Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A brief understanding of cancer

 ^ NK cell in action^

What is cancer? Where did it come from? Is it really a new disease?
These are some of the many questions people have about cancer. There are many different kinds of cancer so my explanation does not apply to all of them and if you have cancer I very sorry and you may know more about your particular kind of cancer than I do. About the origins, it's uncertain if it is a brand new disease or was misunderstood in the past. In the past it seems that there were almost no cases of cancer at all.

Generally a cancer is unregulated cell growth. Cell's grow, divide, and die... that's about it. In order for everything to be running smoothly you need certain cells, called NK (natural killer) cells that target and destroy certain cells that are too plentiful. This is because too many cells is a very bad thing, they take up the place of which should be other cells or newer cells. Now NK cells aren't the only thing that keep cells numbers from getting out of control, most cells die naturally without being destroyed, the average red blood cell has a lifespan of 3-4 months.

The term cancer refers to an uncontrolled growth of cells. These cells continuously divide without any means of keeping their numbers in check. This is not normal body function, obviously, and the causes for cancer are numerous and unknown. There are of course things that increase your risks of getting cancer and these tend to be an increase in what are called mutagens. Mutagens is just a broad term for things we know, or think, that cause cancer. If you were to look at a graph of how an increase in mutagens correlates to the increased chance of cancer you would see it grows exponentially. This means the more mutagens the greater the chance, not on a 1:1 ratio, but more like 1:10 (these are not actual figures, just an example of exponential growth).

Very little is known about cancer, but there have been great advances recently. Some believe many cancers can be deterred naturally and a diet containing antioxidants may help this. During treatment the mystery really begins because some patients that undergo no treatments at all can fight off cancer naturally, while others require multiple treatments and for some no treatments seem to work. Textbook: case understood, Field: no f**king clue. The first person to completely understand cancer will cure it and will make more money than anyone ever, that is if they market it properly.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


So after reading all your comments I have figured out why nothing seems to work on my dog's fleas (by the way they are gone). Fleas, like a virus, have a rather short life span and they reproduce in large numbers. This makes it very easy for one flea that becomes immune to repopulate on my dog. Though it's very unlikely that the fleas evolved while living on my dog, this would explain why over the counter medications seemed to fail. It's really upsetting that this happens but this is very good for pharmaceutical companies because they have to keep coming out with the next product. However this is very bad for the consumer. The only things that work against the fleas become perscription only and the treatments you can buy at the store stop working. This puts money in everyone's pockets except your own.

Allegedly (I think this is true but can't find any real evidence except for a story of FOX news) there is a cure for most cancers; however this cure is found very readily and pharmaceutical companies will not do anything with this information because there is no real profit to be made. Maybe one day in the near future a cure for all (not most) cancers will be found that costs enough for pharmaceutical companies to be interested in.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Following a 2 parter

How to follow a 2 part blog post? With a 1 part, small post!

So.... I'm running low on ideas about what to blog about but this is just a temporary block as I'm be traveling around for the next couple days. A lot of time in the car = a lot of ideas. For example I started writing a book in the car once, of course not while driving. If you guys have any questions at all, I'd be happy to answer them in a post and supply many resources to back up my answers (unlike the previous ones :/ ).

For the past few days my dog has had fleas! Let me tell you something, nothing I can buy seems to work to get rid of them. I've tried pills (but they only attack the eggs), sprays (but they may be toxic to my dog and they attack the live ones), and shampoos (but the only attack the live ones and my dog hates baths). No matter how many things I do, they keep coming back!!! With the live span being up to 3 months I can't just sit and wait for this generation to die and the eggs to all die as well, anyone have any ideas how to commit genocide of fleas safetly on my dog?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Why are we here Part 2

Before I conclude this post I would like to address a very common misconception about evolutionary theory. Evolution is 100% random. The environment of where an organism lives has no difference on the kinds of mutation that could possibly occur. However, the environment does have a direct affect on which mutations are beneficial to an animals survival and thus which mutations will stick around. For example if an animal in the jungle was born white it may not live very long because it would stick out (most likely be eaten), however if this mutation occurred in the Arctic it would be very beneficial.

