Author Archives: Jasmine Mitchell

About Jasmine Mitchell

I study science.

The Endeavour’s final excursion through Los Angeles

This past weekend, the last American space shuttle, the Endeavour, made its final trip through the streets of Los Angeles to the California Science Center.


The trip lasted from midnight Friday morning until midday Sunday as the shuttle traveled at the high speeds of two miles per hour.  There were many delays and the shuttle reached its destination 17 hours after expected.  Trees were cut down, street lights were removed, and power was temporarily shut down to make way for the Endeavour.  This voyage was estimated at about $10 million spent.  As expensive and annoying as this parade through Los Angeles was, it still remains as a once in a lifetime experience that will be remembered through these streets.

 

Ladies, Drink Up!

Red wine.

Everyone has heard of the proposed “magic” of red wine. Perhaps it is good for your heart; maybe it protects the prostate.  Despite all of these rumored benefits of red wine, few studies have actually been able to support and explain how and why red wine is so beneficial.  Recent studies have shown that the regular intake of red wine may also decrease the risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women.

 

That’s right, drinking red wine decreases the risk of breast cancer.

 

As unbelievable as this might be, there is some legitimate research behind this statement.  A study headed by Chrisandra Shufelt was performed to test the effects of red wine on estrogen levels.  Increased estrogen levels have been related to an increased incidence of breast cancer in women.  Estrogen may play a role in breast cancer development due to 1) its role in stimulating breast cell division 2) its role during the critical periods of breast growth and development, and 3) its effect on other hormones that stimulate breast cell division.

 

Hormone levels in 36 women averaging age 36 were tested.  Some were given red wine (2003 Cabernet Sauvignon) while others were given white (2003 Chardonnay) for the first cycle and then switched for the second cycle.  The subjects were not allowed to drink any other alcoholic beverages during the test.  They were instructed to drink 8 ounces of the assigned wine in the evening with food for 21 days.  Blood was tested during the menstruation.

 

Those that had been drinking the red wine had higher free testosterone and luteinizing hormone levels, and lower sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) than those drinking the white wine.  This means that the estrogen levels were lower in those individuals that had been regularly drinking the red wine.

 

Shufelt’s explanation?  Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) prevent the conversion of androgens (another sex hormone) to estrogen.  AIs have been identified in the skins and seeds of red grapes, but not in white grapes.

 

So the AIs present in the grapes used to make red wine inhibit the production of estrogen.  Thus, estrogen levels are lower and there is a decrease in its associated risk for breast cancer development.

 

The risks still have to be weighed before “Drink More Red Wine” can be considered a legitimate suggestion in the quest to prevent breast cancer.  Nevertheless, ladies (and gents… you can get breast cancer too due to increased estrogen levels) drink up.

(This is not PROVEN. This simply reflects recent scientific findings.)

Increase Your Memory… With a Pill?

What if you could increase your ability to remember with a pill?  This may not be an idea just for science fiction novels.  Scientists have discovered a method that could strengthen long-term memories.

A protein called PKR functions to maintain a relatively low level of excitability by enhancing GABA synaptic transmission.  GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter; it decreases synaptic stimuli by flowing from one synapse to another.  PKR increases GABA flow, which is known to be a crucial part of memory association.

Scientists turned off the genes in mice responsible for the creation of PKR and tested the results of GABA function.  The mice’s ability to recall memories was tested in a Morris water maze.  This pretty much consists of a big container of water that has platforms hidden in it.  The researchers show the mice where the platform is and the mice are tested on their ability to remember and locate it.

The mice that didn’t have the PKR protein were significantly better at remembering where the platforms were as compared to the normal mice that did have the PKR protein.

So, it may be a long way off, but this could be a key target in helping patients with disorders associated with long-term memory loss (i.e. Alzheimer’s disease).  An injection or pill that inhibited PKR could be administered to help increase the ability to recall memories.  Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be released to the general public (as much as all of us students would LOVE that).

Picture source