Showing posts with label scicomm. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scicomm. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scicomm. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scicomm. Show all posts

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Controversial Topic In Science 2: Alternative Medicine - 30 Day Blogging Challenge (Day 27)

For the second day, discussing a controversial topic in science I will be reviewing the efficiency of Alternative medicine.

But to what extent can we trust alternative medicine?

First of all, what is alternative medicine?

Alternative method contains the practice of: acupuncture, chiropractic and homeopathy. All of these techniques had not been proven by scientific methods.  

The reason why it’s so popular is due to the power of anecdotal evidence. For example, you can hear from a friend that alternative treatment helped improve their back pain. At first, this may seem as the treatment works and you’ll want to try it. But you have to remember that the experience of a single person doesn’t prove that a treatment works the same for everyone. Sometimes the body gets better on its own or via a placebo effect, giving rise to the “it worked for me” response and encouraging more people to follow in their footsteps.  


Contrary to what the popular opinion is about alternative medicine, there is a lot of new research proving that there are some methods used to combat pain using alternative medicine that are efficient and it’s been scientifically proven that they work.

One study, published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, looks at the effects of the so-called acupuncture meridian system (AMS) which is a key concept of Traditional Chinese Medical Science (TCMS). This is a natural network formed by the tissue space that connects human viscera and skin. In this study, a new hypothesis presents that the AMS is an auxiliary respiratory system. The AMS collects the CO2 that is produced by tissue supersession and that cannot be excreted via blood circulation, and discharges the CO2through the body's pores, consequently preventing a pressure increase in the internal environment. Therefore, local blood circulation will not be blocked, and the body will remain healthy. As well as neuroregulation and humoral regulation, AMS regulation is an important method of physiological regulation. 

Although some of the experimental data provided has evidence supporting their new hypothesis, further studies are needed to prove it. Besides, based on the existing data, AMS is expected to have a bright future.

Through another study, published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, acupuncture has been used to relieve cancer symptoms.  Small amount (21%) of patients reported nausea, which was significantly reduced after the first session, but not the last session. Reductions represented clinically meaningful differences in 33–41% of patients after the first session and in 41–53% of patients after the last session for all symptoms, except nausea. A small subset of patients (0–8%) reported worsening symptoms after acupuncture. The majority were satisfied with the treatment. 

 The Honest Placebo...

This may not be alternative medicine, because it is still under scientific trials, but this piece of new research opens many doors to understanding how the human body treats itself. Scientists (Ted Kaptchuk and Kevin Fontaine) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have found an amazing discovery with placebo pills.

Here’s what they did:

         I.       Find people in pain (in this case people with IBS-Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
      II.      Enrol them in the study
    III.     Admit to them, that they cannot do anything to help them
    IV.      Give half of the test group a placebo pill and the other half nothing.
      V.        Tell the participants exactly what they’re doing

The weirdest thing is: it works!!!! To everyone's surprise, the treated group (the ones who received the fake pills) reported twice as much improvement as the untreated control group (the ones who didn’t get any pills). We all know that placebo pills are used in chemical trials to see if the tested drug works, and that the participants in the study aren’t meant to know whether they are taking a placebo or not.  But in this trial the patients all knew that they were taking fake pills. A surprising discovery.

So how does it actually work?

"We believe there's some element of classical conditioning going on," Fontaine said. "Throughout your life, you take a pill and you see an effect. You take an aspirin, for instance, and it takes away your headache. There's an association there in your mind, and the idea is that the ritual of taking pills may actually produce a beneficial effect."
"We believe there's some element of classical conditioning going on," Fontaine said. "Throughout your life, you take a pill and you see an effect. You take an aspirin, for instance, and it takes away your headache. There's an association there in your mind, and the idea is that the ritual of taking pills may actually produce a beneficial effect."
Since their discovery, the scientists are now planning on trialling their “open-label” placebo technique on cancer survivors, to see if the results are the same with them.

"We want to see if we can make any difference in symptom severity," Hoenemeyer said.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Controversial Topics In Science 1: GMOs - 30 Day Blogging Challenge (Day 26)

Is it possible, that after years of controversy, between the public, that GMO’s are safe?

