipour B. 2013. Physical Activity and Obesity: Both Rising [Internet]. Available from: http://www.livescience.com/38067-activity-obesity-rising.html Kaplan K. 2015. America’s obesity problem still grows; the rate also rises as americans get older, the CDC reports. Los Angeles Times [Internet]. Available from: http://www.latimes.com/ science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-american-adults-more-obese20151112-story.html Lebowitz S. 12-07-2013. Americans Are Working Out More Than Ever. Why Aren’t We Losing Weight? [Internet]. Available from: http://greatist.com/health/exercise-weight-loss-071213

The graphs above illustrate obesity in children and adults by age. As pictured, obesity generally increases with age.

Pronk N. 2015. Obesity and Corporate America: Getting to Solutions ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal 19:50–53.

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Finding the Formula: Radioactive Recipes for Recovery Radioactive Iodine in the Treatment of Papillary Thyroid Cancer


Olivia R. Weidner is a researcher and writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The primary focus of her work is on the implications of various cancer treatments.

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icture this: after finding a suspicious lump on the side of your neck, you visit the doctor for an ultrasound in order to determine what might be wrong. After some deliberation, your physician tells you that you have thyroid cancer. What’s worse, it’s spread to your lymph nodes, which explains the bump on your neck. Scary, right? Unfortunately, it gets scarier. After determining that you need both surgery and radiation, you start shopping around for the best healthcare providers for each treatment. This is cancer, after all, and you want to make sure you’re in good hands. After visiting a couple different doctors and hearing their anticipated approach, you feel even more confused and fearful for what will come next. Why? Well, when it comes to thyroid cancer, there is a lot of controversy about how treatment should be given, especially radiation therapy in the form of radioactive iodine. This means that two different doctors may recommend two completely different doses. Who do you trust? It’s an important question, albeit a hard one to answer. This piece will offer an exploration of possible solutions to this problem. Introduction

Cancer research is perhaps one of the most difficult and yet critical fields for humanity today. The speed and accuracy of scientific breakthroughs in this domain is no small matter--it can mean either life or death for many patients. Some advances, whether in medication or other forms of treatment, can be unanimously deemed beneficial by health professionals. However, a big issue in the medical and scientific communities exists when such experts do not share the same opinions on the specifics. Oftentimes, specialists will be in agreement that a particular medicine or form of treatment can be undoubtedly advantageous, but will disagree when it comes to the administration and quantity of such drugs and/or treatment methods. This is a problematic but common-

place situation, particularly in scenarios involving the treatment of a specific type of cancer or cancer variant. A particular realm in which this is often the case is the treatment of thyroid cancer.

The Thyroid Gland and Iodine The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located at the bottom of the throat below the larynx and atop the trachea. It is part of the endocrine system, and it releases hormones that control metabolism, body temperature, heart rate, and blood calcium levels (National Cancer Institute 2016). These hormones are called T3 and T4. The thyroid generates these chemical messengers by absorbing iodine from our diets and combining it with an amino acid called tyrosine (Sargis 2015).

in brief

Radioative Iodine is one of the primary treatments for thyroid cancer.

RAI, like most cancer treatments, comes with many risks and side effects.

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The latest guidelines favor a risk-based treatment approach.

Much controversy still remains about when and how to administer I-131.


The above image shows the anatomy of the thyroid. This diagram is available from the American Cancer Institute’s website. The photograph at the top right is of Dr. Robert Michael Tuttle, the leading expert on papillary thyroid cancer. This image is available from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s website. The bottom right image depicts doctors preparing for surgery, which is one of the main methods of treatment for thyroid cancer.

While iodine is not usually listed on the nutrition facts labels of the food we eat (because it is not required by the FDA), it is in fact present in a lot of things that we consume, especially packaged goods. One example is iodized table salt, which many people have in their pantries at home. The thyroid is the only structure in the body that is able to absorb and utilize iodine, which makes it a very important gland. Furthermore, the hormones it releases are crucial to the metabolic activities of each and every cell (Sargis 2015). When something is wrong with your thyroid, there are often many signs. For instance, those with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can feel fatigued, constipated, and perpetually cold. Naturally, restoring order to a malfunctioning (or in some cases, completely non-functioning) thyroid gland is of the utmost importance. Luckily enough, this gland’s relationship with iodine is something that makes treatment of both disorders such as hyperthyroidism (overactivity of the thyroid) and some types of thyroid cancer much easier, as will be explained later in this article.

Thyroid Cancer Thyroid cancer occurs when “cancer cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland” (Sargis 2015). There are a few main types of thyroid cancer, but each has a multitude of variants that can act quite differently from one another. This poses a problem in that the applicable treatments can differ immensely between types and

even among variants of a particular type. One example is papillary thyroid cancer. It is but one of the four main forms that cancer of the thyroid takes, but it encompasses more than a dozen individual subtypes (Lloyd RV et al. 2011). These subtypes are deemed “variants” because of the ways they differ from the dominant version of standard papillary thyroid cancer. These dissimilarities can include the speed at which they tend to grow, the likelihood of metastases (spread beyond the primary location), and the way they react to various treatments.

