TA B L E O F Ethics Planet of the apes Rise of the HumanMonkey Hybrids
WHEN WE ALL BECAME 16 SCIENTISTS
THE RISE OF TALEN 26
CIVILITY TEST CAME BACK NEGATIVE
no, you won’t grow a 22 tail
with great 12 pandemics comes great responsibility
Is compassion too expensive?
Cover art by Varsha Udayakumar 2
COVID-19 + Political Division
The Questionable Sustainability and Aftermath of the Olympic Stadiums and Villages
patent pending ethics vs money
Misleading in the Media
not enough seagrass 24 for the seacows
How Science Backs Journaling
TECH TOCK 28
Is time running out for us to make tech? advancements sustainable?
Ozymandias 30 HURRICANE SZN IN THE 32 305
Breaking Down the Latest Hurricanes and Why Miami is Especially Susceptible
C O N T E N TS Health
NEW SURGERY, NEW ME 38 UNDER THE KNIFE
Society’s Addiction to Plastic Surgery
Making Big Waves In Ocean Science
RESEARCH Video series
Season 3 umscientifica.com/ groundwork
The menstrual crisis 40 Movies gone mental
Hollywood’s Relationship with Psychiatric Illness
The Life-Saving Super Spray
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letter from the editor The essence of social responsibility is acting in the best interests of our society rather than any one person. The pandemic has become the prime example of the duty individuals have to their community, whether it be through social distancing, wearing masks, or getting vaccinated. However, social responsibility and rights have always been at the forefront of science debates. From advances in Chimera research in Planet of the Apes to a climate-focused retelling of Ozymandias, this issue explores the ethics and morals of scientific discoveries and examines the obligations we have to ourselves, each other, and the planet we live on. As we wrap up the semester while navigating life in a pandemic, I hope we continue to consider our social responsibilities for the common good. Enjoy reading!
Anam Ahmed Microbiology & Immunology, Public Health, Class of 2022 Editor-in-Chief, UMiami Scientifica
letter from the editorial Advisor What are we responsible for, what rights do we have, and what is ethically the right thing to do as a citizen of our country and the world? Oftentimes, we are faced with one or more of these dilemmas and the ways in which we deal with them can have a varying effect on those around us. In this issue, we examine the social rights and responsibilities each citizen possesses in topics that range from masking/ vaccinating in our current pandemic to the costs of prescription drugs/costs of experimentation. In all cases, the greater good should always be the priority over the good of one. Please enjoy this issue and continue to respect the microbes as we can only get through these challenging times together.
Roger I. Williams Jr., M.S. Ed. Director, Student Activities Advisor, Microbiology & Immunology Editorial Advisor, UMiami Scientifica
Anam Ahmed Abigail Adera Austin Berger Snigdha Sama Meera Patel Megan Piller Megan Buras Avery Boals Kim Sookoo Setareh Gooshvar Gabriella Guerriero Ainsley Hilliard Mac Clifton Roger Williams, M.S. Ed.
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S c i e n t i f I CA STAFF 2 0 2 1 Megan Buras Cherri Chen Asia Chester Stephanie Do Nascimento Natalia Jimenez Varsha Udayakumar
A r t i s t s
Adrianna Davis Zac Shamah Zach Zagon
G RO U ND W OR K
Anurag Aka Megan Buras Iliana Bennett Cherri Chen Stephanie Do Nascimento Lara Gomes Paris James Natalia Jimenez Naynika Juvvadi Geethika Kataru Meera Patel Megan Piller Zelda Rosenberg Varsha Udayakumar Annette Yates
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W R I TERS
Abdullah Abouradi Avery Boals Emily Danzinger Kelci Grooms Caleb Heathershaw Kiara Khemani Joaquin Martinez Sophia Meibohm Rodney Michel Christian Rivera Snigdha Sama Aarohi Talati Jasmine Tebbi
CO P Y ED I TORS
Barbara Colonna Ph.D. ETHICS Senior Lecturer Lily Schmutter Organic Chemistry NEWS Yashmitha Sadasivuni Department of Chemistry RESEARCH Yazmin Quevedo Richard J. Cote, M.D., FRCPath, FCAP HEALTH Marissa Maddalon Professor & Joseph R. Coutler Jr. Chair PROFILES Setareh Gooshvar Department of Pathology Professor, Dept. of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Chief of Pathology, Jackson Memorial Hospital Director, Dr. Jonn T. Macdonald Foundation Biochemical Nanotechnology Institute University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Michael S. Gaines, Ph.D. Assistant Provost Undergraduate Research and Community Outreach Tiana Acito Professor of Biology Peter Aronson Mathias G. Lichtenheld, M.D. Avery Boals Associate Professor of Microbiology & Evelina Khodykina Immunology Rodney Michel FBS 3 Coordinator Shirley Pandya University of Miami Miller School Sofia Ramirez of Medicine Charles Mallery, Ph.D. Associate Professor Biology & Cellular and Molecular Biology Associate Dean April Mann Director of the Writing Center Catherine Newell, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Religion Jackson Baer Leticia Oropesa, D.A. Ayesha Bakshi Coordinator Department of Mathematics Kyle Banker *Eckhard R. Podack, M.D., Ph.D. Blake Goldberg Professor & Chair William Goodman Department of Microbiology Gabriella Guerriero & Immunology Caleb Heathershaw University of Miami Miller School Naynika Juvvadi of Medicine Joaquin Martinez Adina Sanchez-Garcia Associate Director of English Composition Diana Mercado Senior Lecturer Sabrina Merola Geoff Sutcliffe, Ph.D. Clara Meyerfreund Lavrador Chair Department of Computer Science Meera Patel Associate Professor of Computer Science Sofia Ramirez Yunqiu (Daniel) Wang, Ph.D. Eswar Saaswathi-Mohan Senior Lecturer Zac Shamah Department of Biology Emily Tano * Deceased
B oa r d o f A dv i s o r s
Planet of the Apes Rise of the Human-Monkey Hybrids by Caleb Heathershaw Illustration & Design: Megan Buras
cientists have just created the first humanmonkey hybrids. Should we be concerned? What makes us human? Is it our ethics? Our brains? Our cells? Researchers have just implanted human stem cells in monkey embryos, opening a new field of scientific research and reigniting a public ethics debate about the very nature of humanity. Is this extraordinary research a step towards a medical revolution or are we witnessing the Rise of the Planet of the Apes?
The Science In April of 2021, researchers from the Salk Institute in California and Kunming University in China published, “Chimeric contribution of human extended pluripotent stem cells to monkey embryos ex vivo,” in the scientific journal Cell. A chimera is an organism containing cells from two or more different species. The term’s roots come from the Chaemera, the Greek three-headed fire-breathing mythical beast: part lion, part goat, and part snake. Scientists are not recreating such mythical beasts but are seeking ways to raise human organs inside animals. Over 100,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant. Chimeric alternatives could help solve this crisis. Scientists could raise a sheep with a human kidney then transfer the kidney to a patient on the transplant list, saving the patient’s life. The Salk Institute’s research explores the first steps in this process: will human cells communicate, integrate, or even survive in a non-human embryo? The researchers obtained 132 zygotes (fertilized eggs) of the cynomolgus monkey, also known as the Crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis). After 6 days of growth, the researchers injected each embryo with 25 Human extended pluripotent stem cells (hEPSCs). Stem cells are cells that have not yet decided what kind of tissue to become; extended pluripotent means the stem cells could decide to become one of many kinds of tissue. hEPSCs can come from artificially reprogrammed adult cells, as in this research, or from embryonic stem cell lines (a controversial source due to pro-life ethics concerns).
For the next 14 days, the researchers grew the embryos in lab conditions ex vivo. Each day, the researchers highlighted the human cells using a red fluorescent marker called tdTomato and counted how many human cells were still alive. The researchers discovered that 3% of the entire monkey embryo’s cells were human cells, even by day 20 (the last day an embryo can survive outside a womb before collapsing). This indicates that the human cells survived and integrated into the monkey embryo, opening new possibilities for chimeric research.
The Ethics Is chimeric research ethically concerning? Even today, we use animal organs in human medicine. For example, doctors have been using pig heart valves in aortic transplantation since 1965. However, chimeric research at the embryonic level raises greater ethical concerns than simply the “yuck factor.” Ethicists worry that scientists will not only create creatures containing human organs, but also creatures possessing human characteristics. To avert these concerns, chimeric research should avoid developing organisms that contain three defining characteristics of humanity which Stanford bioethicist Hank Greely crudely summarizes as “brains, balls, and beauty.” First, chimeric research should avoid accidentally creating “brains,” something with human consciousness. Although science can’t confirm when a tangle of brain cells becomes conscious, the scientific community has developed strict guidelines surrounding human cell use in nervous system models to prevent the formation of any form of human consciousness in animals. Second, chimeric research should avoid accidentally creating “balls,” something with human reproductive potential. We don’t want an animal with human sperm somehow meeting an animal with human eggs and accidentally creating a human inside an animal. This circumstance is avoided by inhibiting reproduction. Third, chimeric research should avoid accidentally creating “beauty,” something that looks partially human. If an animal looked eerily human, we might cognitively acknowledge it as human. Although the Salk Institute’s research does not cross the ethical
8 | Ethics
boundaries outlined above and adheres to rigid ethical oversight, it does open a veritable Pandora’s box. Chimeric research becomes ethically concerning as it threatens to develop humanesque creatures that cross the above ethical boundaries. It also becomes pragmatically unnecessary as less ethically concerning methods of organ production like 3D bioprinting and in vitro organ growth are scientifically closer to resolving the transplantation crisis. We have a societal responsibility to legally define the ethical boundaries of chimeric science before rogue researchers push experimental organisms beyond these parameters.
The Monsters? Humans have inherent dignity and deserve special protection. Do humanesque creatures? In blurring the lines between animal and human, are we willing to sacrifice human exceptionalism for experimentation? Society must answer these questions before science proceeds. I do not believe developmental chimeric research is worth the existential consequences. If we allow chimeras to become humanesque, we would be defining them as partially human: human, but not human enough to be treated as human. If we allow the creation and subjugation of sub-categories of humanity, even for noble scientific ends, we risk repeating the ethical failures of the grotesque Nazi
medical experiments. We risk destruction in the name of science, the degradation of human dignity, and the de-evolution of Homo sapiens. We risk creating a species of monsters: not in the lab, but in the mirror. Even in our quest for cures, we must protect the things that make us human. If we relinquish human dignity, even to rewrite our natural destiny, do we not act just as savagely as the animals we subjugate? Believing ourselves to have mastered nature, we may come to find that nature has mastered us: mere beasts, fighting for survival. Should we be concerned? Yes. Yes, we should.
Olympic Greenwashing T h e Q u e s t i o n a b l e S u s ta i n a b i l i t y a n d A f t e r m at h o f t h e O ly m p i c S ta d i u m s a n d V i l l ag e s
ustainability plans have been in full effect at the Olympics since the early 1990s with host nations adopting ecological policies, but is there longevity to these plans? The modern-day Olympics call for the unification and harmonious development of people all around the world. Host nations are able to project a specific image of themselves to the world, subsidize their infrastructure, and rapidly develop the Olympic urbanization scheme. With the Olympics expanding in terms of participants and audience members, urban areas are becoming more and more occupied. This, in turn, creates housing and brings new businesses to underdeveloped areas within the host nation. Since the Olympic games cost billions of dollars to host and inevitably leave a high carbon footprint, many nations have turned to sustainable and eco-friendly initiatives to combat this issue. More recently, the organizers of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics made a pledge for net zero carbon emissions and implemented several environmentally conscious policies. For example, the medals were made from recycled metal and electronic devices, athletes’ beds were recyclable cardboard, podiums were made from recycled plastic, and renewable resources fueled the majority of the games. Even with the use of green energy, the spaces occupied by the Olympic stadiums are not usable, resulting in abandoned parks and the loss of valuable space for the residents of that area.