Our human brains have been in constant evolution from primitive brains that evolved in a common ancestor (creationism says we were created as humans). Well our brains are more complex than other animals because the humans with more complex brains reproduced more often and so we are their descendants. Now in ancient times there was very little known about science and the on goings of life so people turned to religion to answer many of these questions. There have been studies on the brain in order to find a "g-spot," or God spot, which is the theoretical part of the brain that creates the very idea of a God. The studies found that when people are most spiritual that not just one part, but multiple regions of the brain are very active. What does this mean? There is no one section of the brain that believes in God. This could mean that the brain developed as a whole to believe this.

Well if that's the case then it must have evolved to be this way. The only reason I can come up with something like this occurring is if a religion is beneficial to survival. This is true. In ancient times life was pretty rough. In order for people to even survive a sense of cooperation must be achieved and religions promote this. Help your neighbor, its all for the greater good, etc. these all ensure that individuals survive. Another aspect is religions promote peace (usually, exception of Holy wars and Dark Ages) and this prevents killing of the human race. Another positive aspect from some religions is monogamy, this is allows for more care to hopefully be given to one's own offspring. It would be harder to care for your young if you have 2 or 3 different families. Though this theory of religion being beneficial to our survival may be a little far fetched, it does offer explaination for why a human brain would evolve to be stimulated when spirtitual. There are in fact many other explainations and if you have one please tell me about it in a comment!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why are we here Part 1

Ok followers so today I've decided to start Part 1 of one of my many theories of why we are here. I'm not trying to say this is correct but it can be backed up by evolutionary theory.

When Earth was created billions of years ago a number of atomic particles formed a few basic elements. The first element to be created was Hydrogen, followed by Helium, etc. Once Carbon was created the potential for live began. A theory arose that DNA was not the primary source of live at the beginning of creation of life but rather its more simple counterpart RNA. When recreated in a lab RNA arose to come to being before DNA, making this theory look plausible. On a timeline it may have took 1 RNA nucleotide a billion years to come into being and for two to join only .5 billion. For two of these to join it may have taken .25 billion years, etc. With this process growing with increasing speed eventually an RNA molecule used a protein as a catalyst to speed up a process such as replication that may have taken RNA a lot longer to carry out on its own. Eventually the RNA  joined with a complementary pair and DNA was created.

Now evolution's survival of the fittest is a bit misleading. This is because the fittest animal may in fact not survive to pass on its genetic information and thus not really "survive." In order to become "more fit" an individual must reproduce more than an individual that is  "less fit," and then the offspring of the "more fit" individual have to reproduce. This ensures that the specific genetic code of the "more fit" individual stays around in the gene pool. Well evolution is not actually planned persay, but rather a random mutation of DNA that stays in the gene pool. In order for it to stay for a significant time period it has to either make life better for an individual or have no affect. If the mutation harms the individual or make it harder to survive or reproduce, then the odds of the individual successfully mating are very low.

This may not be anything new but it is important you understand that evolution is random and that only traits that are beneficial stay in the gene pool. Tomorrow's post is going to take these concepts and further explain Why we are here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Designer Children

There are 3 letters that may shape the way life is created on Earth IVF, or in vitro fertilization. What it means essentially is taking a sperm and an egg and combining them in a Pitri dish outside of a human being (obviously). This can easily be done for some individuals that cannot seem to conceive a child the all natural way for certain reasons. However this also allows for many opportunities that have not really been tapped into yet.

Many people are unfortunately born with predetermined genetic disorders because when their parent's DNA combined it resulted in a certain combination that is less than favorable (Parkinson's). Some believe that nearly all disorders that arise in a select few people have genetic aspects (schizophrenia). Whether or not this is true their are genes for nearly all of these diseases and disorders that could be manipulated during embryonic development that would result in the organism to mature without them (with the exception of schizophrenia which has both genetic and environmental aspects). These types of changes would allow anyone to reproduce without the worries of passing on unfavorable genes to their children.