Treatment Methods There are two main treatment methods that are usually used to treat papillary thyroid cancer: surgery and radioactive iodine. Surgery is more often than not the first line of attack, and it is the most common form of treatment for thyroid malignancies (National Cancer Institute 2016). The type of surgery done is based on the

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The diagram above shows how radioactive iodine enters thyroid cancer cells and destroys them from within. This image is available from: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/dXyxrwhYh8E/maxresdefault.jpg

extent to which the disease has spread in the thyroid bed and in surrounding areas. If the cancer cells are limited to a single side of the gland, a lobectomy is usually done, which is “the removal of the lobe in which the disease is found” (National Cancer Institute 2016). However, if the disease has spread over more of the thyroid, near-total thyroidectomies or total thyroidectomies may be done, along with removal of lymph nodes if they have been invaded as well (National Cancer Institute 2016). Though there are certainly standards that outline which type of surgery should be done in any given scenario, approaches vary between hospitals and among different physicians. Following surgery, radioactive iodine (also referred to as RAI or I-131) is usually administered. In many cases, surgical procedures are quite successful in removing the majority of cancer cells, however, RAI plays the critical role of obliterating residual (leftover) disease in the thyroid bed and in surrounding tissues. Nonetheless, there has been extensive debate (especially in the past few years) over whether or not radioactive iodine is necessary in these situations and if so, how much should be given. It is a bit disturbing to think that two people with the same disease, the same specific variant, and the same extent of disease spread may be receiving different treatment. It can also be rather unnerving for patients to receive conflicting recommendations from various prospective healthcare providers. When so much is still unknown, it’s quite challenging to determine who to trust, especially when it comes to something as serious as cancer treatment.

About Radioactive Iodine

Radioactive iodine is a very unique drug be-

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cause it targets thyroid cancer cells specifically. Because the thyroid is the only structure in the body that can absorb iodine, the radioactive form of the mineral goes directly to the thyroid. It also targets cancerous thyroid cells that have moved outside of the thyroid bed, as these will still take up iodine. One of the great things about RAI is that it goes right where it is needed, without damaging other body cells (American Cancer Society 2016). The drug is administered in pill form, which is very different from the external beam type of radiation that is given to patients with many other types of cancer. The pill’s contents enter the bloodstream and travel to the thyroid cells, where the iodine is taken in. Once the iodine enters a cell, its radioactive properties allow it to destroy the cell from within. This process takes time, and patients who receive a dose must remain in isolation for a somewhat lengthy period, as they pose a threat to those around them. This is because the iodine in their bodies gives off radiation as it fights the cancer cells (American Cancer Society 2016).

Variations in Treatment Researchers have been very interested in looking at how different hospitals and individual physicians contrast one another in the way they dispense the drug. One study detailed by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) stated that its objective was to “determine practice patterns, the degree to which hospitals vary in their use of radioactive iodine, and factors that contribute to this variation” (Haymart MR et al. 2011). The research took place from 1990 to 2008, and it followed nearly two hundred thousand patients in almost a thousand different hospitals. Upon analysis of the data collected, it was determined that there are statistically significant differences in RAI treatment between healthcare centers in both the methods used and the amounts given. In addition, the use of radioactive iodine in the treatment of patients with thyroid cancer increased significantly during the time period between 1990 and 2008, something that has been questioned a lot recently. Furthermore, the journal article acknowledges the undisputable fact that high-risk patients with later-stage cancer can often benefit from RAI. Nevertheless, it raises the issue that it is still hard to determine if it’s worth it for patients with good prognoses (good rates of survival) to receive the drug (Haymart MR et al. 2011).

New Standards Standards and guidelines on radioactive iodine have changed quite drastically over the past five years. Originally, most patients diagnosed with papillary thyroid


cancer automatically received I-131 following surgery. However, as time went on and researchers discovered more about the drug and its effects on individual patients, the recommendations about its administration became more conservative. This shift can be seen in the most recent standards published by the American Thyroid Association (ThyCa 2016). The idea that it’s important to determine the risks and rewards of any given treatment is not a difficult one to comprehend. Most methods employed in the treatment of cancer (thyroid or otherwise) come with quite a few undesirable side effects. Among those associated with radioactive iodine are: “Neck tenderness and swelling, nausea and vomiting, swelling and tenderness of the salivary glands, dry mouth, and taste changes” (American Cancer Society 2016). Obviously, one wouldn’t want to take on these side effects if they would not receive ample benefits from the drug that they go hand in hand with. This makes it especially important for healthcare professionals to address patient cases on an individual basis to determine what the minimum effective dose is for each. This treatment ideal has brought about significant change in the literature on RAI therapy.

Determining Risks and Rewards The new guidelines feature a “risk-adapted approach,” which essentially means that radiation therapy is customized for each individual person based on their diagnosis and prognosis. Physicians and other healthcare professionals use this method in an effort to maximize benefit while limiting downsides. This model is becoming increasingly popular, especially as patients grow more involved in their medical care (Tuttle RM et al. 2011). One of the leading experts on thyroid cancer is Dr. Robert Michael Tuttle, who works at the Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He is a key figure on the panel that writes the guidelines for treatment. In an article from the New York Times, he is interviewed about the disease and the way he approaches it as a physician. Tuttle is asked if most patients receive RAI after surgery, to which he responds: “No. In the old days pretty much everybody got surgery and radioactive iodine. That was just automatic. But over the last five to 10 years we have sort of been doing risk stratification and saying if you are a low-risk patient and the surgery probably cured you, then you don’t need radioactive iodine. If you are a high-risk patient and I am worried that the cancer spread somewhere else, then you will get radioactive iodine” (The New York Times 2010). Essentially, he emphasizes the idea of minimizing risk, both from the cancer itself and the treatment that

goes along with it. As a primary pundit in the realm of thyroid malignancies, Dr. Tuttle’s opinions and practices embody an ideal model of treatment, and also say a lot about the current conventions in that domain. In an ideal world, patients should be treated with radioactive iodine only if the positives outweigh the negatives.

