Why is Tanning Dangerous?

Biomedical Sciences

By: Ross Keller, 4th year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

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Do you use tanning beds? Image: Gerlach (Pixabay)

Summer will be here soon, and after being stuck inside all winter, it will be welcomed with open arms.

But as we plan trips to beaches and lakes around the country, a lot of us (including myself) will look at our pale arms and legs and think of ways to get that bronze glow to go along with the summer sun.

Millions of people will soon be soaking up the sun’s rays or purchasing a tanning membership in an effort to achieve a sun-kissed look, but take heed: there is one big reason to rethink lying in the sun or under the lamps of a tanning bed.

There are misconceptions that one way of tanning is less damaging than the other—some circles claim natural sunlight is good for your skin, while others believe the artificial lights of the tanning beds are actually better than sunlight.

In reality, both are dangerous, and the danger lies in the increased risk of developing skin cancer.

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When it Comes to Vision, Men and Women Really Aren’t Seeing Eye to Eye

Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience

By: Sadie Steffens, 4th year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

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Luke Jones (Flickr)

The paint color in our master bathroom has been a source of debate since we bought our house. While I am certain that the color is firmly in the purple part of the spectrum, my husband insists that the paint is blue. Period.

Visiting friends have often been asked to weigh in on this debate, and the outcome is fascinatingly similar every time. When asking couples to cast their votes, men instantly declare the color to be blue. Women, on the other hand, typically pause before suggesting something like “periwinkle” or “lavender blue.”

This phenomenon has been played out between men and women time and time again—from selecting clothing to disagreeing at the paint store about whether one hue of blue looks more purple than another. Although you may be tempted to write off this difference as a consequence of cultural conditioning, the true root is physiological.

War on Cancer: The Future of Cancer Treatment

Biomedical Sciences

By: Ross Keller, 4th year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

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Cancer cells. Image credit: National Cancer Institute (Wikimedia Commons)

In this fifth and final post of the War on Cancer series, I will discuss the future of cancer treatment. I will also tie in my previous posts of the series, which include:

  1. How Can We Win the War on Cancer?
  2. Targeted Therapy
  3. Tumor Relapse
  4. Tumors as Ecological Systems

As I mentioned in Part 1, cancer is not one disease, but thousands, and these thousands of different diseases evolve as time goes on. Current treatments have improved greatly over the years, meaning people with cancer are living longer than ever before. New ways of treating cancer, however, will be needed to ultimately cure it.

Current research suggests that there will likely be three stages to the future of treatment: (1) discovering more vulnerabilities to target, (2) quickly mapping the genetic profile of individual tumors, and (3) developing drugs that will not only combat a tumor, but keep it from relapsing.

War on Cancer: Tumors as Ecological Systems

Biomedical Sciences

By: Ross Keller, 4th year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

Creative Commons

Cancerous cells. (Creative Commons)

The War on Cancer series has so far covered: How Can We Win?, Targeted Therapy, and Tumor Relapse.

In this fourth part of the War on Cancer, I will discuss a phenomenon that has only recently been pushed to the forefront of cancer biology, and it both complicates and opens new doors to treatment strategies. That concept is “tumor heterogeneity”—a tumor that is comprised of multiple types of transformed cells.

The traditional view of tumor formation is simple: DNA within a single cell is damaged, causing it to escape biological constraints and proliferate unchecked. Many tumors do behave like this. However, it has recently come to light that tumors can also be much more complicated. They can be populated by not just a single cell population, but a multitude of cell populations, causing some tumors to behave more like complex ecological systems rather than simple out of control cell divisions.  In fact, some very basic ecology concepts you’ve learned in high school biology may be surprisingly similar to how researchers are beginning to view tumors today.

Why Do We Need Fats, Carbohydrates, and Proteins in our Diet?

Biomedical Sciences

By: Patrick Brown, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Program

USDA

USDA

There are an endless number of diet plans available today that purport to be the answer to all of our weight loss needs.

Most of them are based on calorie restriction or minimizing intake of one of the major macromolecules found in food – fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Probably the most famous example of this is the Atkins diet, which suggests you cut carbohydrates out of your diet and sustain yourself on protein and fat.

Although these diet systems have led to weight loss for many people, we should be careful about upsetting the balance of the macromolecules we ingest. After all, the body needs all of them to function properly.

War on Cancer: Tumor Relapse

Biomedical Sciences

By: Ross Keller, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

764px-Chemotherapy_vials_%281%29Chemotherapy is one of the most important aspects of cancer treatment. Although an undesirable, draining procedure, it has extended the lives many cancer patients over many decades.

However, there are significant limitations to drug therapy treatment for cancer. The biggest limitation is the fact that many tumors relapse (return) after treatment. Many don’t understand, however, why or how this happens. How does a tumor come back after it has been treated? And why do promising chemotherapy drugs usually cease to work after relapse?

How Does Animal Research Advance Medicine?

Biomedical Sciences

By: Ross Keller, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

Animal,Porkey Pig, Lobund-Wistar

A question was submitted to our blog asking: “How does animal research advance medicine?” It is an important question, and I will do my best to answer it.

The average human life expectancy has increased dramatically over the past 100 years. In 1900, most did not live past 50. Now, most will live to see their 75th birthday. This increase is largely due to advances in medicine that would not have been possible without animal research.

In fact, many scientific organizations as well as the World Health Organization and the United States Department of Health and Human Services estimate that animal research has played a part in almost every major medical advancement over the past century. This fact alone underscores the importance that animal research has played in medicine.

Despite all the benefits of animal research in advancing medicine, many opponents of animal research ask the question, “What gives humans the right to use another creature for our own advancement?” It’s true that this is not a question with an easy answer. Every person has his or her own values and is entitled to his or her own opinion on that question.

The War on Cancer: Targeted Therapy

Biomedical Sciences

By: Ross Keller, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

Glivec_400mg (1)In an earlier post, I outlined a potential roadmap for the War on Cancer. I stated that in order to win, we need to define the genetic components of a specific cancer and design treatments based on that component. This is called targeted therapy, and it has actually already been used with success in some cancers, including certain types of leukemia, lung cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma. But what makes a good targeted therapy?

The hallmarks of a good targeted therapy are: specificity, potency, and ability to keep a cancer from relapsing. The best targeted therapies will kill cancer cells only and will do it efficiently so a resistant tumor does not occur following treatment.

Our Emotional Gut

Biomedical Sciences

By: Alli Fries, 3rd year PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

4815843665_1f6330d395_oChances are you have heard it from others and felt it yourself!  One might experience that fluttery or squirmy feeling in their stomach in situations that trigger nervousness or fear, such as public speaking or climbing the first hill of an enormous roller coaster.  Others claim that they have “a pit in their stomach” in times of unbearable sadness, like the loss of a loved one.

These expressions relating emotional state and physical perception in the gut are commonplace and can be attributed to your body’s stress response.

You Can Get Involved!

Biomedical Sciences

3879955126_4417209ceb_oHey, readers! We want to hear from you!

In our new segment, “Ask a Scientist,” we’d like to answer your burning questions: don’t understand a scientific concept? Curious about life as a graduate student in the biomedical sciences?

Simply leave a comment on this post, or e-mail your question to lions-talk-science@psu.edu. A graduate student will address your query in a future blog!

We are also seeking guest blog posts from undergraduates who are conducting research in the biomedical sciences. What does your field already know about your work, and what are its bigger implications in medicine? For more information on how to contribute, visit the Contact page.

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