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What We're Reading

Hello readers! As we are in the middle of reading-week the BMSA Communications team has summarized some articles that we think might peak your interest and give you something to read when you need a break from the books. Here is what we are reading:

Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

Contributor Claire Millard 

There may be a way to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Through studies conducted by Dr. Isaacson, a doctor at an Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic in New York, encouraging results have showed that simply a change in diet, exercise, and other life-style choices can improve cognition and delay the symptom onset of Alzheimer’s disease. From his research, correlations between body fat, muscle mass, and brain structure were shown in participants.In particular, earlier intervention was shown to have a greater impact on delaying deficits. Dr. Isaacson now recommends personalized prevention plans including guidelines for diet, exercise, sleep patterns, and stress management as a way to improve the course of disease. Although this may not be a ‘magic bullet’ for Alzheimer’s, it is a promising finding for delaying cognitive deterioration -a detrimental progression in the course of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Courtesy of Nautilus

Contributor Ramtin Hakimjavadi

There is something fundamentally different about athletes competing at the highest levels. Lebron James in the NBA, Tom Brady in the NFL, Jon Jones in the UFC - these individuals are the outliers among outliers. Putting hard work and dedication aside, what truly separates these elite performers from the rest is their genetic makeup - the A’s, T’s, G’s, and C’s in their DNA that make them genetic outliers. An article in Nautilus magazine examines some legends in the history of sports - Usain Bolt and Shaquille O’Neal, among others - and how they dominated their peers. Genetically speaking, Shaq, Bolt, and other elite athletes are products of the random recombination of genetic variants. There is no single gene for running faster or jumping higher. Athletic performance is a complex trait - a product of many additive effects from a plethora of genetic variants. As we better understand how genetic variants contribute to complex variants, and with the emergence of gene editing, what kind of athletic freaks could genetic engineers produce? With the revolutionary gene editing tool called CRISPR - a technology capable of editing the genomes of cells - only time will tell. Today, the emergence of genetic outliers in athletic performance is restricted to a completely random search process paired with athletic programs capable of discovering and nurturing these talents. CRISPR-related gene editing technologies - currently only approved for clinical trials for medical applications - could push the boundaries of athleticism with designer humans. Take a dive into this article to learn about the history of human athleticism, and where gene editing can take it in the future.

Courtesy of The New York Times

Contributor Simi Juriasingani 

In a world where multidrug resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance are growing concerns, novel strategies to combat bacterial infections are critical for the future of agriculture and healthcare. This article summarizes how CRISPR, a DNA editing tool, has been used to eliminate Salmonella enterica, a bacterial species that causes food-borne illnesses. Dr. David Edgell, a professor at Western University, and his team have programmed CRISPR-associated enzyme Cas 9 to make the S. enterica bacterium view itself as the enemy and make lethal cuts to its own genome. This approach represents a novel and highly specific manner of targeting  bacteria and is also being used to eliminate other microorganisms, such as viruses. It will be interesting to see how research in this field progresses over the next decade and whether this approach can be translated for use in animals and humans. 

Courtesy of The Conversation

Contributor Si-Cheng Dai

There’s always a rational explanation for the wildest of phenomena — scientists took this ideato heart in the Victorian Era in an attempt to squander the frenetic ramblings about ghosts and visions that ran rampant in the mid to late 19th century. This article explores the results of these scientists’ undertakings, covering the ideomotor effect and the role of the subconscious. And undertakings they were; these pioneering researchers had to risk their reputations while attempting to surface the truth. Still, if there’s one thing they should have known, it’s that superstitions will always frequent the human mind; even today, the influence of the supernatural remains, undaunted.

Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

Contributor Vicky Chang

In this day and age, technological advancement is only speeding up, and the expansion of AI in different fields is no exception. Governed by algorithms, some experts would even go as far as to say that AI has the potential to remake health care, from feeding data to algorithms that identify patterns leading to diagnosis to guiding robots through surgery. Suffice it to say, we live in a world of algorithms. Given the potential future impact and the impact AI undoubtedly already wields, there reasonably exists concern regarding the ethical ramifications of such algorithms. This is precisely what The Wall Street Journal digs into by hosting an email conversation between experts. However, what I found especially interesting was that this correspondence was not between experts of technology and AI, but rather between professors at Harvard Law and UC Berkeley, two experts on health policy sharing their perspective on the matter. Their fears and predictions provide a deep dive into the surprisingly vast ramifications of AI in healthcare, a terrific topic to take some time to learn about.

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