Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Speech Buddies: Guide for Parents

Image from craven graphics
Speech Buddies is a new idea that takes the best technology used by speech therapists and brings it into the home for parents to use with their children.  The main goal for this new technology is to teach children correct tongue placement for the most common problem sounds for a child including; R, S, L, CH, and SH.  For parents this technology is a way to develop new routines for speech therapy by incorporating learning with activities that can appeal to children.
Image from worldpress

So parents may be wondering, "What are the benefits of Speech Buddies?"  Results have shown that with the help of speech buddies, children have been able to learn problem sounds twice as fast as a child who has not used this technique. Another benefit of the program is that is can decrease the cost and time necessary to help child over come problems with speech by bringing it into the home and allowing the parents to act as the teacher.  

The Speech Buddy website has a lot of valuable information for parents to read and go over before making the decision of whether or not this new idea is right for their child.  Questionnaires are present to help parents determine whether or not their child even has a speech problem.  There are also audio videos for parents to watch that show parents how to use Speech Buddies in the home.  Definitions of what speech disorders are and how it can be treated are present on the website as well.  Another tool present on the website for parents to use is the "frequently asked questions" portion.  There are questions present that many parents ask regarding Speech Buddies and give answers to those questions.  If parents find that they are interested in this program there is a 30 day satisfaction guarantee and a booklet that can be downloaded if there are still questions the parents have not got answered from the website.

Speech therapy is a common technique used to help children over come their problems with speech and Speech Buddies is a new and exciting way for parents to do just that.  If anyone is interested in the Speech Buddies program and would like to see prices as well as learn more about the technology please visit the Speech Buddies website.

DNA Binding Drugs


Drugs are consumed daily by individuals all over the world in order to treat a variety of different illnesses. Research to develop new drugs and to identity potential drug targets within the human body are essential in preventing, treating, and maintaining these illnesses. One important drug target is DNA. DNA contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all living organisms.

DNA has two main functions; transcription and replication. Transcription is the process from DNA to RNA, and then RNA is translated into proteins. Proteins are involved in all body processes and are essential in maintaining life. Replication is important for cell growth as well as a cell's ability to successfully divide. Both transcription and replication are vital to cell survival and smooth functioning of all body processes. Most DNA drugs target these two functions.

There are a few ways drugs are able to bind to DNA. One way is by controlling enzymes and factors involved in transcription. Another possibility is for drugs to bind to parts of DNA and interfere with the interactions between DNA and proteins. Take for example telomerase inhibitors, which are used in cancer treatment. Telomeres are located at the end of chromosomes and are important in preventing damage in DNA replication. In normal (somatic) cells, the cells have an end date or eventually die. In tumor cells, however, the telomere ends are kept more stable, thus allowing tumor cells to survive and continue to grow. Telomerase inhibitors work by stopping the action of an enzyme known as reverse transcriptase telomerase. This particular enzyme is what allows the tumor cells to survive and maintain growth; therefore these drugs can cause the tumor cells to die via apoptosis, programmed cell death.

Current research is focused on how drugs can actually bind to DNA and affect gene regulation. Gene regulation is a process in which a cell determines which genes it will express and when it will express them. All cells in the human body contain a copy of an individual’s DNA, which contains thousands of genes. These genes can either be turned on or off by the cells. For example, a bone cell could turn on genes to make it a bone cell, whereas in a skin cell the gene for bone cells would be turned off. Drugs that can bind directly to DNA and affect gene regulation could have an enormous impact on genetic diseases, HIV, and cancer.

This research is supported by a current article from ScienceDaily, Tangled Up in DNA: New Molecule Has Potential to Help Treat Genetic Diseases and HIV. Chemists at The University of Texas at Austin developed a drug called NDI that works by tangling itself inside DNA. The goal of these researchers is to use the NDI drugs mechanism for binding to DNA to target specific areas of DNA that diseases are found in order to turn gene expression on or off. In the article one of the researchers discussed using NDI to locate the HIV region of DNA and be able to " just sit on it and keep it quiet".

DNA is a key target for drug delivery. Hopefully future research will lead to the development of a drug that can target DNA and aid in the treatment of life threatening diseases. If you are interested in this topic please listen to the audio segment on DNA binding drugs by Nicole, Jake, and Charlie, where we will explore this topic further. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Genetics of Athleticism

Ever wonder how the super stars of a sport just happen to be so good? Although a lot of it is the immense effort, endless dedication, and countless hours that an athlete puts into it all (training, diet, exercise), sometimes there may be a little help from genetics. Some genes are said to control certain aspects of athleticism. Someone may be abnormally fast, jump extremely high, or kick with perfection. Wouldn't it be great to know which genes a person has and what they would be good at?
An article in the Washington Post says that tests are now being offered to parents to determine what their child's athletic strengths could be - based on their genetics. This will let parents know where they should steer their child in order for them to best utilize what they were born with. This will allow them to design and implement workouts fit for each individual. The tests are also useful in foreseeing any serious future health problems. Although controversial for testing on children, it is an example of how science can be put to use. One of the companies selling the tests say that the main purpose for them is to "maximize performance in the minimum amount of time and minimize risk."
With all things come skeptics. Many are disagreeing with the tests because they simply do not believe that genetics have anything to do with one's athletic capabilities and even if they did then it would be impossible to determine what one would be good at. It is also thought that parents and coaches, upon knowing the test results, will force and push kids into participating in sports that they do not want to participate in or that they will be pushed too far in the ones that they enjoy. There is also a concern that kids will be discouraged from participating in sports that "they would not be best capable of succeeding in" or that "would not best utilize what they were born to do."
Whether these tests are right or wrong, their development and the science behind them that makes them possible is still something that should be appreciated.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What the Frack? The Truth Behind Hydrological Fracturing

Fracking, more technically referred to a hydrological fracturing, has been set on center stage surrounded by controversy as a result of misinformation and misunderstanding. Hydraulic fracturing has been taking place in America for nearly 60 years with over one million wells drilled since 1940. With a process such as this being used time and time again many improvements and modifications have been made to make the process safer and more efficient.
The Process
The process of bringing a well to completion is fairly fast taking only 70 to 100 days for a single well considering each well can be in production for 20 to 40 years. The construction timeline takes 4-8 weeks to prepare the site, 4-5 weeks to prepare the drilling rig and associated equipment and materials and 2-5 days of actual drilling. After the initial drilling, the affect surface area is reduced to the size of a two-car garage and the rest of the site is remediated to its original condition.
An overview of the drilling process can be seen here.
Typically, steel pipe known as surface casing is cemented into place at the uppermost portion of a well for the specific purpose of protecting the groundwater. Casing and cementing are critical parts of the well construction that not only protect any water zones, but are also important to successful oil or natural gas production from hydrocarbon bearing zones. It is critical for the casing and cementing to be done correctly in order to protect groundwater supplies. It’s also very important for brine wells to be sealed correctly also. Brine wells are used to store the saline water used during the fracking process. Since 1940, there have not been any confirmed cases of groundwater contamination due to hydrological fracturing. Many cases of water contamination occur due to old brine wells being improperly sealed and cased. To prevent contamination via the brine wells regulations must be imposed to insure they are cased and monitored correctly.
In theory, the process of drilling is safe on paper, but no one can accurately say there is no risk associated with it because there are risks associated with any action. Safeguardsproposed by the NRDC include:
1. Putting the most sensitive lands, including critical watersheds, completely off limits to fracking;
2. Not allowing leaky systems by setting clean air standards that ensure methane leaks are well under one percent of production to reduce global warming pollution, and requiring green completions and other techniques to reduce air pollution;

3. Mandating sound well drilling and construction standards by requiring the strongest well siting, casing and cementing and other drilling best practices;

4. Protecting the landscape, air, or water from pollution by closing Clean Air, Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water loopholes, reducing toxic waste, and holding toxic oil and gas waste to the same standards as other types of hazardous waste, funding robust inspection and enforcement programs, and disclosing fully all chemicals;
5. Using gas to replace dirtier fossil fuels like coal by prioritizing renewables and efficiency, implementing recently established mercury, sulfur and other clean air standards, and setting strong power plant carbon pollution standards; and
6. Allowing communities to protect themselves and their future by restricting fracking through comprehensive zoning and planning.

