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Jennifer WongRSS Feed of this column.

My column covers the latest primary research discoveries in the life-science discipline. Much of what is reported here are considered discoveries that I think are the most significant and far-reaching... Read More »


Neuroscientists have long demonstrated that neuronal connections in the brain can be strengthened with neuronal activity in the process known as neuroplasticity, and that brain training can be the ideal remedy to sharpen the human mind and to slow down the progress of neurodegeneration. However, recent studies revealed that too much thinking can actually be detrimental to the brain, causing profound DNA damage often dubbed as the DNA double-stranded breakages (DSBs).

DSBs are identified by the accumulation of gH2A.X histone- a recruiter of the DNA-repair machinery- at the site of breakage, and are previously thought to be caused only by cell stress.

The emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a common concern in hospitals worldwide, and is the evolutionary result of the selective pressures caused by our extensive use of antibiotics to fight bacterial infections.

Scientists are often fighting the losing battle against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, with every new antibiotic treatment outwitted by the bacteria’s uncanny ability to adapt to whatever adversity comes their way. Although bacteria’s evasive strategies may have outwitted scientists in the last century, their strategies still fall prey to the nature’s billion-year old bacteria-killing virus known as bacteriophages.

It is well established that the hippocampus is central for learning and memory, encoding mnemonic data about past experiences and connections. However, the role of the hippocampus in emotional processes is less clear, although there have been inklings of evidence in the past suggesting that the hippocampus does indeed play a role in fear and anxiety.

Beating heart cells (cardiomyocytes) are often used as an empowering imagery to depict important scientific advances in stem cell technology; advances that enable scientists to harness human embryonic stem cells to regenerate tissues that cannot easily be replaced, including heart tissue. From the use of controversial human embryonic stem cells, to Yamanaka's discovery of an engineering technology to reprogram human skin cells into cells that are akin to embryonic stem cells (dubbed induced pluripotent stem cells); the beating cardiomyocytes remain a media cliché representing our society's advances in stem cell technology and regenerative medicine.

Like blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to normal tissue, tumor blood vessels were originally thought to do likewise to fuel tumor growth. As scientists developed strategies to kill tumors by cutting off their blood supply, they soon discovered their valiant efforts were thwarted by the tumor's ability to quickly recover.

The recovery is caused by a population of tumor-initiating cancer cells dubbed the cancer stem cells (CSCs); a population that can communicate with blood vessels via the Notch signaling pathway to drive tumor vascularization.

Myeloma treatments require a heavy artillery of novel myeloma drugs to reduce the number of cancer cells (ex: Revlimid, Velcade, or Thalomid), followed by high-dose chemotherapy to wipe out the cancer. Because the latter can completely wipe out blood-forming stem cells (a side effect that can be life-threatening to the patient), clinicians quickly learned to collect patient stem cells right before high-dose chemotherapy, and then transplanting them back into patients after treatment. The feasibility of this approach depends on the effects of myeloma drugs on patient stem cells.