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Contagious Yawning, X ray vision, Heart Beating

Biology Honors

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Tarzan, Cheetah and the Contagious Yawn

By Henry Fountain

The behavior of contagious yawning, when someone sees someone else yawning and then does it themselves, is now being studied with chimpanzees. Dr. James Anderson of the University of Stirling in Scotland and colleagues in Japan showed that at least a third of adult chimps, when watching videos of other chimps yawning, will yawn themselves. As Dr. Anderson says, And I knew that chimps showed self-recognition in a mirror or a photograph. So if they showed self-recognition, they were likely to show contagious yawning. As the studies showed, six female chimps watched videotapes of chimps yawning and all of the chimps yawned. Similar to toddlers and young children not experiencing contagious yawning, the offspring of three chimps didnt yawn either. After wards, the researchers will study if yawning is contagious between species.

I was interested in this article because I always wanted to know about why humans, like me, were drawn into the chain of contagious yawning once seeing someone else do it. The title was very interesting, in that it included Tarzan and the contagious yawn, and I was curious about how these two subjects were related. This subject influences my life because I usually yawn when I see someone else do it, and now that research is being done, there might be an answer to why people yawn contagiously. The article says that roughly 50 percent of adults who show the trait show more empathy and get higher grades on self-recognition tests. It involves all of the human population and animal population, for chimpanzees, canines, and humans are being tested for contagious yawning. Consequently, this article left a cliffhanger for me, because it didnt end on a final note. Research still needs to be done on contagious yawning and there still hasnt been a clear solution. As a result, I will be looking out for more articles involving this topic.

Biology Honors

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Using X-Ray Vision, He Keeps His Eye on the Bacteria

By Claudia Dreifus

Dr. C. Erec Stebbins, head of Rockefeller Universitys Laboratory of Structural Microbiology, uses X-ray crystallography to identify the bacterial proteins that cause disease. The 34-year-old Dr. Stebbins has already found 10 proteins, which drugs are then developed to treat the side-effects. Images of proteins are created by exposing the crystals of protein structures to high-intensity X-rays. Specializing in salmonella, Dr. Stebbins and colleagues published a representation of the structure of C.D.T, or cytolethal distending toxin, a part of salmonella and other bacteria. Salmonella migrates to the intestines and inject their own proteins into the intestinal cells. They then go inside the cells and copy themselves, producing diarrhea. The first step of obtaining images of proteins involves getting the protein into a pure form and then crystallizing it. Then intense X-rays bounce off all the electrons in the crystals, creating an image. Dr. Stebbins has also seen a protein that had never before been seen, called GreA. He finally received a sizeable bit of research money from the Department of Homeland Security after 9/11 and biological scare and anthrax.

Once I saw the headline, I instantly though of Superman and how he used his X-Ray vision to defeat enemies. As a result, I believed that this article would be quite fascinating how a man could keep an eye on bacteria with X-Ray vision. This article influences my life by making me aware of the disease of salmonella and helping the population find a drug to relieve the harmful effects of such organisms. This topic involves most of the human population, for salmonella is a common disease found in raw meat, and people are affected by food poisoning everyday in raw foods.

Biology Honors

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Tubes, Pump and Fragile Hope Keep a Babys Heart Beating

By Denise Grady

In Palo Alto, California, Miles Coulson, the 3-month-old son of Leigh Bills, needed a heart transplant. Miles heart began to fail when he was only a few weeks old and by late June he was on the transplant list. Donor hearts from infants are extremely rare and doctors didnt think that Miles would survive since there were no pumps approved in the US small enough for an infant. Desperately, doctors sought the Berlin Heart, which is used in Europe. After being approved to import the Berlin Heart, the device was flown from Germany on July 12 along with Dr. Peter Gottel, a heart surgeon. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute awarded five contracts to companies and universities to develop heart-assisting devices for infants due to the lack of market. Dr. Gottel said that the longest an infant survived on the pump is three months. Three other children in the US have been treated with Berlin Hearts and two received transplants while a third recovered. Miles Coulson was born healthy, however a viral illness was inflicted upon him in mid-April and the reason is unknown. He was first put on an ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a heart-lung machine, for eight days and then was flown to Stanford where the doctors determined he needed a transplant. A great feature of the Berlin Heart is that most of the machine is outside the body and only tubes are implanted, one on the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber, and the other in the aorta, the vessel that feeds the circulatory system. Yet, patients face bleeding, clots, and infection, some of which Miles has experienced. The long wait of a transplant of a heart is ahead, inevitably foreshadowing a sudden death if there is no answer. Against the possibility of Miles getting a heart transplant successfully includes that hearts could only last between four to six hours after being removed from the donor. The hope still lives strong.

When I saw the headline, the one reason it drew me to read the article was that it made me feel sorrowful for the infant since it needed a heart transplant, one of the vital organs in the human body. This subject might influence my life because it makes me think about my own life and how Im actually quite lucky at where I am. I am fortunate to not have any transplants for my organs, as other people may have had. This issue is bordering the point at being a global issue because the Berlin Heart is imported from Germany into the US. There should be more heart-assisting devices available readily in the US. It involves only a small portion of the human population, focusing on infants. Yes I was interested into finding out the consequence of the heart transplant and whether or not the baby lived.

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