TA B L E O F Ethics
THE ART OF PROTEST The Intersection Between Public Objection and Public Health
HEALTH IS EVERYTHING 18
IT’S ON US
The 2021 Winners in Science
Operation Prevent malaria
World’s First Malaria Vaccine
Cover art by Meera Patel 2
Fighting Against the Rise in Campus Sexual Assault
THE SUPER CELLS
TAKE YOUR MEDICINE 28
Investigating the Dangers of Antibiotics
DISEASES 30 DECLASSIFIED
the snail from samarrah
Henrietta Lacks’ Silent
“be a man for crying 32 out loud!” Understanding the Duality of Toxic Masculinity and its Ramifications on Physical and Psychological Health
C O N T E N TS Research WHY IS GAMBLING SO ADDICTIVE
A Deep Dive Into the Neurological Effects of
Breaking Barriers and Stopping Brain Bleeds
Shark Wrestling and 50 Rural Medicine:
GO WITH YOUR GUT
IS TIKTOK A TIC FOR TOURETTE’S?
the not-so-sweet side of sugar
The Gut-Brain Connection
Groundwork RESEARCH Video series
Stay tuned for more episodes coming soon to umscientifica.com/ groundwork
the Life of Megan Buras
Excess Added Sugar and Type 2 Diabetes
The Godfather’s ant 44 The Startling Social Structure of the Family Formicidae
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letter from the editor
Anam Ahmed Microbiology & Immunology, Public Health, Class of 2022 Editor-in-Chief, UMiami Scientifica
While the pandemic has shone a light on the importance of public health, the field’s advancements have supported our society for hundreds of years. Seatbelts, water fluoridation (preventing tooth decay), and handwashing are a few of many that have become incorporated into our daily lives but are major public health successes that changed the health landscape of today. From safe housing to affordable and accessible medical care to reliable transportation to nutritional diet options, public health strives to address the many factors that lend to different aspects of our health. The current issue, This is Public Health, signifies that the field encompasses all. I am honored to have served as Editor-in-Chief of Scientifica Magazine for the past year. While scientific articles can often alienate the general public, platforms like Scientifica ensure accessibility and effective communication of topics that are relevant to everyone. I’m looking forward to seeing the future of Scientifica led by Megan Piller, who has showcased her leadership and creativity on our staff. Congrats to my fellow graduating seniors, and thank you to the core team, staff, and our advisor, Roger Williams, for a great year!
letter from the editorial Advisor Microbiology and Public Health both have been at the forefront of this pandemic and news cycle since spring of 2020, but did you know that both these fields have had a long history together? This issue highlights the importance of both fields, and we hope that it inspires you to pursue them. Please take a moment and congratulate our Editor-in-Chief, Anam Ahmed, for her outstanding leadership during these difficult times. Despite all that was going on, Anam worked with her talented team and continued to put forth the high-quality issues we came to expect from this magazine. Anam is graduating this semester with a Dual-Degree in Microbiology and Immunology and Public Health, and I am saddened that she will need to go, but I am also happy that she will be a future professional in the healthcare field. We all wish her luck. Anam is leaving the magazine in the capable hands of Megan Piller, and we are looking forward to her work for this upcoming issue of Envision.
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 Gabriella Guerriero Ainsley Hilliard Roger Williams, M.S. Ed.
C O R E T E A M
Editor-in-Chief Managing Editor Managing Editor Copy Chief Design Director Design Director Art Director Director of Photography Director of Creative Writing Director of Public Relations Director of Distribution Editorial Advisor
Sc i e n t i f I C A S T A FF 2 0 2 2 SECTION EDITORS Board of Advisors Barbara Colonna Ph.D. Senior Lecturer Organic Chemistry Department of Chemistry Richard J. Cote, M.D., FRCPath, FCAP Professor & Joseph R. Coutler Jr. Chair 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 Professor of Biology Mathias G. Lichtenheld, M.D. Associate Professor of Microbiology & Immunology FBS 3 Coordinator University of Miami Miller School 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 Leticia Oropesa, D.A. Coordinator Department of Mathematics *Eckhard R. Podack, M.D., Ph.D. Professor & Chair Department of Microbiology & Immunology University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Adina Sanchez-Garcia Associate Director of English Composition Senior Lecturer Geoff Sutcliffe, Ph.D. Professor of Computer Science Yunqiu (Daniel) Wang, Ph.D. Senior Lecturer Department of Biology * Deceased
ETHICS NEWS RESEARCH HEALTH PROFILES
Lily Schmutter Yashmitha Sadasivuni Yazmin Quevedo Marissa Maddalon Snigdha Sama
WRITERS Abigail Adera Kyle Banker Megan Buras Victoria Crane Emily Danzinger Blake Goldberg William Goodman Caleb Heathershaw Judith Juste Naynika Juvvadi Carson Loperena Maria Antonia Mejia-Botero Sabrina Merola Eswar Saraswathi-Mohan Ronak Venkata Nicole Wakim
DESIGNERS Megan Buras Lara Gomes Caleb Heathershaw Carolina Hernandez Geethika Kataru Samira Kethu Stephanie Do Nascimento Meera Patel Megan Piller Zelda Rosenberg Varsha Udayakumar
Artists Megan Buras Carolina Hernandez Stephanie Do Nascimento Meera Patel Varsha Udayakumar
G R O U ND W O R K Anam Ahmed Adrianna Davis Zac Shamah Zach Zagon
COPY EDITORS Abdullah Abouradi Avery Boals Emily Danzinger Kelci Grooms Caleb Heathershaw Kiara Khemani Joaquin Martinez Sophia Meibohm Rodney Michel Megan Piller Christian Rivera Aarohi Talati Jasmine Tebbi
THE ART OF PROTEST The Intersection Between
Public Objection & Public Health by Abigail Adera Illustration & Design: Stephanie Do Nascimento
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ubber bullets. Tear gas. Batons. Police forces regularly wield these instruments in response to citizen protests on the streets of America. Public demonstrations are innate parts of any governed society, dating back centuries with no geographic boundary. Today’s protests, aided by the digital world, ignite quicker and fight harder. Protests sparked by public health issues, whether it be a perceived right or infringement, have a rich history in the United States, with core drivers being citizens’ fear of overreaching government and loss of liberty. Over centuries, protests in the U.S— whether it be over cholera outbreaks, seat belt mandates, vaccinations, and even the Black Lives Matter Movement— have painted this narrative of distrust, building the stage for the protests of the 21st century. While citizens bear the constitutional right to protest peacefully, certain public health-centered protests are destined to be more successful than others. The key is credibility. Public health protests (PHPs) in the United States date back three centuries, varying in intention but all central to a common core American belief: individual liberty must precede all. Religion took a much grander role in the country’s early years. The 1830 cholera outbreak saw a weak U.S. public health response tied to cultural Christian evangelical values. Public opinion held that Americans were immune to the disease, because they were a moral people, and that contraction of disease was due to individual sin rather than infectious transmission. The end of the century brought the smallpox outbreak of the 1890s, during which protests against local health departments became frequent. In 1894, thousands of armed Miluawkee residents protested the quarantining of a child to the local hospital due to rumors of mistreatment and general built-up mistrust of the local department. The most notable PHPs of the early 20th century
include the Anti-Mask League’s organized demonstration during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic, the deadliest flu pandemic in history. In the resolved belief that masks were infringements of personal liberty and choice, anti-maskers of yesterday mirror the sentiments of anti-maskers today: the belief that the government health mandates are a slippery slope to an all-too powerful federal government body. Historically, the use of the word ‘mandate’ increases public dissent, especially in the realm of vaccinations. Those against vaccinations, nicknamed ‘anti-vaxxers’, have voiced concerns over distrust of the science of the vaccine, potential side effects, governmental control of bodies, and other fears since the first U.S. vaccine mandate for smallpox in 1809. A 1998 case series by Andrew Wakefield et al. published in the Lancet public health magazine suggested that the MMR vaccine caused autism, a study found to be fundamentally flawed and subsequently disproved. However, the widespread hysteria that the study caused has not yet been extinguished. In early November of this year, thousands protested in Los Angeles over COVID-19 vaccination mandates for school children and government workers, with an outcry over a “lack of autonomy.” One sign held by a protester read “I’m not anti Vaxx. I’m anti Mandates.” There is a consistent narrative that can be woven from the protests occurring two hundred years ago to those occurring today: Americans retaliate when they perceive infringement on their personal freedom or behaviors. U.S. citizens are guaranteed the right to non-violent protest by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Police forces are not allowed to disband public assemblies unless there is a clear and present danger that points
towards a public safety violation. In Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905), the Supreme Court ruled that one does not have the constitutional right to infect others, invalidating many claims by recent anti-vaccination protestors that a public health mandate or law violates their “constitutional” rights. Unless a topic is explicit in the constitution, lawmakers defer to the 10th Amendment, which states that any power not explicitly granted to the United States or the States are reserved by the States, or by the people. Individual state responses to COVID-19 are a direct example of this amendment. A portion of the 14th Amendment operates in tandem with the 10th, placing a limit on States’ power in order to protect people’s civil liberties. Although public health measures are often adopted in an evidence-based measure, public opinion is still an important piece of criticism. In 1977, legislatures tried to mandate automatic safety belts in vehicles, an apparatus that would automatically “clip” in drivers before the car could start. There was public outcry, with the main (and ultimately successful) argument that this could kill drivers trapped in vehicle fires. This stands as proof for the importance of public discourse. It must be remembered that although PHRs are often the product of an emotionally charged public, the right to protest is constitutionally protected. Often the aims of a protest cannot be accomplished due to legislative precedent or lack of constitutional right, as discussed above.
Certain qualities of a protest ensure its success (or lack thereof). Interestingly, the very elements that promote the long-lasting impacts of a protest are the most difficult to achieve with PHPs. These qualities include a credible argument and clear aims, higheffort organization, and delegitimizing authority groups. Often, protests based on the ideology that a public health mandate infringes on their constitutional rights. As stated above, Jacobson v. Massachusetts set the precedent that no individual has the right to be an infectious agent. Other elements that are difficult to achieve include high-effort organization. In years prior to the digital age, protests required a lot of planning to catalyze. The Women’s March of 1963 took ten full years of planning, with months dedicated just to logistics of the event. Comparatively, women’s marches in the digital age can be planned in a series of weeks or days using social networking tools like Facebook or Instagram. The sheer feasibility of these events cause protests to lose ‘shock value’ to these legislators that protestors aim to persuade. A final important element of a successful protest is the delegitimization of authorities. For example, the Black Lives Matter Movement proves a key tenant of its message that police brutality results in the innocent killings of black lives. It does so simply through the natural response of police forces to the protests - rubber bullets, tear gas, and batons - delegitimizing the justice system and further stabilizing the BLM argument. Most PHPs rarely achieve this same level of success, as everyday Americans cannot find ways to delegitimize federal-level agencies such as the CDC or FDA backed by evidence-based trials and widespread academic collaboration. This is why protestors resort to the familiar and exceedingly American “loss of liberty” argument.
