Search Results for: BunsenBwog



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img September 21, 201611:34 amimg 0 Comments

The Columbia researcher: a jaded, contrary private eye...

The Columbia researcher: a jaded, contrary private eye…

Tired of only hearing about arts and politics in campus news? Then welcome to BunsenBwog (occasionally Bunsen Bwog), our go-to conglomerate source for the scientific happenings of the world. Think of it like Bwoglines, but for science. In this edition, first-year Bwogger Nora McNamara-Bordewick takes you through Columbia’s health research in the news over the past week.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for the legalization of medical marijuana, with opponents of cannabis legislation getting smoked by budding evidence from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. All puns aside, a newly-published paper concludes that states with medical cannabis laws see fewer fatal car accidents caused by opioid use. When medical marijuana is legal, individuals with chronic pain substitute marijuana for opioids, which accounts for the decrease in automobile fatalities. Weed all like to see this happen.

The FDA has finally gotten around to addressing information that the folks up at the Medical campus knew back in ‘07. A paper published by researchers at Columbia University School of Nursing concluded that active chemicals in antibacterial soap are no more effective in stopping the spread of germs than good old-fashioned soap and water. In fact, the paper links the widespread use of antibacterial soaps to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Nine years later, the FDA is taking action on this evidence, placing a ban on certain chemicals in antibacterial soaps and washes. Fear not, avid users of the John Jay Purell dispenser: the FDA ban does not extend to hand sanitizers and wipes.

Hate oversleeping? Want to overthrow the legitimacy of Columbia University entirely? Read on after the jump



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img February 02, 20161:17 pmimg 0 Comments

Zombie Weekend

Zombie Weekend

With the end of Syllabus Week comes the tide of papers, problem sets, projects, and required readings. Doesn’t it all make you want to say “Screw it” to the world and set out on a murderous rampage to let off some steam/reduce your insatiable appetite for human flesh? Okay, maybe not. But courtesy of Joanna Zhang, here’s some information about the interesting, complex, tantalizingly delicious human brain.

It’s been what, 3 weeks into school? I’m already feeling like a zombie. Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe it’s because the midseason premiere of The Walking Dead is coming up soon, or maybe there’s a new virus coming around that’s slowly turning all of us into zombies… So on a zombie-related note, let’s talk about brains! Contrary to popular belief, they’re not just food for the undead, sometimes they’re actually useful.

What exactly goes on in the brain? Scientists at the Mind Brain Behavior Institute are one step closer to finding out. By developing a neutered strain of the rabies virus, they were able to brain activity in real-time. Since the rabies virus only infects neurons, they were the perfect medium for mapping brain circuitry. Scientists have long attempted to develop a new strain of rabies that would not harm humans and can be used in experimental animals. The virus would ideally travel across brain cells and subsequently light up a path as it goes. Partnered with Thomas Jefferson University, they were able to “neuter” the virus so that it could spread in the brain without killing the organism. This new strain also allowed neurons to live in the brain for over a month, creating a large window of opportunity to map the brain in detail. Eventually, they envision the development of a strain of rabies virus that could potentially be used to fight brain disease.

Neutering rabies was pretty cool, but what else?



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img January 20, 20164:30 pmimg 0 Comments

It's a new year. Better try and make the most of it, eh?

It’s a new year. Better try and make the most of it, eh?

We’re back from our break, but that doesn’t mean everything has changed. Those new year resolutions will only work if you have lots of support. Of course, we mean the support of hard science. Joanna Zhang lays out the scientific backing so hopefully we won’t relapse this semester.

Winter Break means going home and eating food every waking moment because dining hall food has permanently traumatized our taste buds. But now that Bwoggers are back on campus, it’s time to cut the bad eating habits. It turns out that what you eat affects how you sleep. A recent study by the Institute of Human Nutrition at CUMC has shown that constantly eating food with low fiber, high saturated fat, and high sugar content lead to lighter and easily disrupted sleep. Participants who were given meals prepared by a nutritionist with lower saturated fat and higher protein fell asleep faster than those who self-selected meals. In fact, a single day of increased fat and decreased fiber intake could noticeably affect sleep quality. Although this week is syllabus week, the rest of the semester will only deteriorate, so Bwoggers should at least try to make sure the daily 5 to 6 hours of sleep is enjoyable.