In Conclusion Radioactive iodine is a drug that has revolutionized the treatment of many different types of thyroid cancer. The way it targets only the thyroid cells without damaging other body organs is something that most other cancer treatments simply can’t do. As time goes on, it will continue to be instrumental for treating patients with thyroid malignancies. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that it doesn’t come without extensive risks and side effects. These drawbacks must be weighed against the benefits that I-131 brings to the table. This will help to determine whether or not someone should receive a dose, and, if so, and how large that dose should be. As research uncovers more about the drug and the way it affects patients, the guidelines are continually improving. However, despite medical advances and revisions to the American Thyroid Association’s standards, there is still a lot that is unknown, including the benefit of RAI for low-risk patients. A lot of questions and controversy still remain, and it is important for patients and healthcare professionals to be aware of that. Until there is absolute certainty and unanimity where these issues are concerned, it seems that the best approach to treatment with radioactive iodine will be one that is based on individual patient cases. more to explore American Cancer Society. 15-04-16. Radioactive iodine (radio iodine) therapy for thyroid cancer [Internet]. Avaiable from: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/ thyroidcancer/detailedguide/thyroid-cancer-treat ing-radioactive-iodine Biro P. 2012. Unnecessary radioactive iodine? [Internet]. Avaiable from: http://islaslab.blogspot.com/2012/05/ unnecessary-radioactive-iodine.html Haymart MR, Banerjee M, Stewart AK, Koenig RJ, Birkmeyer JD, Griggs JJ. 2011. Use of radioactive io dine for thyroid cancer JAMA [Internet]. JAMA [Internet] 306. Available from: http://jama.jamanet work.com/article.aspx?articleid=1104230 Lloyd RV, Buehler D, Khanafshar E. 08-01-11. Papillary thyroid carcinoma variants [Internet]. Available from: http:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3037461/

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National Cancer Institute. 17-08-16. Thyroid cancer treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version [Internet]. Available from: http://www.cancer.gov/types/thyroid/patient/thy roid-treatment-pdq Sargis RM. 23-03-15. How your thyroid works [Internet]. Availa ble from: http://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/ thyroid/how-your-thyroid-works The New York Times. 13-10-10. Ask an expert about thyroid cancer [Internet]. Available From: http://consults. blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/13/ask-an-expert-about- thyroid-cancer/?_r=1 ThyCa. 2016. Guidelines from American Thyroid Association [Internet]. Available from: http://www.thyca.org/ about/ata/ Tuttle RM, Rondeau G, Lee NY. 2011. A risk-adapted approach to the use of radioactive iodine and external beam radiation in the treatment of well-differentiated thyroid cancer Cancer Control [Internet]. Cancer Control [Internet] 18:89–96. Available from: https:// www.moffitt.org/File%20Library/Main%20Nav/ Research%20and%20Clinical%20Trials/Cancer%20 Control%20Journal/v18n2/89.pdf

8 Scientific Tar Heel, September 2016


Finding the Light on th Tunnel


he Other Side of the Alzheimer’s Disease and its possible cures

Alzheimer’s Disease and its Possible Cures


Pallavi Yerramsetty. Pallavi Yerramsetty is a freshmen at UNC Chapel Hill. She has an avid interest for health issues around the country. She is majoring in Health Policy and Management and is on the Premed track.

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ifteen years ago, my grandfather’s life had a drastic change. He was sitting on the couch talking to his family in India and five minutes later he drops the phone and the ambulance is rushing him to the hospital. He had a stroke.We thought a stroke was all, but we were wrong. The neurologist diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s as well because the stroke affected the memory part of his brain. His life would never be the same! OVERVIEW Alzheimer’s disease, also known as AD, is a neurodegenerative disease that affects memory loss and cognitive decline. It’s the most common disorder and is in the top 10 causes of death in the United States. Common symptoms of AD include memory loss, confusion and personality changes. There are two different groups of AD known as early onset, which is not as common, and late onset. As the name suggests, early onset affects people less than 60 years old and late onset affects people that are over 60 years of age. According to Dr. Carlsson, late onset accounts for 97% of all Alzheimer’s cases. (Carlsson 2009) Diagnosing Alzheimer’s is fairly simple. The patient who thinks they have cognitive impairment has to go through a medical, psychiatric and neurological test. Through these tests, doctors can differentiate if a patient’s memory loss is due to aging, cognitive impairment, depression or dementia. (Gleason 2009)

Inhibitors known as Acetylcholinesterase are the most common options of therapy for AD. They increase levels of neurotransmitter acetylcholine in neuronal synapses. Sadly, only 18-48% of patients see an improvement, but the majority stay the same. (Gleason 2009) Instead of seeing an improvement, the majority see a decline in their disease and realize it is getting worse. Similar to cancer, doctors and other researchers have been struggling to find a new treatment or even a cure for this disease. Although recent research has shown that there have been many clinical trials to improve the treatment for Alzheimer’s. BRAIN ATROPHIES According to a study done on brain atrophy in Alzheimer’s disease by GM McKhann, hippocampal atrophy

ACETYLCHOLINESTERASE INHIBITORS in brief

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease that erodes the brain overtime.

Common symptoms are long term memory loss and confusion.

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The two main types of AD are Early Onset and Late Onset.

Research done for possible cures have mainly focused on the himppocampal section of the brain.


is the most common and popular biomarker for the progression of Alzheimer’s. The hippocampus is the first part of the brain affected when a patient is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This being said, MRI studies reported that the hippocampal volume was reduced by 15-30% in the mild dementia stage after using this atrophy. (McKhann 2011) Although the negative side to this treatment is it lacks specificity. Without this specificity, researchers in clinical trials may never know how to fully treat or diagnose a patient. A more modern type of matching approach known as Sulcal has shown positive results as a possible cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s. In the same study done by GM McKhann, he found that the progression from initial to mild AD correlated with widespread gray matter loss. According his statistics it was a 14-19% loss which affected 3 different cortexs, temporal, dorsal parietal and frontal. By using this technique we are able to measure the atrophy across a broad spectrum with accuracy. Through computational mapping tools, early onset AD correlates with severe neurocortical atrophy and late onset AD showed milder atrophy. (Frisoni 2007) BRAIN TARGETED METABOLITES A study done by Jun Wang showed specific brain targeted metabolites could treat Alzheimer’s. For example, plant-derived organic compounds have antioxidant, antimicrobial and other biological activities that can prevent and treat neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s. There are specific dietary sources that produce

these organic compounds which could reduce cognitive deterioration and brain neuropathology in AD patients. (Wang 2002) There is a specific preparation known as a Grape derived organic compound which can treat this disease. Although these types of compounds are delayed by the limited knowledge of their metabolites, bioactivities and whether or not they can reach the brain in time to exert the specific activities. To solve this issue a study was done by Jun Wang to investigate grape-derived compounds and the basis of the bioactivity done in the brain. (Wang 2002) They also tested a brain targeted metabolite known as Proanthocyanadins to see if it could reiterate the same type of activities a Grape derived compound could do. In this study, Wang purchased female mice and randomized them into three