8 | News
Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels
To protest is to demand change. People feel strongly about autonomy over their bodies and health and protest to voice these feelings. Centuries of demonstrations highlight one core truth about citizen contempt to public health legislation - it often stems from perceived infringement on personal freedom. This infringement is often on a right (i.e., one’s right to be an infectious agent), but the ability of members of the public to protest is a protected and important
one. Protests drive social movements, some more strongly and successfully than others. Inherently, PHPs are less likely to enact legislative change, but there is potential with large-scale protests with clear dialogue. As the digital age facilitates simpler and more widespread protest organization, authorities must meet the public head-on, swapping rubber bullets, tear gas, and batons for respect, consideration, and the realization that public opinion still holds weight.
Noble Nobels The 2021 Winners in Science
by Nicole Wakim Illustration & Design: Carolina Hernandez 10 | News
obel Prizes are essentially the highest honor an individual can receive in their field. According to Alfred Nobel, they are awarded to “those who have conferred the greatest benefit to Mankind.” This year’s recipients in science were David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for Physiology and Medicine, Benjamin List and David MacMillan for Chemistry, and lastly, Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann, and Giorgio Parisi for Physics. They were awarded Nobel Prizes for their discoveries of temperature receptors, organocatalysis, and climate patterns and models, respectively. David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian were awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for their discoveries of receptors for temperature and touch. The ability to sense temperatures ranging from hot to cold through our touch receptors is practically essential for our survival. David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian solved the question of how our nerve endings can be used to stimulate an impulse that can allow us to sense temperature and pressure. Using a very pungent compound, capsaicin, which is found in one of the hottest chili peppers, David Julius was able to discover a sensor in our skin nerve endings that can sense heat. Simultaneously, Arden Patapoutian developed pressuresensitive cells to understand and discover a new class of mechanically stimulated sensors in our skin and internal organs. Using this new information, the laureates connected the bridge between our touch sensors and the environment around us. Benjamin List and David MacMillan were awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing a new tool for molecular construction: organocatalysis. This form of molecular construction was a greener way to build molecules, and it had a great impact on pharmaceutical research. Prior to the discovery of the 3rd type of catalyst by List and MacMillan, scientists had thought there were only two types: metals and enzymes. Asymmetric organocatalysis builds upon small organic molecules such as oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus, which is environmentally friendly and less costly to produce. Organocatalysis is allowing scientists to produce and construct a multitude of products ranging from pharmaceutical drugs to molecules that can capture light in solar cells. Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann, and Giorgio Parisi were awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics for patterns in climate change and the theory of disordered and random phenomena. Syukuro Manabe specifically was awarded the Nobel Prize for her contributions in demonstrating the correlation between increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and increased Earth surface temperatures. To demonstrate this correlation, he set up a 40-kilometer vertical column to test the
levels of various gases in the atmosphere. He found that oxygen and nitrogen did not contribute to any change in surface temperature, but carbon dioxide clearly did when the surface temperature changed. His work led to the creation of climate models. Klaus Hasselmann developed a climate model that demonstrated the relationship between weather and climate, showing why climate models can be reliable despite weather being unreliable. This is due to the uneven solar radiation of Earth due to its tilt and round shape. His work led to the confirmation that global warming was due to human emissions of carbon dioxide. The models clearly show the impact of greenhouses on the Earth’s surface temperature: the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased 40% in the past 150 years. Lastly, Giorgio Parisi was awarded the Nobel Prize due to his discovery of hidden patterns in disordered complex materials. He wanted to understand how simple processes give rise to complex processes. His work increased our understanding of the theory of complex systems, as well as many different random complex materials and phenomena.
There is nothing like the prestige of receiving a Nobel Prize. These awards represent excellence and tremendous inspiration. The findings of the recipients not only further progress in society, but also help us discover more about ourselves, be more balanced, and be more aware of our surroundings and environment.
O PE R AT I O N : m Plasmodiu ver o d e l l i k m falciparu ople in e p 0 0 0 , 600 2020...
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Prevent Malaria The World’s First Malaria Vaccine Illustration & Design: Meera Patel
s have t s i t n Scie RTS, S e h t d ere discov e which has vaccin ered the t now en ntation e implem am. progr
The RTS, S vaccine c an put an end to ma laria by a ttacking proteins on the su r face of th sporozoit e e-the ina c tive form of Plasmo dium falc iparum-th helps it b at ind to the liver.
This long-awaited vaccine brings immense hope to people around the world.
HOUSE PLANTS Illustration & Design: Megan Buras
PLANTS 1. SPIDER bright, indirect sunlight water once a week
UNBELEAFABLE 10 house plants for anyone and everyone looking to make their space a little greener.
bright, indirect sunlight water every 3 weeks
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PLANTS 8. PRAYER
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JADE PLANTS bright, indirect sunlight water every 2 weeks
indirect sunlight water every 3 weeks
Coral Castle The Secret Story of Florida’s Stonehenge by Victoria Crane Illustration & Design: Caleb Heathershaw
s my gaze creeps over the many massive stones surrounding me, I wonder how thousands of tons of these were able to be moved. Some are stacked four times as tall as I stand. The precision and craftsmanship required to carve, move, and place these stones were impossible at the time of construction. There is no mortar or concrete sandwiched between the towers of these stones nor any tiny spaces through which light can squeeze. I know that there is an accurate sundial-everybody who visits knows as much about these stones. However, these are not the sarsen sandstone blocks that make up the Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. These are the oolitic limestone blocks of Florida’s Stonehenge, titled ‘Coral Castle’. Coral Castle, once called “Ed’s Place”, was singlehandedly built in secrecy by Edward Leedskalnin in South Florida over the course of 28 years. In 1936, Edward decided to leave Florida City, and he took whatever he had then harvested of the 1000 tons of stones with him. Nobody knows how he was able to haul these — on average weighing over 14-ton stones— onto the flatbed of a moving truck. He allegedly hired a truck driver, asked him to step around a corner, and moved the stones onto the flatbed. When questioned, the truck driver said that he had not seen any special machinery that would have been of any use to Edward, nor has anybody ever found any since. Over the course of three years, Edward and the truck driver moved the Coral Castle ten miles north to just outside Homestead, Florida. Mysteriously, Leedskalnin had managed to cut and move these colossal stones with precision such that was not achievable by machinery at that time. Even with modern technological advancements, we cannot figure out just how Edward moved these stones. The heaviest stone weighed 27 tons, which for comparison is the weight of four and a half elephants. Now, Edward Leedskalnin was a frail man, about 5 feet tall and weighing about 100 pounds. He did not have a formal tertiary education, let alone a secondary one. Yet, when asked how he had
16 | News
moved the heavy stones on his own, his response was, “I understand the laws of weight and leverage, and I know the secrets of the people who built the pyramids [at Giza]”. Leedskalnin also noted the use of a tool he called a “perpetual motion holder”. Perpetual motion is a hypothetical idea of a way to, for lack of a better explanation, trap energy to power a system or machine so that it can work forever without an external energy source. However, such a machine cannot exist in the real world, as it would violate at least the first law of thermodynamics, if not the second one as well. Eventually, any energy in Leedskalnin’s “perpetual motion holder” would dissipate as some other form of energy, be it thermal, kinetic, mechanical, etc. We cannot postulate what type of energy his “perpetual motion holder” would release due to Leedskalnin’s refusal to share any further information on how he moved the stones. Maybe one day we will figure out how, using only simple tools, Edward Leedskalnin was able to move these massive stones to create walls, carvings, a castle tower, and furniture. His passion for masonry showed through his heart-shaped table, Florida-shaped table, and crescent moon-shaped chairs. Perhaps someday the engineering feats and scientific ingenuity behind the Coral Castle’s construction will come to light and further our architectural developments. You can view Florida’s Stonehenge, Coral Castle, at 28655 South Dixie Highway, Miami, FL 33033. There, you can observe Edward Leedskalnin’s living quarters and passion projects, which are surrounded by 8-foot-tall vertical stones that form a wall placed so precisely that they have not shifted since they were erected decades ago. You can also take in the massive stone objects, including the two 25 feet tall monoliths built mostly out of single pieces of stone and the tools that he used to build Coral Castle. Perhaps you can be the one to solve the architectural mystery behind Leedskalnin’s feat that has evaded us for decades since.
Health is EE vv ee rr yy tt hh ii nn gg
18 | Ethics
“Wooooooo!” The audience screams, cheering as runners donning scrubs and lab coats take their positions, looking ahead at the endless stretch of green and blue in front of them with no finish line in sight. “On your mark-” The runners crouch into the metal marker in their respective lanes. “-Get set-” They all raise their outstretched legs, faces etched in masks of concentration. “Go!”
by Judith Juste
Design: Lara Gomes
The runners take off, sprinting with vigor and ambition that has the crowd cheering on even more. As they do, the wind picks up - a fleeting breeze is all they feel at first, and few are even aware of it. Out of nowhere, it turns into something far more powerful, taking the form of a mini tornado before it follows them, as if it were taking its own place in the race. The runners try to ignore it and keep running, their eyes set on a distant finish line. There is a sudden yelp almost muted by the rest of the crowd’s cheers, followed by a splash of mud. Running far too fast to come to a quick halt and caught off guard by the obstacles thrown their way, oneby-one the runners all trip and fall into a pit of thick mud. They pick themselves back up again, but their once-powerful strides slow down, while the force behind them only grows stronger. The crowd watches as the runners keep going, trying to get to the finish line, rather than turn around and battle the tornado and stop it. In almost no time at all, the force reaches a monstrous speed, zips right past them, and proceeds to obliterate the path towards the finish line, leaving them - and the audience - devastated.
et’s get something out of the way. Are health outcomes improving globally? Yes! No matter how hard we try to skew data in order to paint a dismal picture of our current health state, we can’t deny how globally, infant mortality rate has decreased by 44%, HIV cases have decreased by 35%, and the risk of dying from noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease has decreased by 17% among ages 30-70 since 2000. Though progress is slow, we are indeed moving in the right direction. Nevertheless, there are a plethora of contradictory forces rising that can wipe out these strides of progress entirely. Instead of addressing them, many healthcare officials have chosen instead to turn a blind eye to them and treat the health system as a separate entity. But what are these forces? During an in-depth conversation with a pediatric nurse in South Florida, who prefers to remain anonymous, about her experience and thoughts about the healthcare system, we covered many topics, ranging
from the type of patients and stories she’s heard to the innovations that facilitate certain tasks. Most importantly, we discussed the alarming correlation between an increase in COVID-19 cases and an increase in other conditions like diabetes, malnutrition, anxiety, and depression, among several others. We just couldn’t understand how despite being in an era of increased knowledge and innovation, the healthcare system still managed to crumble on its knees when an influx of disease occurred. In the ‘sea’ of words and ideas exchanged, a lighthouse was spotted: “ If only we found efficient ways to control disease before it happened, then the load would be much lighter!” The forces that generally cause disease are everything other than what we consider health-related practices - disease is perpetuated not only by a lack of medicine or a lack of healthcare workers, but also by issues within our households, communities, countries, and the entire globe.
