Hello BMSA blog readers!
The team is back with some of our favourite reads from this week. We’ve read about some groundbreaking discoveries with autism research, explored the possibility of freezing to death in London’s cruel, cruel weather and continued the conversation about mental health.
We suggest you check out the full articles, but as always, we’ve summarized them for you.
Autism involves a large-scale reduction in RNA editing
Contributor Claire Millard
At her lab at University of California, Los Angeles, Xinshu Xiao studied the role of RNA processing and editing as a cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). By examining donated postmortem brains of people with autism against a control group, and by focusing on the areas of the brain with increased susceptibility to ASD, researchers found that RNA editing was decreased in these areas. These areas are critical for synapse formation.
Along with the decrease in RNA processing, many genes important in infant brain development and linked to neurotransmitters, such as glutamate, were affected in these regions of the brain.
Xiao discovered two proteins, one of which has reduced levels in those with ASD, called FMRP1. The other protein she found was FXR1P, and was determined to be the cause of an inherited neurological disorder called Fragile X Syndrome. Fragile X is characterized by cognitive impairments, and about half of those with the inherited syndrome also have ASD.
From this research, we can conclude that RNA editing plays a major role in neurodevelopmental disorders, and we can say that genetics is a major determining factor in Autism Spectrum Disorder — just not in a very straightforward way.
How Does a Person Freeze to Death?
Contributor Michelle Li
This past week we’ve experienced bitter cold temperatures similar to the Arctic, which has definitely left a lot of us feeling like we could “freeze to death”. There are the obvious health concerns that can arise, such as hypothermia and frostbite, when drastically low temperatures hit us. Hypothermia occurs more often in severe weather conditions when your core body temperature dips below thirty five degrees Celsius.
However, frostbite can occur at less severe weather conditions because it doesn’t take as much to drop your body’s peripheral temperature — factors that lead to frostbite. In this article, learn about the causes of hypothermia and frostbite, how it affects our body temperature and organ functioning, as well as how our body protects us against the cold.
The Emotional Toll of Grad School
Contributor Vivian Cheng
Bell Let’s Talk Day may have passed, but that doesn’t mean we should stop the conversation about mental health. With so many of us gunning for grad school, it’s important to remember to check in with our well-being now, and in the future when we’re in our respective programs. This article talks about a Harvard research study that concludes that grad students are three times as likely to suffer from a mental illness, delves into the structure of grad school (one that is mostly research-based) and discusses the reasons people have when it comes to pursuing these programs. Read this article to find out more.