September 2016, ScientificTarHeel.com 5


enzyme acetylcholinesterase. During this therapy reversible inhibitors, which bind to the enzyme without reacting to it, bind the acetylcholine enzyme and form the complex. This treatment can begin anytime after diagnosis. During the patient’s treatment, they should start with a smaller dose and then gradually increase depending on how severe their illness is. This will lead to maximum results and greatest benefits. With this treatment, there was 20% reduction in delusions which is one more step forward to finding a cure. (Mayeux 1999)

Neurons which is the main portion of what Alzheimer’s affects.

different groups. One was the control group, one was the Mo group which is part of protein known as Epicatechin, and the final group was the Po group which is another part of the same protein. All three mice were treated for 5 months when they were 7 months old and both types of the protein were delivered through drinking water. Following these treatments, the mice went through a behavior test as well when they were 12 months old. Fortunately, the behavior test showed that the Mo treatment improved cognitive behavior performance and spatial memory retention. On the other hand, the Po treatment did not show any improvement. (Wang 2002) Another study was done with biosynthetic PAC metabolites to see if it improves basal synaptic transmission in the nervous system. These specific metabolites accumulate in the brain and are found to contribute to the Mo treatment. Specifically in the treatment to improve cognitive function. (Praag 2007) During this study, the researchers used mice with AD and focused their attention on the hippocampal section of their brain. They also used a type of protein known as glucuronosyltransferase (3-O-Me-EC-Glu) to treat deficits in basal synaptic transmissions. After many trials, the scientists found that the protein increased basal synaptic transmission significantly. In the end, brain-targeted PAC metabolites are capable of repairing synaptic transmission strength in hippocampal section of the brain. (Praag 2007) CHOLINERGIC AUGMENTATION THERAPY A new therapy known as Cholinergic Augmentation has had promising results when it comes to AD treatment. According to a study, this therapy has increased cholinergic synaptic transmission by inhibiting an enzyme known as acetylcholinesterase. Cholinergic is defined as an action where the nerve cells respond to the 6 Scientific Tar Heel, September 2016

CONCLUSION Although there is no final cure for Alzheimer’s, many researchers and doctors have conducted clinical trials to move forward. Over the years, more and more adults and seniors have been affected by Alzheimer’s and therefore health professionals and scientists have take an initiative to find a cure.

more to explore Carlsson CM, Gleason CE, Puglielli L, Asthana S. Chapter 65. Dementia Including Alzheimer’s Disease. 2011. [accessed 2016 Sept 1] Available from: http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?sectionid=41587679&bookid=371&Resultclick=2 Lorenzo Pini, Michela Pievani, Martina Bocchetta, Daniele Altomare, Paolo Bosco, Enrica Cavedo, Samantha Galluzi, Moira Marizzoni, Giovanni B. Frisoni. Brain Atrophy in Alzheimer’s Disease and Aging. Ageing Research Reviews. 2016. [accessed 2016 Sept 2] Available from: https://www.clinicalkey.com/#!/content/journal/1-s2.0-S1568163716300022 Mayeux R, Sano M. Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. 1999. [accessed 2016 Sept 25] Available from: http://www. nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199911253412207 Wang J, Ho L, Gong B, Pan Y, Arrieta-Cruz I. Brain-Targeted Proanthocyanidin Metabolites for Alzheimer’s Disease Treatment. 2012 [accessed 2016 Aug 31]; 32(15): Available from: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/32/15/5144.full


title page


e spread

By: Sumera Ingram


By: Sumera Ingram

T

he Hug Felt Around The World the event that redefined medicine and sisterhood

It all began with a crisis involving twin babies fighting for their lives. One of the many articles written about this incident was by LifeNews titled, “Their ‘Rescuing Hug’ Stunned the World, Now the Twins Are All Grown Up. This was a tale about a simple gesture that remodeled medicine. The crisis involved two premature twin babies, named Brielle and Kyrie Jackson in Massachusetts’ hospital. According to the article, these newborns, whom doctors perceived were liable to die, were specifically twelve weeks premature. With their lives hanging in the balance, the standard procedure was to put the two in separate incubators to ‘reduce the risk of cross-infection’. Kyrie had more nutrients and began to recover, while Brielle’s life was hanging in the balance. A couple of weeks later Brielle began to turn a pale blue, which meant she was not breathing properly. At this gut-wrenching time, one nurse who tried ‘all conventional remedies’, decided to deviate from standard procedure. With the parents’ permission, the nurse

Scientific Tarheel, September 2016

placed the twins in the same incubator; this was a procedure common in parts of Europe. Immediately after the twins were place in the same incubator, Kyrie (the twin with more nutrients) put her arm around her sister Brielle. This little hug caused the weaker twin’s condition to stabilize rapidly. A couple of weeks later, the twins became healthy enough to go home, and based on the twins speedy recovery, their parents continued to place Kyrie and Brielle in the same bed. Even though,this event happened in 1995, it was one of the first occurrences that transformed modrern medicinal practices as we know it. (2014)

“Practical” Methods One life-altering and unconventional method led to years of examination of twins, and a conclusion that there was no evidence of cross-infection. Additionally, extensive research had been used to un-


Caption for these photos goes here. Nam lacinia sagittis tempor. Donec eleifend odio nisl, non vestibulum lorem convallis quis. Proin convallis luctus. Nulla volutpat mauris nulla, ut varius diam ultricies id.