1. Poverty and residence in the inner city are connected concepts that have been a direct factor in the prevalence of asthma and morbidity from asthma due to lack of access to medical care, psycho-social stress, and exposure to elements such as tobacco smoke and nitrogen dioxide (which can be found in urban smog) ; 2. In Cameroon, obesity has increased due to urbanization. Researchers at University of Yaoundé state the following factors are involved: “…traditional perception of overweight/obesity as a desirable state, the transition from traditional eating patterns, increased socioeconomic status, inadequate awareness regarding the nutrient content of local food, improved transportation systems, increased ownership of motorized means of transportation, and excessive alcohol consumption”; 3. The rise of excessive gaming, media, and digital entertainment consumption has led to an increase in [obesity], malnutrition, dehydration, and stress;
Death from NCDs decreased 17%
Infant mortality rates have decreased by 44%, HIV cases have decreased by 35%, and the risk of dying from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease has decreased by 17% among ages 30 to 70 since the year 2000.
HIV cases decreased 35%
Given this, what must we do in response? Primarily, health entities must not let “sloth-steps’’ worth of progress blind them from the importance of holistic preventative methods. There must be widespread awareness about these issues and a strong focus on prevention. In a practical lens, health organizations should seek to collaborate with other organizations that deal with known health risks such as urban development, poverty, domestic abuse, and pollution rather than just staying within their domain. Another very important course of action would be to work alongside government officials by helping to form policy that takes into consideration the social determinants of health. This can occur by suggesting that states direct more funding towards projects such as placing clinics in communities that have historically lacked proper access to care or developing infrastructure that makes it easier and safer to walk to most destinations. It is time for healthcare actors to realize that it is not medicine and tertiary care that are the keys to efficient progress, but it is the development of goals and methods that acknowledge that in health is everything.
Infant mortality decreased 44%
4. Factors such as child abuse, discrimination, unemployment, domestic violence, social disadvantage, homelessness, poor housing, etc. can all lead to various mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, phobias, eating disorders, etc.
This article discusses sensitive topics including sexual assault.
It’s On Us:
Fighting Against the Rise in Campus Sexual Assault by Carson Loperena Illustration & Design: Meera Patel
20 | Ethics
n November 5th of 2021, over one hundred University of Colorado Boulder students protested in front of a fraternity house where two women were allegedly sexually assaulted. The assaults reportedly occurred within one week of each other, one between the 23rd and 24th of October, and the other on the 31st of October, specifically on the night of Halloween. According to the Boulder Police Department, no one has been arrested thus far. In response, the CU Boulder Interfraternity Council issued a statement expressing their commitment to working with both the BPD and CU Boulder investigations and taking appropriate action against the fraternity if evidence of criminal wrongdoing is found. However, according to local news, many CU Boulder students among the crowd of protestors expressed their concerns for a lack of accountability and a rise in rape culture on campus. The protest at CU Boulder is one of many against campus sexual assault at colleges and universities across the country. In the last few months, there have been student-led protests at the University of Kansas, Auburn University, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and recently Skidmore College. Many of these protests echo the same message: campus sexual assault is on the rise and there is a lack of accountability for those who commit sexual violence. The Skidmore College demonstration was provoked by a controversial decision by the Skidmore administration to ban a young female student who shared her experience of campus sexual violence online. Now, other female students at Skidmore say they are hesitant to report their own experiences out of fear of retaliation from the college. Thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of college students across the country are expressing the same sentiment. According to the Rape, Incest, and Abuse National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, 1 in 4 female undergraduate students experience rape or sexual assault. Despite this, the Department of Justice estimates that only 20 percent of female students aged 18 to 24 who have experienced sexual violence report it to law enforcement. Survivors who make the brave decision to come forward about their assault often face retaliation, as was the case with the student at Skidmore College. According to survivors’ rights group Know Your IX, nearly 40 percent of students who report sexual violence to campus administration are forced to drop out, transfer, or take a leave of absence. These concerning statistics show that survivors are often left with no choice but to keep quiet. Unfortunately, reporting campus sexual assault is not getting easier. During the Trump administration, former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos worked with “men’s rights” groups to make extensive changes to Title IX, the legislation that governs the process for reporting, investigating, and adjudicating cases of sexual violence at schools. Former Secretary DeVos made taking action against perpetrators of sexual violence more difficult by lengthening the investigation process and holding cases of campus sexual assault to higher standards of evidence, which deterred more students from reporting. There was hope that these rules would be made better under the Biden administration,
but there has been no immediate action taken. In March, President Biden issued an executive order to review the rules put in place by DeVos, but the deadline to make major changes was delayed to May of 2022. Without the support of the current presidential administration, college and university administrators, and law enforcement, how can we ensure that students, especially female students, are protected from sexual violence? How can we ensure that there is justice when sexual assault does happen? It’s on us. The It’s On Us campaign started by the Obama administration in 2014 has 4 key goals that are important for eliminating campus sexual assault. It’s On Us to: 1. RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault. 2. IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur. 3. INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. 4. CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported. Most importantly, it’s on us to make college and university administrators, politicians, law enforcement officers, and fellow students realize that campus sexual assault is a public health crisis and a civil rights issue worth fighting for.
The Snail from Samarrah by E.S. Mohan Illustration & Design: Stephanie Do Nascimento
22 | Ethics
he choices we make determine the path we take. I didn’t learn this lesson the easy way by hearing it from someone else. I learned it the hard way - through agonizing experience. My name is immaterial. A name is something one uses to call a being who is not oneself. Within the Void, I am all that is. Because of the consequences of my choices, I may very well be all that will be. Eons ago, I lived on a backwater planet that orbited an obscure star in one of millions of galaxies. This planet was an oasis of Life within the Void, for the brief flicker of time that it existed. My people tamed the planet and grew to live in peace with it. They built wonders that survive only in the recesses of my memory. The greatest wonder they built was Society, the communion of one with all who were not oneself. The Society they built allowed them to transcend the limits of survival to which the common animals of our planet were fated. I was fated to spend a pittance of time living a life within that Society that those I shared it with would have understood. But I was not a man to accept a fate that I did not make. That would be my undoing. One day, I met a man. Whether he was more or less than a man, I still don’t know. But he offered me a deal. The deal was deceptively attractive. I would receive immortality and a substantial amount of capital, which I once knew as money. In return, a snail, which was a species of pest in my world that was characterized by extremely slow speed of movement, would also be granted immortality in addition to sentience. This Snail would always know exactly where I was, and its sole purpose would be to find and make physical contact with me, upon which I would die an instant and painless death. In my naivete, I accepted the contract without so much as a second thought. After all, what greater chance could I have to make my own destiny than the removal of the very limit on what I could accomplish within a lifetime? And so I set forth into that pitifully miniscule world, hellbent on building the life that I thought I wanted. I used the capital to forge a livelihood, then an empire. I skipped like a stone across the roiling surface of history, ascending and descending into Society as I see fit. And each time the Snail came close to catching up with me, I turned tail and ran
to the other side of the planet, letting it waste decades in catching up to me. I escaped Death at every turn and thought myself invincible. The fact that I could feel my humanity leaking out of me with every passing moment and every passing century didn’t seem like something to worry about. After all, I had forever to get it back. Literally. Society evolved as time flew by. My own people became more and more alien to me. I had all the time, money, and leisure in the world, and I started running out of things to do. After spending millennia observing the rise and fall of civilizations, I became more so an observer of life than a participant. My father once told me that anybody who delves too deeply into anything is left with nothing at the end of their effort. I began to understand his meaning just as the end of my people drew nigh. All things have a beginning, so all things must have an end. Except me, of course. The Society in which I was born, which I traversed, which I transcended, was not an exception. In all the time I had lived, our race was no closer to interstellar travel than I was to death. Their
inability to coalesce into a collective haunted every effort to outgrow the planet on which they existed. We always think we have more time until the end. They saw the asteroid coming, but ultimately did nothing to stop it. Why that came to be doesn’t matter after all this time. What does matter is that I did not escape the destruction of my planet. When it shattered apart, I was flung into the Void, knowing every last moment of pain unlike the men, women, and children who died instantly. But what I felt more than pain was terror. I had always known that the Snail was coming for me, slowly but surely. My choice to run from the Snail was really a choice not to die. But I had never expected to have no choice at all in the matter. In a corner of my mind, I always thought that I could die when I wanted. But now, where was I to find a snail in the infinite space between the stars? It wasn’t until the choice to die was taken away from me that I realized how little I wanted to live. After all, what good is immortality in the face of the Void? The first few centuries, I stayed sane. A celebrated storyteller who lived before I did
once said “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.” My mind became my refuge from the Void. I had nothing but thoughts to occupy me. And then I ran out of things to think about. That was when I first lost my sanity. The centuries that followed were marginally more interesting, but ultimately had even less point. Of course, I gained it back. Then I lost it again. And so the cycle continued, each iteration adding to the weight of ennui under which my back broke. Looking back, there was a reason I chose to run away. The thought of trapping the snail had occurred to me in the way that people contemplate suicide when they’re bored. It didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel like a choice that was available to me. Plenty of people killed themselves because they felt they had no choice. I didn’t even entertain the thought of allowing myself to die because I couldn’t throw away what I’d made for myself. And I did make all of it for myself. It takes nothing less than
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letting the Void stare into you to make one realize exactly how much control he has in his own life. Every dilemma can always be reduced to two paths that may be taken. This is known. What is not known is that the choice you make determines the next choice you make. The extent of that determination varies, but with all certainty, our choices dictate the paths we take in life, just as much as our paths dictate the choices we make in life. You make a choice, and then the next choice, and then the next choice, until your choices become a pattern, and that pattern becomes your path, and your path becomes your fate. Whether the choices you make and the path you take are the right ones is irrelevant, in that it depends entirely upon your own values and beliefs. What you can remember, and what you should never forget, is that you forge your destiny with the first choice you make. That first choice sets up every other choice, and consequently it becomes more and more difficult to make different choices further down your path.