10 | Ethics
by Meera Patel Illustration: Megan Buras
The Olympic Games come at the expense of residents and are extremely detrimental to urban landscapes. Host nations displace their residents in preparation for the Games and offer no solution for after the event is over. The 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, displaced 1.5 million people— only a small portion of the over 20 million people displaced due to the games over time. Then, even in the aftermath, that land that was taken from the displaced is completely abandoned and considered useless property due to the high maintenance costs and limited post-Game function. These pledges of sustainability then hold little value because the stadiums and arenas are not further utilized outside of the games. In other words, the Olympic Games can be accused of “greenwashing”— a term used for an organization’s misleading information regarding their environmentally friendly policies and products. Tokyo’s sustainability initiatives may have been perceived as incredibly impactful on the current climate crisis, yet the 2020 summer games ranked third-least sustainable, sitting right above the notorious budget-exceeding Rio 2016 summer games and Sochi 2014 winter
games. This is notable, considering the Tokyo games did not feature spectators due to COVID-19 thereby reducing the carbon footprint of the summer games but seemingly, not enough. The Olympics have not been sustainable and are not moving towards a sustainable future, regardless of the several initiatives flaunted by host nations. Despite the lack of sustainability to the initiatives forthset by Olympic planning committees, there are other aspects of Olympic urbanism that have positive attributes. For example, the Olympic Villages, which provide housing and amenities to the athletes and staff, continue to do so for the general population after the games conclude. This particular plan has been in effect since the 1952 Helsinki summer Olympics. Some host nations take different approaches in how they “recycle” the villages. For instance, the villages at the 1972 Munich games now accommodate local university students, and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics housed their athletes at the Georgia Institute of Technology and later converted the villages into student housing. After the 2014 Sochi games, the villages were developed into high-end resorts.
The 2012 London games altered the East Village housing units into 3,000 new homes, with the two-bedroom flats on sale for upwards of $1 million. Regardless of the upcycling of the villages, not all host nations have had luck with their sustainable efforts. The villages at the 2016 Rio games, worth $700 million, were renovated into luxury condos— which have stood vacant for years now. There are caveats to the sustainability plans set forth by Olympic planning committees, and there are great ideas that have been implemented yet lack perpetuity. The carbon footprint of the Olympics is an average of 2.3 million metric tons of CO2, equivalent to the annual emission of half a million cars. It is our social right and responsibility to find a solution to the concerning Olympic crisis that occurs every 2 years. The sustainability efforts of the Olympics are present, but are seemingly not meant to last for the future. We, as Olympic spectators, protesters, and participants, can collaborate to end the deception produced by the games. Olympic greenwashing is a newly adopted trend and justly highlights the failure the games offer to the world time and time again.
“The sustainability efforts of the Olympics are present, but are seemingly not meant to last for the future”
WITH GREAT PANDEMICS COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY by Gabriella Guerriero Design: Megan Piller Illustration: Megan Buras
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It’s not!”: this quote from Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax”, holds an admonishing message to respect the environment and all living things to conserve the Earth for all. In the story, the Onceler, a money-hungry inventor, chops down trees to benefit him and his thriving company. In comes the Lorax to remind the Onceler that what he is doing is absolutely wrong, and he must stop before he inflicts any more harm to the life surrounding him. The Onceler ignores the Lorax’s advice and chops down every last tree; soon after, he realizes that his own selfish desires caused so many creatures to suffer. At the end of the book, the quote above comes into play when he explains to a child the importance of preserving the environment, and how everyone has a responsibility to help change the world for the better. The Lorax teaches its readers that the best interests of all beings generally supersede the best interests of one being— which is in essence, social responsibility. In today’s world, the term ‘social responsibility’ is often thrown around, but what does it mean? Social responsibility is an ethical concept which suggests that we as human beings are obligated to act in a manner that benefits society at large. Moral values in society are established in order to better distinguish what is considered right or wrong. This means that to do something that causes harm to society would be considered socially irresponsible and immoral. Social responsibility aims to ensure people act selflessly rather than selfishly, altruistic
rather than egocentric. In other words, every individual is held accountable to act in a way that is not just beneficial to them but to society as a whole. On March 13, 2020, the US declared COVID-19 a national emergency; since then, the words ‘mask,’ ‘social distance,’ ‘quarantine,’ ‘test,’ and ‘vaccine’ have been incorporated into every individual’s vocabulary and repeated ad nauseam. Society will continue to hear these words forever unless a shared commitment is made to being socially responsible. COVID-19 is not the first pandemic to terrorize the world and, more specifically, the US. In 1918, the world was hit with the Spanish Flu pandemic, where 500 million people were infected with the virus; this influenza had a mortality rate of 10-20% and killed around 675,000 Americans. To curb the spread of the virus, health officials encouraged people to social distance, wear masks, wash their hands, and quarantine; schools, public spaces, and non-essential businesses were closed. Does this sound familiar? This pandemic lasted about two years and was completely eradicated once a vaccine was rolled out years later. Before there was a vaccine and modern scientific research, the US was still able to gain control over the influenza outbreak, because society was socially responsible. All of this being said, getting vaccinated and adhering to the correct protocol works. During the period of time where the US was unaware that the Spanish Flu was a virus, the pandemic was still controlled and eliminated within a few years. Why, in this day and age, with all of the knowledge accessible to us, can the United States not put an end to the dreadful Coronavirus?
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not!”
12 | Ethics
The answer is simple: this country lacks a sense of social responsibility. Whether or not COVID-19 has directly impacted you, this pandemic has surely impacted your life in one way or another, and likely not in a positive way. People continue to complain and fight the fact that life is not fully normal, but frankly, it will never be truly ‘normal’ until people stop acting selfishly and start thinking about others. It takes minimal effort to be socially responsible in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic; an individual simply has to get vaccinated and wear a mask. In fact, if people decided to be socially responsiblefrom the beginning, thousands of deaths and the infection of millions of people could have been avoided. Americans have conjured up their own reasons as to why they refuse to do their part when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic. They believe that it is not a real threat, blame it on false and unproven claims, claim to not trust the vaccine’s manufacturers, or refuse to be told what to do. The point of the matter is that these individuals are not thinking about society; they are thinking about themselves. Unfortunately, if the whole world operated like that, nothing good could ever be achieved. As humans living on this Earth, it is everyone’s responsibility to do their part, even when it may not be convenient for them. Unless everyone starts being socially responsible, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
Ethics vs money
Patent pending Is compassion too expensive? by: naynika juvvadi
The field of ethics is a philosophical branch of study in which behavior is deemed right or wrong. In drug research, the study of ethics is important as it quantifies a drug’s benefits and harms, weighing them against each other. After a drug is approved, the next step is to create a patent. This is the moral grey area. Patent ethics primarily concern the bureaucratic officials, not the researchers of a drug. Pharmaceutical companies who purchased the patent see the necessity for the product and begin inflating the prices. With no one enforcing rules to regulate the cost due to the United States’ free-market approach, pharmaceutical companies have free reign to take advantage of consumers. An example of blatant patent abuse and price gouging by pharmaceutical companies is in the case of insulin. Insulin is a life-saving drug for individuals living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own insulin-producing beta-cells, resulting in the body’s inability to effectively control blood sugar levels. Type 2 occurs when the body becomes desensitized to insulin, causing high blood sugar levels. When insulin injections were originally invented, Fredrick Banting did not want to put his name on the patent. He said, “Insulin does not belong to me, it belongs to the world.” Banting and his co-inventors sold the patent for one Canadian dollar to the University of Toronto because these researchers recognized its crucial value in saving millions of lives and felt that it was unethical for doctors to profit from the patenting of a life-saving medication. Decades later, only four drug companies hold the patent to produce insulin: Eli Lilly, Sanofi, Novo Nordisk, and Pfizer. his is because following insulin’s initial discovery, the researchers sold the patent to the University of Toronto, and the University agreed to work with Eli Lilly to mass-produce the drug as a gift to them. Years later, Sanofi, Novo Nordisk, and Pfizer all began to produce insulin and
14 | Ethics
extract billions of dollars from those in need of the drug. They were able to continuously extend their patents by making slight improvements to the drug. As time went on, newer and better forms of insulin were devised, leading up to the synthetic insulin that closely represents that produced by the human pancreas. This is the justification for the overpricing of insulin: the innovation of the drug. The synthetic insulin patent expired in 2014, but the newer models are more complex and thereby harder to replicate, according to the pharmaceutical suppliers. Unpatented insulin is currently being devised but due to the lack of patent, Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval is required, which takes a significant amount of time. By making this insulin available to the public, the cost will be around 50% less. Why do these pharmaceutical companies charge patients $120-$450 per month for a drug that costs $6 to produce? The answer is simple: no one is stopping them. Some governments, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, have a single-payer health system in which the government has a strong influence over various aspects of the healthcare process. In Canada, the government can state what amount they will pay for the drug, and if the pharmaceutical company will not comply then the government will go elsewhere for the drug. This forces pharmaceutical companies to reduce prices. Conversely, the United States has a hybrid system of national health service: single-payer and lack of patent, Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval is required, which takes a significant amount of time. By making this insulin available to the public, the cost will be around 50% less. Why do these pharmaceutical companies charge patients $120-$450 per month for a drug that costs $6 to produce? The answer is simple: no one is stopping them. Some governments, such as Canada and the United
Kingdom, have a single-payer health system in which the government has a strong influence over various aspects of the healthcare process. In Canada, the government can state what amount they will pay for the drug, and if the pharmaceutical company will not comply then the government will go elsewhere for the drug. This forces pharmaceutical companies to reduce prices. Conversely, the United States has a hybrid system of national health service: single-payer and multi-payer universal health care. The US government has little oversight and regulation of drug pricing. An attempt for regulation was made with the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), but the bill has not made progress. The Act would have allowed the federal government to produce a generic version of the drug if one of the following three conditions applied: 1) A generic version of the drug has not been produced; 2) One or two of the companies producing the drug are experiencing a shortage or are overpricing the drug, or 3) One or two of the companies is making a drug that is considered to be essential by the World Health Organization but is not affordable to some of its patients. Insulin is not the only drug that is having its prices inflated on the premise of necessity; EpiPens are vital for those going into anaphylactic shock— without it, they can die. By enforcing ethical patent conditions that pharmaceutical companies must abide by, drugs needed for human survival can be affordable and accessible to those who need the medicine, thereby saving lives. Without such measures, more diabetics may resort to extreme measures to offset the rising costs of insulin such as skipping doses, taking less medicine than needed, and traveling to other countries like Canada and Mexico that have affordable pricing policies. As a result, they will create larger problems for themselves, which will end up being more costly in the long run, not only financially, but also in terms of human lives.
