What are GMOs and how are they made?
Emma Corcoran, Max Fridberg, Zoe Greenburg, Sophie Kidd-Myers, Julie Kim
Walking around the supermarket, you might see stickers and signs stating that a fruit or vegetable is “non-GMO”. There is mystery and controversy surrounding these products having to do with everything from biology to ecology to economy. But, what does GMO actually mean? GMO stands for genetically modified organism, which commonly refers to genetically engineered food. Under the current definition, 70% of food in the United States is genetically modified. We eat a lot of it, and so do our livestock. But what are genetically modified organisms and how are they made? Humans have been genetically modifying plants and animals since the beginning of agriculture through a process called selective breeding. The DNA sequence of an organism changes slightly with each new generation, and this sequence determines how a plant will look and taste. Occasionally mutations in the sequence will produce a new beneficial trait. By selecting seeds from plants with the best traits over generations, humans breed better crops. Beginning in the 1920’s, instead of waiting for desirable mutations to arise, scientists started bombarding seeds with X-ray radiation to speed up the process. But, which mutations appeared were still random and uncontrolled. The plants produced through this method are NOT currently defined as genetically modified organisms, but ARE sold in supermarkets across the country. If a crop produced from radiation mutation is not a GMO, then what is? GMO’s are made when humans transfer a DNA fragment from one organism into the genome of another organism. For example, there are genes that make tomatoes red, or corn yellow. The transfer can happen between plants of the same species or plants of different species. Scientists rely on two established methods for this process the first method uses Agrobacterium tumefaciens (toomahfayshuns), a type of soil-dwelling bacteria that has evolved to insert a piece of its own DNA into plant cells. First, scientists isolate the gene they wish to transfer, then, that DNA is moved into the agrobacteria with electric pulses and the bacteria multiply. next, they dip a bud of a plant into the Agrobacteria, which inserts the gene into the plant’s DNA. the second method uses gene guns Gene guns work by loading tiny gold particles coated with genes into a gun. The gold particles are shot into plant tissue, where the DNA moves into the nucleus. The newly inserted DNA is transcribed and translated into new proteins each of which will alter that organism’s unique characteristics. An individual protein will contribute to the expression of a particular trait such as size or color. Compared to waiting generations and generations for a mutation to occur, genetic engineering is useful because it can introduce beneficial changes extremely quickly. For example, Scientists can select a specific trait from a species, like drought resistance in mustard plants, and transfer it to any other species of plant, like corn. Next time you see “GMO” labelling in the supermarket, you’ll know exactly how they are made.
Beth Dubois, Bo Kim, Joanne Lin, Deepti Menon
Grandfather: Hey Leo! Ready to take care of these weeds?
Leo: …sure grampa …
G: What’s the matter, Leo? Gardening is one of your favorite things to do! Our garden looks great this year!
L: Yeah… it’s just… I wish mom was here to help us...
G: Yeah, me too, but she’ll be back soon, she’s just at the doctor’s right now.
L: I hate the doctors. Why does mom have to go there so often? When I was sick, I only went once! And I was fine after a week!
G: Well your mom doesn’t just have a cold. She has cancer, which affects her body differently, and takes more time to get rid of.
L: Can I catch the cancer?
G: No, Leo, nobody can “catch” cancerit starts inside teeny tiny pars of your body called cells. Think of each cell like one flower in our garden. Like the flowers, it’s normal for old cells to die and new cells to grow. But sometimes, there’s a mistake in the cycle, and one of the new cells doesn’t act normally. Think of this “bad cell” like a weed in our garden. When there’s only one or two, it’s not that hard for the body to take care of them. But, when there are too many bad cells, they become a problem, and we call it cancer.
L: So mom has too many bad cells?
G: Yes, but there are lots of ways the doctors can help her, and they will use as many as they need to make her better.
L: Like what?
G: If the cancer is all bunched together, it’s called a tumor. Sometimes, the doctors can remove a tumor with surgery.
G: Yeah, surgery is like pulling out a big patch of weeds from our garden. If you take all the cancer cells out, they won’t be able to hurt you anymore.
L: Why doesn’t mom get surgery then? Why doesn’t everybody with cancer get surgery?
G: Well, sometimes the cancer cells aren’t all close together. Another treatment doctors use is called chemotherapy, or chemo for short.
L: What’s that?
G: Chemotherapy is kind of like our weed spray. It’s a medicine you get at the hospital that flows through your whole body and attacks the cancer cells. However, since it can’t always tell the difference between good and bad cells, there can be some unusual side effects. For example, a person’s hair might fall outbut, once they’re done with chemo, it will grow back.
L: Are there any other ways?
G: Yeah, another one is called radiation therapy. With radiation, doctors figure out exactly where the tumor is, then zap it with powerful beams of energy to weaken their growth. Sometimes, all these treatments can make the person feel more tired and sick than before. They might throw up, or not want to eat their favorite foods, but this is normal, and they will get better soon.
L: But I don’t want mom to be tiredI want to play with her now!
G: I know, me too. But, you can still play checkers or watch movies together! She loves you just as much now as she always has.
L: Will she ever want to garden with us again?
G: Of course, Leo, your mom will always want to garden with you. For a lot of people that have cancer, after a few months of treatment, their cancer will go into remission. Remission means that the body is fighting the cancer well enough by itself that the person can live like it’s not even there! Other times, cancer can stay with them for much longer, but in all cases it’s important to share as much love and support as you can.
L: Like taking care of their garden for them?
G: yes, like taking care of their garden. How does it look, Leo?
L: Almost done! Do you think we could bring some flowers to mom when we pick her up today?
