Toucan Play That Game

A blog about life...literally

All About Caffeine

75% of children and adolescents from ages 6-19 use caffeine on a daily basis. More than 85% of all adults in America use it daily. We all rely on this drug, but how does it work and what might be some of the repercussions of its consumption? How much is considered safe for the average adult?

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Written by Lucas L.| Tagged | Leave a Comment

Enzymes and Coronavirus

So what is COVID-19 also known as the Coronavirus? COVID-19 is an infectious moderate respiratory illness that is caused by the new coronavirus which emerged in China. It has led to a pandemic infecting more than 36 million people. Its genome sequence is related to SARS-CoV-2 and was not made artificially. Here is a short video about COVID-19. Enzymes are proteins that speed up chemical reactions in the body and they act as a catalyst by lowering the activation energy. So how are enzymes and COVID-19 related? The enzymes work with COVID-19 to replicate and weaken certain organs and systems. Knowing how these enzymes work, it can help researchers develop a cure. Let’s find out how.

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Written by Sree N.| Tagged | Leave a Comment

Ancient Volcanoes Once Boosted Ocean Carbon, But Humans Are Now Far Outpacing Them

Imagine yourself as a sea creature 55 million years ago, when there was no human race and all you worried about was the bigger predators swimming around you. Unfortunately that was wrong, about most sea creatures during this time period called Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) also had to worry about some pretty bad emission gases. Researchers have always been aware of these big deposits of gas at this time but have never been able to confidently say what the source was. Researchers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have finally understood that these massive emissions were coming from volcanic eruptions.

When volcanoes erupt they emit large amounts of carbon dioxide, which at this prehistoric time was the only massive deposits of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere and sea. The combustion of surrounding sedimentary rocks, and methane welling up from the depths also contributes to the emissions getting released straight from the eruption. When carbon emissions get released, the main and most important contributor to absorbing the gas is the vast ocean. Atmospheric levels would be ridiculously high if the ocean did not absorb so much carbon emissions. When the ocean absorbed all these gases 55 million years ago, it turned the ocean very acidic. To the point where countless numbers of ocean species became extinct because of the unlivable conditions. Multiple evidence shows that this process killed off deep-sea life and other crucial marine life.

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Plastic Eating Enzymes

Whether it’s stopping the use of plastic straws or only using reusable water bottles, people everywhere are looking to find easy and efficient ways to stop the growth of plastic in our oceans and landfills. Professor John McGeehan, Director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth, and Dr Gregg Beckham, Senior Research Fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the US, took on the challenge of finding a new way to slow down the production of plastic waste, and made an important scientific discovery. When discussing the effects of PETase and MEHTase enzymes on the decomposition of plastic separately, Professor McGeehan said it just made sense to put them together to mimic what would happen in nature, and their results were very exciting.

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Perilous Prions

PDB 1dx0 EBI
Image from Wikimedia Commons of a prion

Our cells make proteins constantly. Each day our bodies produce millions and millions of proteins that help our bodies function. Proteins do so much for our bodies- they accelerate chemical reactions, provide structure, protect against disease, help the cell respond to stimuli, and transport substances.There is no debate that proteins are vital to our daily existence, so that begs the question- what happens when proteins don’t function like they are supposed to?

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Written by Amy W.| Tagged | Leave a Comment

Why Does the Severity of COVID-19 Vary So Much?

When COVID-19 first hit Wuhan, China, no one knew it would become a global pandemic and that our lives would change so drastically. At first, we didn’t know how contagious or dangerous the virus was. We weren’t sure why some people were asymptomatic, and why some people died. We have yet to grasp how it entirely works, but two new studies explain why COVID-19 cases can vary so much.

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How Stress and Anxiety Can Cause Major Health Issues In Our Immune System

We have all either been in a conversation or heard a conversation that sounds something like this; “I-iii I’m not sttttressed about anything right now, at all, wh- why would you even ask muh-me?!?!” says person number one, talking in a super loud, fast-paced tone, with his eyes looking in all different directions. “Well you seem stressed,” person number 2 says fidgeting their hands and pacing back and forth across the room, “I was looking out for you, but I have to go now. I have practice, work, make dinner, I have 6 hours of homework, 4 tests tomorrow, and mow my lawn, and wash my car, walk my dog, brush my teeth, wash my face, and, and, and…!!”. This simple example shows the basic impact stress and anxiety have on our ability to function normally, even as something as having a basic conversation with a friend. Biologists and Researchers have confirmed that stress and anxiety have a direct correspondence to the immune system.

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Written by Ethan H.| Tagged | Leave a Comment

We Are Closer to Implementing Gene Drives in the Wild Now Than Ever Before

For generations, scientists alongside citizens have been discussing the pros and cons to the widespread use of gene drives in the wild. Because of recent additions to genetic engineering technology, gene drives are more conducive in the wild because now scientists have mechanisms to better control them.

Gene drives are technology used on DNA, ensuring that certain genes will get passed onto offspring, ultimately altering a population’s genes. In the 1950s and 1960s, gene drives, such as the sterile insect technique, terminated certain cattle pests, ultimately saving billions of American dollars and reducing the need for insecticides. Currently, gene drive technology consists of the Cas9 enzyme, which cuts the genetic material, CRISPR technology, which indicates to the Cas9 enzyme where to cut the DNA, and the gene sequence that scientists want to replace the original sequence with. When two organisms mate and the gene drive technology is implemented in one parent, some of the genes in the natural chromosome are cut by Cas9 and replaced by the advantageous genes. Naturally, the cell tries to repair the altered chromosome, but only has the chromosome from the other parent, with the gene drive, to model off of. This results in two chromosomes with the gene drive in it, so the offspring have a 100 percent chance of getting the gene drive. Over time, this alters a species, in turn changing the ecosystem, affecting the living and nonliving parts of it.

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Written by Elizabeth B.| Tagged | Leave a Comment

Does Brain Size Matter in Animals?

It is often assumed that brain size corresponds to intelligence levels. However, recent studies have found contradicting evidence. Researchers at the German Primate Center in Gottingen investigated the relationship between the cognitive skills of lemurs (a species known to be the evolutionary connection between older primates and other mammals) and their relative brain size. They concluded that the relationship was not found and could not be generalized.

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Blog Carnival: The Effects of Blue Light

With the increasing popularity of blue light glasses and the increased amount of time many students are spending in front of screens I thought it would be interesting to research the effects of blue light and if blue light glasses work.

Blue Light and Our Bodies

This blog post takes an easy to understand look into blue light. The article starts by explaining light as energy and explains wavelengths of light. From this part of the article the reader can learn that blue light has a short wavelength and this is easy to understand from the explanation and two diagrams in the article. After explaining wavelengths, the article goes into “Blue light as a friend” and “Blue light as an enemy”. In the section on the positives of blue light the reader learns about how blue light can help babies with jaundice by breaking down the bilirubin chemical buildup that babies with jaundice can’t break down by themselves. In the section about the negative effects of blue light, the author talks about how blue light can break down melatonin the same way it can break down bilirubin. The problem with breaking down melatonin is that this hormone helps with our sleep cycle and when it gets broken down by blue light that can cause negative effects to our sleep.

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