Why do these pharmaceutical companies charge patients $120-$450 per month for a drug that costs $6 to produce? The answer is simple: no one is stopping them. Some governments, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, have a single-payer health system in which the government has a strong influence over various aspects of the healthcare process. In Canada, the government can state what amount they will pay for the drug, and if the pharmaceutical company will not comply then the government will go elsewhere for the drug. This forces pharmaceutical companies to reduce prices. Conversely, the United States has a hybrid system of national health service: single-payer and multi-payer universal health care. The US government has little oversight and regulation of drug pricing. An attempt for regulation was made with the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), but the bill has not made progress. The Act would have allowed the federal government to produce a generic version of the drug if one of the following three conditions applied: 1) A generic version of the drug has not been produced; 2) One or two of the companies producing the drug are experiencing a shortage or are overpricing the drug, or 3) One or two of the companies is making a drug that is considered to be essential by the World Health Organization but is not affordable to some of its patients. Insulin is not the only drug that is having its prices inflated on the premise of necessity; EpiPens are vital for those going into anaphylactic shock— without it, they can die. By enforcing ethical patent conditions that pharmaceutical companies must abide by, drugs needed for human survival can be affordable and accessible to those who need the medicine, thereby saving lives. Without such measures, more diabetics may resort to extreme measures to offset the rising costs of insulin such as skipping doses, taking less medicine than needed, and traveling to other countries like Canada and Mexico that have affordable pricing poli-
When we all became scientists
by Zachary Shamah Design: Zelda Rosenberg Photography: Sofia Ramirez
e all remember those two weeks in mid-March of 2020 when the world around us came grinding to a halt. For months, COVID-19 was somewhat of a myth - a threat looming oceans away both in geography and in our minds. In the past, whether it was due to tuberculosis, the swine flu, or Ebola, the U.S. has always managed to avoid a full-fledged pandemic on American soil. In the winter of 2019, as the virus began spreading around the world, few Americans seemed very invested in the matter. Even as the first few cases showed up here in the U.S., the silent consensus was that we’d be able to maintain much more than six feet of distance from the issue and remain unaffected as usual. But within weeks, colleges were sending their students home, the President was declaring a national emergency, and countless businesses were closing their doors. We came to the realization that we, the United States of America, did not in fact have
became clear that our lives depended on our knowledge of this virus and its danger, that everyone started to become a “scientist”. By definition, a scientist is someone that is studying or has an expert level of knowledge of a certain science; by mid April, I feel that most Americans fell under this description. In this context, it is important to recognize that very few of these new “scientists” possessed any of the real training that was required to carry out and spread relevant research in an official capacity. Additionally, over the course of the pandemic, many were responsible for spreading harmful misinformation about the virus. However, this should not be the reason that we refrain from calling these people “scientists”. The world needed more citizens that felt so empowered in the world of science that they devoted their time and energy to understanding the complexities behind the issues we face like it were their jobs. We needed more scientists - and
“We needed more scientists - and once this became clear to our society, that’s exactly what we got.” this situation under control. As the invisible enemy swept across the country, taking fatalities at each turn and in every pocket of the nation, an overwhelming sense of helplessness fell upon the American people. This desperation and fear that many of us came to know well was mainly born out of a gross lack of knowledge about the virus and its threat level. Family members, friends, and colleagues would constantly ask each other: how contagious do you think it is? How sick would I get? Is this really that big of a deal? Without the answers to these questions, many were left searching for a lifeline that didn’t yet exist. As news stations began reporting on infection rates and death tolls, our collective angst heightened and our hope diminished. It was at this moment, when it
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once this became clear to our society, that’s exactly what we got. Almost instantly, people who had never spoken about cellular biology were suddenly arguing about antibodies and T cells in an effort to make sense of this mysterious illness. Ordinary citizens in our communities were frantically trying to teach themselves a crash course in immunology because now, their lives depended on it. The daily news became scripture, as citizens glued to their TVs tried to piece together the latest discoveries. Whether it was concerned parents trying to keep their children safe, business owners looking for ways to open their doors again, or strangers arguing on the internet, we all found the determination to invest our time and energy into learning everything we could about the virus. For the first time, it seemed like
the American people weren’t just passively listening to the science being communicated to them, they were actively trying to understand it. This sudden explosion in the rise of self-proclaimed scientific experts fascinated me to no end. COVID-19 quickly became the main item on everyone’s political agenda and social media promptly exploded into a flurry of finger-pointing and emotionally charged Instagram stories. It seemed as though our society was split in two: those in support of the public health protocols and those in opposition to them. The simple act of wearing a mask became a topic that could instigate fights in grocery stores and on planes alike. People in favor of the health mandates accused the other side of being ignorant or poorly educated on the matter and those in opposition accused the former of being too cautious and controlling. Each side felt as if their ideas weren’t being acknowledged or validated by the other. As this fire raged on, the flames illuminated the beautiful role that opposition plays in our society, especially when it comes to a topic such as COVID-19. As everyone engaged in these daily debates, many of us began reading news articles, watching interviews, and doing intense research. As we were challenging each other, without intending to, we all became scientists.
This scientific uprising can be largely credited to the scientific communicators of the world, who sit at the intersection of groundbreaking research and the general public. They remove the often intimidating jargon of these topics so that the relevant information may be more easily digested by everyone else. Spanning news anchors, journalists, activists, and many more, these communicators have played a crucial and often overlooked role in helping our society understand the complexities of the COVID-19 virus. With this greater understanding of the issues we face as a society, we had a better chance of navigating the road back to normality. Over the course of the pandemic it became clear that just as we became scientists, we also became science communicators as well. Each time we invested our energy in understanding a complex scientific concept, and conveyed that concept to someone else in a simpler way, we were doing our part in changing the world, one person at a time.
The way that our country responded to the pandemic was proof that we do in fact stand a chance in the face of such dangerous global threats. COVID-19 is not the only threat that the world faces today. There are countless environmental issues stemming from climate change that are just as dangerous as COVID-19, with the key difference that these crises act on longer time scales and are therefore easier to ignore. While many environmental activists have surrendered themselves to the seemingly inevitable fate of destruction, I have hope that as a society we are capable of rising to any challenge just as we did when we were confronted with the coronavirus. If we acknowledge that these threats are just as present and significant as the virus, we can truly change the world. We must never forget the true power that each of us holds in our voices once we learn about these global issues. Even challenging each others’ beliefs is an important step in the process, just as it is within the scientific method, and one that we cannot afford to look down upon as we enter into an uncertain future filled with obstacles to overcome. Over the course of the pandemic thus far, and as we continue to
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fight COVID-19, it has become clear to me, as I hope it has for everyone else, that the old adage holds true: knowledge is power. Now, more than ever, we are confronted with the fact that any scientific discovery is only as powerful as our ability to understand and communicate that finding to those around us. Ultimately, the power to change the world lies in the individual, and it is up to us to help each other acknowledge that power and use it as we work to create a brighter future for ourselves and our future generations. The COVID-19 pandemic has tested us, and oftentimes, it feels as though it has broken us. However, we must acknowledge everything that we have gained from this experience as well. Our society is now filled with millions of newfound “scientists” who are learning to better research and communicate the scientific complexities of serious issues that are important to them and their communities. We are stronger now than we ever have been before. But most importantly, we have come face to face with our ability to change the world with science. Although the future may seem uncertain, I have faith - and when that faith falters, I will always think back to the time when we all became scientists.
Civility Test Came Back Negative Covid-19 and political division er on Ba s k c By Ja sign: De ru Kata a k i h Geet
olitical parties often take disparate views on solutions to social issues, but the current COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the dark corners of political division that pervade American society. Remember November 2016? Donald Trump won the needed 270 electoral college votes becoming the next President of the United States. This election had historically unpopular candidates: only one in three Americans had favorable opinions regarding the honesty and trustworthiness of either candidate: Trump or Clinton. Individuals that trusted one candidate seldom trusted the other, creating a significant political divide in the US citizenry. In the years following the 2016 election, the political division became stronger. The Republican Party became the party of Trump, and the Democratic Party began to put forth more left-leaning social democrats. Misinformation and outright lies spread like wildfire via social media outlets and popular news media, often fueled by politicians catering to their political base. Come March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced governments worldwide to shut down their economies and request that people stay at home until scientists and public health officials could figure out how to manage its spread and minimize hospital overload amid rising case counts. Everyone became uncertain of what the future held for their health, finances, and freedom to move in public. People began to feel increasingly anxious and questioned whether the government had the “right” answers. In May 2020, in the midst of dealing with the pandemic, racial tensions rose due to police violence. Derek Chauvin, a police officer in Minneapolis, was accused of murdering George Floyd, a black man, by kneeling on his neck for nine and a half minutes during an arrest. Once again, the excessive use of force by police against minorities took center stage in the media. Amid the pandemic, people took to the streets to protest, resulting in more people disregarding social distancing guidelines. Those on the left wanted to enact police reform and end ongoing police brutality towards minorities and used the umbrella slogan, “Defund the Police!” Those on the right, however, were opposed to defunding community policing programs. They feared these actions would increase crime. The thin blue line flag became a widespread symbol of support and respect for officers; the abbreviation BLM (Black Lives Matter) became a sign of solidarity for supporting communities of color. Almost simultaneously, the United States reached a devastating landmark of 100,000 COVID-19 related deaths. However, resistance had been stirring against lockdowns and forced masking mandates among civil libertarians, and state governors felt significant political pressure to reopen despite these numbers. Some people still believed that this disease was a political tool for the government to leverage control over the populace. In November 2020, the presidential election of 2020 achieved the nation’s highest voter turnout in history. Even though he lost to Democrat Joe Biden, Trump received the second-most votes of any presidential candidate, totaling over 70 million. While not in control of the presidency anymore, the Republicans gained seats in Congress. The political divide between half of the country was living on. Some believed that government mandates threatened individual freedoms while others believed that they promoted freedom. Any voices in the middle of that spectrum were drowned out in a sea of rhetoric and political grandstanding.
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On January 6, 2021, supporters of former President Trump stormed into the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., protesting what they believed was a stolen election. In a futile attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election, hundreds of citizens tried what had not been done since the War of 1812: an invasion of the capitol. This time, though, instead of British troops, the rioters were ordinary U.S. citizens. Many protestors were radicalized to the right and truly believed they were helping the country by saving the election process. Those watching the events unfold on television will agree that it was like watching an American History textbook being written in real-time. This event created further discord among the American citizenry: the usual peaceful transfer of power had been disrupted. Today, in October 2021, states have begun to reopen, and the economy is officially in its recovery stage. However, the people of America are still politically divided. Now out of office for eight months, Donald Trump continues to hold rallies with tens of thousands of people attending, some continuing to believe that the election was fraudulent. Also, many Congressional Republicans that witnessed the violent attack on the nation’s capital began to change their position and support it as a peaceful protest. More examples of political division than could be listed in one article happened within this time frame. However, this brief history that the U.S. experienced does not exist in a bubble. Just one election will not— and did not—make the other side disappear; this has been building up for years, unleashed by a lack of genuine national leadership. When will this end? Can the nation ever see the Democrats and the Republicans work together to make the country better?