Brielle (on the left) and Kyrie (on the right) derstand how a physical connection can lead to the following conclusion. Although Europe’s remedies seem to be ahead of the curve, Stanford Children’s Health explained the orthodox methods used in American Hospitals. Once a child is born, the umbilical cord is cut and the baby is weighed and cleaned, rather than letting the mother hold him/her. Then he/she would be assessed based on the Apgar test: muscle, pulse, reflexes, appearance, and respiration. Afterwards, the child would be checked thoroughly for physical characteristics to be certain of the baby’s health. In addition, babies are given baths and then placed in incubators with little touch or affections, due to the possibility of infection or disease in the delivery room. Subsequently, newborns were often kept in uncontaminated, secure, and isolated incubators. (2016)

Oh! Moms Should Touch Their Babies Extensive research has been conducted to explain the 1995 phenomenon. A woman by the name of Linda Folden Palmer has written many books about the importance of bonds with children and an excerpt from the book is called Bonding Matters: The Chemistry of Attachment. Linda Folden had also experienced a traumatic situation pertaining her baby after pregnancy, which led to her research to explain the importance a single touch can have on an infant. Folden begins by explaining the environment of the child before birth. The baby spends an average of 9-10 months inside of the mother, and surroundSeptember 2016, Scientific Tarheel.com 5


ed by amniotic fluid. This fluid is inside the placenta, which feeds the child, and protects him or her from diseases. While the baby is in the womb, he or she can sense and smell the odor that the mother gives off (2013). As proof of the baby’s amniotic fluid being able to help the baby sense the mother, research was conducted on forty-seven newborns in three different conditions. Each newborn had a normal pregnancy and a non-smoking mother. The newborns were all weighed, tested, swaddled in cotton, and then monitored. 16 newborns were exposed to “maternal breast odor”, another 16 were exposed to amniotic fluid odor, and the last 15 newborns were exposed to nothing (control group). The babies were monitored to test their comfort levels when exposed to similar odors inside the womb. This was foreseen through baby’s crying levels, the more the babies cried the less comforted they felt. The results showed that babies exposed to breast odor cried a lot more and babies exposed to amniotic fluid cried a lot less compared to all the groups (Varendi 50-54). The sense serves the memory of a newborn, so when they are born it is important to allow the mother to embrace her baby. The baby may not be familiar with the mother’s visual features at first, but the mother’s scent can give the baby comfort.

Graph showing the results of exposing three groups of babies to three different conditions: AF- amniotic Scientific Tarheel, September 2016

There Really is a Maternal Instinct? In several sources, oxytocin is explained to have many benefits for the child and the parent. Specifically, in mothers, the highest amount of oxytocin in a mother’s life is right after pregnancy. This hormone transmits to the mother’s brain, allowing a maternal instinct to occur. But, what exactly is this hormone and what effects does it have on babies or children? According to Harmon, an award winning journalist and editor, “Oxytocin is a chemical messenger released in the brain chiefly in response to social contract.” This chemical hormone is released through physical contact on the skin and is proven to enhance the bonds between the mother and child. The child can sense and feel a strong bond to the mother, and vice versa. Subsequently, the newborn is a lot calmer and comforted around the mother. The same chemical transmissions occurred in the situation with the twins. However, it was twin to twin contact-- rather than mother to child contact--that transmitted the oxytocin since in the womb the two babies were always together, they could sense each other, and the twins were beginning to form a bond. So, when the babies were separated from each other and the mother, they were unable to recognize anyone they shared that bond with, causing a lot of disruption to the health of the twins, especially the weaker one. When the twin babies were put together, each twin could sense the other. This in turn enhanced stability and comfort, or oxytocin. Oxytocin is a very powerful hormone in pregnancy. In addition to the hormone improving comfort and stimulating bonding, it also enhances the baby’s development. In addition, oxytocin reduces stress, depression, and fluctuates the mother’s temperature to appease or regulate the baby’s temperature. On the other hand, when babies or children do not receive oxytocin, facts have shown that those kids grow to have a “higher risk for behavioral, emotional, and social problems” (Harmon 2010).


What About Dad? Dads are often not talked about in terms of pregnancy. They play an important role, even though dads can transmit lower levels of oxytocin compared to the mother. However, there is a hormone specific to the dad known as vasopressin. Folden expresses vasopressin as a hormone that “promotes brain reorganization toward paternal behaviors.” Similarly to oxytocin, vasopressin supports the bond between the baby and the father. Additionally, vasopressin reaches its highest potential when the dad is with the mother after pregnancy. Subsequently, the baby should be in contact with the father after birth. Research from Dr. Theresa Crenshaw, a family physician and founder of Crenshaw Clinic, portrays the hormone as a reducer of testosterone. The reduction of testosterone causes the father to become more sensitive and want to be more intimate with his baby. When a baby receives oxytocin and vasopressin, he or she begins to form one of the most intimate and comforting relationships among the family (Gottman 39).

What Now?

All of the research conducted after the “Rescuing Hug” caused a significant shift in modern medicine. There is extensive research and information about the importance of oxytocin and vasopressin. Specifically, research and ad-

ditional evidence of the benefits of skin-toskin contact during pregnancy. These benefits have helpeed to create a new medical procedure, especially for twin babies. Instead of following the conventional methods of taking the baby away from the mother at birth, doctors and nurses recognize the importance of letting the mother hold the child first. Let us not forget the babies need to be embraced by his or her father, as well. Many lives have been saved with this new method, perhaps even yours. In closing, skin-to-skin contact with your child, sibling, niece, etc. is essential throughout their lives. Start when they are newborns, but continue to release oxytocin or vasopressin because it makes all the difference in the world. “Sometimes all you need is a hug from the right person” (Anonymous).

more to explore:

Ertelt . 2014 Jun 20. Their “Rescuing Hug” Stunned the World, Now the Twins Are All Grown Up [Internet]. Washington D.C.:LifeNews. com; [cited 2016 Aug 31]. Available from: http://www. lifenews.com/2014/06/20/their-rescuing-hug-stunnedthe-world-now-the-twins-are-all-grown-up/ Folden DC. 2013 Aug 13. Bonding Matters: The Chemistry of Attachment [Internet]. Baby Reference; [cited 2016 Sep 1] . Available from: http:// www.pregnancy.org/article/bonding-matters-chemistry-attachment Gottman JM. 2015. The Cascade of Hormones and Neurotransmitters of Phase I. In: Principia Amoris: The New Science of Love. 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017: Routledge. p. 38–39. Harmon . 2010. How important is physical contact with your infant?. Scientific American [Internet]. [cited 2016 Aug 31]. Available from: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/infant-touch/ Stanford Children’s Health. Care of the Baby in the Delivery Room. Stanford Children’s Health; [accessed 2016 Sep 15]. http://www.stanfordchildrens. org/en/topic/default?id=care-of-the-baby-in-the-delivery-room-90-P02871 Varendi H. ad. 2016 Feb 4. Soothing effect of amniotic fluid smell in newborn infants. ResearchGate; [accessed 2016 Sep 21]. https://www. researchgate.net/publication/13710530_Soothing_effect_of_amniotic_fluid_smell_in_newborn_infants

September 2016, Scientific Tarheel.com 7


Pills Don’t T Modern C ADH


Teach Skills: Concers of HD


WIlliam Pryor IV is a student and a researcher enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His primary interests are modern day education and social injustice.

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eep the following questions in mind as you read: How young is too young to prescribe children with behavioral medication? How scared would you or your child be to be prescribed behaviroal medication? How might creativity or immaturity be confused with learning disorders? observation, and a little testing, Paige was diagnosed with ADHD. Given her prompt diagnosis, a stimulant medication containing amphetamines was prescribed for Little Paige just cannot seem to sit still. Her mind her to take on a daily basis. And yes, the process was that is constantly wandering and she loves asking questions. simple. Paige is often very impulsive and does not think before I taught Paige myself through a student-teacher proshe speaks. She learns differently than her classmates and requires extra attention. Other kids find her annoying gram a few years ago. When I heard of her diagnosis and and her teacher says she is very disruptive. She’s a natural prescription, I was confused and concerned. Paige is not explorer and can’t pay attention to one thing for too long. the only elementary schooler being prescribed drugs in order to improve behavior and focus. The Center for DisDo you think Paige has Attention Deficit Hyperac- ease Control and Prevention has reported that half of the tivity Disorder (ADHD) or is she an immature develop- children diagnosed with ADHD received their diagnosis before the age of six. They also reported that about three ing child? Bear in mind that she is only six years old. in four children ages two to five with ADHD received After two to three trips to see her local doctor, a short prescribed drugs for treatment (CDC 2016). There is My Student

4 Scientific American, January 2017


Percent of Youth 4-17 Ever Diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder by State: National Survey of Children’s Health.

much debate on where the line should be drawn differentiating ADHD and immaturity. The number of children being prescribed psychotropic drug medication for ADHD treatment is rising, and inconsistent geographically. Many people find these medications to be risky to a child’s development and well-being, therefore, new alternative methods are gaining popularity and praise for treating diagnosed children without the use of medication. What’s all the fuss about? The CDC defines a child with ADHD as a child who “may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active” (CDC 2016). Nearly all ADHD definitions contain those exact three characteristics. These characteristics named in modern definitions do not accurately illustrate the severity of ADHD as a chronic neurodevelopmental disorder. Troublesome traits not mentioned include high anxiety, the struggle to resist temptation and get along with other children. The conflict arising is caused by the overdiagnosis and overprescription of ADHD medicine. This disorder is not contagious nor is it transmittable, so how is it that ADHD is “spreading” and becoming more common? “If ADHD is a true neurodevelopmental disease—which it is—then the prevalence of diagnosis and treatment should be consistent” (Newmark 2015). More children

are not contracting ADHD, more doctors are misdiagnosing the disorder. Evidence of the prevalence of misdiagnosis is presented in a graph shown below based on research conducted by the CDC displaying the percent of you 4-17 years old ever diagnosed with ADHD by state (CDC 2011). There should be no geographic inconsistency in the diagnoses of ADHD across the U.S. Having significantly more children diagnosed on the east coast than the west coast implies that doctors are using various methods of diagnosing children with ADHD. Consistency in diagnostic methods would decrease the number of misdiagnoses, which would lead to happier children, due to the increase in stigmatization of children classified as having the disorder.

January 2017, ScientificAmerican.com 5


children diagnosed with ADHD received that diagnosis by the time they were six years old (CDC). Elementary schoolers undergo a great amount of cognitive development during this time of their life and immaturity levels are very low. Imagine being six years old and being told that you have a learning defect that makes you different from all of your classmates. Your self-confidence is now lowered and you feel stigmatized and different. Imagine being six and being prescribed drugs that alter your thinking and behavior. You would be horrified. Say No To Drugs, Kids

Chart comparing characteistics of a person with ADHD compared to a creative person.

Stigmatizing Creativity and Misinterpreting Immaturity Over recent years there has been an increase in the amount of societal pressure and expectations placed upon children. These increased pressures have primarily been influenced by schools. School funding is now largely based on how well a school’s student body performs on standardized tests. Consequently, schools must standardize their teaching and instructional methods, which limits how much time teachers can invest in helping struggling students with unconventional learning styles (Lebowitz 2013). The first time you changed a tire, you probably did not read instructions, you probably had someone show you how. Some people can do their best cooking while reading instructions in a cookbook, others might need to watch an instructional video, some may even need a person physically guiding them step by step. When students’ instructional needs are not met and they are being forced to learn in a certain way, their creativity is being killed. Doctors have been increasing prescriptions due to the assumption that students who learn, act, and think differently than other “standard” students and fall behind in the classroom must have a neurological deficiency. Below is a chart representing common traits of ADHD and common traits of a person who would be described as creative.