Implementing these proposed safeguards would allow hydrological fracturing to become a more viable energy resource without posing any environmental risks.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Gettin' the Job Done

Sex. Yes, that is what my title is referring to. Funny how it automatically draws the attention of almost any reader. We are human - although this post is not about humans but is rather about the orb-web spider. This arachnid has a special talent that allows for reproduction to be more likely to succeed. See, when your partner is trying to cannibalistically eat you alive and will kill you once you've mated, it is important that you can pass on your genes (especially when you only have two chances at max to reproduce). Many organisms' lives are structured around having reproductive success to keep their populations alive. The trick that this fella has is a detachable penis. The correct technical term of the sex organ is the "palps" but they do the same job. When the male and female disengage from mating (which is either when the female pushes him away to consume him or when the male flees the scene), not only do the palps detach, but they continue pumping sperm into the female!

How is this known? Just to get all of the facts straight, 50 virgin spiders (25 male and 25 female) were collected and matched in pairs. They were watched to see how long they would mate for and to measure how much of the palp broke off. Here are some of the findings:

--88% of the time the entire palp was left in the female
--Sperm transfer continued after the palp was detached from its owner
--Before palp breakoff, 30% of sperm was transferred
--After palp breakoff, 85% of sperm was transferred

Once all is said and done, it is not said and done. It took the females up to seven hours to force the palps out of their bodies. This has dual roles: 1) it ensures maximum sperm transfer and 2) the palp acts as a blockage to any other males who may try and mate with their female. So in this case, the tap and go method is advised --or risk being eaten.


I thought that this article was fairly interesting so I then thought that others might find it interesting as well. The topic hooks the reader (well, me at least). I tried to write this post in a very non-serious manner. I also wanted to make it appropriate and informational but honestly it would've been more interesting if I would've added all of the inuendos that I would have liked to. It was also more of a casual post which made it easier to write and hopefully easier to read.

Monday, January 30, 2012

New Origin of Language

Original location of Wernicke's area. Image from Wikipedia

Having the ability to speak is one concept that many people do not think about on a daily basis, but for Scientists the origin of speech holds more importance than it seems.  The original understanding of how and where human speech is processed is known as the Wernicke's area, which is located towards the back of the brain, behind the auditory portion, where sounds are received.  A German neurologist, Carl Wernicke, was the first to discover this area through analysis of brain injuries and strokes.  Since there was evidence of where human speech originated no one went against the idea and many people today believe that this concept holds truth.  Guess what?! Someone should have went against the idea because research proves that the location of Wernkicke's area is actually somewhere else in the brain!

Now that I have just dropped a bomb on you about the new location of the origin of human speech, your probably wondering where exactly the new location is.  New research has been completed through imaging studies of the brain and has proved that Wernicke's area is actually 3 centimeters closer to the front of the brain on the other side of the auditory portion.  Many Scientists today are conducting research on this new finding, but one in particular is Josef Rauchecker, who is the author of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).  He searched for studies that dealt with the idea of auditory speech perception in humans and analyzed the data presented.  The results further proved the new location of the Wernicke's area being in the left temporal lobe, specifically the superior temporal gyrus, in front of the auditory portion.  Rauschecker also says that the origins of language between monkeys and humans is more closely related than people think based on the new location of Wernicke's area in humans compared to that same area in non-human primates.  This new idea makes me think about Caesar, the head ape from Planet of the Apes (2011 version), who spoke in human speech at the end of the movie and said proudly "Caesar is home"!!
New location of Wernicke's area. Image from Wikipedia

Based on the new research regarding where the Wernicke's area is located texts books today may have to be rewritten and when people Google "language origin of the brain" the images will be wrong!  This is proof of how science is always changing and old ideas that have been believed to be true for ages can turn out to be something that no one expected.  