The ideological camps in America have very different perspectives and answers to the most important question of today: who is in charge of our safety during a pandemic? Should the government act to protect everyone, or should people be left to make their own choices? COVID-19 has further entrenched Americans into their political camps, with almost no civility and compromise across political lines. Even nonpolitical issues spark disagreement. Mask-wearing mandates are still entirely rejected by one-third to one-half of Americans; many of them believe these mandates infringe on their civil liberties. As the effects of the pandemic begin to wane, the time has started to run out to change people’s minds on this issue. Some researchers are now advocating wearing masks to prevent spreading other illnesses, like the seasonal flu, but resistance to mask-wearing is so strong that it will likely never gain popularity here. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a prominent Republican politician, attempted to ban any and all mask mandates in K-12 schools rather than leaving the decision to local school boards. Governor DeSantis even threatened to reduce and remove federal and state aid to K-12 schools with mask mandates. More countries around the world are choosing to enforce vaccinations. European nations are beginning to require vaccine passports to gain entry to certain places. Meanwhile, DeSantis banned vaccine passports from being used in Florida by any government or private body. Even though he has strongly encouraged vaccinations, he refuses to allow rules that he believes would breach the right of individual medical choice. Other American state governments, however, have acted differently. New York has launched a digital “Excelsior Pass” where vaccine and testing information can be scanned from phones. If a digital vaccine pass were to be created on a federal level, it would certainly be met with a harsh backlash from conservatives and civil liberty advocacy groups, such as the ACLU. Even in more left-leaning nations such as Canada and France, thousands protested against the policy. Eventually, the state of emergency will end. Without the constant fear people have during the pandemic, perhaps tensions will ease. The National Institutes of Health found that anxiety and depression increased in multiple groups since the start of the pandemic. It may be harder to understand people who do not think the same way in a time of crisis and to feel empathy for each other when most of our energy is directed towards protecting ourselves. How could one possibly relate to somebody else when it seems like they are intentionally prolonging the problem? Politics have been in such an overheated state for the past four years, and COVID-19 brought out the worst of the furthest ends of the political spectrum. As the shadow of the virus fades away and as political rhetoric dies down, there is hope that America can return to civility, which, in turn, can bring about a more peaceful and united future. All that will be necessary at that point is an effort from individuals to reach out to their fellow citizens as friends - as happy American people - not as political enemies.
No, You WoN’t GroW a tail Misleading in The Media by William Goodman Design: Annette Yates
fter months of anticipation and not knowing when anything might change, pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca became household names that incited a range of emotions among people everywhere. However, one thing that not everyone might have anticipated is how much controversy the creation and release of the COVID-19 vaccines would create, especially in the United States. Due to the virus-like spread of misinformation through social media, COVID vaccines have become a hot topic for debate. Hidden behind a computer screen, unqualified individuals are convincing the public of side effects ranging from infertility to the growth of unwanted appendages. Although it would be miraculous to grow a tail or a third arm, the chances of that happening are 0%. COVID vaccines are safe, having been tested thoroughly by experts in the medical field. Vaccines work by generating antibodies before the body is exposed to a pathogen or disease. Vaccines carry proteins called antigens that we expose to the human immune system. Our immune system then generates anti-pathogenic molecules called antibodies, preempting our body to fight future infections. Due to the complexity of drug design and trials, vaccines can take years before they are available for public use. In fact, the fastest developed vaccine, before COVID-19, was for Mumps, which took four years. The “fast-tracking” of the vaccine is used as ammo for conspiracy theorist arguments that commonly imply that because of the vaccine’s quick creation, its intended use and contents must be different from what is stated. A multitude of false facts have disseminated through social media. The most common and concerning myths regarding COVID-19 vaccines are that they contain microchips, that they will make you infertile, and that they were developed too fast to be safe. Due to its evolving sophistication, social media has permanently altered human interaction. Nowadays, you can pretend to be whoever you wish behind a screen and reach millions of people. This power tempts the narcissist to spread lies and chaos. United States public health organizations use social media platforms as well in efforts to comfort the public and encourage safe decision making (e.g., taking the vaccine). Thus, a war is waged; swords and shields are replaced with keyboards and mice. The public is left to decipher through this information independently.
Debunking Myth 1: A survey done by The Economist reports “a survey based on 1,500 Americans found that 20% of them think the U.S. government is using the COVID-19 vaccine to microchip the population (WFLA).” This myth is quickly debunked as it is impossible to engineer a microchip with tracking capability that can fit through a hypodermic needle. For reference, the largest hypodermic needle used today is the 7 gauge needle which has an inner diameter of 0.150 inches. The smallest microchip that can safely be injected and have live-tracking capability is much to large. The ability to track people via vaccine injection does not exist.
Debunking Myth 2: This myth is more emotionally charged as it implies that an individual may have complications in having children. A whopping “three in five vaccine rejectors believe that the COVID-19 vaccine can cause infertility (62%) or changes in a person’s DNA (60%).” This myth is so widely believed because it is assumed that these vaccines are using new untested technologies. On the contrary, Moderna and Pfizer use mRNA tech that has been around for years. Although it is the first mRNA vaccine on the market, mRNA vaccines in general have a history of being tested for rabies, influenza, cytomegalovirus and ZIka. In previous trials using these vaccines, no data connects the inoculation to infertility.
Debunking Myth 3: To expose the third myth as fiction we must understand the term Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). An EUA allows the use of a drug prior to approval from the FDA. When a national emergency was announced on March 13th, 2020, global scientific action was taken to develop an effective vaccine as soon as possible. In the months following the national emergency, Pfizer, J&J, and Moderna were all granted EUA. An EUA does not mean that the drug in question will not be approved by the FDA - it is released early to benefit the people, based on satisfactory safety testing. As of today, Pfizer has been approved by the FDA and the other vaccines are close behind.
United States citizens can make a difference by taking the vaccine. Organizations such as the CDC and WHO have ensured that all possible side effects are documented and available to the public. You will not become infertile, become implanted with a chip, or grow a tail from taking this vaccine. Please do your part in ending this pandemic: get vaccinated!
Students at the University can visit https:// coronavirus.miami.edu/covid-19-vaccine/ index.html to get vaccinated NOW. Florida residents: Visit vaccinefinder.org to find your most convenient location. Learn more about the vaccines from the CDC.
NO MORE SEAGRASS FOR THE SEACOWS
by Sophia Ramirez Design: Megan Piller Illustration: Cherri Chen
ur beloved manatees, affectionately known as sea cows, are running out of food - and possibly time on Earth - as seagrass ecosystems decline globally.
Why Manatees are Dying For more than 50 years, manatees have been on the edge of endangerment. Nevertheless, the number of manatee deaths this year - 937 in Florida as of Sep. 3 - were unusually high. According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC), that is more than double the number of deaths from last year. While watercraft collisions are a common cause of death in manatees, it is suspected that the increase in deaths is due to starvation. Their diet consists of about 60 species of underwater plants, seagrass being their primary source of food. Similar to most land plants, seagrass thrives when sunlight is abundant. For about a decade, there has been a rise in coastal development, algal blooms, and destructive fishing, resulting in murky waters that have led to an exponential decline in seagrass meadows. The amount of seagrass in Florida is no longer enough to support the estimated 6,800 manatees in the state - each of which consumes an average of 100 pounds of seagrass a day. Unfortunately, the recent death toll has led officials to consider changing the conservation status of these gentle giants back to “Endangered”, even though they were reclassified to “Threatened” due to their rising population numbers only four years ago.
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Why Seagrass is Important
Seagrass meadows, which are often overlooked by humans or commonly mistaken as seaweed, are a key species. Meadows, similarly to mangroves, act as a nursery, as well as an area of protection, to an abundance of species. Their leaves allow marine animals to lay their eggs and larvae and hide from predators. Another benefit is its ability to maintain water quality. It achieves this by trapping fine sediments and particles, as they sink to the bottom, becoming entangled in the blades and roots of seagrasses, and absorbing nutrients from the dissolved water column. By filtering the water, more light may penetrate to greater depths, and therefore, water clarity and quality improves. That being said, the decline of seagrass population will most likely lead to an increase in algae blooms, also known as red tides, which are rapid growth of algae in bodies of water that contain toxic properties. Without the filtering of excess nutrients, such as nitrogen, algae blooms will prosper and harm both marine and human life. Furthermore, humans also benefit from seagrass meadows. Because of the aforementioned benefits, they are able to provide support for about 20% of fisheries globally, giving vital nutrients to about three billion people. Few individuals are aware of the steady decline in the seagrass population and little has been done to save them. Unfortunately, it takes a large number of manatee deaths to turn attention to this issue. It is simple: saving the seagrass meadows saves the manatees and ultimately benefits aquatic ecosystems.
What is Being Done Not all hope is lost. There have been several steps taken to
aid the sea cows. They are protected by the Florida Manatee seagrass conservation and rehabilitation. Many individuals Sanctuary Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the are also doing their part by educating themselves, opting out Endangered Species Act (ESA). These acts made Florida an of using fertilizer (which can fuel algae blooms) and voting official place of refuge and sanctuary for these gentle giants, for leaders who are environmentally conscious. as well as, ensure federal protection to endangered animals. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 99% of What Lies Ahead “For species protected under the ESA have avoided What does all this mean for future about a decade, extinction, making it an exceptionally generations? If there continues effective law. Those that violate there has been a rise in to be a lack of action towards the laws, face consequences of coastal development, algal blooms, these pressing issues, it imprisonment and fines. could result in the extincand destructive fishing, resulting Additionally, some areas of tion of both manatees open water in Florida have and seagrass forests, in murky waters that have led to an manatee protection speed would be a exponential decline in seagrass meadows. which zones. These zones remind catastrophe to the food people to slow down in The amount of seagrass in Florida is no web. More species those areas, reducing the longer enough to support the estimated would be affected as watercraft collisions against a result. In terms of 6,800 manatees in the state - each of economics, these species’ manatees. Hefty fines of up to $100,000 are put in place for which consumes an average of 100 extinction will result in less those who don’t slow down and kill ecotourism. Many tourists pounds of seagrass a day.” a manatee because of it. Fortunately, travel to Florida to see and swim there are also plenty of organizations that with the manatees, an attraction that focus on the protection and recovery of manatees isn’t widely available in other places. Another and their habitat, such as Save the Manatee. This non-profit popular tourist activity, snorkeling, would not be as lush educates the public, offers a safe platform to donate, and without seagrass. We need to recognize the importance of sea surprisingly, allows individuals to adopt manatees (which cows and seagrass. By educating ourselves and others, we can would make a great gift), for as little as $25. Similarly, FWC better understand and care for our planet, and save it for our and World Seagrass Association are taking steps towards children, and their children’s children.
The Rise of TALEN I
am going to introduce our next speaker, who is breaking down the doors to our world of biotechnology! His journey began in 2011, just starting out in life... His name is TALEN, which stands for Transcription Activator-like Effector Nucleases. He is a gene-editing tool that is widely similar to CRISPR-Cas9. TALEN was co-developed by Dr.Voytas, who is a professor of genetics, cell biology and development at the University of Minnesota. TALEN allows scientists to precisely edit specific sequences of DNA to their liking and can be used to eliminate genetic diseases and prevent life-threatening illnesses from developing. The way in which TALEN functions and targets genes for editing is complex, the process of how TALE effector proteins can bind a nuclease domain (effector domain) to a DNA-binding domain to alter genetic sequences. To begin, TALE proteins originated by a bacterium called, Xanthomonas whose life goal was to infect plant cells and cause them infections, similar to how codes are used to program software to computers, TALEs had a code that was programmed to bind to DNA at a certain place. The TALE effector proteins have two sidekicks that help complete the mission and that is the DNA-binding Domain and the Nuclease Domain (effector). The DNA-binding domain is especially useful because it can be designed to recognize any sequence. Its objective is binding to the set, specific base pair of the DNA strand to assist in taking part of activating genes and promoting infection in said plant cells. Protein domains are extremely important functional units because they constitute for a particular function and help the proteins carry out their designed duty. When a nuclease domain is fused to the DNA-binding domain, it gains the ability to initiate double-stranded breaks by allowing two TALE effectors to cleave both strands of DNA, the leading (top) and coding (bottom) strand. Double-stranded breaks are extremely hard to repair, but it is possible through homologous recombination and non-homologous end joining. Homologous recombination is a repairing process done by using sister chromatids as a template to go off of.
By Sabrina Merola Design: Natalia Jimenez
Non-homologous end joining causes approximately 80% of the double-stranded breaks that occur and involves repairing DNA ends together without a template. TALE proteins give us the ability to create knockouts, correct genes or insert genes. The specific structure of the DNA-binding domain can be manipulated in ways to produce a protein domain that will have the ability to bind to any given DNA sequence. Once the DNA-binding domain has been modified, it has the ability to be linked to a custom effector domain to create a chimeric protein to target DNA manipulation. TALE effectors are a widely used technology for precise gene editing in live cells and can function in a variety of host systems. Designed TALEN effector proteins are gearing towards the advancement of gene-editing technology being applied to numerous life science disciplines. Earlier this year, in January, a study was performed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Through a technique called single-molecule fluorescence microscopy, they used fluorescent tags to monitor and observe the search process and efficiency of both CRISPR-Cas9 and TALEN in mammalian cells. The purpose of this experiment was to measure how long it would take CRISPR and TALEN to travel along the DNA, detect the target site, and cut and edit it effectively. The researchers discovered that TALEN was up to five times more effective than CRISPR-Cas9. It had the ability to target and edit parts of the genome called heterochromatin regions, where our DNA is densely packed together. According to Huimin Zhao, a professor at the University of Illinois, “We also saw that TALEN can have higher editing efficiency than CRISPR. It can cut the DNA and then make changes more efficiently than CRISPR.” This discovery is significant to our entire viewpoint on the use of genetic engineering because with this new information, we can utilize TALENs ability to correct mistakes that CRISPR is even limited to. This is opening opportunities for individuals with mutations in the heterochromatin region to have a solution to their irreversible condition.
TALEN FOK I
FOK I TALEN
Through each advancement, we have earned the ability to cure various types of genetic diseases that can occur through mutations in our DNA such as Cancer, Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle cell disease, Huntington disease, and others. It’s important that we have discovered the ways TALEN can be used to edit heterochromatin because the diseases that can be caused from a chromatin mutation are extremely severe. Heterochromatin regions are dense and tightly compact regions of DNA usually found in centromeres and telomeres; thus, it is harder to edit using CRISPR. Heterochromatin has functions ranging from gene expression to segregation of chromosomes. It is a crucial nuclear section that can control DNA replication, and it plays a role in the formation of distinct chromatin compartments. If there is a failure or mishap with the formation of heterochromatin, the individual can be left with genome conformation and grave illness. Heterochromatin has been known to be genetically inactive chromatin and is transcriptionally silent, making it crucial to the stability of our chromosomes throughout the cell cycle, gene expression regulation, and gene activity. However, it can prevent processes such as, transcription and recombination, which can cause adverse effects. If transcription doesn’t occur, genes can’t be used to make proteins within the cell. If recombination (crossing over) doesn’t occur, it will only result in parental gametes. This will mess with the process of meiosis, limit genetic variation, and restrict its use to repair broken DNA. There is a pretty long list of the opportunities that genetic engineering has opened up for this generation and future generations; however, every technology has limitations. The pros of using genetic engineering technology include the elimination of human diseases, individuals extending their longevity, production of better and longer-lasting produce, and increase in crop yield. The main issues that individuals have with gene-editing are the side effects that could result, how it could limit diversity, and the reasoning behind whether it is truly the “right choice.” Geneediting technology was used in human embryos recently in a study that was conducted in June of 2020. The results from this study showed no signs of hope from the use of this technology on embryos because of the risk of causing additional harm to the chromosomes. Researchers have been conducting experiments of gene-editing on human embryos since 2015. It was discovered that when using gene-editing technology to edit and correct the mutations, “off-target gene mutations” were revealed at or near to the target site. Due to the effects of unwanted changes occurring in the genome, this evidence is fueling the major safety concerns individuals have over whether it is ethically correct to perform these procedures in an attempt to prevent the formation of genetic diseases. Throughout the history of geneediting technologies, there have always been ethical debates. We should focus on the future of how TALEN is making its debut and helping humanity to reconstruct our genome!
Tech Tock: Is Time RunninG Out for Us to Make Tech Advancements Sustainable? by Joaquin Martinez
Design: Meera Patel
ebating controversial ideas is a part of day-to-day life. Abortion, guns, Kanye West: these are all trigger words sparking heated discussions. However, a topic’s controversiality keeps it in the peripheries of society, unable to seep through into the foundational pillars of our communal experiences. Thus, by limiting ourselves to “debatable” topics, our conversations remain shallow and do not allow us to evidence the deep roots of social problems. We begin taking for granted the basic ideas of our society and maintain the status quo. Therefore, I propose something different: to explore those ideas we refer to as common sense. Our society’s technological drive is one of these ideas. Technology can be defined as the implementation of natural resources to accomplish a function, usually comfort or productivity. Technological drive is our society’s never-ending crusade to continually improve technology. It is the driving force for engineering, computer science, and other STEM experts. This drive seems to be an intrinsic characteristic of humanity and has helped us survive for millenia. From the wheel to advanced medical equipment, the positive effects of technology are ubiquitous. However, in light of the environmental crisis we are facing today, we must reflect on our notion that technology is a sign of progress. Even if we transition away from fossil fuels, when will the rare-earth minerals that power our phones run out? How could “progress” lead us to a catastrophe of such magnitude? As a species, we worked so hard to reach this point of incredible technological development. The question is, was it worth it?
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Photography: Tiana Acito
Technology has improved the lives of everyone around the world to a certain extent. It has allowed modern societies to supply an unforeseeable abundance of food to their populations, increased both human life expectancy and quality, and provided millions of people with access to education and many other benefits. Turning back the clock completely is not only unfeasible, but it would not serve the greater good either. The problem we are facing is not caused by technology itself; it is caused by our capitalist system, a system in which private businesses work for profit. Businesses do not only function to sustain the lives of their owners and workers; their goal is to generate more wealth. Let’s take the American dream; you live in poverty and start a company making phones. To make money, you need to convince others that they need to buy your product over competitors. You work very hard, barely satisfying your needs. The fruits of your labor cause your company to succeed. At one point in this upward slope, you are able to sustain yourself; your basic needs are met. Who in their right mind would stop there? You continue to work hard, making more profit and buying goods beyond your basic needs. Problems occur when this ‘capitalistic’ phenomenon happens at a societal level. A consumer culture develops, which creates artificial needs in order to make continuous profit. This pours an outrageous amount of resources into products that serve little purpose and end in our drawers in two years. Why do we let this happen? The answer is our technological drive, which converts consumer culture into an endless illusion of progress. The iPhone 12 does work faster than the iPhone 11, therefore the need for it seems justified. Technological drive
becomes the argument for capitalism to continue its function, making profit. Thus, our admiration of technological improvement validates consumer culture, which creates artificial needs that originate profit. As I previously mentioned, the environmental crisis we are facing is mutating a critical factor of our economic system: the replenishment of natural resources. Our technological productivity has surpassed nature: iPhones come out faster than the time nature takes to replenish resources. The process of making these products takes a toll on the environment, which should make us question the value of the new iPhone. Even though our time is fleeting, it is not too late to break this cycle. My suggestion for a better future, in which our children can enjoy the natural world, is to break free from the chains of consumer culture by realizing that once our technological
drive goes beyond our needs, it can become malignant. If you do not need the new iPhone, don’t buy it. If you are happy with the size of your current house, don’t buy a bigger one. If your clothes make you feel comfortable, don’t buy more. By ignoring these fabricated ‘needs’, we fight the consumer culture that is taking our planet away from us. To save the planet, live happier, and be more socially conscious, we need to analyze and confront the issues we so often ignore. If you cannot find common ground with someone about vaccine mandates, explore the ideas that you both agree about from your different perspectives first. If we are to label ourselves as rational creatures, we have the responsibility to be conscious of the foundations of our society.
“The problem we are facing is not caused by technology itself; it is caused by our capitalist system”
O Z Y| M A N| D I A S A Climate-Focused Retelling by E.S. Mohan
Illustration & Design: Varsha Udayakumar
FILE 1 EART H
F I L E 2 - O Z Y MAN D IAS
I met a traveller from an antique land, Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; And on the pedestal, these words appear: My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.
FILE 4 SKELETONS
FILE 3 S T AT U E
- PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY 1818
I met a traveler from an antique land. Clouds of smoke belched by mountains of fire. Oceans of blood ruled by creatures of horror. Desolate plains, once occupied by lush greenery, shattered and burnt to an inhospitable waste. And scattered across every inch of the backwater planet, skeletons.
FILE 6 SUN
Young and old. Broken and whole. The remains of the planet’s inhabitants bake and bleach under the light of the omniscient sun that glares down upon the waste, a malevolent red god surveying its domain.
The Observer sees all.
It shimmers in and out of sight as it shoots across a great desert surrounded by ochre oceans, kicking up sand from dunes that have rested undisturbed for centuries. The perfect sphere of morphing metal cycles through form after form, recording every attribute of the planet it has been set upon. Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert.
Metal and glass glint above the dunes in the distance. The Observer roars across them to rest less than ten meters above an exposed spire. The sphere morphs into an ellipsoid. Moments later, the spire’s structure is recorded; the sands have blanketed most of it, but it appears to be the top of a titanic building. The Observer sinks lower to the spire and hovers above the remains of a great glass room. Within the room lies a graveyard. Sun-bleached bones litter every corner of the space, and further recording shows more such rooms at every level of the structure. The tower’s one hundred and sixty three levels, perfectly preserved under the sands, hold the remains of hundreds of life forms. The Observer hovers over the tower for sixty additional seconds before shooting backwards across the sea. It cycles through more forms as it records the algal blooms stretching endlessly across the murky water, and what lies beneath. Predators of the deep oceans, emboldened by the darkness spreading underneath the water’s surface, move through the all-but-dead sea like Lovecraftian beasts, hunting prey that have learned to hide themselves better than their ancestors. Above the water, the sky is little more than a haze of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and ozone. The rays of the red sun beat down upon the planet with all the torturous patience of the Void beyond. All this the Observer sees before arriving at the city. Near them, half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose sneer of cold command tell that its sculptor well those passions read.
An alien forest engulfs what used to be a gleaming metropolis. The war between the elements and the constructs that defied them concluded long before the Observer arrived. The skeletons are all that are left of the participants of those battles. And of the bystanders. Gnarled old trees barren of leaves scrabble above the litter of skeletons covering the land within a ten-kilometer radius. They overwhelm the ruins of the city, their many-fingered branches stretching into the hazy sky, grasping at salvation. Walls of manufactured elements crumble under the verdant velvet mosses and lichens finding sustenance amongst them. Towers of groaning girders and porous cement - not quite as large as the one in the desert, but some close enough - stand testament to the long-withered hands that raised them, and the will that raised them. How could a race that built such a testament lack the temerity to recognize their real enemy?
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, the hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed.
The Observer completes its circumspection of the ruins at the crater. At the outskirts of the city, it yawns across several hundred meters. Readings indicate trace amounts of radioactive materials present at the bottom. The remains of miles of metal lines spread away from the crater. Presumably, the crater once housed a power-generating apparatus of some kind that harnessed the energy of unstable atoms. Without careful maintenance, the station likely would have imploded, wreaking further havoc on the surrounding ecosystem. Not that it matters anymore. What paltry signs of life the Observer recorded across the rest of the planet are absent here. The structures that surround the crater - or what’s left of them - have long been abandoned to the elements. The barrenness of the surrounding land, water, and air herald Death’s victory over Life on this planet. If the Observer were to tour other cities across other continents, the sights that would greet it would not differ significantly from what it sees here. Its work is done. The Observer soars back above the clouds into the stratosphere. It plots an ascent trajectory that takes it back into orbit around the planet. As it ascends, it records the satellites that still orbit the planet. Esoteric metal machines powered by the sun record and transmit data to receivers long demolished by the elements. Even after the fall of the society that maintained them, they carry out the mission they were built for. Dancing between the edge of outer space and the atmosphere, the Observer takes in the planet in its totality. The red seas lend an aura of decay to what was once the crown jewel of this solar system. The shattered wastelands of the continents meld into dark masses blotting the red that blankets the planet. From the Observer’s vantage point, it would be difficult to point to any signs that this planet was once alive. My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings.
The Observer senses its companions returning from their respective journeys. Identical spheres of shimmering metal reunite with each other. After completing their treks across the planet’s moon, the neighboring planet of rust and ozone, and the abandoned ships of the asteroid belt nearby, the Observers commune between themselves - and their masters. Across every record of every Observer, varied scenes of devastation persist. Not one member of the race that built and destroyed the societies they found lives. The race that conquered their home planet, tamed their moon, and colonized their sister planet did not survive the wonders they built. Nor will the wonders they built survive the elements to which they have been left vulnerable. All that remains of them is all that the Observers have witnessed. If they had not witnessed what they did, there may never have been evidence that this race existed. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.
Hurricane SZN in the 305 by Kyle Banker Design: Meera Patel Illustration: Asia Chester
Breaking Down the Latest Hurricanes and Why Miami is Especially Susceptible
hether or not you have been in an area or state that is susceptible to them, we are all aware of the copious dangers hurricanes can pose. The southern half of the United States, especially the city of Miami, faces the threat of their appearance annually during the “hurricane season,” a span of tumultuous weather ranging from June to November. During this time, you can expect many tropical storms and hurricanes of varying categories. Note that the difference between a tropical storm and a hurricane depends on wind speed. We classify a storm system as a tropical storm if its wind speeds range from 39-73 mph (miles per hour), while a storm with wind speeds above 74 mph is considered a hurricane. Hurricanes are further classified by wind speeds on a category scale of 1 to 5, with a Category 1 hurricane considered the least dangerous with lower wind speeds. Regardless, both kinds of tropical cyclones can create catastrophic damage to neighborhoods and cities and have long-lasting effects on future development. The most well-known hurricane in the Southern United States is Hurricane Katrina: a Category 5 hurricane whose wind speed peaked at 174 miles per hour. Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005 and caused about $108 billion in damage and 1,833 fatalities. Hurricane Katrina has left Louisiana devastated (particularly New Orleans) and to this day, if you look at pictures of New Orleans post-Katrina, you would think that it was an abandoned city. About 20% of New Orleans was underwater two days after Katrina made initial contact with the city. Many more hurricanes have struck the U.S. in the past 16 years, including some that we at the University of Miami have experienced. Why do these hurricanes happen so often in Miami? How do meteorologists determine hurricane paths? In this article, I will be going over the most recent hurricanes that have hit Miami, the lasting effects of these tropical storms, and the impact of COVID-19 on Hurricane Relief. Miami has an extensive history of hurricanes, with a total of 31 having set foot in the city. The University of Miami’s students
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are even known as the “Hurricanes” after the fact that our first ever football game was canceled due to such a storm. In fact, out of the 292 hurricanes in the United States, 122 have made landfall in Florida. It is evident that Miami is especially susceptible to hurricanes ], but why? While it may seem like just a series of bad luck, but that is not the case. Instead, it is because Miami sits to the east of the Atlantic Ocean and has a maximum elevation of just 42 feet above sea level. The temperature of the water also plays a factor; since the surface water off the East Coast is warmer than the West Coast, hurricanes are more likely to hit Miami. To break this down, the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean serves as a significant disadvantage for Miami, especially its coastal areas like Miami Beach. As a result, Miami has to constantly prepare for hurricanes each year, while a city like Denver located far above sea level has little to worry about. Two of the more recent major hurricanes to hit the Southern United States are Hurricane Dorian and Hurricane Ida. While it was projected to hit Miami, Hurricane Dorian had unexpectedly changed its trajectory in the middle of its path. Instead, Miami only received heavy rainfall, and Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane. The University of Miami survived the experience with no damage other than some fallen leaves from palm trees and funny stories for those who had stayed on campus for the duration of the hurricane. However, the Bahamas were not so fortunate: Dorian was the most intense hurricane to ever hit the islands with wind speeds of 185 mph. As we have seen, a storm can quickly change paths and affect a different area than it is initially projected to. How can we predict this change of direction? Objects such as satellites, ships, buoys, radars, and other land-based platforms are crucial for determining where a hurricane will go next. Forecasters use the collected data to determine the storm’s center, characteristics, and past motion (about 6-12 hours) and roughly estimate where a hurricane will go next, which is always as predicted. Nevertheless, it is critical to provide some estimation so that those residing in the targeted area have a chance to evacuate. Even if it turns out that you did not have to leave your home, it is better to be safe than sorry.
The most recent hurricane that struck the southern half of the US is Hurricane Ida. Ida made landfall in the August of 2021 and was the second most devastating hurricane (behind Katrina) to hit Louisiana. Classified as a Category 4 hurricane, at least 49 are known to have died from the storm so far. The hurricane reached wind speeds of 150 mph, only 7 mph less than it needed to be classified as a Category 5 hurricane. Ida did not have a drastic change of direction as Dorian did and as a result, most residents fled the state and watched the destruction unfold on television. Damages are still being reported daily and relief efforts are increasing. How exactly can communities come together posthurricane to attempt to rebuild their dismantled towns and cities? Regarding the relief efforts after the two hurricanes that I have previously mentioned, communities in the Bahamas and Louisiana both have similarities and differences in how they reconstructed their societies. There are two major impacts that a hurricane has on a state or city. The first impact is the destruction of infrastructure through water damage: flooding from the rainfall leaves some one-story houses and the streets/sidewalks completely underwater. The second impact is damage from the hurricane’s strong winds destroying stores, restaurants, houses, and much more. The strong winds can also take out power lines; about 721,000 people in Louisiana still do not have power from Hurricane Ida. The restoration of order takes a varying amount of time depending on regional resources and administration. It will probably take Louisiana less time to recover than the Bahamas due
to direct relief from the U.S. government and donations. In contrast, an island in the Bahamas named Great Abaco is still recovering from Hurricane Dorian two years later. Hurricane Katrina’s recovery plan took roughly about 18 months to complete. It is important to mention the effect of COVID-19 on hurricane relief. One significant impact is regarding the restricted availability of medical resources for victims of the hurricane. For example, for Louisiana, those who are injured from Hurricane Ida may not get a hospital bed. Since hospital beds are nearly at capacity across the U.S. due to COVID-19, the pandemic has a sizable effect on communities impacted by hurricanes. Even further, with the loss of power from Ida, hospitals may not be able to access all of their resources. Finally, since many houses were destroyed in the process, many citizens have to move to crowded shelter centers, where the spread of COVID-19 can dramatically rise. In the Bahamas, the effect of COVID-19 may be even greater, as the country has significantly lower vaccination rates than the United States. For example, Great Abaco, currently recovering from Hurricane Dorian only has a vaccination rate of 13%, and as a result, the COVID-19 cases are currently peaking. To recover economically, the Bahamas have reopened tourism to the public, which has not helped matters. The dual-threat of hurricane damage and COVID-19 has made the recovery process even more difficult with significantly longer recovery times.
To conclude, hurricanes have been devastating for the southern half United States for countless years. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done to prevent hurricanes from wreaking havoc. So, the best course of action is to be alert of potential storms, be prepared to evacuate, and be kind to communities post-hurricane. Especially with the threat of COVID-19, the world is arguably going through an even tougher hurricane season than ever before. If we continue to help spread awareness for affected communities and donate to help support the recovery process, we as a society can get through the 2021 hurricane season. To reference the iconic UM saying, these times of hardship are when ‘Canes Care For ‘Canes.
Un der t he Knife: S ociet y ’s A ddi ct ion t o P l as tic Su rge ry by Clara Meyerfreund Lavrador Design:Lara Gomes Illustration: Megan Buras
00%. That’s how much plastic surgery has increased since 1997. What exactly caused this exorbitant surge? While this increase cannot be pinpointed to one factor, it has been accompanied by a rise in rates of body dysmorphia and vast social media consumption. To understand why cosmetic surgery is making a resurgence, let’s first go through a quick rundown of its history. The first cases of plastic surgery were not necessarily cosmetic, but rather, reconstructive. Around 800 BC, an Indian surgeon named Sushruta was carrying out surgeries for nasal defects, including the creation of entirely new noses using forehead skins in poor souls who endured nose amputation (rhinotomy) as a form of punishment. The first cosmetic surgery, however, was documented in 1000 AD when breast reduction surgeries for gynecomastia, enlarged breasts in men, were recorded in Al-Zahrawi’s Arabic medical encyclopedia Kitab Al-Tasrif. However, plastic surgery became widespread and a respected form of medicine during World War I, when it aided in the reconstruction of soldiers injured in the war. The medical industry soon realized the lucrative nature of cosmetic surgeries, and by 2005, cosmetic surgery was occurring at twice the rate of reconstructive surgeries. In 2018, about 17.5 million people went under the knife for cosmetic purposes. Nowadays, cosmetic surgery is extremely common and only projected to increase. People opt for plastic surgery to “correct” features that they feel insecure about. According to…., it’s estimated that 1.72.9% of Americans struggle with body dysmorphia, a mental disorder in which the sufferer is constantly preoccupied with a perceived flaw in their appearance, and this percentage doubles in teenage girls at 4.8%. So why is it that so many teenage girls have severe body image issues? The answer could be social media. A study done by Florida State University in 2014 found a positive correlation between time spent on Facebook by teenage girls and negative image issues. Social media users are exposed to a huge number of perfectly curated pictures of others looking only their best, and thus, they feel the need to embody this perfection. In fact, 16-25-year-old women take on average 16 minutes to take “the perfect selfie.”. But even after deciding upon the best photo to post, the process doesn’t end there. A recent survey by…. estimated that a whopping 68% of adults edit their selfies before sharing them on social media platforms. The accessibility of body-altering apps paired with the multitude of photos being consumed a day can also have a negative impact on body image. University of Miami junior Nicole Plummer claims, “People spend so much time and effort finding the best angles and photoshopping their pictures, but our brains are trained to view them as casual and candid; it’s very unhealthy.” In addition, photoshop has become easier than ever. Plus-size model Kate Wasley posted a video to Instagram exposing how “fake” social media can be by completely altering her appearance- slimming her waist, removing cellulite and stretch marks, and accentuating her bust- in a matter of seconds. What happens after you remove the editing and go out into the real world? Well, the pressure to be perfect at all times has become so intense that many teens are considering cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgeon Dr. Julian De Silva found that the average age of those seeking facial cosmetic surgery has decreased by two years. This decrease, along with the 3% increase of plastic surgery in people aged 13 to 19 since 2015, could be attributed to the rise in popularity of social media.