G: I think that’s a great idea
Neuroscience of Meditation
Marilyn Bravo, Nayon Cho, Alexandra Kaye, Henry Langton, Oscar Robert
“...Steve? Steve? Steve!!”
Steve: “ huh... what??”
Grandpa John: “What’s on your mind Steve?”
Steve: “I keep thinking about this girl ignoring me at school, I can’t get it out of my mind and it’s really bothering me.“
Grandpa John: “I’ve got a good trick for that. Come over here, sit down.”
Grandpa John: “Close your eyes, and keep your back straight... Focus on the feeling of your breath…”
Steve: “Hey grandpa, what’re you doing with that flashlight?”
Steve: “… what’re we doing this for Grandpa John?”
Grandpa John: “What we’re doing right now is called meditation. If you feel yourself getting distracted by other things, try to gently bring your attention back to your breath. This is the basis of meditation.”
Do you notice how those negative feelings seem to go away?”
Steve: “Yeah sort of…”
Grandpa John: “Let’s take a look at why that is the case…"
Steve: “What’re you doing?!”
Grandpa John: “Don’t worry Steve, it’s just an animation."
Your brain is full of neural networks that allow you to think. There’s one network called the Default Mode Network that causes you to concentrate on your feelings and memories whenever you aren’t focused on anything else. (Scientists call it that because it’s the “default” state of your brain.) This network is made up of four areas of your brain that link together. (hippocampus) One area brings up your memories. Two make you actively aware of these memories, and the last one keeps them there, so that they linger in your mind. The reason why you can’t stop thinking about that girl is because this network is overactive.
“As you focus your attention on your breath, the default mode network is switched off, and the Task Positive Network takes its place. The Task Positive Network is a group of brain areas that work together to maintain your attention. They take your focus away from your recurring thoughts of the Default Mode Network, and put it to the task at hand. These two networks can’t be active at the same time, since you can’t be focused and distracted at the same time. Practicing meditation can actually make your brain change. It can weaken the Default Mode Network and strengthen the Task Positive Network.
So as you meditate more and more, you will notice that instead of getting stuck thinking about one memory, you can live in the present moment.
So how are you feeling now?”
Steve: “...I feel a little better... thanks Grandpa John”
Grandpa John: “Now let’s have dinner and I’ll teach you how to talk to girls!"
Eileen Kim, Esther Kim, Viet Nguyen
Cat: You alright there Jimmy?
Cat: Right, right. How silly of me. You can’t talk!
Jimmy: AHH! What is going on? What’s happening to me? Why can’t I move? Who are you? I don’t have a cat… Also wait- how are you talking?
Cat: Calm down Jimmy. You’re just having an episode of sleep paralysis.
Jimmy: I have a sleep parasite?
Cat: Paralysis! It’s when you are conscious during sleep, but unable to move. It’s the inbetween of wakefulness and sleep. Here--
Jimmy: How do you fit into sleep paralysis? Is this part of it? When does it stop?
Cat: Don’t interrupt me Jimmy. We’ll get to that. Here, let’s take a look at what’s happening in your body.
Jimmy: Woah, How’d you do that?
Cat: Anything can happen when you dream Jimmy. What are the main things that you notice about this experience?
Jimmy: Well, I can’t move, I have trouble breathing, I feel like I’m in a constant state of fear and well… there’s you.
Cat: Let’s start out with the paralysis part. Why does this happen? As surprising as it may sound, muscle paralysis is actually a normal part of the sleep process. During the last stage, REM (AKA the Rapid Eye Movement Stage of Sleep), the brain stem releases a chemical signal that paralyzes the body by inhibiting cells that are responsible for motion. That’s why you can’t move.
Jimmy: That’s literally terrifying. But also, why would you want that? Doesn’t that make you more vulnerable during sleep?
Narrator: Actually it makes perfect sense. REM is also when our dreams occur. If it weren’t for this mechanism, you’d act out all of your dreams.
Jimmy: Oh! I remember this from class. It’s called muscle atonia right?
Narrator: Yes Jimmy. Now, you said you’re having trouble breathing?
Jimmy: Mhm. I feel a shortness of breath. Like I’m gasping for air.
Narrator: This happens because while you sleep, you have very little voluntary control of your breathing. So, when you’re awake during sleep paralysis and try to breathe, it can feel like you’re choking or suffocating.
Jimmy: This just gets worse doesn’t it?
Cat: Don’t be so dramatic. Now, what about little old me! What is causing you to see me? The secondary visual cortex. This area of the brain is responsible for the visual components of dreams. Its activated in REM sleep and remains activated during sleep paralysis….
Jimmy: -- which is why I’m seeing you now! RIght? You’re the visual part of REM sleep.
Cat: Mhm. Now this feeling of fear you’re talking about is caused by the amygdala!
Jimmy: Amygdala? I’m pretty sure that’s not even a real word.
Narrator: Be quiet Jimmy. This is why you’re failing biology. This is the amygdala. This pathway is responsible for your fear response. When you’re awake you usually confirm if there is danger or not from an outside stimulus quickly. However, when you are in sleep paralysis, your brain tries to confirm danger, but can’t.
Jimmy: And that’s why I’m in a constant state of fear!
Narrator: You’re catching on Jimmy. It took you long enough.
Jimmy: But why is this happening now? I’ve never had this before. Is there something wrong with me?
Cat: No no, settle down you drama queen. People do start getting episodes during their early teenage years until their late 30’s, so no there’s nothing wrong with you. They’re not that common. Only about 8 percent of the population has experienced sleep paralysis and the majority of those that do experience it, only have it once or twice throughout their lifetime!
Jimmy: Thank god! Hey, where are you going?
Cat: It’s time for me to go! You’re waking up Jimmy.