And so, the choices I made determined the path I’m on now. Free-floating in space, no idea where I’m going, no idea when I’ll get there, watching stars be born and die. All I have is myself. And the Void. If I knew where I could find the snail, I’d kiss it without a second thought. I would welcome Death for no other reason than this: if death is just nothingness, then it is exactly what my existence is right now — I just don’t need to be awake for it. More times than I’m proud to admit, I’ve prayed to the man who made the deal with me to appear before me again. I still don’t know whether he was a god or a demon. Maybe he was just a man. But while I was the one who made the choice, he was the one who offered it. Maybe that’s all the difference there is between man and God. That of the actor and the audience. Maybe he’s watching me right now, talking to myself because I have nobody else. I don’t know what terrifies me more — the idea that I’m alone in the universe, or that I’m not.
What if your cells remained alive forever?
a t t e i Henr s k c a L
H er Im m o r ta l Leg a cy by Blake Goldberg
Illustration & Design: Zelda Rosenberg
hat if I told you that you could be dead and alive at the same time? Gone are your physical features and your personality, but your cells remain alive in some scientific petri dish. This is not uncommon in the world of science, as we can culture and preserve cells, some of which can still be functional after their creator is gone. Normally, our cells, unless cryogenically frozen, can only survive for so long. Even the best of cultures typically last for no more than ten years. One of the main reasons for this involves cell “checkpoints’’ and telomeres. Normal cells have “checkpoints’’, or moments within their replication cycle to ensure that everything is in order before proceeding with the cell cycle. If the cell recognizes a problem during the checkpoint, it will attempt to fix it, or if too severe, commit what is considered “cell suicide.” This process protects other cells around it and prevents damaged DNA from being passed down. Telomeres are long sequences of DNA at the end of our chromosomes that act as a buffer between the important coding DNA and DNA slicing molecules needed for replication, which get shorter and shorter with each division. Directly correlated with age, telomeres shorten as you get older, leaving that important genetic code susceptible to damage. In normal cells, these processes place a hard cap on cell lifespan. Keyword being normal. Cancer cells are a whole different ball game. Certain cancer cells truly can be immortal. The holy grail of immortal cancer cells comes from a woman named Henrietta Lacks. Even if you’ve never heard that name before, you’ve almost certainly encountered some therapeutic developed using her cells. If you’ve ever received a polio vaccine, are familiar with in vitro fertilization, or most recently gotten your COVID-19 vaccine, Henrietta Lacks deserves the kudos.
for his research study. Unfortunately, soon after the biopsy was taken, Lacks died. Dr. Gey received countless biopsies and samples, but he quickly came to the conclusion that Lacks’ cells were atypical. Most other samples he received would die quickly, but Lacks’ would double within 24 hours. They also would not stop dividing; for all intents and purposes, these cells were “immortal” and produced a prolific number of cells for his study. Upon his discovery, Dr. Gey sent samples of Lacks’ cells to labs around the world, and they would forever be immortalized as “HeLa cells,” taken from the first name and surname of Henrietta Lacks. What makes Henrietta Lack’s cells so special? Even eighty years after their discovery, HeLa cells are still widely used in research. This is because of the unique properties of HeLa cells that make them the perfect cell to experiment with. Before HeLa cells were discovered, scientists had to spend more time trying to keep human cells alive than actually doing experiments on them. HeLa cells, however, are remarkably resilient, being able to survive less optimal conditions than normal cells. Of course, cell mediums (the “food” and environment of the cell) need to be changed and managed, but there is a much greater margin for error in HeLa cells. HeLa cells’ astounding ability to divide rapidly allows researchers to experiment on the cells and receive results faster and more efficiently than any other cell. Most importantly, they do not stop dividing. As previously discussed, in normal cells telomeres will shorten until the cell can’t divide anymore, but HeLa cells have an overactive enzyme called telomerase (found in only cancer and embryonic stem cells) that rebuilds the telomeres and allows the cells to divide infinitely. HeLa cells also lack the cell checkpoints to stop its division as well as other factors such as contact and density inhibition. These factors stop cells from growing on top of each other, but in HeLa cells, these stops aren’t present. Therefore, HeLa cells contain all of the important attributes to ensure they can be easily reproduced and used extensively for experimentation.
A historical marker memorializing Henrietta Lacks in Clover, Virginia.
Photograph of Henrietta Lacks
Henrietta Lacks was born on August 1, 1920, in Roanoke, Virginia. In her adult life, she moved to Baltimore, where she raised her five children. This was before her diagnosis of cervical cancer. She began to receive treatment at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951, which offered treatment to poor African Americans, a rarity in American medicine at the time. In the 1950s, the only treatment available for cervical cancer was radium, a radioactive material that was placed at the cervix with the hope of helping the patient gain some relief. This treatment, bound by the medical knowledge at the time, was ineffective and had devastating side effects, which Lacks experienced. During her treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital, biopsies or small fragments of her cancer were sent to Dr. George Gey
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Controversy Over HeLa Cell Use and Its Impact HeLa cells are a medical marvel that produced countless treatments and helped us understand not only human disease but humanity itself. It seems only fair that her family should be compensated fairly for the millions of biotech firms across the globe that have used Henrietta Lack’s cells to create vaccines and test treatments for a wide variety of diseases, but this has not been the case. In fact, neither Lacks nor her family gave consent to her cells being harvested and used for research and distributed around the globe or her identity being revealed. It was not, however, illegal in 1950 to test samples without the patient’s consent. In fact, even today, every time you take a blood test or biopsy, there’s a chance that the leftover material is being used for research. The kicker is they can’t release your name, but this clearly was not the case with Lacks. Events like Lacks’ lead to mistrust within the medical community for everyone, but especially the African American community. Early medicine showed a disturbing pattern of using disadvantaged individuals for their own profit, and not crediting or compensating them fairly. We see these lasting effects today as according to the Centers for Disease Control, seven out of ten black Americans say they are unfairly treated by the healthcare system. Although efforts to improve healthcare outcomes for racial minorities have improved, black Americans are still less likely to get vaccinated for COVID-19 than white Americans and much of this stems from an understandable lack of trust in medical establishments and a lack of access to quality healthcare. That’s why today it is more important than ever to right the wrongs of the past and share stories like Lacks’. Without ever becoming aware of it, Henrietta Lacks became one of the most valuable contributors to modern-day medicine and bioscience advancements.
A Bronze statue of Henrietta Lacks by sculptor Helen Wilson-Roe located at Royal Fort House, Bristol. The statue was unveiled in October 2021
Multiphoton fluorescence image of HeLa cells stained with the actin binding toxin phalloidin (cyan), microtubules (orange) and cell nuclei (yellow). Taken on the Nikon RTS2000MP custom laser scanning microscope by the National Institute of Health
Take your medicine! Investigating the Dangers of Antibiotics by William Goodman Illustration & Design: Lara Gomes
n 1928, Alexander Fleming changed the world with the discovery of the first antibiotic compound: penicillin. There is no doubt about this discovery’s positive impact, as it has led to the saving of over 200,000 American lives annually. However, the overuse of antibiotic compounds in the food and medical industry is creating a serious threat to public health. You may be wondering why there are significant quantities of antibiotics in the meats and vegetables you purchase from the grocery store; the answer to this question lies in their economic benefits. If a pesky bacteria is infecting and killing thousands of acres of a cash crop, how can it be sold? For this reason, high levels of antibiotics are used to ensure that the crop grows without these bacteria- the same goes for the meat industry. In order to ensure that the animals used for food production do not die of widespread bacterial disease, they are also treated with high doses of antibiotics. Of course, the use of antibiotics in these industries is necessary to ensure the health of plants and animals. However, the amount of as well and strain of antibiotics that are used are problematic. Rather than taking the time to measure the precise amount of antimicrobial compound to use, this amount is overestimated in order to lower the risk of the food production industry losing money from an unexpected bacterial plague. The second and more threatening problem is the strain of antibiotic that is used. Identifying this problem, The Atlantic writes: “The amount of antibiotics given to farm animals in the United States increased by 16% between 2009 and 2012, and nearly 70% of those used are considered “medically important” for humans.” Antibiotics used to treat bacterial diseases within the human body are being used in mass quantities to treat the plant and animal products that we ingest. Therefore, this leads us to the danger of antibiotic resistance. Even though bacteria are unconscious single-celled life forms, they are master adaptors. Bacteria evolved to have many methods to cheat the antibiotics used to destroy them. Thus, as human antibiotics are used in the cultivation of plants and animals, agricultural industries serve as breeding grounds for dangerous antibiotic-resistant species. Additionally, this problem of resistant species is worsened by the healthcare industry. When discussing how the medical field can increase the number of resistant species, there are two sides to the problem: the provider and the patient. Hypothetically, when a person wakes up feeling ill and has any number of common symptoms, like sore throat, fever,
28 | Health
or headache, they schedule an appointment with the doctor. In a scenario as such, even if the patient tests negative for a specific bacterial infection, sometimes the provider will still prescribe antibiotics in the case that there is a false negative or the patient has some other bacterial infection. However, if this is not the case and the infectious agent is viral or fungal, the antibiotics will result in no improvement. In a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “it is estimated that approximately half of these prescriptions are inappropriate, given for conditions for which antibiotics provide no benefit.” As a result, antibiotics are given to thousands of healthy individuals annually. If a person is continually taking antibiotics that they do not need, they are not only at risk for cultivating resistant microbes, but they are also destroying their microbiome. Patients also contribute to the problem of antibiotic-resistant strains. Again, convenience is a major player in the worsening of this problem. For example, to treat a sore throat, a patient may be given a 10-day supply of penicillin, taking one in the morning, one midday, and one at bedtime. This can be a lot to keep track of. As patients can forget to take certain doses or miss a day of treatment. This is especially apparent in the case that the patient feels better before completing the full course of their prescription. Thus, the problem here is adherence. Patients do not take their full course of antibiotics, and the bacteria learn from this, leading the resistant strains to remain and multiply. The prescription may have some side effects, and patients might feel like it is enough to just do nine out of ten days, but this line of thinking is not only incorrect but also harmful. Prescriptions are not suggestions and are certainly not flexible; they are thoroughly tested treatments to ensure the annihilation of the bacterial infection. Is the convenience worth it? Is it worth the creation of a bacteria so resistant to modern medicine that it could wipe out a population? Think about this the next time your doctor prescribes you antibiotics. Be sure to complete the dose you are given and do not be afraid to question your healthcare provider if you suspect something other than a bacterial infection. These are things you can do to help reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. While addressing the food industry side of this issue is more difficult, there are many steps you can take to help, and it all starts with. being conscious of the antibiotics in your diet. So, take your medicine, and let’s fight this common micro-enemy together.
d e i f i ss
a l c e D
Aquatica Urticaria by
Illustration & Design: Anam Ahmed
rticaria; also known as hives. A common disease that is often described as a skin rash caused by an irritant— usually a certain type of food, or even just stress itself. The symptoms tend to be very characteristic and easily identifiable. According to the Journal of Asthma and Allergy, “Folliculocentric wheals” (red, elevated, swollen marks) and “erythematous flares” (swelling) near the area tend to be the most common signs, as depicted in the illustration on the right. These weltlike round patches are noted to be both inflamed and itchy, with these symptoms ranging from being a mild annoyance to being extremely painful. Nowadays, the most common remedy to this situation is to take a small antihistamine tablet, usually cetirizine.
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The history behind this disease is just as interesting as the disease itself. The word urticaria has origins dating back to the Greeks, with their allusion to the symptoms with the term “nettles” (a Latin name for a plant that may have caused rash-like irritation) as early as the 4th century B.C. By the 10th century, Persian physician Haly Abbas, an important figure in early medicine, referred to the symptomatic wheals as “essera.” Towards the end of the 18th century, physicians such as Johann Peter Frank began to refer to this set of symptoms with the now-common name of urticaria. Now imagine that same symptom set: swelling, rashes, and red marks, but all due to coming in contact with water. “Aquagenic urticaria,” or AU for short, means just that. First discovered in 1964 by Shelley and Rawnsley, the disease is considered one of the rarest in the world, with fewer than 100 cases noted in the existing literature. A possible mechanism for the disease was proposed: the water reacts with sebum (an oily substance that coats your skin) to create a toxic irritant that may cause histamine release and urticarial reaction on the skin. A rare form of urticaria, AU is described in the Annals of Dermatology as having wheals form when the skin is in contact with water, “regardless of its temperature or source.” As is the case with many other forms of hives, if left untouched, the wheals and inflammation that are first noted will resolve themselves within 30-60 minutes. To confirm the diagnosis, a “water challenge test” is usually performed, which involves applying a room temperature compress to
the upper body of the patient for 30 minutes, and noting any reactions that may occur afterward. While the symptoms of this disease are relatively common, it is their broad nature that provides challenges when it comes to getting diagnosed. Due to its rarity, AU is not the first thought that comes to mind on the differential. Oftentimes, almost all other possible irritants are explored: from physical materials, to clothing, and even to one’s diet. This can make getting the correct diagnosis take an extended amount of time, possibly as long as a few years. On top of this, treatment for such a disease can have its own complications. While second-generation H1 antihistamines have proven to be an effective drug for most cases of hives, AU (at least according to anecdotal reports) might not completely be controlled by this treatment alone. However, the fact that there is any sort of response towards antihistamines may provide evidence for the mechanisms first outlined by Shelley and Rawnsley. For essential activities such as bathing, topical barriers in the form of “oil-in-water emulsions” have been effective in mitigating the formation of wheals. Petroleum-based creams as a protective coating have also seemed to work, as noted in recent literature. Combinations of topical treatments and oral medications may prove to be the best option for those
suffering from AU now. For most, water is an essential, harmless part of life; however, for patients who suffer from AU, their relationship with this integral substance can be both complicated and frustrating. Careful, methodological evaluations are needed to correctly diagnose and treat this unique and improbable disease. Future studies hope to delve into the mechanisms behind this disease. While it is a confounding factor to live with, promising remedies have made it possible to keep it under control, and hopefully, there will be more such treatments to come.
Inflammation of the skin with characteristic welts from urticaria(hives)
“Be a Man for Crying Out Loud!” Understanding the duality of toxic masculinity and its ramifications on physical and psychological health.
by: Judith Juste Illustration & Design: Samira Kethu
ohnny walks briskly towards his home from school, each foot crunching the tiny pebbles on the sidewalk. There remains a short distance until he reaches home, but today, he chooses a shortcut. “I’m gonna walk through the alley today!” he thinks to himself. The alley—a notoriously dark route known to be a gathering place for violent thieves. Johnny whispers softly to himself in a trembling airy voice , “Imma man, I can protect myself!” As he ventures into the belly of the dark, water drips from the rusty pipes above, rattling in his ears as they dive into the iridescent blue-green puddles below: drip, drip, drip.
Splash!… Johnny turns around, startled by the sound but he turns back, a gang of boys approach him. “Yo kid, where’s your moooommmmy!” Johnny tries to push his way through them, giving no life to their childish taunts. The leader stops him with his shoulder. “Ay kid, you don’t hear me talkin to you?” “I’m not a kid…” Johnny yells. They laugh in response and surround him like a swarm of bees. Johnny channels all his might into his fist and throws a hard punch right into the nose of the leader. The world seems to cease spinning on its axis, time has made a full stop, not a soul moves. The followers are stunned, eyes wide open as a waterfall of blood cascades down the face of their leader. He cracks his neck side to side, air moves rapidly in and
out of his nostrils like a charging bull, the whites of his vengeful eyes peek through his down-turned head. He speaks in a low menacing voice, “You gonna regret that you know!” They all advance towards Johnny, waving their necks, cracking and pounding their fists into the opposite hand. The leader throws the first punch square into Johnny’s jaw. His head jerks violently back, he collapses, hitting his head on the concrete floor. The silhouettes of his attackers punching and kicking him move slowly in the blurred images of his eyes, then suddenly, all becomes black. Johnny wakes up bloodied, weak, and in pain but he continues to walk home. As he opens the door, he hears his father’s voice. “Ay Johnny what took you so… o my goodness who did this to you? You fought back?” Johnny breaks down crying, “Ay what you crying for you weakling! Stop it this instant!” his father yells. He starts to whimper. “Be a man!” his mother belches in. His father yells again, “Where are they, go back and show’em who’s boss !” “Nooo…” Johnny pleads. His father raises his hand. “Go! I didn’t raise no punk.” Nine-year old Johnny drags his feet back towards the door… Toxic Masculinity, a term coined by Shepherd Bliss, has been the focal point of debate in our now conscious society. Despite this, there are many misconceptions about this term. For instance, many believe that it is an appeal to put an end to the societal classification of
“masculinity” which entails being macho, protective, and relatively stoic. Others also believe that it is a term used to “encourage” men to tap into their “feminine sides”(which in my opinion is a misogynistic term). These misconceptions often lead to passionate debate and hostile conflict. So, what is it really, and what should it be? Primarily, we have to get a sense of what it means when we consider something to be “toxic.” According to Oxford Languages, toxic means “very harmful or unpleasant in a pervasive or insidious way.” The key concept to understand is that when something is toxic, it inflicts harm or discomfort on the recipient or those around the main recipient. This definition can now help us understand the duality of toxic masculinity. For instance, if I ingest a substance that harms me but makes you stronger, is it universally toxic? No! In the same way, if one adopts a masculine trait and it harms them but doesn’t harm another person who adopts the same trait, then it is only toxic to them. So, the universal approach to toxic masculinity is not only illogical but unrealistic. With that being said, how can we define toxic masculinity? In short, it is aspects of masculinity that initiate individualized negative responses which can inflict harm on both the practitioner and those around the practitioner of these masculine traits. Despite it being an individualized concept, to ignore the pervasive ramifications that “toxic masculinity” has on internal and external aspects of health is tantamount to a public health crime! We shall absolve ourselves today and explore these physical and psychological ramifications of “toxic masculinity.” Earlier, we had the chance to meet Johnny, a nine-year old boy who was grappling with the effects of toxic masculinity. The first external ramification demonstrated is his obligatory feelings of placing “himself” in harm’s way to demonstrate the masculine attribute of strength and bravery. Johnny could have simply chosen to walk
home the normal way, but instead, he chose to not only walk boldly through a notoriously dangerous pathway but throw a punch into his aggressor’s face to “defend his honor” and his standing as a “man.” If we recall the dual nature of toxic masculinity and look at the outcome of Johnny’s journey, we can say that the masculine attribute of employing strength at all times is toxic for him because it resulted in harm. Overall, this need to show strength can manifest itself in many ways such as physically putting oneself in harm’s way, feeling the need to use aggression to show dominance, acting misogynistically, and even adhering to certain aspects of chivalry! You may be wondering, “Ok, I understand the others, but chivalry! You are going too far! How is that harmful?” However, picture this: you are a man walking down the street at night and you hear a scream about twenty-feet away from you. You turn your head and across the street is a woman being attacked by two men. “A damsel in distress!” you think, and “instinct” is pushing you to end the assault. You take a step towards them but your eyes catch the glare of two guns— you are unarmed. So, what will you do? Will you try to stop the crime to maintain an image of strength despite knowing that that decision will inevitably lead to the demise of both you and the woman? Or, will you seek help from better equipped authorities which can significantly increase chances of survival overall, but denote you as a wimp? This example is not to say if you see a person, whether it be a man or a woman, in danger don’t help them, but it can demonstrate how going beyond physical capabilities in the name of preserving masculinity can be both ineffective and harmful to health. How? By going beyond what you can physically handle, you are susceptible to lacerations, bruises, and even death. In addition to this, less combative actions such as ignoring health advice (especially those given by women), refusing to seek medical treatment or take medication, and overworking can lead to various adverse health effects. The effects of toxic masculinity are not only physical but psychological as well. Let’s revisit Johnny’s example: when he enters his home, he breaks down into tears— an outlet for his pain and fear. Instead of embracing him, comforting him, or even expressing genuine concern for his son’s injuries, his father shuts him up and urges him to preserve his masculine image. In a way, his father personifies society which is only concerned with outward appearance and theatrics rather than substance and internal value. In Johnny’s case, a need to compromise his well-being and beliefs to attain a personally unattainable imagecan spiral into him having low selfesteem. Furthermore, Johnny is not a stoic person by nature, he needs to emote in order to cope with feelings such as pain, but because he has a societal obligation to be tough, he is forced to suppress his tears. This suppression of emotions can lead to anxiety, dysmorphia, depression, and eventually suicide. An important thing to note is that toxicity, in terms of behavior and social connection, is not universal but is contingent upon the unique reactions and feelings of each person. Given our differences, it is integral that we seek new treatment and solutions in a way that takes into consideration our differences. When we adopt a universal solution or system, we create room for imposing our personal beliefs on others on an institutional level. When addressing toxic masculinity, the problem is derived from forcing men to either conform to standards of masculinity or reject them. By forcing, we disregard the strain it may place on the health of those who can not meet our “ideal” model. There needs to be an acceptance of duality. It’s ok to be a man who is stoic and jumps into the arms of danger in the same way that it is ok to be a man who runs away from danger and cries out loud!
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“In short, it is aspects of masculinity that initiate individualized negative responses which can inflict harm on both the practitioner and those around the practitioner of these masculine traits.”
Why is Gambling so Addictive?
