Dissecting Two-Photon Microscopy

Dissecting Two-Photon Microscopy

Before the advent of microscopy, scientists such as Leonardo da Vinci had to surreptitiously dissect the human body to gather insights into its functional anatomy. Now, two-photon microscopy has further advanced our ability to peer into living tissues with minimal intervention. For instance, two-photon microscopy allows your window of vision to penetrate through a living mouse’s brain and marvel at a neuronal cell’s inner workings. Pan the microscope underneath the skin and you will see hair follicle stem cells dividing and regenerating in real-time. Over a tumor bulge, you can observe metastatic cancer cells migrating and invading blood vessels. The mechanics of this visual journey relies on two photons meeting each other at the same place at the right time.

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ACHOO – A Tale of Uninvited Sneezes

ACHOO – A Tale of Uninvited Sneezes

Outside of normal sneezing exists an entirely separate group of sneezing-related phenomena. One particularly common condition that affects up to 35% of Americans is called the photic sneeze reflex. This reflex is conveniently abbreviated as ACHOO (Autosomal Dominant Compulsive Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst syndrome), so named because it involves sneezing in response to sudden increases in light intensity.

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Capturing Light

Capturing Light

If you are 18 years of age, you have never known a world without a camera phone.  Today, the quality of digital phone cameras is crucial to social media platforms, to businesses seeking visibility, and to people documenting as much of their lives and environments as possible. In this article, we will explore the functions of camera mechanics that created one of the most essential remote sensing devices in human history.

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Putting the Spotlight on Artists Who Glow

Putting the Spotlight on Artists Who Glow

Jellyfish and fireflies – what is something these two animals have in common? They both glow! This emission of light by these organisms is called bioluminescence, a term combining the Greek word “bio” meaning “life” and the Latin word “lumen” for “light.” Bioluminescence is produced through a chemical reaction that occurs within cells. Over the years, scientists have gained an appreciation for bioluminescence and have adapted it not only for research and medical purposes, but also as a platform for their passion for art. This artwork, as captivating as the living organisms that it originates from, has become a beautiful way of introducing people to the wonders of biology.

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The Positivity Effect: The Role of Resilience in Battling the Current Opioid Epidemic

The Positivity Effect: The Role of Resilience in Battling the Current Opioid Epidemic

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), nearly 100 million American adults report suffering from chronic or severe pain. Additionally, pain is a condition that disables more Americans in the US than heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. The most recent definition of chronic pain is as follows, “a distressing experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage with sensory, emotional, cognitive, and social components.” In accordance with the high prevalence of chronic pain, reports from the Centers for Disease Control concluded that the most commonly prescribed class of medication in the US are opioid analgesics despite a lack of evidence supporting their efficacy in treating chronic pain.

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A New Hope for Naltrexone in Managing Opioid Dependence

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In a survey of substance abuse-related hospital admissions taken by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a total of 26% of all admissions surveyed were due to primary opioid addiction. Of the 1.7 million cases surveyed, this percentage represents just under half a million cases in which opioid misuse was the primary issue [1]. This staggering proportion underscores the prevalence of opioid dependence in the US and begs the question of what is being done to help those struggling against opioid dependence.

 

One approach to assisting individuals recovering from opioid addiction has been to treat with a maintenance drug. A maintenance drug is a drug prescribed by a healthcare professional that helps reduce the cravings for opioids that often lead to relapse. Current treatments include methadone and buprenorphine, both of which can be thought of as substitute agents for the more addictive substances. While these types of therapies can often help reduce cravings and prevent withdrawal effects, they still carry the risk of abuse due to their pharmacological similarity to morphine and other opioids.

 

Naltrexone, a drug that works to block the receptors that mediate the addictiveness of opioids, has been tested previously as an agent to help patients maintain abstinence from opioid abuse. While its oral form demonstrates some efficacy, its clinical use has been limited due to issues with patient compliance [2]. Two recent studies from groups in the US and Norway have tested a new, injectable version of naltrexone that has shown promise compared to current standards of care [3, 4]. While relapse rates remain high among those recovering from opioid abuse, the continued development of pharmacotherapies in helping to reduce cravings is crucial in the effort to help these patients win back their independence [5].