There are many people for or against GMOs, but mainly against. Even though the public are showered with incorrect, and sometimes dishonest, information about GMOs a.k.a genetically modified organisms, scientists and science writers are working to correct any misconceptions about GMOs to the public and eliminate misleading data.

What are GMOs?

GMO’s are plants or animals that have gone under genetic modification: where scientists alter their genes with DNA from different species of living organisms, bacteria or viruses to get desired traits such as resistance to disease or tolerance of pesticides. Such as: apples that have been genetically modified to be resistant to browning.

Studies about GMOs...

The results from a meta analysis (conducted by Wilhelm Klümper, Matin Qaim, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Georg-August-University of Goettingen, Germany),  studies the uncertainty about GM crop and reasons for public uncertainty. They found:

“On average, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries.”

This study gives sturdy evidence that GM crops have aided the reduction of the use of pesticides and benefited farmers.  The scientists hope that such evidence can “help to gradually increase public trust in this promising technology.

Because not all GMOs are safe, we need to have methods that help us distinguish between legal genetically modified (GM) foods and and illegal GM foods.  A study published in the journal of Food Chemistry has used an integrated “PCR-based DNA walking approach” which has recently been developed to identify unauthorised GMOs including a “pCAMBIA family cassette” that is frequently present in transgenic plants and the rice genome. After researching other methods and comparing them to their new approach, their suggested “DNA walking strategy” has been proven to be essential can easily prove, without significant additional cost and equipment, the presence of unauthorised GMOs in any given food/feed medium.

A study conducted in Ghent University states that: genetically modified crops with an increased vitamin and/or mineral content have a large potential to improve public health, but their availability for customers is still held back, as a result of negative public opinion. The research has recently published in the journal of Nature Biotechnology and it has demonstrated that these crops have a promising market potential.

Popular science have listed 10 myths and misunderstandings about GMO’s.  They aimed to clear up any misconceptions; including the claim that “All research on GMOs has been funded by Big Ag.” They prove that this isn’t true since there have been a lot of independent studies and also studies conducted by the WHO and they have all stated that the GMOs currently approved for market are safe.  They also disprove the myth that GMOs have caused an overuse of pesticides, when in actual fact GM crops have reduced the dependence on chemical insecticides.

We also have to remember that even without laboratory-based genetic modification to produce GMOs,  genetic modifications can occur naturally in organisms, albeit with a little bit of human interruption. Humans have been selectively breeding species of organisms with they’re desired traits (particularly in plants) such as better taste, yield or disease resistance.  

Fraudulent and bias discoveries...

A French microbiologist, named Gilles-Eric Séralini and several colleagues released the results of a long-term study in which rats were fed genetically modified corn that contains improved resistance to insects and/or the herbicide: glyphosate.  They took the extraordinary step of pre-releasing the paper to selected media outlets under a restriction on the condition that they sign a non-disclosure agreement; this prevented the journalists from seeking alternative scientific experts’ response to the journal and article. Then at a strategically planned media event they announced that their long-term studies found that the rats in experimental groups had developed tumours at an extremely fast rate.  After the media event, the news of their “discovery”, the news travelled around the world and the story “went viral.”

It turns out that the researcher’s utilised a strain of rats that were bred to develop tumours as they aged (a detail they failed to disclose along with many other essential details such as the rats’ food intake).  Considerably, mortality rates and tumour incidence in all experimental groups fall within historical norms for this strain of laboratory rats.  Therefore, the claim that the genetically engineered corn component of the diet or the herbicide caused the tumours is insupportable. They also failed to release all of the scientific data from all their experiments, which is not only scientific misconduct but also makes their research invalid and hard to trust.

Why are people against GMOs?

The majority of popular opinion about GMOs is negative. Even though there has been a lot of scientific research to prove that some GMOs are safe there’s still public unrest. So a team of Belgian philosophers and plant biotechnologists have turned to cognitive science/psychology to explain why there is strong opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and why it has become so prevalent, despite positive contributions GM crops have made to sustainable agriculture.  Their paper, published 10th April 2015 in Trends in Plant Science, argues that the human mind is very vulnerable to all the negative and often emotional representations put out by certain environmental groups and other opponents of GMOs. The scientists commented:

"For a very long time people have only been hearing one side," Blancke says. "Scientists aren't generally involved with the public understanding of GMOs, not to mention the science of GMOs is highly counterintuitive and therefore difficult to convey to a lay audience--so they have been at a disadvantage form the start."

