Apologies!

Dear all bloggers and viewers,

Due to current Advanced Higher demands our team has been unable to update. We will hopefully be able to start back up shortly.

Passion For STEM

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Advances in tendinopathy

Previously I have touched on my summer research project on tendinopathy but today I thought I would share a bit of what I have done with you all, enjoy!

The driving force behind my research was due to the fact that soft tissue disorders represent the third most common musculoskeletal condition in the UK with 18 cases per 1000. These primarily affect tendons, accounting for 30% of all rheumatological consultations with a general practitioner. Causes are multifactorial but with an ever increasing number of professional athletes and also an ageing population whose tendons decrease in elasticity; there is an annual estimated cost to the NHS of £250 million. Though molecular pathophysiology of tendinopathy remains incompletely understood key inflammatory mediators such as proinflammatory cytokines are found to play a vital role.

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This little fella is tenascin-C

The extracellular matrix molecule tenascin-C is highly expressed during embryonic development, in pathological situations such as chronic inflammation, cancer. By this report it is found to be at significantly higher levels during diseased tendon tissue repair as compared to healthy tendons to carry out its role as an inflammatory mediator and induce inflammation in attempts to repair the diseased tendon. Tenascin-C prolongs inflammation at site of trauma and leads to further tendon damage. These results provide useful insight into the complex cross-regulation of inflammation and tissue remodelling mediated by tenascin-C.

Some background information

Tendons are a band of flexible fibrous connective tissue which connects muscle to bone. They are present in joints and largely inelastic to conserve energy whilst transmitting the contractile movement of muscle to move bone. Despite the frequent mention of tendinopathy, tendons are in fact extremely tough it is found that collagen fibrillogenesis begins as an assembly of collagen molecules in a series of extracellular compartments, progressing through post-depositional maturation leading to thicker and longer fibrils and ending in their coalescence in the final stages of fibre production.

 

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Figure 1Various tendons on the body which are affected by tendinopathy especially the Achilles tendon and rotator cuff

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My mind-changing Science Summer School experience

Summer School Accomodation

From Monday 24th to Friday 28th July 2017 I had attended a residential Sciences Summer School which made me even more set on a future career in STEM (which I didn’t think was possible, haha) and especially medicine. Moreover, I made an abundance of fellow nerd friends who didn’t make me feel as lonely. There were a total of 58 fifth year pupils from all different backgrounds, Scottish, English, Welsh and 1 lone Northern Irish guy but somehow we all connected in a way which prior to the summer school, I believe to be impossible in the span of only a week.

Sunday

To give myself enough time to travel to the college, I had packed up my bags a day before and arrived to explore the city. Like the tourist I was, I stocked up on a plethora of various fridge magnets depicting medieval buildings and misleadingly sunny postcards which did not accurately depict the British weather. We (10 other people who also travelled down on Sunday) met and were instantly friends. I tried my hand at the out of tune piano and out problems just melted away for a while under the diminishing sunlight.

Monday

After everyone else arrived and the different procedural introductions we got stuck in problem solving. (Note: the icebreaker we had to go through did not in fact break-the-ice for it was a bingo involving facts of students. An absurd example being to find someone with blue socks which I was only one of a precious few.) The director of studies did not treat us like kids, as a brilliant mathematician he questioned our intuition. After explaining Claude Shannon’s Information theory, he asked an array of mind-bending questions, but even the simplest one caused commotion amongst budding mathematicians:

I have a bottle and a cap, together costing £1.10. The bottle costs exactly £1 more than the cap so my questions to you is: How much does the cap cost?”

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My month as an immunologist

logoAs mentioned in one of my previous posts [click here] this summer I am undertaking a biomedical research project in collaboration with the Nuffield foundation on the topic of: “The role of Tenascin C in tendinopathy”. My main goal for tackling on this ‘challenge’ (I guess) was to engage in some real life science and to better myself in preparation for university. Though I am fortunate to attend a school which go out of their way to provide specialised scientific equipment, I had never experienced university style labs in (as the researchers I worked with called it) the big bad world. I realised that I took for granted the seemingly simple apparatuses such as autoclaves and centrifuges as some undergraduates haven’t even seen one in real life until university, never mind using them. I was overjoyed to leave the world of school bucket chemistry behind which solely consisted of school technicians tirelessly making up solutions only for us to haphazardly throw them all together to see the really tell-tale signs such as a colour change. No, I savoured every moment of making my own discoveries, never again shall I robotically repeat the same boring experiments to end up with a result I already knew.

