Category Archives: Uncategorized

Got Blue Eyes? Better thank that one person that lived 10,000 years ago

Got Blue Eyes?  Better thank that one person that lived 10,000 years ago

As a person whose favorite color is blue and lives in the town where wearing anything but blue in March is equivalent to asking for your friendships to end (Lexington KY), I thought I had to share this with you. Apparently, the mutation in OCA2 gene that resulted in blue eyes can be traced back to a single individual who lived around 10 centuries ago. But, the research also used mitochondrial DNA to determine inheritance patterns (it’s really hard to say anything conclusive with each generation that you go back when working with mtDNA). Still thought it was pretty Fancy. Go Blue!

Bilingual Brains and The Difference in Processing of Languages

 Bilingual Brains and The Difference in Processing of Languages

As a polyglot (haha I love using that word), a lot of my friends always ask me whether I have to translate between two languages when I’m thinking and speaking or if I just think in the language that I am communicating in. My answer has always been that I usually just think in the different language, but I didn’t understand the neurological reason that  as to why I thought this. Until now!! Researchers from the University of Arizona were able to show that rather than calibrating to different tones and languages, those of us who were born to learn multiple languages process these languages in different regions of the brain. Scientists, specifically looked at the “pa” vs. “ba” variation in Spanish which are perceived to be the same by monolingual English speakers.  Compared to control (monolingual English speakers) the bilingual participants in the study labled the ‘pa’ vs. “ba” sound differently when told which language they were about to hear. I think it’s interesting that the research is showing that rather than having a dominant language (which was the competing theory), bilinguals can switch back and forth between two languages just like people with either language as their primary mode of communication.  Polyglots are definitely fancy!

(I think my description of the controls is a little hazy, but if you are interested you should check out the link from sciencedaily:

Retinal Prostheses: Restoring Vision to the Blind

This is such an amazing advancement!

Knowing Neurons

Vision is arguably one of our most important senses.  We rely on it to recognize color, shape, movement, distance, and perspective about the world around us.   Although all parts of the eye help us perceive our environment, the most vital part is the retina, the thin layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye.  This structure contains several layers of cells interconnected by synapses.  When light enters through the eye, it passes all the way through the retina, until it is captured by photoreceptors.  These cells then convert the light energy into tiny electrochemical impulses, which are processed by retinal neurons, before the signal is sent to the brain.


Loss of vision can have a huge impact on a person’s life.  One particularly devastating disease, retinitis pigmentosa (RP), affects 1 in 400 people in the United States.  Those affected by RP progressively lose their vision…

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Did your “stress genes” affect on your SAT scores?


This is an article that I read a while ago which described the effects of COMT gene and its function in clearing dopamine in the brain that is often released as a result of a stress response. There are two variants of the COMT gene: one which clears dopamine at a faster rate and another one which is a slower acting version. Usually, people with the slow variant do better on cognitive tests in the laboratory. However, under surges of stress, such as high-stake tests, when the brain is flooded with dopamine, researchers found that those with the slower variant were at a disadvantage. In Taiwanese national exams, students with the slow variant scored an average of 8 percents lower. “It was as if some of the A students and B students traded places at test time.”
What do you think about the influence of stress on your performance in school and other tests. Personally, I would love to know my COMT polymorphism in addition to ACTN gene. New genetics lab @ rafakoko?

link to the article:

Cancer and Extracellular Matrix DNA

Mina Bissell has been challenging the notion that cancer is solely based on DNA in the nucleus. Here she explains how the environment (not necessarily epigenetic processes) can influence developmental biology. Understandably, for her “radical” belief of ECM DNA and environment, she has been challenged by many biologists. What do you think?

Reproductive Science Symposium at UK Thursday and Friday!


Reproductive Science Symposium at UK Thursday and Friday!

It’s a busy week for science in Kentucky!  Check out the talks that are listed.  There is a human embryonic stem cell talk from a Michigan Professor tomorrow from 1:45-3:00.  Check out the program!!!