"We want to bring the two sides more together," Blancke says. "You cannot say every GMO is bad. You have to look at each case separately to make a judgement."

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Thoughts on SciArt - 30 Day blogging Challenge (Day 24)

If you love both science and art, Twitter was a wonderful place to be last March.
#SciArt week, which officially ran from March 1st through the 7th, was initiated by Symbiartic bloggers Glendon Mellow, Kalliopi Monoyios and Katie McKissick, who encouraged science artists of all types of backgrounds to come together and tweet their work to the world. 

The product was a storm of scientific illustrations, paintings, sculptures and animations, that the Internet had never seen before. Their original goal was to get a total of 1600 #SciArt tweets a day but within the first 24 hours they managed to reach 4000 tweets of scientific illustrations and paintings and other artworks.

SciArt is a great way of representing science using art and photography. It also shows how beautiful science can be and encourage the love of science through art.

Although  #SciArt is overloaded with biology related artworks it needs more chemistry artworks. This could be due to the lack of popularity of the hash-tag and its intentions, even though its popularity is growing little by little every day.  

Come back tomorrow to see my favourite #SciArt submissions. 

Click here to read my introductory post about SciArt!

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Favourite Science Instagram Accounts - 30 Day blogging Challenge (Day 19)

Personally, I love instagram. Its great for sharing images be it in the lab or personal interests. Here's a list of my favourite science Instragram accounts, hope you like them and if there's someone I've missed out, comment below and tell me about them.

1- From the Lab Bench
The account of Paige Brown Jarreau - She's recently completed a PhD in science communication and she blogs about science communication & her research. But Paige's instagram is filled with her beautiful photography such as this blue bird here.

2- PopSci
This is the account of the popular science website: Popular Science, who post about the "latest science, tech and futuristic nerdery"

This is the account of the popular science blog: WIRED, who post about the science, technology and everything in between.

This account goes by the saying "Science is Art" and their instagrm is full of colourful images, such as this one of neurons and stem cells. Go to CellPress' instagram page to find out the story behind the image.

5- ASAP Science
This is the account of the popular science YouTube channel: ASAP Science, who have almost reached a staggering 4 million subscribers! They post a "weekly dose of interesting science" through videos and photos.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Favourite Science Quote: 30 Day Blogging Challenge (Day 9)

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less."

- Marie Curie 

I personally love this quote because it encourages everyone to learn. Just because you've stopped studying doesn't mean you should stop learning. You can learn new things in different ways, and the more you learn the more you understand the world around you. 

I see science communication as a means of getting people who may not know a lot about science to understand it more. 

Science communication is a great way to communicate science with everyone with the latest advances of science and also a way of diminishing any myths or misunderstandings people may have about science and health. 

<<Click here to find out more about Marie Curie>>

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Saturday, June 06, 2015

The Future Blogging goals: 30 Day Blogging Challenge (Day 6)

Crystals and Catalysts was launched in August 2014 which makes it almost 1 years old! 

I think everyone who starts a blog thinks that they'll be lucky if they even get 10 readers in a day. And that's what I thought when I first started writing and creating this blog. 

My future goals for my blog:

  1. I hope to make more infographics for my posts  
  2. Find a more effective blog theme which is  more user friendly
  3. Complete the 30 day challenge without missing a day
  4. Aim to reach 1 million page views by the end of this year
  5. Aim to post more in a week

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Friday, June 05, 2015

The Future Goals: 30 Day Blogging Challenge (Day 5)

When someone asks me where do you see yourself in 10 years, I have to take a minute to actually think about the future. 
I prefer to focus on the present and planning the present and leaving the future to fall into place. However with that being said, I aspire to pursue a career in science writing.   
Science writing is away of communicating science in ways to everyone no matter what their educational background is. Even though I love lab research and conducting my own research project, I love science communication & journalism even more and I hope that one day I'll be writing for a large and respectable science magazine such as Chemistry World / Nature / New Scientist. 