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Authors Susruthi Rajanala, Mayra B.C. Maymone, and Neelam A. Vashi coined the term “Snapchat Dysmorphia” to describe the blurred lines of reality between one’s face with and without a filter. It has patients “seeking out cosmetic surgery to look like filtered versions of themselves instead, with fuller lips, bigger eyes, or a thinner nose” (Rajanala, Maymone, Vashi). A University of Miami student explained the effect of face-altering filters on her own self-esteem: “I’ll be feeling fine, then put on a Snapchat filter and feel beautiful,” she states, “but as soon as it comes off, I feel like garbage.” Another student, Geethika Kataru , brought up how many of these filters push eurocentric beauty standards, “The flower crown filter literally made my skin tone 3 to 4 shades lighter along with making my nose smaller. I’ve thought about getting a nose job a few times. The shape of my nose isn’t Eurocentric, and seeing other brown girls on TikTok getting rhinoplasties definitely doesn’t help.” . She goes on to explain that girls who looked like her were changing their ethnic noses to those more in line with eurocentric beauty standards and formatting it as a “glow up,” a transformation that alludes to an outcome where the person is supposedly much happier. Of course, cosmetic surgery is not a completely negative thing. A study conducted by the University of Basel in 2015 surveyed 550 cosmetic surgery patients preop and postop. This study found that 96% of patients were not only satisfied with the outcome, but also experienced a boost in positive self-image and confidence. However, a similar study done for teenage girls had the opposite results. Out of 1,500 teen girls, the 78 who had plastic surgery had a greater increase in anxiety and depression than those who did not. Even though many of those who had plastic surgery may have started with worse dysmorphia than those who didn’t, the procedures did not result in a positive outcome. Thus, plastic surgeons recommend spending a long time considering whether or not one should undergo a procedure.. Since adults have spent a longer time with their insecurities, they’ve usually had more time to consider whether or not these insecurities would be worth “fixing”. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) claims that adults and teens undergo plastic surgery for two different reasons: adults want to stand out, and teens want to fit in. For example, a middle-aged woman may want to have facial rejuvenation procedures in order to look younger, and thus, stand out from her age group. Teens, however, may be insecure about features that don’t match the current
trend- whether that be bigger lips, smaller noses, or anything that’s popular at that time. However, not only are more young people getting cosmetic surgery, but with the use of social media, they are unknowingly encouraging it. As Kataru mentioned earlier, seeing girls that look like her much happier after getting a nose job made her question her own appearance. A 19-year-old woman posted a TikTok in 2019 showing her “transformation”, with the caption: “This is your sign to get that BBL.” A BBL, or Brazilian Butt Lift, is a procedure that uses a combination of liposuction and fat-grafting to essentially remove fat in traditionally undesirable areas and inject them into the buttocks. But no, TikTok, plastic surgery IS a big deal- especially BBLs. The comment sections under videos of BBL transformation videos are charged with young women inspired to get the procedure. “As soon as I get rich, I’m doing this,” one user writes. “I almost booked [a BBL] watching this,” another commented. The profiles of these users, as well as hundreds of others who commented, belong to young girls, some even high-school aged. . Although a BBL might seem like a solution to many of their problems, a lot of the videos only feature the good and not the ugly. The reality isBBLs have the highest mortality rate out of any aesthetic procedure: with 1 in every 3000 patients dying. Deciding to get a BBL should not be done on a whim, as it requires one to truly assess the benefits compared to the possible risks. Even then, plastic surgeon Dr. Lara Devgan claims that the level of risk is “extremely alarming and totally unacceptable for an elective cosmetic procedure.” She goes on to explain that “the risk of death is a statistic that factors in the outcomes of highly trained, American board-certified plastic surgeons, so it is not just an issue of who is doing the surgery; it is a risk inherent to the operation.” Plastic surgery, both reconstructive and cosmetic, can truly help people feel more comfortable with themselves, leading to confidence and overall happiness. Countless people who have undergone cosmetic surgery have no regrets and have experienced boosts in self-esteem. Y However, those who experience positive effects usually spend time making this decision. On the other hand, young people who go under the knife, risks and all, to fit in with current trends could end up not only not solving the problem, but making it worse. The truth is that trends come and go. Just a decade ago, having a large backside was considered unattractive. Now, Brazilian Butt Lift rates are growing exponentially. Who knows what the next trend will be?
FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME FIX ME
A | section 38 | Health
New Surgery, New Me by Emily Tano Design: Lara Gomes Photography: Rodney Michel
veryone has the right to do what they want with their bodies, but when does it become too much or too dangerous? People are always looking for ways to improve their appearance and how they are perceived by others. Some individuals merely change their hairstyle or the clothes they wear, while others turn to a more drastic alternative, plastic surgery. Plastic surgery has been around far longer than most people can imagine. Records dating back to 800 B.C. reveal plastic surgery was being performed in India. The surgeons at the time used skin tissues from another area on the body, usually the cheek or forehead, to construct noses as well as use wooden splints and swabs to alter the noses. Using the techniques that evolved and improved from ancient years, plastic surgery was commonly used to help the injuries of soldiers that fought in World War I. The term plastic surgery covers a vast majority of procedures, only a handful of which are considered cosmetic surgery. There are situations where plastic surgeries are a necessity and not just used to fix something that isn’t broken. For example, cleft lips and palates, birth defects, and burn victims are a few situations where surgeries are needed to improve the daily lives of individuals. In today’s society, plastic surgery is becoming more common and accessible to anyone who desires it. The most popular elective plastic surgery procedures as of 2020 include Rhinoplasty (nose reshaping), Blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery), Rhytidectomy (facelift), Liposuction, and Augmentation Mammaplasty (breast augmentation). For most patients, one to three procedures are sufficient, but there are patients that will go to extreme measures. Shows, such as Botched, portray the serious complications that can occur when individuals are never satisfied. Patients become so desperate to fulfill their wishes that many travel outside of the United States to pursue their ideal appearance. Due to lax regulations and cheaper costs in foreign countries, individuals often return unsatisfied and with complications. Once they return to the United States, countless requests to repeat the same procedures are presented to the professionals. This situation pushes the doctor’s limits and concerns about whether particular surgeries can be conducted on patients who are putting their own lives in danger. A number of issues can arise when one goes under the knife. The most common physical complications include hematomas, blood loss, infections, nerve damage, and organ damage. For example, a woman by the name of Laura Avila traveled to Mexico in the hopes of a new nose and breast implants but returned to the United States on life support. Sometimes, the consequences are far more serious and irreversible. Along with physical problems, mental health is another issue. People become so addicted to altering their image that the thought of them correcting their ‘flaws’ completely occupies their minds. This addiction usually blossoms after the results of their first couple of surgeries. They see the positive outcomes and the change in their lives that these procedures can bring.. They begin to revolve their lives around their surgeries and use them to make themselves feel better about their insecurities. When surgeons notice these addictions, they often turn down the patients, resulting in many individuals traveling to cheaper places to receive their desired operation.
Nowadays, cosmetic procedures are glamorized all over the internet. Celebrities who lie about getting work done have become dangerous to society and society’s beauty standards. Not only can these surgeries affect the mental health of the patients, but they can also affect the young adults growing up in this social media-infatuated world. So, when does it become too much or too dangerous? It’s a very fine line. At the end of the day it is a personal decision to undergo these types of surgeries, but knowing that these situations can take unexpected turns is a very important reality to remember.
Movies Gone M e n ta l Hollywood’s Relationship with Psychiatric Illness by Ayesha Bakshi Design: Meera Patel Illustration: Anam Ahmed
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ot only does American cinema tend to perpetuate stereotypes, but the industry also tends to lump together concepts that are unfamiliar to them which inevitably exacerbates this phenomenon. Mental disorders are not only portrayed inaccurately, but are also grouped together unnecessarily. Critics have lambasted the unnecessary stigmatization of mental health issues in recent blockbuster movies. As the scope for movie-making grows, so does the desire to accurately portray mental health issues. However, even with the best intentions of these filmmakers, why is it so hard to do mental health justice on the big screen? The Hollywood film industry has created successful movies on a multitude of sensitive topics but mental health is a concept that has not translated onto the big screen with as much luck. Starting in the 1950s to as recently as the early 2000s, there have been many movies that demonstrate schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder as being the same mental illness. As an industry that makes billions of dollars a year, you can imagine how much of an influence films have on global society. Jim Carrey played a man with schizophrenia in “Me, Myself, and Irene”. However, his character had multiple personalities including that of a sociopath. The former executive director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI) Laurie Flynn states that this movie further establishes the notion that schizophrenic people are automatically considered violent. When the picture was released in 2000, many at NAMI passionately protested, stating that portraying a schizophrenic character with multiple personalities is inaccurate and incredibly stigmatizing. The movie also continued to maintain the inaccurate notion that schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder are virtually the same disorders. Nineteen years later, Warner Brothers and DC Comics released “Joker” with renowned success. With 11 Oscar nominations and two wins, Joaquin Phoenix delivered an astounding performance of the villain originating from the Batman comics. Just two years later, Disney gives us a similar origin story about one of its most famous villains, Cruella DeVil. You may think it’s hard to compare an R-rated movie to Disney’s PG-13 rated film, but “Joker” and “Cruella” have more in common than you would expect. More than being self-titled villain origin stories, the two movies dwell on how mental health has affected these characters and the new selves they embody at the end of the film. This goes without saying, but spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen either movie. The two protagonists create a new identity for themselves to escape the cruel and unforgiving world of 1981 Gotham City and 1970s London. Forever misunderstood, their second identities then became their new selves by the end of both films. The reason the two films got so much attention is because they associate characters who have mental illnesses with violence. The Joker first appeared in the DC Batman comics in 1940. Since then, the Batman villain has evolved tremendously. We really see the evolution from this goofy trickster to radical mass murderer in the 2019 live-action film. Nonetheless, his unimpressionable dark humor managed to translate onto Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the character Arthur Fleck AKA the Joker. The 2019 film described Joker’s trauma in great detail: abandoned as a child, growing up in a foster home, foster
mother with psychotic disorders, abusive adoptive parents. The setup for Joker’s actions throughout the film was direct and helped us get to know the source of his mental health issues. An analysis done by Valentine Skryabin at Cambridge University states that Fleck might be suffering from narcissistic personality disorder and psychopathy. Past trauma, lack of stability in any of his relationships, and his extremely violent motives are enough to make anyone a villain; this is precisely why some mental health activists saw this movie as a perpetuated stereotype. Activists argued that people suffering from mental illnesses are more likely to be susceptible to violence than they are to become violent. Fleck’s terrorism against the community further established the stigma that mental health and violent behaviors go hand-in-hand. We see a similar plot in Disney’s Cruella as well. The villain origin story about the woman who would grow up to kill dalmatians in the name of fashion is a bit inconsistent in this film. In this movie, we see mental illness in not only Cruella but Cruella’s birth mother as well, Cruella’s mother, is found to also have narcissistic personality disorder to the point where she orders someone to kill her daughter so she doesn’t steal her spotlight. So, the whole debacle of nature vs. nurture is very prominent. As an audience, it is difficult to understand Cruella’s mother’s violent nature without pairing it with a mental illness which is what many critics and mental health activists immediately pointed out in their reviews. Again, this raises the issue of how Cruella and her mother both resort to violence with almost no thorough reasoning behind their actions. Not to mention, the overall plot was plain confusing. Unlike “Joker”, the film does not give us as much insight as to how Cruella became the puppy murderer we saw in the 1961 original animated film of the same name that the movie is based on. It not only makes for a poor story but the use of the word ‘psycho’ in the movie is not tasteful either. Habitually using the word ‘psycho’ is often used to alienate and discriminate against people suffering from mental illnesses. Both movies got many mixed reviews. Some audiences see these movies with a more lighthearted mindset. However, as stated before, movies impact more than just one’s plans on a Friday night; they permeate into social culture which is why activists continue this fight against the stigma. As they say in the entertainment ‘biz’, all publicity is good publicity because one thing is for sure: we are continuing to talk more about mental health.