 

David Shia

Staff Writer, Signal to Noise Magazine

MD/PhD Candidate in Molecular Biology Interdepartmental Doctoral Program, UCLA

 

 

References:

[1] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS): 2002-2012. National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services. BHSIS Series S-71, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4850. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2014).

 [2] Bart, G. Maintenance medication for opiate addiction: the foundation of recovery. Journal of Addictive Diseases 31(3), 207-225 (2012).

[3] Tanum, L., et al. Effectiveness of Injectable Extended-Release Naltrexone vs Daily Buprenorphine-Naloxone for Opioid Dependence: A Randomized Clinical Noninferiority Trial. JAMA Psychiatry 74(12), 1197-1205 (2017).

[4] Lee, J. D., et al. Comparative effectiveness of extended-release naltrexone versus buprenorphine-naloxone for opioid relapse prevention (X: BOT): a multicentre, open-label, randomised controlled trial. The Lancet 391(10118), 309-318 (2017).

[5] Smyth, B. P., Barry, J., Keenan, E., & Ducray, K. (2010). Lapse and relapse following inpatient treatment of opiate dependence. Irish Medical Journal 103(6), 176-179 (2010).

Hacking Nature: Using Stem Cells to Combat Major Opioid Issues

Hacking Nature: Using Stem Cells to Combat Major Opioid Issues

3-D printing. Virtual reality. Artificial intelligence. Self-driving cars. Robotic surgery. Gene editing. Higgs boson. The list goes on. These recent breakthroughs are becoming household words (and items), and they are a testament to the rapid expansion of our society’s technological capabilities. In the world of medical research, however, this paradigm has recently shifted towards exploring natural biological systems rather than focusing on the typical research areas of medical devices and drug development.

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Crying Out for Drugs: The Babies Behind the Opioid Epidemic

Crying Out for Drugs: The Babies Behind the Opioid Epidemic

Inside the walls of hospitals across the country, babies are literally crying out for drugs. The rising rate of opioid use and abuse has dramatically increased the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Characterized by inconsolable crying, seizures, difficulties feeding, sweating, and vomiting, NAS is the result of an infant’s withdrawal from opioids that the child was exposed to in utero. Upon delivery, newborns diagnosed with NAS often require prolonged treatment and spend days, weeks, or even months in a hospital.

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The Key to Unlocking Pain Management

The Key to Unlocking Pain Management

How can the chemical structure of codeine, an opiate sold over-the-counter for years in cough medication, differ only slightly from that of a highly-regulated opiate like morphine? And why does this slight change in structure cause our bodies to respond differently to each drug? The answer comes down to the relationship between drug structure and function.

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Why Journalists and Scientists Should Chew the Fat

Why Journalists and Scientists Should Chew the Fat

Science and journalism have a delicate relationship. Science needs its message to disseminate through the public; journalists need news to disseminate. But like a group of children playing telephone, the message can become distorted. Mistakes are inevitable because research is messy. This quintessentially human endeavor is a lengthy and ongoing process that takes time to smooth out mistakes and biases. At best, these mistakes fizzle from the news circuit. At worst, they can harm public health.

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Dr. Jessica Polka: Revolutionizing Biomedical Research Communication

Dr. Jessica Polka: Revolutionizing Biomedical Research Communication

A major impediment to the scientific endeavor today is a lack of transparency, communication, and public visibility. In 1991, the fields of mathematics, physics, and computer science came up with a partial solution to this problem, arXiv.org, an online repository and forum to store, disperse, and discuss preprints, which are scientific manuscripts and communications prior to peer-review. While there is an increasing recognition of the role preprints play in the future of scientific communication, the life sciences have been indisputably behind the curve. However, this is rapidly changing, and at the forefront of the revolution is Jessica Polka, Ph.D. She is currently a visiting scholar at the Whitehead Institute and director of ASAPbio, a biologist-driven project to promote the productive use of preprints in the life sciences. I recently had the opportunity to speak with her about the rise of preprints in the life sciences.

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Across the Bench with Elizabeth Fernandez

Across the Bench with Elizabeth Fernandez

After a long day at work, you just want to unwind with some entertainment on your commute back home. What if you could learn about some fun scientific topics, say trash-eating robots or cannibalistic galaxies, through an engaging conversation? Hold on, we are not asking you to converse with your fellow commuters (god forbid!). You could just tune in to Elizabeth's podcasts to hear her interview experts on a wide range of topics that explore the role of science in our lives.

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