But what about alcoholism and genetics?



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img November 18, 20154:01 pmimg 0 Comments *achoo*

Just…one…more…problem…set *achoo*

Does the cold got you feeling down? Be careful you don’t get sick. But if you end up feeling under the weather, you can take solace in Bunsen Burner Joanna Zhang’s report of what Columbians are doing regarding ebola, influenza forecasts, and malaria,

With the New York cold finally settling in, Bwog recommends bundling up and stay warm, or otherwise risking a bad cold that involves gross sniffles and constant coughing that can (in my case) last for a month. At this point, I’m ready to try whatever strange home remedies there are because I’ve probably lost half my friends from all this sneezing. On the positive side, at least I didn’t get ebola, the outbreak of which a team at Mailman School of Public Health has now modeled. The research team used data from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation to document the path of infection. Their model mainly made use of information on the home district of the Ebola patient such as population and geographic distant from nearby districts. This new method provides a less labor-intensive way to trace the rate of spread than contact tracing. While it’s too late to apply this model, future models generated through the same method has the potential to greatly aid health efforts for new disease outbreaks.

Click here to read more about malaria and the flu



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img October 21, 20157:03 pmimg 0 Comments

"I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all"

“I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all”

Are you ever amazed at the power of science to replicate and adapt the human body for the betterment of humankind? We sometimes are. Bunsen Burner Joanna Zhang is revealing the extent of biological research occurring at Columbia and how it may help you one day.

Many Bwoggers have experienced the Netflix marathon craze during which you barricade yourself behind locked doors and burn through all 10 seasons of Friends because you. just. don’t. care. anymore. Of course, at some time during this mania, while rubbing your sore, bloodshot eyes, you might wonder if all this TV might blind you just as your mom warned. Well fear no more, Columbia ophthalmologists have found a way to restore your lost vision. Researchers at CUMC have found that human skin cells can improve the vision of blind mice. After injecting stem cell derived retinal cells into the eyes of blind mice, the stem cells were able to successfully assimilate into the mice’s retina and improve vision. Clinical trials for patients with degenerative retina are already in the works. This is the future, guys.

What else will the future hold?



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img October 16, 201511:26 amimg 0 Comments

*singing* Let's get down to business! To defeat the...brains?

*singing* Let’s get down to business! To defeat the…brains?

Freaky Friday? We think so. Bunsen Burner Joanna Zhang investigates the latest developments in organ and spooky body transplants here on Columbia’s own campus.

It’s the ultimate crunch time for midterms. While Bwoggers are either poring over textbooks and old notes or watching Taylor Swift videos as a VIP member of the procrastiNation, at some point in this pre-midterm craziness we’ve all considered taking someone else’s brain as our own. With the current strides in the scientific world, considering transplants as a last resort may not be so far-fetched after all.

While not as exciting as a brain transplant, CUMC researchers have discovered the immune system mechanism that allows our body to accept kidney transplants without using immunosuppressive drugs. It turns out that only a specific set of donor-reactive T cells are responsible for our tolerance to foreign tissue. They increase in numbers when a patient rejects the tissue and gradually disappear for those who were able to accept transplants. This discovery may lead to new ways in predicting rejection or tolerance to transplanted tissues for patients.

As for the liver, transplant surgeons at the College of Physicians and Surgeons have successfully performed a laparoscopic hepatectomy for the first time in the country. (Let’s take a moment to say laparoscopic hepatectomy ten times as fast as you can). Translation: They managed to cut out a portion of the liver out of a living adult donor for other transplant patients. Of course, it begs the question of what happened to the donors who couldn’t successfully remove a chunk of their liver… With a shortage in organs from deceased donors, living organ donors are becoming increasingly important. However, current procedures can leave donors with pain and higher risk of morbidity. This success indicates huge implications for mitigating the liver shortage, although surgeons warn that the described procedure should only be conducted on select patients by highly experienced staff.

But instead of waiting for someone to donate their brain, why not grow one yourself? Researchers at the Department of Biomedical Engineering (go BME, whoop whoop!) have been growing tissues to repair damaged hearts by placing stem cells into bioreactors that mimic human conditions. Coupled with advances in radiology, in which extremely complex maps of the human heart were successfully generated using ultrasound, you can practically make your own organ.