A Deep Dive Into The Neurological Effects of Gambling by Kyle Banker Illustration & Design: Geethika Kataru
recent national survey reveals that around 124 million Americans will visit a casino at least once this year. Casinos lure Americans with attractive games and enormous cash prizes, encouraging them to bet their money. Unsurprisingly, U.S. gambling revenue is expected to surpass $44 billion in 2021. Gambling is a popular yet dangerous hobby in the United States and is not just restricted to the casino. Nearly any game involving competition between players, from sports to video games, has a facet of gambling alongside it. Because of its ubiquity across platforms, gambling is attractive to many American citizens, especially in locations such as Las Vegas and Atlanta. A recent demonstration of the magnetism of gambling comes from the hit Netflix series Squid Game. However, what causes Americans to gamble and give away their money? What do television shows like Squid Game tell us about the real dangers of gambling? Whenever someone begins betting, they feel an initial feeling of excitement about what they can earn. This excitement continues to appear every time you bet, as studies have shown that gambling activates the brain’s reward system similar to the effect of drugs. Specifically, gambling targets the ventral striatum and the prefrontal cortex, which both have significant roles in the reward pathway. As a result, the neurological effects of gambling can make betting as addicting as drugs or alcohol. A study conducted in 2020 from the Current Opinion In Behavioral Sciences assessed a rodent’s neurological relationship between gambling and substance use. After being exposed to nicotine, the rodents preferred a higher risk-taking behavior (selecting big rewards with high risks) over a more conservative approach. Humans followed a similar trend with cocaine exposure, where the study showed humans preferred larger and riskier rewards. This study shows that gambling and substances target the same areas of our brain, which, when used together, can lead us to make risky decisions. While the effects of initial gambling can be minimal, it becomes dangerous if it develops into a routine. As an individual continues to gamble, they can be diagnosed with gambling disorder. Gambling disorder is defined as the uncontrollable urge to continue gambling despite the negative effect it has on your life. These individuals hope that by risking their money, they will acquire a greater financial return. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, as casinos statistically have a higher chance of winning than the bettor. This low-win probability has led nearly two million Americans to have a gambling addiction. These individuals are likely addicted either to make back their money or continue building on their financial gains. A common question asked by many non-gamblers is: “why can’t they just stop gambling?” The challenge of overcoming gambling disorder is the major effect it has on the human brain. Gambling disorder overstimulates the brain and triggers a boost in the brain’s defensive reaction, which weakens the reward system. From this, the brain is constantly seeking for dopamine to trigger the reward system, which can be achieved through high-risk gambling. The relationship between gambling and dopamine is the clearest explanation for why gambling becomes
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so addicting, especially to those with gambling disorder. These individuals are then targeted in casinos with chance-based and riskbased games, such as roulette and poker. Roulette is known as one of the riskiest games in gambling as it is all determined by luck. At first glance, roulette is a fun game considering it is colorful, has an aesthetically pleasing wheel, and has a rapid betting process. However, this spinning wheel becomes the most addictive chance-based game besides slot machines. Referring back to the dopamine relationship, every spin of the wheel is an opportunity to win and acquire dopamine for the brain. Those with gambling disorder can continue to ride this dopamine rush — which would only last for a short time — and will either end up making a small gain or losing their money. As with all chance-based games, it is impossible to say whether an individual will make a financial gain, and that is the desire and addictiveness of roulette. In any spin, you could make or lose a substantial amount of money based on your bet. Skill-based games like poker are still risky but in a slower and more strategic way. While there is more technique needed for poker, uncertainty and false emotions drive the addictiveness for this card game. A study from a journal named Biological Psychology found that emotions have a direct effect on a gambler’s decision-making. In the case of poker, if a gambler sees a favorable emotion from an opponent, they are likely to make a riskier bet. But, since false emotion is a major component of poker, this leads to individuals making large and costly bets. Overall, regardless of the game an individual chooses to play at a casino, there are many neurological effects at play during your time at the game table. Gambling has gained a significant amount of awareness across the world, especially in television shows or movies. In September of 2021, Netflix released the Korean drama Squid Game, which tells the story of hundreds of individuals who choose to risk their life to obtain a sizable cash prize. The show focuses on Seong, who has a vast history of gambling through betting on horse racing. Seong’s gambling tendencies peak once he enters the game, where death is the consequence of losing. As more and more contestants are killed, it is significant to think about why they chose to make this decision to enter the game. Since all the individuals in the game were cashstripped and had some gambling history, some of the players could have been diagnosed with gambling disorder. This prediction can especially apply to those who came back for the second round of the game after knowing the potential consequences. The individual’s past also plays a major role in their ability to win the game, such as their mental flexibility or lack of counterfactual thinking. A study in 2021 involving individuals with gambling disorder found that they were more stubborn and inflexible with their decision-making, even if their decision was less effective than another. In Squid Game, this stubbornness can lead to characters giving their life away, such as in the marbles game. Counterfactual thinking (when you try to create possible alternatives to something that has already happened) is also shown in the show, as seconds before a character dies, the audience can see the individual wonder what would happen if they did something different. In all, despite its popularity for its thrilling intensity, Squid Game can be recognized as a television show that showcases real-life implications of the neurological effects of gambling and the worst-case scenario for what happens when making a risky choice. Even though gambling is very addictive and can be dangerous in the long run, there are countless options to treat gambling disorder. As an addictive disorder, it is extremely important for those affected by it to seek help and not minimize its effects. Some options for
treatment include scheduling an appointment with your doctor or a mental health professional, calling the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network (1-800-522-4700), or even talking to a friend or a family member. Furthermore, there are safe ways to gamble, such as only bringing a predetermined amount of money in cash, going with a few friends, no drinking or substance usage, and not playing for longer than an hour. As someone who occasionally bets on sports with my friends, there is a safe and fun way to gamble, but you have to be responsible and aware of the consequences. By connecting the neurological effects of gambling, and why it can become addictive, I hope this article serves as a piece of awareness that can help you when you consider your next bet or trip to the casino.
Go With Your Gut The Gut-Brain Connection by Maria Antonia Mejia-Botero
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Illustration and Design: Varsha Udayakumar
he human body is a microbiome, with microscopic organisms living among every surface of our skin and tissues. Within our gastrointestinal tract, we have about the same number of bacterial cells as we do human cells, thriving in an anaerobic environment and regulating our health and digestion. Awareness about the importance that these microbes have for our health is steadily increasing, and new treatment methods utilizing their presence are being found for treating chronic diseases. But did you know that the influence of our gut microbiota does more than just regulate the health and function of the gastrointestinal system? The gut microbiota also has a sphere of influence on our brain through both direct and indirect pathways for communication. Using chemical signaling, neuronal pathways, and the immune system, these billions of microbes that are not spared much thought during a regular day are sending messages and signals to our brains and influencing our moods, behaviors, and physiological functions. One of the ways that cells communicate with other cells is through chemical signaling, which is when cells produce chemical compounds that other cells can receive through receptors and interactions with enzymes and DNA. An example of this is bacterial fermentation during the metabolization of sugars. During fermentation, bacteria can produce Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA), which are large polar molecules that play a role in regulating neuroplasticity, genetic expressions, and the immune system. Microbiota also affect the functions of the host they reside in, like appetite and mood, by producing hormones like GLP1, GABA, and serotonin. Chemical signaling is a less direct approach for gut microbiota to communicate with the brain due to the blood-brain barrier, which separates brain tissue from the circulatory system. A more direct form of gut microbiota-brain communication is through neuronal pathways, which are physical links connecting the brain and the gut. The vagus nerve, which connects the brainstem to the muscles and mucus cells of the GI tract, is one of the major players in detecting signals and relaying signals to the Central Nervous System. It can also propagate information from the brain to the gut, affecting functions in immunity and metabolism. One study found that increasing Lactobacillus reuteri into the gut microbiome promotes social behavior in mice studies with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Another study found that Lactobacillus rhamosus JB-1 alters GABA hormone receptors, which modulate anxiety in mice and are associated with how bodies respond with fear and emotions. Research into the neuronal communication between the gut microbiota and the brain in animal studies has led to findings of how symbiosis with the gut microbiome can influence the mood and behavior of their host. The immune system is not one to be commonly thought of as a communication system like the nervous system, but in reality, there is constant communication between immune cells, especially regarding potential pathogens and foreign bacteria. The gut microbiota is crucial to the development, maturation, and activation of microglia, which are the innate immune macrophage cells of the brain. Research has linked alterations to microglia function to stress and neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. Other immune research has found that the permeability of the blood-brain barrier is influenced by gut microbiota. When the blood-brain barrier increases in permeability, then the access for substances produced or secreted by microbes to reach the brain also increases and can sensitize the brain to diseases. The permeability of the blood-brain barrier is a defining characteristic for many neuropathological conditions;
Microbiota in the gut can support healthy stress response.
therefore, new findings in immunology research suggest that the gut microbiota has an important role in neuropathological diseases through the mediation of the blood-brain barrier and development of microglia. As college students, we are no strangers to feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. These normal stress responses can become conditions of mood disorders when the body is unable to restore homeostasis after activating stress response systems. They are extremely prevalent around the world, and about 30-40% of Americans experience anxiety disorders. In college, life’s stressors and responsibilities can often feel overwhelming, and we often see students struggling with chronic conditions of stress, anxiety, and depression. Mice studies support that microbiota in the gut can support healthy stress response by regulating glucocorticoid levels with microbial signals. Studies that introduced species of Lactobacillus into germ-free mice (meaning they lack a gut microbiome compared to regular mice) resulted in the restoration of physiological processes under depression. Chronic stress can also affect the composition and health of the gut microbiota just as how gut microbiota can affect stress response communication in the brain. It further goes to support that the interaction between the gut microbiota and the brain is bidirectional, with both systems affecting one another. Although most of the research uses animal models, treatments targeting the gut microbiota, such as using prebiotics and probiotics, are being explored for reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. The field exploring gut microbiota and brain communication is expanding with promising findings for safer and effective therapeutic methods to treat neuropathological disorders and mood disorders. It’s an encouraging time to appreciate the symbiotic microbial neighbors that live around us and within us!
by Sabrina Merola
reaking news... TikTok tics tics. The most popular social media platform has called headlines as young girls developed severe tics for the first time. We can catch tics through our phones? The world stopped spinning as specialists were baffled by the sudden increase in tics since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020. The cases seemed to rise from nowhere, who was the culprit? Neurologist Donald Gilbert, a specialist in pediatric movement disorders at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, stated that “I had roughly seen ten new patients-teens with tics-every month for the past approximately eighteen months. Prior to March 2020, I saw just one such patient every thirty days.” It is evident that there is a rise in cases; however, they have a notion in common — the girls have been spending additional time on Tiktok since being socially isolated from others. When the term “tics” comes to mind, it is frequently related to the genetic neurological condition of Tourette’s syndrome, which is consistently diagnosed in males aged five to seven years old. Males are three to four times more likely to develop it than females, are they are prone due to a fifty percent chance of parents passing the dominant gene to their children. The panic is on the rise... is Tiktok causing a rise in this condition? How are doctors going to handle a disorder spreading silently? Since the beginning of the pandemic, millions of people resorted to social media as their getaway plan. Tiktok is a sensation, bringing joy to many, but can it bring fear as well to young teenagers and their families? Experts see the clear linkage between Tiktok and these cases, yet the COVID-19 pandemic potentially has a large effect too. According to Dr. David Moon, section chief for pediatric neurology at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, “one of the reasons this has become such a nationwide and international phenomenon is that during the pandemic, people were isolated. They naturally turned toward social media as a way to maintain connections and experience the world while they were holed up. So, they got exposed to this [tic]
‘content.’” In account for the eruption of emotions these teens experience on the daily, it constitutes to them connecting and relating to the worldwide community of social media. The use of the term “conversion disorder” can be applied to these new cases. The internal psychological distress caused by the intensity of feelings creates the opportunity for their brain to release an emotional stressor to cope, which can result in tic-like behaviors. Pediatric neurologist Mohammed Aldosari, MD, states, “these tics are a complex way for the brain to release overwhelming stress. Essentially, their brains express an emotional stressor as a physical disorder... Now we can say that this has been seen before and that it’s the response of your brain when it’s under extreme stress and overwhelm.” When teenagers view a Tiktok video that has displayed an individual with tics and the viewers like and/or comment on the video, it’s expected for similar content to appear on their “For You Page (FYP)” regularly. Caroline Olvera, MD, a movement disorders fellow at Rush University Medical Center, and her colleagues published a paper in the journal Movement Disorders Clinical Practice in July 2021, where they studied more than 3,000 Tiktok videos produced by individuals who claimed they were diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome. The results indicated that nineteen out of twenty-eight popular influencers with tic disorders reported developing their symptoms as a result of observing other creators’ clips. This affirmed the connection between social media platforms initiating the development of tic disorders among the younger generation. Teenagers who potentially could be living with an undetected tic can undergo a psychological change that can trigger the tic to intensify as they can develop physical symptoms of motor and verbal tics. Functional tics (Functional Tic-Like Behaviors) was the diagnosis, known as FTLBs, similar to Tourette’s, but different in a variety of ways. Oftentimes diagnosis occurs during adolescent years, in females, whose symptoms tend to arise from high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Who exactly was at risk? After conducting numerous studies, teens with a history of anxiety or depressive disorders were susceptible to developing these tics, even when none had a previous history or shown signs of tic disorders. Symptoms of FTLBs range from outbursts of specific words and phrases, uncontrollable body movements, and self-injurious movements. Treatments for tic disorders mainly consist of medication use, counseling, and behavioral therapy. As the recovery process varies with each individual, the principal method would be to learn body awareness to better handle the “competing responses” when a tic begins. The similarities of uncontrollable movements and phrases have matched tic disorders from Tiktok creators online which suggest tics being “caught” from social media. A Florida resident named Summer Hope who is diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome has gathered more than 2.3 million likes
for Tourette’s? Illustration & Design: Varsha Udayakumar on her TikTok videos (Viewer discretion advised, potential triggers present: @that_tourettes_girl). In an article by News Channel 8, she describes how she created her videos as a support system for others with Tourette’s. She stated, “I do feel bad that if they are watching my videos and they are picking up my tics, there is definitely a sense of remorse there.” A whirlwind of emotions, as young girls’ lives have changed in the blink of an eye from a 30-second clip that came up unexpectedly. Based on Dr. Olvera’s findings, she stated, “I believe that what’s happening among those Tourette’s TikTok influencers and in teen girls is an example of mass sociogenic illness, which is when behaviors, emotions, or conditions spread spontaneously through a group.” There was an earlier episode of mass sociogenic illness in 2012 in western New York, however, it did not involve the spread of these tics through social media use. This is what distinguishes previous outbreaks from this current one, there are numerous social media platforms that rank millions of views worldwide rapidly. The mass sociogenic illness will prove to be extremely problematic as the effect of TikTok influencers have views seen by millions of teens that may or may not be at risk depending on their circumstance. Although most of the focus regards TikTok causing distress, other social media platforms such as YouTube videos are a contributing factor. In Germany, a study was conducted by experts at the Hanover Medical School describing the increase in patients with tics that were correlated to a stream of videos on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube by influencers struggling with Tourette’s
syndrome. Published by the Oxford University Press, the paper features a YouTuber called Jan Zimmermann, who has 2.23 million subscribers on his channel (Viewer discretion advised: Gewitter im Komf) and was diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome. Patients in Germany have been seen with tics that were an identical match to Zimmermann’s. It has been seen that tics can be an effect of a “culture-bound stress reaction” due to the COVID-19 pandemic and anxiety from daily life stressors. Overall, it may be said that as functional tic cases continue to surge, the panic continues to rise along with it as there is still no definite conclusion to which specific individuals will be susceptible to developing symptoms for sure. Although most of the Tiktok influencers with tics have been diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, specialists stated that females are at a higher risk level than males because they are more prevalent to have depression or anxiety at a higher rate. This proves to be one of the main reasons functional tic cases in females have been in the spotlight. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, social media has most definitely taken up space in adolescents’ day-to-day lives. The latest findings to this unwavering pandemic are causing many parents to reflect on how best to handle their adolescents’ screen time, the signs to watch for, and the steps to take if their child exhibits these tics for the first time. Experts stated, limiting screen time, what videos you watch on social media, preventing doomscrolling, sleeping well, reflecting on your feelings, and improving your self-esteem are all essential ways to maintain a healthy habit.
Your Brain on Tourette’s These are the parts of the brain that have been implicated to be involved in Tourette’s in various studies. basal ganglia globus pallidus thalamus substantia nigra cerebellum
The Not-SoSide of Excess Added Sugar and Type 2 Diabetes
s the heat from the Miami sun warms the back of my neck, I amble to class, a coffee in one hand and a breakfast sandwich in the other. When I am not on the go, I settle in my kitchen for a bowl of cereal and a glass of orange juice. What I am not aware of is just how much excess sugar I start my day with. “You are young” or “you are healthy”, I hear too often from my friends and family when I express my worries about the rising trend of type 2 diabetes in youth today. While type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in young children, type 2 diabetes usually develops in adults. However, this trend is rapidly reversing as younger and younger children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes worldwide. Traditionally, type 2 diabetes is seen as an illness developed in overweight, older individuals who do not exercise much. The disease starts progressing when you lose your sensitivity to insulin, a hormone made by your pancreas that sends signals to your body’s cells, telling it that glucose is available that the cells can take in. If your body stops responding to insulin, your pancreas will release more insulin
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Sweet Sugar by Victoria Crane Illustration & Design: Anam Ahmed
in an attempt to lower your blood glucose levels, ensuring that irreversible cell and organ damage is not induced. When your blood glucose falls or rises to dangerous levels, you can slip into a coma. However, until it does, the development of type 2 diabetes is silent, unless you have endocrine blood work done. You may be able to salvage your pancreas with a change in diet if high insulin levels are discovered in your blood with a not-so-standard blood test. If not, after a while, your pancreas is unable to supply these massive amounts of insulin and subsequently fails, drastically raising your blood sugar. However, developing type 2 diabetes mainly in our middle age is not as common anymore. Younger and younger people are developing this disease and it is being caught when it is almost too late — when individuals have been prediabetic for years. Today, one-third of Americans are pre-diabetic and at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and more than 84% of pre-diabetics are not aware of their condition. If they are lucky enough to catch it at this point, serious dietary changes along with medication may change their fate. Type
Added Sugar in Drinks 1 can Redbull: 27g
Grande Caramel Macchiato: 36g
2 diabetes is incurable, but treatable with medication and insulin injections. One problem lies with fructose. We have been hearing about the evils of fructose and the significance of fruits and vegetables in our diet since we were children: “No high-fructose corn syrup!”, “Eat your fruits and veggies!” All of this still rings true. We need fruits and vegetables for vitamins and fiber, the latter of which slows down the rate at which the sugar that we eat is digested. We must stop drinking sugary drinks all day- that includes both sodas and juices as this places unnecessary stress on our cells to respond to insulin as more is released in an attempt to control the sheer amount of sugar that we are consuming. We must put effort into learning how to read nutrition labels, as this will allow us to tell the difference between “added sugar” and “naturally occurring sugar” so that we may make informed choices. While it may seem like a daunting task, we do have the power to take charge of our health. It can be as simple as learning about proper nutrition and making an effort to implement at least one change to our diets. If we improve our diets now, perhaps it may not be much of a shock to change for the one-third of us purported to have pre-diabetes when we go on to develop type 2 diabetes. Take measures to find out your status by visiting your primary care doctor to schedule a fasting blood sugar test and hemoglobin A1C test. If you think that it is not
1 Can Coca-Cola: 39g
32oz Gatorade: 36g
AriZona Iced Tea with Lemon: 45g
worth the trip or needle stick, ask yourself: Could I be one of the 1 out of 10 Americans who unknowingly have type 2 diabetes?
The startling social structure of the family Formicidae by Caleb Heathershaw Illustration & Design: Megan Buras
n the 1972 film The Godfather, Vito Corleone, the patriarch of an Italian mafia family in 1940s New York City, suavely describes his persuasiveness in helping his godson secure the favor of a Hollywood producer. When the producer rejects the godson for the role, the producer quickly changes his mind after waking up in bed with the severed head of a horse. To Vito Corleone, family is important and will be preserved by any means necessary. The animal kingdom has a spectacular crime family of its own: the family Formicidae. Organized. Elegant. Deadly. Over 10,000 of these tiny creatures crawl the earth, making up 20% of the earth’s land animal biomass. Let’s peer into this family to uncover the Eusocial animals are animals that self-organize into cooperative groups with roles. Bees, shrimp, and naked mole rats are all eusocial. Ants display the most developed eusocial behavior among any animal. They have roles (also called castes) in a clearly defined social structure that allows them to take on astounding social behaviors. A typical colony will have one Queen responsible for birthing baby ants. Nurses will care for the young. Scouts will hunt for food, Foragers will bring the food back. Guards will protect the colony. These roles give rise to unique organizational behaviors.