Justin, Alligators, Teeth, and Stem Cells

Let’s get one thing clear.  Scientists will go to low levels to try to grab your attention and make you interested in their research.  I have been to talks where the researcher threw up a pic of actors from Baywatch to make an analogy to methylating protein complexes.  So…naturally this post has absolutely nothing to do with JT… but now that I have your attention, I wanted to share with you recent developments regarding teeth science! As diphyodont species, we can only generate two sets of teeth in our lifetime, and after that we are SOL (SIMPLY Out of Luck).  But other species such as the American alligator can undergo life-long teeth regeneration.  Dr. Chuong and his team at the University of Southern Californiaset out to study the American alligator based on the similarity of teeth layout in the organism compared to humans and to learn more about the nature of stem cells that contribute to teeth regeneration.  The presence of a layer of epithelial tissues known as the dental lamina seems to serve as the home to dental stem cells for the alligator, whose each 80 teeth “can be replaced up to 50 times over their lifetime.”  It is interesting that humans also have the dental lamina layer of cells.  All in all, the group would like to use this alligator model and to isolate cells from the dental lamina to create to see whether they can regenerate teeth in the laboratory.  While you should still brush your teeth twice a day, I think the research creates hope for those suffering form dental diseases to have their own teeth that might look just like Justin’s when restored at the dentist.  Definitely a Fancy thought.

Here’s the link for the full article that published the research in PNAS:

Doublemint Twins and the Barnstable Brown Symposium

Doublemint Twins and the Barnstable Brown Symposium

So Alex and I were having lunch with my summer research professor at UK when he told us about the history of the doublemint barnstable twins and the diabetes conference. After passing of the husband of Patricia, the twins decided to raise money for diabetes to help battle the disease. I thought this related to the theme of our class on how politics and individuals contribute to the progress of science. Regardless of whether you like doublemint gum or not, you have to admit that celebrity twins throwing a Derby after-party to help support diabetes research is definitely fancy!

Intronic snoRNAs, Lipid Induced Oxidative Stress, and why the term “Junk DNA” should be BLASPHEMY

schafferLike many of my fellow bloggers, I too attended the talk by Jean Schaefer at the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Research Symposium at the University of Kentucky.  In her talk, she showed that snoRNAs in the intronic regions of fatty acid metabolic genes are important in regulating the oxidative stress and lipidtoxicity which cause cell death.  When they made a…wait for it….fluorescent construct to act as a reporter for the expression of snoRNAs in presence of high lipid levels in cell culture, many of these snoRNAs were shown to accumulate in the cytosol of the cell!  This is fascinating since small nucleolar RNAs are “expected” to be mostly localized to the nucleus.  Furthermore, she was able to show that both intronic microRNAs expressions and lipid linked oxidation change upon mutating specific snoRNAs.  Specifically, mutation of the snoRNAs U32a, U33, and U35a resulted in decrease of apoptosis in cells under metabolic stress conditions (high amounts of lipid).  In addition to the slides upon slides of data that she showed, I enjoyed how her talk showed the importance of intronic sequences and noncoding RNAs (RNAs and DNA sequences that do not directly contribute to making proteins in an organism) that have been traditionally ignored in genetics until recently.  Also I am creepingly stalking her, as I do with most scientists that I like, by directly sitting in front of her while typing this post.  (She was telling one of her colleagues about her path to science as a cardiologist who went to MIT to learn cell biology and ended up spending five years and becoming dedicated to basic research now with little clinical work–creeping clearly makes you find out interesting information).  Anyways, click on her picture to get to her lab’s website and all the interesting projects that go on in there.  She is…Definitely FANCY!

Diabetes Research Symposium Directions


So Excited for the Diabetes Research Symposium Tomorrow!!!  Here is the google maps directions to get there.  Also I think there is usually parking behind the building but you can usually park on State or Terrace Street which are really close to the Biomedical Pharmaceutical Complex Building.  Just keep going a block or two after you see the Pharmacy building on Limestone and turn right onto them.  See you at room 124!!!  Also the link to the program: