Archive for: August, 2010

Terra Sigillata has MOVED!

Aug 31 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

The things I miss when I go away...

Abel Pharmboy and his awesome pharmacology blog Terra Sigillata have MOVED to an awesome new spot at Chemical and Engineering News, to a blog which will be hosted by C&EN, the newsletter of the American Chemical Society. Sci is a proud member of ACS, and is totally THRILLED to hear that Abel has ended up there!! Go over and say hi!!!

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PCR: when you need to find out who the daddy is.

Aug 31 2010 Published by under Basic Science Posts, Neuroscience, Uncategorized

You all may remember when a certain political candidate made a comment concerning fruit fly research. It seemed like half the world reacted with "yeah, fruit fly research is dumb! Let's cure cancer!" while the other half went "hey, I think that's probably important..." and tried to come up with examples.

And while we've obviously moved on (at least temporarily) from such nonsense, Sci still thinks about it from time to time. Because it just makes it obvious how incredibly important it is that we scientists let the world know what we are doing, and what it all MEANS. How their tax dollars are being spent. What progress we are making. And to let people know that the science of curing cancer, or depression, or alcoholism, or Alzheimer's, or anything else, is about FAR more than just looking at a disease and testing potential drugs.

Because to look at a disease, and to test drugs, and to emulate a disease, you need techniques. You need ways to come up with drug targets, you need ways to understand what the drug is doing and HOW it's working. You need to assess side effects. And even before you get to drugs, you need to understand what the disease itself does, how it works, and what exactly is going wrong.

And to develop those techniques, you need research. And you never know what research is going to come up with something amazing.

And so, for today's example, Sci would like to tell (in a really, really basic way) about PCR, the Polymerase Chain Reaction.

(Who's your daddy?)

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Back to Basics EXTRA: The Action Potential!

It's electric.

(Sci would like to note that she does a GREAT Electric Slide. I am quite the hit at weddings.)

Action potentials are special to me. They are special to me because action potentials are what got me into science in the first place.

Well, ok, they didn't really get me in to science. Little Sci had been a Biology major for about two years before she first really studied the action potential in depth, and she was doing research (in watershed ecology, of all things. How we do change.) But I wasn't a very enthusiastic Biology major. General Bio was made up of huge classes with tests where you spit back information, Chemistry gave me headaches, and all the math they made me take was REALLY not my thing. I liked Philosophy a whole lot more, but I was determined to have a "useful" major. And I had no idea what I was going to do with myself after college. Grad school had been my fixed idea for some time, to keep me out of the scary big world and in the college life I loved so much. But for what? And why? Eh.

So after all the general biology classes were over, we could enroll in higher levels classes. The classes were generally smaller and got progressively more specialized, and you had to take a certain number of classes in certain category to be considered a Biology Major (tm). I enrolled in Animal Physiology.

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11 responses so far


Aug 30 2010 Published by under Basic Science Posts, Uncategorized

Sci has officially returned from vacation! I wish I could say I was glad to be back...but...well...I mean, I did miss you all, but Sci has spent the last few days recovering from her vacation, and some of it was spent feeling like this (I love hungover owls, they satisfy almost all of my humor needs).

Anyway, I have returned and gotta do some crazy catch up. I am too scared to look at my RSS feed, because it's bound to be scary.

In the meantime, Sci would like to RECAP last week. It was a whirlwind of a week and people have commented and emailed asking for a full set of links to all the stuff I posted last week. So here we go. It's like a Carnival filled with nothing but SCICURIOUS! A scicuriously awesome carnival.
(Sci's carnivals come with carousels, cotton candy, and SCIENCE!)

The big one here was Neurotransmission! I got requests for action potentials, and sure enough, I HAVE a post on action potentials. I just forgot to slap that up there. It shall go up later today, fear not.

Taken from an MRI Sci had done of her very own brain (it was during a pain study, but thankfully the MRI's do not show Sci wincing), Sci used her MRI scans to show you basic neuroanatomy. The first post is on the basic areas and how the brain is sliced when you're looking at it in a picture. The second is on the maters surrounding your brain and the large holes in it (don't worry, most of them are supposed to be there). And the third is on some of the interior features, some of which Sci likes to blog about very much.