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The Great Medic Insight Experience 2K17

Hey, Y’all! last week I attended the week long program, medic insight (which is as self-explanatory as it sounds) hence why I am late in posting and I have decided to share my experience for future aspiring medics. The program intends to allow fifth-year pupils in high school (i.e me) to experience the life of a typical medical student and much more. I have included their “About” page below so they can say for themselves.

about medic insight

The Glasgow one I attended was only in its 3rd year running, a baby when compared to its Edinburgh and Dundee counterparts. The Glasgow program runs twice, I attended week 1 as seen from my name card.

name card

I felt one of the best things were how meticulously planned everything was, from tirelessly scouring through several hundred applications (from Glasgow alone!!!) in order to admit 50 lucky people for each week and giving each of them a personalised timetable. This was an impressive feat, considering it is run by Glasgow medics who have their own lectures and exams outside of organising Medic Insight.

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Morphine and its cousins

 

Quinine

The term ‘alkaloids’ may be unfamiliar to most of us but if I start naming some examples which fall into this group of ‘nitrogenous bases secondary metabolites’, you will know what I mean. nicotine2 Some of the big names include morphine, quinine, strychnine, nicotine etc. basically a continuous list of –ine’s. The thing to note is that though the alkaloids were attributed to pharmacologically active bases derived from plants however, animals (including us!), insects and microbes also produce them.

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Death and Transplanting Life

heart-transplant-1

For many, the heart is synonymous with passion, personality which is literally at the heart of a person. We even carelessly use the phrase “broke my heart”, however, what does happen when our thick- muscular pump of an organ truly breaks down? The assumed answer would be death; no heart beat=no longer living…right? Well, in reality, a stopped heart can restart, there is no true universal rule in death determination. You are dead when the doctor says you are dead.

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Renewables…you say?

Most of the energy we use to power technology come from finite sources which are not sustainable. This energy which may be in the form of either fossil fuels, coal or even nuclear fuels and so on will eventually be used up. However renewable sources such as solar power will not run out…..until the sun runs out of hydrogen fuel but that’s another story.

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Even my trusty fx- 85GT PLUS uses solar power.

We are able to harness the light energy radiated by the sun by the used of solar cells. A solar cell is an electronic device made of semiconductors which exhibit the photovoltaic effect to convert light energy into electrical energy. Semiconductors are materials which lie between conductors and insulators. A conductor is a material which is composed of atoms in which electrons are easily freed from the nuclei. Even though it is able to form a current, it remains electronically neutral as there are the same number of positive protons and negative free electrons. An insulator, on the other hand, is a material which is composed of atoms which hold more tightly onto their electrons so they have no free electrons like conductors. Current is a measure of the rate of flow of charge through a material, with the electrons being the charge carriers transporting energy across a circuit.  Continue reading

Debunking vitamin C

So, I’m sure many of us have seen the advertisement packaging for supposedly healthy drinks. One of most popularised is vitamin C. I don’t know about you but when I was growing up, I associated vitamin C with oranges and how they prevent scurvy (as told by parents to ensure I was receiving my 5 a day). So what makes this chemical so important?

Well, it turns out, Vitamin C is a vitamin (duh) which is able to dissolve in water and has the chemical formula of C6 H8 O6. The molecular structure of vitamin C is seen in the diagram below:
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Exciting enzymes?

So…I haven’t written a sole biology blog post in such a long time so I thought I would share some of the knowledge covered in class, more specifically on exciting enzymes.


Enzymes are biological catalysts made by living organisms which speed up chemical reactions. Each cell in our bodies is like a factory, constantly using up raw materials to turn them into useful products and also resulting in waste products. These reactions are usually slow if unaided by either heat or enzymes. This can be annoying in everyday life, for example, delayed respiration rates which rely heavily on enzymes. The food we eat in turn become the energy we use (vastly simplified). Continue reading