The chart directly shows how these characteristics correlate and how they can be easily mistaken for one another. Supposed ADHD symptoms can often be a result of immaturity, and not a neurological defect. According to the CDC, parents have reported that half of the

6 Scientific American, January 2017

The use of psychotropic stimulants containing amphetamines on young children is indeed scary. Some of the side effects of some of these medications include weight loss, insomnia, and nervousness. Many side effects are still unknown; in fact, research is still be done to fully understand how these stimulants affect the development of the human brain and how the drugs can alter an individual’s personality. College students are known to abuse these drugs for a reason. They are powerful stimulants that help them focus and lock in to do hours of homework and assignments. It is easy to become reliant on these medications, even easier as a child. Children easily come depressed while on these medications. Some parents say their child just was not the same after beginning drug treatment (Lebowitz 2013). Making an accurate diagnosis of ADHD takes time. In order for children to properly develop without being under the influence of drugs, more extensive diagnoses must take place and alternative treatments should be encouraged. Alternative Treatment Methods More and more parents are seeking out alternative methods of treating their child’s disorder, because of the dangers and uncertainties of prescribed drugs. When a child is very young, they are trying to figure out for themselves their personal learning styles and techniques. It is easy for them to become frustrated, misbehave, and be disruptive, because they are kids after all. All alternative methods have one thing in common in that they all seek to fully understand the child’s personality, learning style, and development, in order to determine the best course of action in a child’s treatment. One of the best methods presented in the book, ADD/ADHD Drug Free: Natural Alternatives and Practical Exercises to Help Your Child Focus by Frank Jacobelli and L.A. Watson, is the implementing idea of emotional coaching and behavioral control as a way to better


understand a child’s personality, and it allows the child to understand their own personality as well. Positive parenting is required for emotional coaching to be effective. Parents with children with ADHD are much more likely to be stressed and disapproving than parents with kids without ADHD (Jacobelli and Watson 2008). Patience is vital in guiding children through exercises that help them better understand their feelings and why they feel the way they do, so they react better in the future. Children with ADHD-like symptoms often have short tempers and get angry easily. An example of emotional coaching would be asking the child to explain their anger by guiding them through questions and suggestions that help the child understand their emotions. A child that better understands their emotions is better behaved and can focus better in the classroom. Kids with ADHD often have problems with being overly hyper and being able to calm themselves down. Once the child’s learning style has been discovered and understood, it is important to implement that method of learning into everything that they do. For example, rhyming techniques are often used for musically oriented kids to calm themselves down whenever they become angry, overly-excited, or embarrassed. Jacobelli and Watson’s book gives catchy and humorous rhymes kids with ADHD can use to maintain composure and impulsivity, “Gonna stay cool cus I aint no fool. I wanna have a good day so I’m gonna walk away,”(Jacobelli and Watson 2008). Learning a child’s way of thinking and accepting their uniqueness is the best way to helping a child cope with ADHD. There are many problems surrounding our children in today’s time, unfortunately, the misdiagnosis of ADHD is another issue negatively affecting child development. Pills are being given to children that are simply too young and too undeveloped for it to be considered medically ethical. ADHD symptoms are being confused with immaturity, in turn diminishing children’s creativity. Every child is unique and deserves to learn in an environment that is suited for their learning style and free from stigmatization.

More To Explore Bennet, T. 2013. Leave those kids alone. New Scientist. [cited 2016 Aug 31]; 219(2932): 26-27. Available from: http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?sid=a5c6baf2-14c6-4b73-b138-ad5cbe470e70%40sessionmgr106&vid=11&hid=124&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=90074718&db=aph

CDC] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2016. Facts About ADHD. In: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Atlanta (GA):CDC; [cited 2016 Sept 12] Avaliable from: http:// www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html

[CDC] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2011. Statebased Prevalence Data of Parent Reported ADHD by a Health Care Provider. In: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Atlanta (GA):CDC; [cited 2016 Sept 12] Avaliable from: http:// www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/prevalence.html

[CDC] Mental Health in the United States: Prevalence of Diagnosis and Medication Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.”Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 Sept. 2005. Web. 14 Sept. MORE 2016.TO EXPLORE

Connor DF. 2011. Problems of overdiagnosis and overprescribing in ADHD. Psychiatric Times. [citied 2016 Aug 31]; 1-4. Available from: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/adhd/problems-overdiagnosis-and-overprescribing-adhd/page/0/1

Jacobelli, F. Watson, LA. 2008. ADD/ADHD drug free: natural alternatives and practical exercises to help your child focus. AMACOM.

Lebowitz, MS. 2013. Stigmatization of ADHD: a developmental review. Journal of Attention Disorders. [citied 2016 Aug 31]; 20(3): 199-205 Available from: http://jad.sagepub.com/content/20/3/199.abstract

Newmark, SC. 2015 A True ADHD Epidemic or an Epidemic of Overdiagnosis? Psychiatric Times. [citied Sept. 14] http://www. psychiatryadvisor.com/adhd/a-true-adhd-epidemic-or-an-epidemic-of-overdiagnosis/article/429034/