Something which Sci likes to blog about very much, both to raise awareness of the disorder and to look at how it may work and what treatments are being used and investigated. First up, there was a post on general symptoms and how many people are affected. I then moved on to the current drugs that are being used to treat depression, and how they work, as well as their various side effects. I then posted on how you study depression in animals in the lab, which is a highly useful method for looking at brain mechanisms and testing new drugs before we stick them in patients. To get further into the mechanisms of depression, I included a post on the serotonin system, and then followed that up with the serotonin theory of depression (and why it's probably wrong). And finally I finished up the day with a study on the genetics of depression (what we know so far).

Since I wanted to discuss some of the stimulant drugs on this day, I started it off with a basic post on dopamine, one of the current most important chemicals in the study of addiction. I then tackled a question on COCAINES, and another on Ritalin. You think Ritalin has nothing in common with cocaine? Think again.

Even weird science wasn't spared this week! Welcome to the basics of erections. And since I finished off this day with some of my favorite comedians, I'm sure we could all use some more sugar lumps with our erections...

And Of course we need the ladies.

Take a took at the post on Grafenberg and his study of the controversial G spot.

What a whirlwind week it was!!! Sci will return shortly with her repost of her old post on action potentials.

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Aug 27 2010 Published by under Basic Science Posts, Friday Weird Science

This one is for the ladies:

And today I present you with the man himself: Ernst Grafenberg, discoverer of the G spot, and, only slightly less well-known as the inventor of 'the ring' and its potential use in contraception.

It's weird, historical science time.

Grafenberg, E. "The role of urethra in female orgasm". The International Journal of Sexology, 1950.

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4 responses so far


Aug 27 2010 Published by under Basic Science Posts, Friday Weird Science

Yup, you knew it! Let's go back to basics. Let's talk about ERECTIONS. Deng et al. "Real-time three-dimensional ultrasound visualization of erection and artificial coitus" International Journal of Andrology, 2006.

I would have loved to see the advertisements for this study: "Men needed between ages 18-65 for study of erection and coitus. Must have no history of erectile dysfunction. Ability to get it on with a Jell-O mould a plus."

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2 responses so far

Back to Basics day 4: RITALIN

Aug 26 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

It seems, from the time I first heard about it, there's been an eternal flare-up about Ritalin, and its similar counterparts, including things like Concerta and Tranquillyn. Issues with who should get it, who HAS attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), whether or not ADHD is is even a real diagnosis. Issues about whether people who DON'T have ADHD should get Ritalin, and whether it's ethical to use Ritalin (or other stimulant medications used for ADHD) for things like "cognitive enhancement", whether it amounts to use of something that is no more harmful than using caffeine, or whether it's something more sinister.

But that's not what Sci is going to blog about today. Because I get a lot of people asking me whether Ritalin is bad, mentioning they've snorted it once or twice or took it once or twice and it did/didn't work for them, etc, etc. But Sci's a scientist. She hopes that people might be able to determine for themselves whether Ritalin is good or bad, once they know how it works.

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3 responses so far

Back to Basics day 4: COCAINE!

Aug 26 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

On request from several people, I am here reposting my post that I wrote on cocaine way when I was but a little blogging larvae. I think now I have passed the pupa (SB move!) and Chrysallis stage (the dissertation, and have emerged as a lovely blogging butterfly. My color scheme is lovely, I assure you.

Anyway, cocaine. This post is slightly edited from when it first appeared, which was in response to a question from a friend of mine. The question was, basically, doesn't Ritalin act in a manner different from cocaine?

The answer: not really...

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5 responses so far

Back to Basics 4: Dopamine!

Aug 26 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

Well, yesterday was depressing.


Anyway, welcome to day 4 of Back to Basics week! Today, we're going to look at DOPAMINE and the lovely things we study which involve it. You know, stuff like cocaine. Fun stuff. It's almost Friday!

As you might be able to tell from many of my older and newer posts, I like dopamine. It's one of the transmitters I'm working on for my thesis, in fact. I've talked a little bit about dopamine as it relates to the stuff I blog about, but below I'm going to talk about it a little more. And of course, there's always wikipedia, but I don't really like the ways theirs is organized. Could I edit it? Sure I could. But I've got this laziness problem...

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Back to Basics 3: Depression post 6!

This is post 5 in my ongoing, now-approaching-behemoth-size series of posts on depression. I've got other posts available on the etiology of depression, the current pharmacotherapies, studying depression in the lab, and the serotonin theory of depression, which of course you can read and refer to if you're curious.

This post will be on what we currently know about the genetics of depression, the latest candidate genes, and what it means when scientists talk about genetic vulnerabilities and predisposition for disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.


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