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Eusocial colonies often display “Hive Mind,” where the group of animals appears to have a decision-making process not dependent on the decisions of any single organism. They can form astounding architecture, manage vast food resources, and protect or move the colony. The colony almost functions as a super-organism with distinct personalities. Some colonies take risky decisions, some respond to threats aggressively, some even are friendly with other colonies. This colony-level behavior arises at the level of a single ant. Leafcutter ants have solved one of the most significant problems facing Miami students: traffic. Ants maintain a complex resource transportation network with scout ants searching for food sources, foragers bringing food from the site to the colony, and processing ants storing and distributing the food. Although different types of ants within the colony can carry different weights of food at different rates, the best foragers are small and fast. They move at the equivalent of a person running at 60 mph carrying a full-size refrigerator. The ants travel in single file lines, but in large pathways, they actually form lanes.
every day. Their strategy is swarming (this phenomenon is seen in exaggerated form in films like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Still, one army ant colony will never attack another army ant colony. Each colony has a distinct pheromone (smell) that each ant releases, so they know who is family. If the colony passes something that is not family, it will swarm the prey and tear it to pieces with thousands of chomping mandibles. Could humans replicate these ant social constructs? Could we protect against socially-transmittable disease, create hyper-efficient superhighways, or construct self-forming mega-structures? Part of the genius of the ant colony is found in the simplicity of the individual. Each ant has a simple role and follows simple rules. Humans, on the other hand, are remarkably creative and independent. This fosters innovation and ingenuity but also prevents uniform social behavior. Perhaps rigid family structure is best left to the ants and the Godfather.
“I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” One research group discovered that ants form three lanes of traffic: two outside lanes race to the site while the center lane returns food to the colony. This is only possible because each ant follows a clearly defined set of rules and maintains speed relative to those close by. Perhaps drivers in Miami could take note. Fire ants display interesting raft behavior in cases of dramatic flooding. In a body of water, hundreds of thousands of ants can cling together forming a buoyant raft that can float for weeks. Especially in flood-prone regions (like Texas and Louisiana), these rafts can be dangerous; if the raft touches a boat or a person standing in the water, the ants may swarm onto the person and begin to sting. The architecture of these fascinating structures arises from interactions on the individual ant level. When first in the water, the ants travel across their mass until reaching the edge where the water touches the mass and locks legs with other ants, creating a perpendicular lattice. Because the ants are individually somewhat hydrophobic, the network forms a buoyant fabric that traps air between ants creating a floating megastructure. Because each ant follows a clearly defined set of rules, the colony can build astounding things. Even though ants live in conditions of very high density (most live in the same small space), ants do not have disease risk that follows traditional disease/density models. One research group discovered that in response to a fungal spore disease, ants self-segregated. Each ant type (forager, nurse, queen, etc.) began to immediately change its behavior. Specifically, they found each type reduced its interactions with other ant types. More valuable ants, like the queen and her babies, were protected from interaction with the pathogen. Because each ant caste follows a clearly defined set of rules, they are able to protect the colony. Different species of ants approach war in different ways Some have warrior caste ants with giant mandibles (pinchers). For example, army ant colonies march along the forest attacking thousands of prey
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a h d g i Sn s r e i r r a B g n i k a e Br and g n i p p o St s d e e l B n i a r B by Emily Ann Danzinger Illustration & Design: Megan Piller
ftentimes, as young adults, we look at the issues plaguing the world around us with a sort of helpless attitude, wanting so badly to help but not knowing where to start. But that’s not the case for UM junior Snigdha Sama, who has already taken vital steps towards a future that sees her spearheading her own project in order to attempt to solve one of the medical world’s most serious issues, and throughout both her life and research journey, she’s learned that adversity and failure are only bumps in the road to longterm success and discovery. Having been born in southern India and immigrated to the United States at the age of 10, Snigdha is no stranger to adversity, even outside the laboratory: “Not everyone in my hometown was supportive of my childhood dream to become a doctor, given archaic notions about women’s roles in society,” she explained. Nevertheless, she believes that her ambitions wouldn’t exist without such adversity: “One of my driving forces to succeed to this day is out of a desire to defy such sexist stereotypes ever present even in the 21st century.” Even when her family immigrated to the U.S, such adversity didn’t stop, as she explained that she and her brother felt like outsiders at a school where they were the only two Indian students, especially due to her self-described “clunky accent” and tendency to default to her first language, Telugu, a regional language used in her local town of Hyderabad. However, she never let the cruelty of other elementary-aged children deter her from her quick adaptation to American life, a skill that she explains “comes in handy when novel and unexplored lab techniques are where my answer for a particular question lies.” One thing, though, has held true since Snigdha’s childhood: her love for science has never once wavered. She recalls her earliest memory of being interested in science when she was chosen to present an exhibit on the sky in 2nd grade. “The knowledge of what was out there and
how little we know of it is incredibly awe-inspiring,” she explains. And such childhood passion has led to her current desire to study neuroscience and neurological disorders, whose lack of research and therapy can be attributed to the brain’s incredible complexity, despite their tendency to be “extremely debilitating and affect a large portion of the world’s population.” Despite her passion for neuroscience, Snigdha’s interests aren’t exclusive to the STEM field; she is an avid reader and is pursuing a double major in Philosophy in tandem with her neuroscience degree. Despite their seeming juxtaposition, Snigdha feels that the two majors perfectly complement one another. She explains that “Our ideologies are immensely impacted by the configuration of neurons in our mind [and] Contributions to the immense diversity of thought and ideologies present today lie not only in the experiences we face but commonly in our genetics and neurological composition.” Snigdha views the intersection between philosophy and neuroscience as an outlet for “people of vastly different backgrounds and thinking patterns to understand each other.” During her time at the University of Miami, Snigdha has been a researcher in Dr. Dave’s lab at the Peritz Scheinberg at the Cerebral Vascular Disease Research Laboratories in the Miller School of Medicine since her freshman year, conducting research on ways to enhance hemostasis to stop hematoma expansion in spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage, a very fancy way to describe “trying to improve blood clotting parameters to reduce bleeding into the brain.” Snigdha is fascinated by the concept, explaining that “It’s really interesting in that the project uses principles and techniques from hematology to cause an observed and statistically significant difference in behavioral outcomes.” Further, she attributes her success to her mentors and thanks both her fellow researchers at the Dave lab and her high school teachers for not only sparking her interest and providing a warm
“Not everyone in my hometown was supportive of my childhood dream to become a doctor, given archaic notions about women’s roles in society,” she explained. Nevertheless, she believes that her ambitions wouldn’t exist without such adversity: “One of my driving forces to succeed to this day is out of a desire to defy such sexist stereotypes ever present even in the 21st century.”
“Snigdha reflects upon her past research with gratitude, as she believes that her new way to see failure will keep her focused upon her goal of becoming a neurologist, as she is fascinated by the human brain’s complexity and wants to ‘help patients experiencing problems in this field to feel better and have more knowledge about what they are feeling.’” come out of it knowledgeable about concepts and research techniques you were unaware of prior to it,” especially since the new techniques and methods you learn can be applied to future research, leading to eventual breakthroughs. Snigdha reflects upon her past research with gratitude, as she believes that her new way to see failure will keep her focused upon her goal of becoming a neurologist, as she is fascinated by the human brain’s complexity and wants to “help patients experiencing problems in this field to feel better and have more knowledge about what they are feeling.” Naturally, this field of study is incredibly experimental, but its several bouts of trial and error will lead to eventual success and healing in patients. She advises undergraduates to begin their research early, as she believes that “a lot of cooler and more impactful work can only be done after you have grasped basic lab techniques and concepts and this is not possible until you start” and she thus attributes her success today to her willingness to begin seeking out research opportunities as early as possible.
Shark Wrestling and Rural Medicine: the Life of Megan Buras by Caleb Heathershaw Illustration & DESIGN: Meera Patel
he shark thrashed in the water as the research team hauled it into the boat. Megan wrangled the tail as the nurse shark wiggled and splashed on the platform, while two others held the mid and head sections. The team placed a pump into the shark’s mouth so water flowed across the gills and sprayed the shark’s body so it stayed hydrated. They quickly recorded data, took blood samples, and tagged the shark with an acoustic tracking device. Then, they released the shark letting it swim back into the sea. Megan didn’t know what to expect on her first day on the shark tagging team on the RSMAS shark research boat, but like every other area of her life, she jumped right in with a splash. Megan Buras is a University of Miami student studying Marine Biology; however, she has an unconventional career goal: emergency medicine. From wrangling sharks to studying for the MCAT, from talking about science to surfing in the bay, Megan Buras doesn’t just experience life, she dives right in.
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As I sat down to interview Megan, she was dressed in a casual denim jacket with a metal hammerhead shark necklace. Her jacket had hand-stitched green patterns, she walked me through each design. “This is a caffeine molecule, cause I’m a nerd and I’m a premed student. This is a triceratops, and a smiley face because I like to be happy.” The necklace was a gift from a family friend representing just how much she loves sharks. Megan first worked with sharks in high school, when she joined a summer research experience in Fiji. She recorded data on shark behavior and interspecies interaction as large populations of sharks were fed. “I was in the water at 100 feet with 45 9-12 foot long sharks, taking data, every once in a while, one comes close, and it hits you, and you get knocked over.” Today Megan works as a research intern with the shark research and conservation team at RSMAS, but also loves the ocean recreationally. A friend of Megan’s, Jeffery Hudak, said that she lives while teaching that, “My life is the ocean, and your life can also be the ocean, you can actually enjoy the ocean as a serious hobby.” Megan grew up in Hawaii, loving the Island’s “Aloha culture, where everyone is a big family.” Her parents work as traveling physicians, where for weeks at a time, they travel to provide care in rural communities that might not have access to abundant medical resources. In a typical story from her family’s dinner table, her mom might say “That, kids, is why you don’t run with a hammer because it might end up in someone’s head. You want to see a picture?” While her parents were away practicing medicine, Megan would go seek quiet on the Hawaiian beaches. She would wake up early, take her surfboard, paddle out into the middle of the bay, and just watch as the sun rises. “Everything is flat like glass. You’re out there and the sun comes up, it’s so peaceful.”
In the summer of 2020, as COVID-19 was ravaging rural communities, Megan saw her parents give people a new chance at life. She decided that becoming a doctor was the best way for her to help people too. This sense of wanting to help others shapes her future goals, but also her present priorities. Medical school in the United States is more competitive than ever, so to prepare, Megan has been taking 18 credit hour semesters and studying three hours every day for the MCAT. Megan balances dedicated hard work with finding something every day to enjoy. “If that means getting a Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew go do that, if that means going for a walk with a friend and talking, go do that.” Megan also wants to become a doctor to help improve patient education. She recently began a position as a scribe for an oncologist (a cancer doctor) where she follows the physician around, recording data and writing down important information. The position gives her an up-close look at patient interaction. The physician uses medical research to explain his treatment decisions to patients, a practice Megan would like to someday emulate. Megan also hones her scientific communication skills as the Art director of Scientifica student magazine. She enjoys helping guide other students in using art to reveal scientific ideas. Her illustrations have ranged from COVID-19 molecules to apes, to dancing carbon dots. She helped establish an annual Scientifica magazine edition called Envision dedicated to scientific art and design. Megan hopes the management and communication skills gained from scribe work and Scientifica will translate into better patient care and educational advocacy. Megan will continue helping people, whether tagging hammerhead sharks or removing hammers from people’s heads.
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