Research Roundup (Fall ’14, Week 0)

Every week our Research Editors highlight a few of the latest headlines in science news and explain why these pieces are interesting and applicable to our classes at UC San Diego. If you find an engaging science article, share it with us on our Facebook page and your highlight may just be featured!
Early Sign of Pancreatic Cancer Identified By Researchers | Science Daily

Scientists discovered that an increase of certain amino acids occurs before the symptoms of pancreatic cancer appear. Through experimentation on mice, it was discovered that mice with newly formed pancreatic tumors had an above-average amount of certain amino acids in their blood. It was found to be the consequence of the breakdown of muscle tissue, which results in branded amino acids being released into the bloodstream.

If you are interested in drug function and metabolism, consider taking Biology of Cancer (BIMM 134).

– Neil Srinivas | Jr. Research Editor


New Drug-Delivery Capsule May Replace Injections | Science Daily

Many drugs cannot be given as pills because they are broken down in the stomach prior to absorption. To bypass this obstacle, researchers developed a drug capsule that is coated with minuscule needles that are able to directly inject drugs into the stomach lining. The researchers discovered that the use of microneedles increases the speed of the desired effect. When researchers injected mice with insulin using this process, they found that the reduction in the blood glucose level was much faster and occurred in larger amounts when compared to an injection.

If you are interested in drug function and metabolism, consider taking Pharmacology (BIMM 118).

– Neil Srinivas | Jr. Research Editor


Tiny Lights Could Illuminate Brain Activity | Scientific American

Scientists have created a technique using points of red light to scan brain activity. This method utilizes diffuse optical tomography (DOT) by shining multiple red lights on the person’s scalp. The red light reflects off the red hemoglobin in blood, leaving other tissues unaffected, and bounces back, providing scientists with an image of blood flow in the brain. This method is cheaper and more portable than functional MRI (fMRI) procedures and has great potential in studying brain function in subjects with Parkinson’s disease and autism.

If you are interested in neurobiology, consider taking Systems Neurobiology (BIPN 142).

– Jasmine Chau | Sr. Research Editor


Yeast Coaxed to Make Morphine | Scientific American

Yeast is an easily-grown organism that may be the key to creating morphine with fewer challenges than traditional methods. Morphine is derived from opium poppies and used to treat severe pain; however, it is difficult to produce. Scientists introduced opium poppy genes into yeast cells and adjusted enzyme levels, creating yeast that produces morphine when fed a chemical called thebaine.

If you are interested in drug production, consider taking Pharmacology (BIMM 118).

– Jasmine Chau | Sr. Research Editor