January 2017, ScientificAmerican.com 7


Regrowin

How stem cells can

Article by: Bijan Zakerin


ng the Body

n change the world


I

magine a future where there is no worry of organ failure. People can live longer simply because they can replace failing parts of the body with no trouble. If you have kidney failure, the solution is as easy as getting a freshly grown kidney. Life expectancy skyrockets, because now people can get new organs as they grow old. While this may seem like a scientific fantasy, in actuality, stem cells can be key to such a medically advanced future. For many decades, scientists have been studying and gathering more information on the complex topic of stem cells. The field of stem cell research is very large, as the stem cell itself is such a versatile cell. A stem cell is a cell that is able to produce more cells from itself with mitosis, and they are often found in many multicellular organisms, namely mammals. There are two main types of stem cells that are commonly researched, embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. As the names suggest, embryonic stem cells come from an early embryo, while adult stem cells are found in various tissue in an adult body. The main difference between these stem cells is that embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, which means that they can turn into any type of cell, while the adult stem cells can only differentiate into a cell of the same type

of tissue. Both of these types of stem cells are extremely useful in the medical field, especially in regards to regenerating tissue within delicate organs in the body. The potential for stem cells in regenerative medicine is absurdly large, as stem cells can quite literally regrow damaged organs instead of requiring surgeries or transplants. While there are many different topics within stem cell research, I will be focusing on stem cells within regenerative medicine for vital organs such as the heart and liver. Why aren’t stem cells used all the time? Research has shown that stem cells have potential, whether with medicine, technology or even fields such as genetics. Stem cells have sparked a lot of controversy surrounding the use of embryos in embryonic stem cell research. The controversy behind stem cells is a result of

in brief

Stem cells are cells that can produce more cells from itself with a process called mitosis, allowing scientists and researchers to produce any part of the body from a single cell. 4 Scientific Tar Heel, September 2016


using and destroying very early human embryos. While not all types of stem cells require human embryos, embryonic stem cells do, which are the most used and most helpful type of stem cell in regenerative medicine. While scientists are working on creating stem cells that are pluripotent but do not come from the human embryo, they are not quite there yet and nobody knows for sure how long it will be. At the moment, many medicines involving stem cells are being delayed due to surrounding controversy in the field. According to a study done on kidney stem cells by Benjamin Humphries, some of the most recent research is running into difficulties on the road to clinical version of kidney injury repair. The research from the study points to new possibilities, as Humphries observed that some lower vertebrates, like zebrafish, are able to generate an entire kidney from adult kidney stem cells. While those finding are not directly applicable to humans, they were still able to partially regenerate mammalian livers (Humphries 2014). It is imperative for research like this to be able to proceed, mainly because the potential medicines could be extremely helpful. The controversy surrounding stem cells restricts the ability to grow the topic of stem cells and learn more about it, which discouraged studies from being held. Endless Possibilities With all this talk of stem cells, what types of possibilities do they open for regenerative medicine? That is probably the question that is on everyone’s mind. Well, the possibilities are extensive, and can be applied to any

part of the human body. In a recent study led by Alan Widgrow, an alternative method of using stem cells for peripheral nerve injuries showed extreme promise. While previous studies have investigated the use of stem cells for peripheral nerve injuries, Widgrow is one of the first to look into the use of a specific type of stem cell called human adipose tissue-derived stem cells, or hATDSCs for short. These types of stem cells are unique in that they are multipotent, or they can grow into many different types of cells, unlike regular adult stem cells. HATDSCs are able to facilitate repair of nerve cells or replace certain nerve cells that were damaged in peripheral nerve injuries (Widgerow 236). Peripheral nerve injuries are difficult and extremely dangerous, as the spine is very delicate. Many peripheral nerve injuries leave people paralyzed, if not dead, depending on the severity of the injury. Injuries like this tend to be difficult to properly fix, because the nerve cells get destroyed and the damage is irreversible. While

September 2016, ScientificTarHeel.com 5


The Future of Stem Cells The future of stem cells is bright. The controversy around stem cells is hopefully an issue that sees less attention, as many people realize how important stem cells could be. More and more medicines involving stem cells are becoming clinical, and research is ongoing. Every year, study after study shows the progress and the ability of stem cells, particularly embryonic stem cells. Having an ability to differentiate into any type of cell is so versatile, that theoretically humans could grow replacement organs in labs or even in the body itself. If stem cells and other medicines can work together, there can be leaps and bounds within the medical field, and maybe some day we can reach the level of true, full organ and tissue regeneration.

that is only for the major injuries, the minor injuries are still dangerous as they still involve the nervous system. The ability to repair peripheral nerve injuries is a massive breakthrough in not only stem cell research but for nervous system repair. In scenarios like this, stem cells are important because they fill a role that we, as humans, cannot fill. To fix large nervous system injuries with surgery is near impossible for human surgeons, and runs the risk of injuring the patient further. On the other hand, stem cells allow for a safe way for the body to regenerate its own nerve cells and aid the repair of nerve connections. Along with delicate parts of the body such as the nervous system, scientists often research with stem cells in the cardiac muscle, or heart. Yiquiang Zhang, a researcher conducting a study on cardiac regeneration claims that “the mammalian heart is capable of some self-renewal,� but most mammals lose the ability for their heart to self regenerate as they grow older (Zhang et al. 1201). Stem cells are important to cardiac regeneration because they can help the cardiac muscle in utilising their lost regenerative ability. While the stem cells have that ability, it doesn’t always work, as studies show. Zhang and his team found that it was unlikely to get the stem cells to activate the cardiac regeneration. While this is disappointing for Zhang and his team, it reveals that more research needs to be put into the topic. Cardiac regeneration would be very important to many people. It has the potential to help diseases such as heart disease that, like the nervous system, is difficult to combat without the help of stem cells.

6 Scientific Tar Heel, September 2016

More to explore: Humphrey B. Kidney injury, stem cells and regeneration [Internet]. 2014. [cited 2016 Sept 24]; 23(1):25-31 Widgerow A. 2013. Strategic sequences in adipose-derived stem cell nerve regeneration. Microsurgery [Internet]. [cited 2007 Sept 24]; 34(4):324-330. Zhang Y, Migone J, MacLellan R. Cardiac regeneration and stem cells. [Internet]. APS Journals. 2015. [cited 2016 Sept 24]; 95(4):1189-1204.


Scientific Tar Heel Vol. 1  

A collection of student work from Tiffany Friedman's ENGL 105 course at UNC Chapel Hill.

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