What are your plans for the future? Comment below...

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Thursday, June 04, 2015

The University Project - 30 Day Blogging Challenge (Day 4)

This post is different because I wont be discussing someone else's research, I am discussing my own research. My final year project at university. 

What was my project about?

The Synthesis of a derivative of Montiporyne E. The aim of the project was to find a simple, fast and effective method of reactions to produce a derivative of Montiporyne E potential anti-cancer drug.

Cancer is caused when cells replicate abnormally and rapidly to form tumours. This is because the cell does not undergo apoptosis (the normal programmed cell death) and therefore these affected cells continue to multiply uncontrollably. 

Montiporyne E is derived from a hard coral, named Montipora SpHard corals have been found to produce cytotoxic, acetylenic compounds. It is used in the treatments of solid tumour cells. The extraction from hard coral is expensive, laborious and also hard coral is on the verge of extinction, therefore a more effective method of production was required.
Montiporyne E
The reaction scheme for the production of the derivative of Montiporyne E

My Step-By-Step Method:

Step 1 :

  1. • 3-ethoxy-2 cylohexone was dissolved in THF and Grignard reagent was added dropwise, in a nitrogen atmosphere and continuous stirring for 30 minutes.

Step 2 - The Oxime Reaction:

  1. •3-methyl- 2 cyclohexenone (product from step 1), hydroxylamine hydrochloride and sodium hydroxide were added in a round bottomed flask and stirred for 1 and a half to 2 hours.
  2. • The product was then extracted using diethyl ether and then neutralised with Glacial acetic acid
  3. • This was then dried with Magnesium sulphate and further dried on a rotary evaporator.

    Step 3 - The Beckmann rearrangement - Ring expansion (from a 6 -7 membered ring)

  1.       The oxime (from step 2), was added to toluene in a two necked Round Bottomed Flask with a magnetic stirrer and attached to condenser and heated to 90°C.
  2.       Chlorosulfonic acid was added dropwise to the mixture.
  3.       The reaction was left stirring for half an hour then cooled to room temperature. 
  4.       After the mixture cooled, Sodium hydroxide (—NaOH) was added to the mixture, dropwise to neutralise the product. 

Step 1: Production of 3-methyl-2-cyclohexanone

Step 2: Oxime reaction
Step 3: Beckmann Rearrangement 

What would I have done differently ?

In the beginning of my project I found out that if I was successful in finishing the project on time, I could have an opportunity to test my final product on cells (in the biology labs) to test my product for its cytotoxicity. So my goal for the whole year was based around making the final product.  Unfortunately I couldn't test it in the biology labs because there was an earlier deadline for application.

It would have been better if I had more time dedicated to the project so I could have focused on each of the separate reactions to find one that gave the best yield and better method of purification. 

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Monday, June 01, 2015

30 Day Science Blog Challenge (Day 1)

There are so many challenges similar to this for other niches of blogs, but not for science blogs. So I have decided to make one for science bloggers. The aim of the 30-day challenge is to post every day for the next 30 days with the topics given in the infographic below. They are light, fun topics where you'll be able to get to know me more and more about my blog and other thoughts too.

So I am starting the 30-day science blogging challenge as of 1st June 2015 till 30th June 2015! I will be posting 30 days & on each day there will be a different topic.  

If you're a science blogger or thinking of becoming one then join the challenge!

Click to enlarge!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Please Read... Just A Little Notice

***********UPDATED*********** 29/05/2015

The 30 Day Science Blog Challenge will commence on the 1st of June 2015.

30 Days. 30 Topics. A challenge in a month.


As many of you have seen, I was starting the 30 Day Science Blogging Challenge and I had hoped I would be able to post for 30 consecutive days during May 2015. However due to unforeseen circumstances and technical difficulties I am not able to keep up with the daily posting so I have postponed the challenge till June 2015. Sorry if this disappoints anyone.

I am also thinking of trying to find a better theme/template for my blog with a better user interface. Your thoughts about the current theme would be appreciated!

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