This would also allow for any other changes to be made to an idividual (Hitler would be proud), such as changes to hair and eye color. Not that these cosmetic changes should take place but they most likely would. Certain genes that control physical characteristics are better understood than those that cause disease and for the amount of money one would have to pay to ensure that their child was free from disease an engineer better throw in a free cosmetic change (joke). Can people resist to only changing things about a person that is determinatal to their health? Or would a family with terribly bad baldness decide that they wanted their only child to have a full head of hair? The matter lies up to the governments of the future to decide what kind of gene manipulation is too much.

If you knew your child's future, would you change it?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Follow me and you'll see

So I got a comment about whether or not an X Man (X Men?) like Wolverine could be genetically engineered. I'm going to say yes, and not just say yes because I can but it might actually work. Now I'm not talking about surgically putting metal into someone's body (that would be very heavy) but altering their DNA in order for them to develop into something like Wolverine. Imagine that instead of a gene saying your bones will be made of calcium the gene said your cells are going to use another element, like iron. Well in theory your bones would be made of iron. This would have many possible side affects like your iron intake through your diet would be rediculous. This would also have to be done during your embroyonic development (good luck having your body get rid of an entire skeletal system of calcium). Well now you have a skeletal system made of iron (or another element)... great, but how do I get big claws? Well you couldn't retract them because you can't actually manipulate your skeletal system that way but you could have larger bones coming out of your hands. There are a few genes that have a lot to do with they way you are formed called Hox genes. These genes determine if you have 2 hands or 20, so if you manipulated them in a very specific manor during development then you can have 3 bones extend out of your hands (we do not know a lot about Hox genes so this won't happen).

So now you look like Wolverine, all you need now is an alcohol problem (check), a desire to smoke (check), an I hate the world mentality (check), and the ability to heal rediculously quickly. Well this is a little more easier said than done unfortunately. Unfortunately there isn't a gene that makes you heal as quick as Wolverine, and healing is a very complex process (doctors are paid to try and "heal" people and it doesn't always work). Ignoring disease, possible aging effects, any sort of complications and just focusing on repairing a cut it is possible to create something with superhuman healing, but it would never be as fast as Wolverine's. In order to speed up the healing process a number of factors could be altered: genes (for fasting clotting), increased immune system, better diet (to compensate for lost nutrients and minerals). End game being that a healthier lifestyle would result in better healing as well as a better immune system. Unfortunately the only way to get a better immune system is to create one by living a life. Every person that has lived before you has had a weaker immune system than you (maybe not everyone but keep reading). This is because both life and disease have been in constant battle since forever, and in order for one to live and survive they both have to evolve at the same rate (just about the same).

So to wrap it all up: can you make a Wolverine? No, but you can make something that looks like him. Will it look like Hugh Jackman? Nope.

She's perfect

Have you ever wondered what attracted you to someone? Well the answer may be written in your genetic code. There are a number of different factors that could potentially attract you to someone ranging from their genes to someone that would be able to carry your child. For example a numbe of women I have spoken to say their number one priorty (not really, but this is a key factor) is finding a man that is taller than her, some prefer one that is still taller than her in 3 inch heels. Why does height matter to women? Well my theory is women want their children to be big and strong and if their husband is smaller than her the tallest the child is likely to be is her height. A funny dilemna for myself is that women with red hair tend to appeal the most to me. Why? Well red hair is extremely rare and thus women with red hair tend to stand out to me more than women with blonde or dark hair.

Freud has another theory on what attracts us and he spoke of it in great detail in his 5 lectures on psychoanalysis. His theory being is we fall in love with our parents, for example I was in love with my mother when I was very young and forgot this. I believe this to be in fact very true, mainly because every girl I really like has tendancies that are similar to my mother's and some vague physical characteristics are similar as well (skin type, hair color, height). I began trying to think of a logical explaination that would fit for this and one I came up with stems from the nature vs nurture debate. I am a successful human being and I was born from my parents, so knowing my mother created something successful I would want to find a potential mate like her in order to bear a child. Yes this outlook is very primative but isn't reproduction one of the most primative urges in our mind? To reproduce is the only way to carry on the human race and this MUST be programmed in our mind for us to even exist today. Had this not been a key factor in our mind the ones that lacked this would have died off years ago, leaving only the ones with a strong urge to reproduce. Natural selection at its finest.

This is not my family.

Monday, July 4, 2011

X Men

The other day I saw the new X Men movie and it was pretty much amazing. Question is: can I get super powers from radiation from nuclear energy? HAHA no. If you've ever seen after affects from nuclear bomb explosions on Japan then you have seen the mass damage that radition can cause. It may in fact cause mutations, however these mutations are not cool. They are more like cancers, growths, just plain terrible.

Oh and the worst part is these growths and cancer appear in the next generation of children. The people that experience the primary radiation get very sick and their children have mutations that are far less than desireable.

Well early in the movie a character, a German Nazi scientist, is convinced genes are the key to creating mutants with extraordinary powers. Now lets examine this with using Magneto as a model. If there was a type of gene that could be altered to allow his power of moving metalic objects how would he be able to do so? I would assume he would have to manipulate ions in the air which would in turn send an electic impulse to the object in question and then be able to have the object repel or attract to his own ions. Whatever, Magneto would have such a crazy diet and would need his cells to produce massive amounts of ions that he could use to send across air (hard) and move something (really hard). I'm sorry to say but even if there was a gene that could be turned on to do this, his entire physiology would have to be adapted to do this. X Men is a fantastic super hero franchise, and that's about all it is. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A perfect child

Have you ever had a best friend that seems to be the opposite of you and yet at the same time the same? I have a best friend and it seems our brains work differently when solving a problem but we have similar like and dislikes. Well the other day he asked me if there was any way to take 2 of our sperm and create a child. It was a joke, but the question got me thinking and my answer is maybe.

When a sperm comes in contact with an egg the egg releases little vesicles right below the cell's membrane that create a barrier as to block any more sperm from entering. However this does not happen all at once, but like a domino effect starting where the sperm enters. If you are able to slip an extra sperm into the egg before the barrier is complete there are a couple more issues. One being the dangers of having 3 sets of chromosomes (this is bad). In order for this to be avoided the egg would have to have its genetic information removed. There were experiments with this done to see if it would affect the egg once the sperm came in contact with it and the results showed that the genetic information does not play a role in regular egg functions, only contributing DNA to the offspring. This is not unusual for a nucleus to have a small role in cell function since mature red blood cells eject their nuclei to make room for hemoglobin. So if 2 sperm made first contact and the egg was empty there is yet one more issue that can be found in my mind, where does the mitochondrial DNA come from? Mitochondrial DNA is almost always (always really) inherited from the mother, so the question is: who's do we use? A flip of the coin and a little addition of a mitochondria would solve this. Some of you may be thinking: well what about the Y chromosome? Simple the child would be a girl, blend of both X chromosomes.

The idea may seem crazy and it is. There is no desire for me to create a child from 2 sperm and it should not be done. It is very dangerous for the offspring and the chances of it being successful are very slim. But in theory it could... maybe... be done.

Friday, July 1, 2011

What's your sign?

When I was a young preteen I read a book for summer reading called the House of the Scorpion. The book starts off kind of mysterious through the eyes of a young boy stuck in a house surrounded by poppies. As you continue to read ***spoiler alert*** you find out this boy is one of many clones that belong to a rich drug dealer that sells opium to countries. He pretty much owns a country close to Mexico and America (it takes place in the future and the boarders are really different). So he uses these clones to harvest new organs to keep himself alive. Is this actually possible? Uh... yeah, sure is. Should this be done in this fashion? Hell no. This child is a person, the book is about this small part of his life. He has a past and aspirations for the future, who can tell him no, you have to die today because we need your heart. There may be people that think this kind of future is possible however this is not what science is trying to achieve. The idea behind growing an organ from a clone sounds just like this, but what if the clones organ was grown in a test tube? Would that still be an issue? You are in fact keeping that new organ alive only if you get it transferred into your own body. No one wants to create a person to strip them of their organ, but there are people that would like to grow organs from your own cells. How small does life have to be for it to be considered a symbiotic relationship and not murder?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

