Saturday, April 27, 2013

Moles are our bodies mechanism to stop cells from becoming cancerous tumors.

Most people in the world have a few moles. They can come at any age, generally starting in early childhood.[1]
Most people know that moles can become cancerous tumors. And know to check ones if they seem irregular. 

The truth is, all moles are tumors. 

When I was writing this, I expected that to be the big shock, I found out this when looking for why moles grow hair faster than other parts of your skin. The reason is the moles have overactive cells, and so, the hair on it grows faster. 

But that is not the big shock at all, some research seems to suggest that moles are our bodies mechanism to contain and stop cells from becoming cancerous.

Woah, of all the things I would do today, I never thought I would be thanking my moles for keeping me alive.

A mole is basically some skin cancer that changed it's mind. Some cells started to divide quickly on a path to cancer, and then for some reason, they stopped. [2] Anytime that cancer suddenly stops is worth investigating, scientists like Dr. Mooi believe that the process in which moles do this may be an important way that that body stops cancer. [3] On the subject he says, "It is a fair guess to say that this mechanism protects us from cancer over and over again,...Perhaps on a daily basis.". [4]

Think about that, every mole you have is some cancer your body stopped, but even more surprising, it's only the stops that you see, the same process that makes moles may be protecting you from cancer every single day.

The secret behind the nevus' ability is in a gene called BRAF, which causes cells to divide. However if BRAF notices cancer it then turns on another gene called p16, at which point the cell stops dividing indefinitely.

To confirm that BRAF is really doing this "Dr. Leonard Zon and Elizabeth Patton of Children's Hospital, Dr.Fisher, and their colleagues produced moles in zebrafish by giving them the BRAF gene. Next they tried the same experiment in zebrafish that lacked a gene, p53, [not having p53] prevented the BRAF gene from activating the cell's brakes on cell division. The result was a malignant cancer, moles that quickly turned into deadly melanomas." [5]

What's even more exciting than this knowledge is an application of this knowledge, something that uses the BRAF gene to help fight against cancer. One such application is the prescription only medicine Vemurafenib (marketed as Zelboraf). The name Vemurafenib comes from V600E mutated BRAF inhibition. The V600E mutation causes the BRAF gene to make cells divide rapidly, but removes the failsafe it contains to make them stop, causing cancer. This specific mutation is present in 60% of melanoma, the most dangerous kind of skin cancer. [6] Sadly Vemurafenib does not cure melanoma, but it does give hope to finding a cure and better treatment, on average, patients with late stage melanoma treated with Vemurafenib lived another 30 months, rather than 24 months without, an increase of 25%. Also, in the first six months of taking the drug, more than half of the patients experienced a significant shrinkage in the size of their tumors. [7]

What is amazing to me is that it was only discovered in 2002 that mutations in the BRAF gene had any relation to cancer, and less than a decade after a drug was approved that used this knowledge to help fight cancer. It feels good to know that science continues to work to fight against cancer, and we really are getting closer and closer to a cure every day.

Side note:
Moles are usually an indicator that the body has performed the awesome function of stopping cancer, but if you notice a mole that is not a plain 'ol circle of darker skin, meaning that it is shaped irregularly or colored with multiple shades, it is very important that you get it checked by a doctor as soon as possible. For more information on doing this, go here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Isaac Newton was a jerk.

Isaac Newton is one of the most important and influential individuals in history.
If he was alive today, he would tell you the same thing.

Isaac Newton had a famously big ego. He believed he was gods gift to the world, much smarter than everyone else, and believed other humans were on earth to hold him back.

Don't confuse his famous "Standing on the shoulders of Giants" quote for modesty. As it was likely a veiled insult of Robert Hooke, who was a rather short man. In contrast to Newton himself, who was rather tall. [1]

Robert Hooke is a man Isaac Newton did not hold in high regard. Hooke is known to have studied gravity years before Newton, even coining the term "gravity" before he uttered the word. So it's no wonder why Hooke felt Newton never gave him enough credit when he published his work on gravity in Principia [2]. Isaac Newton never forgave him for this view, and expunged all references to Hooke's work from his publications,[3] Isaac Newton also wrote the publisher of Principia in strong terms over the argument and caused Hooke to begin working in secret. Their argument lasted until Hooke's death, with Isaac years later striking the final blow by destroying the last authenticated portrait of Hooke[4], historians today still are not certain of what Robert Hooke looked like.
But maybe we can forgive Newton for destroying the life of one scientist after all he contributed to our species. There is no dispute that he *was* a genius. As he discovered the properties of light, gravity and calculus in one summer.[5] What did you do over your summer vacation?

The truth is, though, his douchebaggery does not end there. 

"When Newton disagreed with astronomer John Flamsteed‘s zealous approach to research, Newton stole his work and published it under Edmund Halley, Flamsteed’s mortal enemy." ([4])

Which I can only regard as one of histories greatest trolls.

Perhaps his most famous dispute was with Gottfried Leibniz, over who developed calculus first. (Whoever it was, they're a dick. At least during this school quarter). This debate is so big that it is often regarded as one of the most heated debates in the history of science. [3]

Leibniz did the gentlemanly thing and took the matter to the Royal Society, to act as a mediator and investigate the dispute. Of which Newton was the president of...

Newton organized a review committee filled with personal friends and then wrote the committee findings personally, unsurprisingly the "committee" ruled in Newtons favor.[4]

Truth is, I'm not that surprised by Newtons dickery. I suppose you need an ego as big as Newton had to think that you can do such amazing things, the difference between him and the average egotistical jerk. Is that he had a brain to match.

So new readers, how do you feel about discovering this? Or did you already know? Post a comment below to tell me about it. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Welcome to the JQ TIL blog.

Hey everyone, I'll be posting here some short, interesting factoids that I learn, along with a video about them. Be sure to subscribe to continue getting posts.