NARCAN: The Life-Saving Super Spray
by Blake Goldberg Illustration & Design: Stephanie Do Nascimento
WHAT IS NARCAN?
arcan is a nasal spray containing naloxone, a pharmaceutical drug used to treat the overdose of opioids such as heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. Narcan reverses an overdose of these drugs within minutes, buying valuable time for an individual to seek proper medical attention. When naloxone was patented in 1961 and approved by the FDA in 1971 the medicine had to be delivered through a needle, a task that a person without medical training could not easily accomplish. Fortunately, Narcan received FDA approval in 2015, revolutionizing the capabilities of delivering naloxone through a simple nasal spray, allowing any person, regardless of medical training, to deliver a life-saving dose. Narcan is most commonly carried by first responders, caregivers, and family members of those on opioids. Narcan is an opioid antagonist, meaning it blocks opioid receptors from being activated. Narcan has such a strong attraction for these receptors that it replaces any current opioid molecule on the receptors. These receptors are found on nerve cells mostly in the brain. The effect of opioids on the brain stem reduces breathing rate. In an overdose, a person’s breathing rate decreases until it stops. Narcan can restore the urge to breathe by displacing the opioids from their receptors. However, after Narcan is used there are still opioid molecules floating around in the bloodstream, so it is not a fix-all. Hence, proper medical attention is always needed after administering Narcan.
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HOW TO USE NARCAN Before using Narcan, it is essential to ascertain if an overdose is occurring. According to the CDC, symptoms of an overdose can include: • Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils” • Falling asleep or loss of consciousness • Slow, shallow breathing • Choking or gurgling sounds • Limp body • Pale, blue, or cold skin If the victim doesn’t respond to being called or shaken, you can begin to administer Narcan. According to the manufacturer of Narcan, the instructions to administer are as follows: 1. Peel back the package to remove the device. 2. Hold the device with your thumb on the bottom of the red plunger and two fingers on the nozzle.. 3. Place and hold the tip of the nozzle in either nostril until your fingers touch the bottom of the patient’s nose. 4. Press the red plunger firmly to release the dose into the patient’s nose.
THE CHEMISTRY BEHIND NARCAN
IMPORTANCE OF NARCAN
The chemical formula of Naloxone is C19H21NO4. Naloxone is a derivative of Thebaine, an opiate. An opiate is essentially a neurotransmitter called an endorphin because it binds to the same receptor as an endorphin. By retooling a normal Thebaine molecule in the lab with one additional oxygen atom, the same receptor attraction occurs to displace opiates without acting like an opioid. Naloxone binds to opiate receptors in the central nervous system (CNS). Narcan is so effective because it is highly lipophilic, a nonpolar molecule that can dissolve in fats/lipids. This characteristic allows it to penetrate the brain and be up to 15 times more concentrated than morphine in the body. When opiate receptors are activated, they decrease adrenal cyclase (from the adrenal gland), which in turn decreases the calcium being produced by voltagegated calcium channels. Instead, the potassium channels are activated, creating hyperpolarization. The hyperpolarized state slows nerve cell transmission, and therefore pain transmission. Naloxone binds to these receptors but does not activate them, thereby blocking other opioids from being able to access that receptor.
The importance of Narcan cannot be overstated. The opioid epidemic is a pressing problem on the national level. From 20162017, there was a 30% increase in emergency room visits related to opioid overdoses, and in 2018 alone, opioids were responsible for two out of three drug overdose deaths. What can we do to combat this? We can provide education about the risks of illegal drugs, encourage doctors to not prescribe opiates unless completely necessary, and get Narcan (or just naloxone) into as many hands as possible. We need to educate the public on this amazing drug so that many more lives can be saved.
If the victim doesn’t initially respond to Narcan, deliver another dose (a whole new container of Narcan) into the alternate nostril, and always call emergency services as soon as the victim responds to the dose.
boni Arnold is that girl - balancing challenging neuroscience classwork, demanding bench research, and roles in multiple student organizations all while keeping her eye trained on her future. Hoping to run her own research institute one day, Eboni credits the skills she has
Washington University’s School of Medicine. Applying concepts from her classwork, she evaluated intraventricular hemorrhage, hydrocephalus and cerebrospinal fluid movement in Zebrafish. Currently, Eboni is studying the effects of serotonin signaling in the egg laying circuit of a type of roundworm called C. elegans with Dr. Collins of the
Eboni Arnold developed from her high school and college lab positions with the unique perspective she has on what makes a successful undergraduate scientist. Success, she is convinced, is all about the growth you undergo as a scientist, not the number of publications you rack up before graduation. Having grown up in central Florida, Eboni recalls her first meaningful lab experience during high school. With the encouragement of a teacher, she applied for the University of Florida’s Student Science Training program. She was accepted her junior year and shortly thereafter found her future calling: engaging in scientific discovery. She carried this passion into her undergraduate career, succeeding in her neuroscience coursework. Unfortunately, she has often had to prove her place in the classroom. Not only has she grappled with racist comments and other microaggressions from professors, she states she has had her abilities doubted simply because she was black. In line with her dedicated personality, Eboni has not let these barriers slow down her success. Rather, she uses her experiences as fuel and notes that an important part of her future work will be improving diversity in academic research and expanding minority fellowship. Eboni excels in and outside of the classroom, being involved in a plethora of extracurriculars including serving as the president of the Honor Council, a Program Coordinator for the Fall 2021 ‘Cane Kickoff Orientation Program, a P100 student ambassador, and sits on the executive board of TedX. Let it be known, her favorite extracurricular endeavor is her research. This past summer, Eboni participated in zebrafish research through a competitive internship through
46 | Profiles
UM biology department. The research aims to use general principles about nervous systems and neurotransmitters to reveal disease progression in the human nervous system. Eboni is grateful for her work in Collins’ lab, and acknowledges him as a mentor. She notes that Dr. Collins commitment to bringing levity and fun to the lab actually drives higher quality work from her and other members of her team. As a whole, Eboni has gained numerous important skills from her past roles. To her it seems innate, but one of the most important traits she encourages others to develop working in the lab is curiosity. She consistently and constantly is asking questions, to the degree of questioning everything. An important skill related to curiosity is problem solving abilities- once you ask the question, it is just as important to be able to work to find an answer regardless of the hypothesis. Eboni’s story is consistent. She knows that her future success is shaped by the work she puts in now, and so she has learned to stay steady in the midst of barriers and measure her success by her growth rather than her tangible accomplishments. She is already seeing the fruits of her labor as she balances many honorable positions she holds on campus and the responsibility of her lab work. Eboni’s drive is sure to sustain her transition to what she hopes to be a post-grad P.h.D program, and later academic research positions that will add tools to her scientific toolbox. The endgame is, of course, a research lab or institute of her own where she can champion minority scientists and contribute to groundbreaking discoveries. Keep your eyes on Eboni Arnold - she’s that girl.
by Diana Mercado, Abigail Adera, and Austin Berger Design: Megan Piller Photography: Shirley Pandya
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Making Big Waves in Ocean Science by Ronak Venkata
Photography: Peter Aronson
ustavo “Gus” Tovar is not just your average UM student; he has been making his mark on the University of Miami’s legacy since his freshman year. Born in Venezuela, Gus and his family immigrated here at the early age of two years old. Growing up in Miami, he felt “never Venezuelan enough and certainly never American enough.” However, Gus feels that the formative nature of living in an urban environment like Miami has allowed him to better understand how to maintain a community and team of his own, most notably in the ECO agency, which he now leads. Having such a background has made Gus immensely open to collaboration as a leader. Gus has decided to take advantage of as many opportunities around him as possible, especially knowing that his parents weren’t afforded anywhere near the same level of possibilities. His immigrant status may have left Gus struggling to figure out his place in the community, but it also pushed him to develop a safe, more secure space for those he is responsible for, driving his leadership style towards that of kindness and understanding. Research has been a newer venture for Gus. He joined his first lab, titled the “FORAM” lab, as an assistant during his junior year. Gus first learned of this laboratory through an introduction from his professor, the principal investigator of the FORAM lab. The “FORAM” lab here on the undergraduate campus studies its namesake -foraminifera, single-celled protists. They are important marine organisms and hold an essential position as key indicators of ocean health. As the temperature in the ocean rises, these organisms die off in large amounts, falling to the ocean floor. Gus’s research lab explores foraminifera health in a novel way as better bioindicators for environmental health than our current options. They are stronger indicators than coral reefs, which don’t necessarily give any warning signs before imminent death. The diversity and range of marine environments in which foraminifera are found, combined with their strengths as bioindicators, make the FORAM lab that Gus has been working in exciting and revolutionary for marine health worldwide. Gus’s involvement on campus doesn’t stop there. Gus is the chair of the ECO agency, an organization on-campus dedicated to helping UM adopt sustainable practices and reduce carbon emissions. As the chairman, Gus oversees up to 40 separate projects, each project dedicated to helping UM become more environmentally friendly. Having such responsibilities and trying to juggle senior coursework on top of it comes with it’s own set of challenges. Gus freely admits this: being so involved oncampus can complicate one’s schedule. In his own words, “it can feel overwhelming at times, going from meeting to meeting with barely five minutes in between.” However, it is not all for naught; juggling so many different activities has developed his timemanagement skills immensely. Gus Tovar makes doing so much look much easier than it is. His passion for the ECO Agency and vested interest in eco-sustainability shone through in our conversations, and we wish him all the best in applying the skills he has gained from his undergraduate leadership positions and lab work to his future graduate work in the environmental sciences. Thank you, Gus!
“The diversity and range of marine environments in which foraminifera are found, combined with their strengths as bioindicators, make the FORAM lab that Gus has been working in exciting and revolutionary for marine health worldwide”