In a world of clones

Dolly on the cover of Time

There are probably a very small audience of people that read this blog and remember a game called Star Wars Republic Commando. In this game you are a clone in an army of clones however you are special. A select few of the millions of clones created are chosen to become a commando. Even though all the development stage of the clone's life is exactly the same as all the others (ensuring that they all look the same and are in peak condition) the commandos are treated and educated differently. Normally a clone is a mindless foot soldier in this army, however commandos are trained in specific fields are referred to as elite. In the game you play as the leader of a group of commandos and are a very well rounded soldier. Your "brothers" (also clones, so they really are you) are all completely different from each other. It's because they are individual people and specialize in different areas of expertise. They also all think and reason differently and have different personalities. For example Sev is a hunter which in war means he's good with a sniper rifle. He has one thing on his mind and that's the mission and hunting his prey. Meanwhile Fixer, another member of the team, is more of a war hero. He's extremely tech savy and prefers to use blades on his wrists to dispose of enemies. No matter what your genetic code says it has a small part to do with the person someone becomes.

Imagine living in a world full of clones of yourself. Just because everyone looks like you doesn't mean everyone is going to be nice to you. Social classes would arise and stereotypes would also arise. There would be jock versions of you, nerds, social butterflies, loners, rockers, the whole deal. Now when you reach adulthood the up bringing of one clone is going to be different from that of another and thus a different person is made.

Which one is my clone?

Imagine you love you pet cat. You love Fluffy so much that you want to get a clone made of it because it means that much to you. Well there's a little bit of a problem: the clone won't look or act anything like Fluffy. Weird, I know but this is because there are two major factors that make something look and act the way it is. One is genetics, which the clone will be exactly like Fluffy down to just about every nucleotide. The other factor, that really makes Fluffy who he is, is the environment. One that has a large key of making something look a certain way is the maternal effect. Depending on where the egg settles down in a uterus, what the mother eats (drinks, is exposed to), etc, etc, this will ultimately make or break this organisms development. Even after birth, the environment the organism is brought up in has a great impact on how it looks and acts.

If I was born under healthy conditions and my mother ate properly while pregnant, was healthy and I was brought up during the 90's in a middle class family I would become the person I am today. However if I clone myself in the year 2020 my clone will not be anything like me. Imagine if the carrier smokes daily, has a disease, and eats only hot dogs during pregnancy this child may have serious complications coming into the world. Now also imagine the child is raised and taught in front of a computer and is raised by a upper class family in Europe. Because off all the difference I may hate my clone, we may never get along, and due to his carrier's behavior chances are I wouldn't recognize it as my clone.

When they first cloned Dolly the sheep people had an idea that it would age extremely quickly (for whatever reason). Now Dolly died of a rare form of lung cancer which many thought was a clear sign of being cloned. This is not true though, she was actually one a several in her barn to contract this disease. The disease is actually transferred when an animal comes into close contact with a carrier (the disease has a 3 month latent period so once one sheep had it the scientists were sure most of the one's in the barn had it). Another health issue Dolly seemed to have was arthritis, and though it is seen in older sheep it is rarely seen in sheep as young as Dolly was when she first developed it. Some speculated that this too must be a sign of early aging due to cloning. However this can also be explained, Dolly was a very unusual sheep who enjoyed rearing up on its back 2 legs in order to be fed and posed for many pictures. Doctors that examined Dolly did agree that this could easily have caused the arthritis and it was nothing out of the ordinary. Once Dolly passed away scientists allowed tissue samples to be thoroughly examined. This is what is really interesting: they found that Dolly's telomeres were shorter than they should be. Telomeres are essentially the glue holding your DNA together at the ends, over time these telomeres shorten which puts a cap on how many times each cell can divide. Although this did not kill Dolly is kind of meant she wasn't as older as she really was. Although I can't explain why or how this happened I do have an idea. It is possible that the DNA taken from the host sheep had shortened telomeres that what is seen in a new born sheep (because the host DNA has shorter telomeres than a newborn). Over Dolly's life the telomeres could have shortened to the point they were seen at after she died. There are many other theories about why Dolly's telomeres were shortened and even though they were shorter that doesn't actually mean anything. Telomeres are torn very slightly during each cell replication cycle, but they are also repaired. The shortening of telomeres is such a slow process that it is actually possible that Dolly just got really unlucky with telomere shortening. However this could also be seen that a clone may have a flaw in repairing broken telomeres.