For more information on this new concept of human speech visit the Neuroscience website.
"Caesar is home" Image from Wikipedia
The ideas I incorporated into this blog post were those that I felt are most important.  I tried to picture my audience as students, specifically High School/College aged.  With that in mind I tried to add some humor to the post as well as use words that are easily understood.  I also allowed my roommates to read the blog and give feedback on my ideas.  I used my own style of presenting the information and focused on one key concept.  I also tried to be concise and entertaining, but also have fun with the blog!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Possible Cure for Alzheimer’s found in Our Daily Diets


A recent article in NaturalNews states there is new research linking nutrients within an individual’s diet with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a continuous problem with the aging population in America. This disease diminishes memory and takes many years off individual’s lives. Until now the overall consensus has been there are no cures, no prevention, and no drugs to stop the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s. But there may be a new hope in the near future!

An online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, explains that people who eat foods rich in certain vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids are less likely to have brain shrinkage associated with Alzheimer’s disease than people lacking these important nutrients. Some of these vitamins are vitamins C, D, E, and B.

Nutrients and Foods Associated with Alzheimer’s
Vitamin C
Oranges, Clementines, Kiwi Fruits, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Strawberries
Vitamin D
Fish (Fish Oils), Dairy Products (Milk,etc.), Eggs, Salami, Ham, Sausages
Vitamin E
Sunflower seeds, Almonds, Peanuts, Dried Apricots, Cooked Spinach
Vitamin B
Liver, Beef, Tuna, Oats, Turkey, Bananas, Potatoes, Avocados
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Flax seeds, Walnuts, Sardines, Salmon, Soybeans, Scallops, Shrimp, Tofu, Tuna

Another important fact about these nutrients is they have also been linked to providing sharper cognitive abilities. Seniors that consumed plenty of these vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids scored better on mental thinking tests than people with low levels of these nutrients. People that eat, the typical American diet, consisting of junk food and fast foods may actually be killing their brains. The research study showed that people with diets high in trans fats, found in packaged, fast, fried, and frozen foods and margarine spread, were more likely to experience shrinking of brain tissue. People with high trans-fat diets also scored lower on thinking skills and memory tests than people with low trans-fat diets.

This research project observed 104 people with an average age of 87 who had few risk factors for memory and thinking problems. Lab tests performed in this research measured the levels of different nutrients present in each participant’s blood. The participant’s also took cognitive tests to measure memory and thinking skills and 42 of the participants had MRI scans in order to observe their brain volume.

Future research is currently being performed at the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). This research study is based on herbal preparations made from the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba tree. In preliminary reports these scientists, using the natural treatments from these leaves, have shown improved symptoms of Alzheimer’s by allowing patients to regain the ability to perform daily tasks.

This research article provides hope to the large aging population in America. Hopefully by modifying our diets by adding select nutrients we will be able to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.


To learn more about Alzheimer's disease or how to help with fighting this cause, please see the link below and join the Alzheimer's Association.

In order to communicate this scientific article and make my blog understandable for a general audience, I wrote about a serious health condition, made it relatable, and made it easy to read. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S., therefore by writing about something as serious as this disease I feel many readers will want to read this blog post. This research article focuses on nutrition and diet, which is huge part of every person’s life. Therefore by focusing on how diet can improve Alzheimer’s it makes the article relatable with a general audience because anyone can improve their diet. Lastly I added a table to my blog post to make the diet information easier for the reader to understand and easy for the reader to see what foods contain the important nutrients discussed within the research.