There are many flaws in cloning and even if you want a clone of you right this second you cannot get that. The best chance you have of getting a clone of something that is the same age of the host is starting the cloning process the day the animal is conceived. Good luck. Also you have to make sure it develops under the exact same conditions, is brought up in the exact environment, and every single genetic mistake is done at the same time (random chance). In short, it's not going to happen.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Intro and How I feel

Be ready everyone because the future starts tomorrow. Everything we were taught in school, mainly science classes, is subject to change and yet we learn what is taught to be infallible. I mean, we are forced to if we want to get good grades and get a good job, but in reality we can be taught 2+2=fish and if we say 4 on a test we're wrong. The key to being a good student is listening and repeating. Learning comes from life experiences and is our body's way of saying doing this again is a good thing (or bad thing). Look at history:

Dark Ages:
the black death is here and if you do not repent and pray to God you will die.

the bubonic plague was transferred across Europe via a number of different carriers from Asian traders.

This is funny because I'm pretty sure if you were to take a test in "school" during the Dark Ages and wrote down that the black death could be avoided by any way other than repenting you would be called a blasphemer and burned.

Ok so I think I've made my point about the education system, however this is not the point of this blog, it's mainly to educate you on my beliefs of controversial genetic research and practices. As well as maybe educate you about what actually goes on in them. My first topic of conversation is why I could never clone myself, believe me, it's possible. Should it be done? Maybe, but should I have a clone today? Hell no. Not only do I not want a copy of myself, I do not need to look after a child at this point in my life. These are still not reasons why I won't do it, just reasons why I should not do it tomorrow. The idea behind cloning a person shouldn't be to replace a dead relative or create another famous person at all but rather to use one's own cells to test medications, study viruses, and possibly regrow lost organs and tissues. Instead of waiting years for little Jimmy Everychildwithcancer to find a donor for a new, uh... lung, and put this little fictional 8 year old (he's a chronic smoker) on medications that would weaken his immune system, so it doesn't destroy this new functional lung, for the rest of his life we can create a new lung from Jimmy's own cells. Now no one is missing a lung and Jimmy can go about his normal everyday (chain smoking) life with 2 lungs.

However there is an opposing side to this miracle of science, and no its not that they don't like Jimmy. To create a human life is something so sacred that it would shouldn't be done on a whim. Human life is very precious and should be kept precious. However it all depends on what you define as life. A living cell? To me this cell is part of you and you should have every right to take it for yourself. A new human being cloned from you? It's a new human being! Yes the cells are identical to you, but it's not you. It was born and should be given the freedoms you were. Now figuring out when a person stops becoming cells and starts becoming a fetus is a debate for a pro-choice and pro-life blog.

This still is not why I won't clone myself, so stop thinking about the ethical reasons behind actually doing and start thinking about me, the cloned me that is. I would see myself grown up and think I have to follow that. What happens when I get old and die? Would I die the same way? Would disease affect me in the same fashion? How much does environment actually affect the genes of someone with the same genes? What happens when I get married? Will my wife look at my clone as her own child or just a step child? It is in fact only half hers. Would she fall in love with me when she's old and I'm the age we first met? I will never be able to answer these questions and they are very difficult to consider. If I was told today that I am just a clone I would just have to stop and think, why would I do that to myself?

So in closing, thank you for reading and I hope you decide to continue to read