In retrospect, unless you’re a millionaire and have mad connections, transplanting or growing a new brain seems highly unlikely for now. And with that, better hit the books!

Spooky Surgery via Shutterstock



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img October 06, 20152:05 pmimg 0 Comments

And now, Derek, you must kill the prime minister of Malaysia!

And now, Derek, you must kill the prime minister of Malaysia!

Research question: How many science students that wait all week for BunsenBwog will actually understand the Red Hot Chili Peppers reference we dropped in the title? Regardless, Bunsen Burner Belle Briana Bursten is back from the CUMC newsroom and is tapping into her own gray matter to share her wealth of scientific knowledge with us all. 

Bwoggers know that time spent in the library often turns into minutes spent searching Spotify or hours spent laughing while scrolling through your favorite source for Columbia student news. Although some of us may feel that we have no real control over our attention, researchers at CUMC would argue otherwise. According to a recent finding, it’s been proven that the human attention network in the brain has evolved greatly— partially in response to the complex social situations that humans face daily. Researchers made both primates and humans perform a task of recollection and reaction while simultaneously mapping brain activity through fMRI. Surprisingly enough, humans performed much better on the test than the primates did. Moral of the story: try your best to focus… if not for yourself, do it for Darwin!

Gluten-free diets, Vegan fare, juice cleanses, and… brain-mapping? Though the first three trends are cited by many to lead to healthier lifestyles, the newsroom tells us that brain-mapping may be the most promising. The latter has allowed CUMC neuroscientists to determine the regions of the brain that respond (or don’t respond) to weight loss. Neuroscientist Michael Morabito has found through brain-mapping that changes in weight alter leptin sensitivity. This alteration in sensitivity remains even after weight loss stops, which may account for the struggle that many face of maintaining their weight loss post-diet.

And the Horwitz award goes to… 

(Find out after the jump!)



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img October 01, 20152:35 pmimg 0 Comments


What we imagine goes on in Columbia’s science buildings

It’s been scientifically proven that when Columbia’s science students aren’t in their labs, they’re maniacally searching Bwog for the latest scoop on what’s going on beyond their microscopes. We decided to give the science kids a shoutout in an attempt to combine academic pursuits with some light Bwog reading. Bwog dispatched Senior Staff Writer and Bunsen Burner Belle Briana Bursten to the CUMC newsroom to get us up to date on all of the scientific searches that surfaced this summer (also, s/o alliteration). 

The best way to describe all that happened this summer is to move in chronological order, so let’s begin with the onset of the season and rewind to June. Oh, June… a month named after Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage. Regardless of your marital status, New York Presbyterian’s Audobon Practice was the place to be if you were looking for some man candy during Men’s Health Month. The clinic caters to giving men general health care and treatment as well as sexual and reproductive health care. Cosmo always tells us that men are visual, so this stat is no surprise— according to Dr. David Bell, “young men are more likely to seek care at a clinic that’s clearly dedicated to them and includes ‘men’ in the name.” The clinic has already reached out to numerous men in the Washington Heights/Bronx neighborhoods.

Satisfy your science stipulations after the jump



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img April 07, 20159:20 amimg 1 Comments


“I’m Fergalicious (so delicious)/ My body stay vicious!!”

It’s been established that approximately 1% of Bwog readers are actually science majors, but that doesn’t deter us from adding to our famed series, entitled BunsenBwog—a brief review of some of the science-related findings and contributions done by members of our campus community. We dispatched our farthest-thing-from-science-major  Tuesday daily editor Briana Bursten to the CUMC newsroom to report back on the latest findings in the field.

Running, swimming, hiking, walking— everyone knows that these activities are good for you, but actually putting in time on the treadmill in Dodge is easier said than done. However, a study done collaboratively by CUMC and the New York Psychiatric Institute revealed the true power of aerobic exercise, as it has been shown to improve the cognitive functioning in people who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. How does it work? It’s possible that the brain-derived neurotrophic factor that increases during exercise (also known as BDNF) might be responsible for cognitive improvements.

At a time in which kids may be more prone to play on an iPad than to play in the good ol’ outdoors, it’s refreshing to hear of a successful exercise program made just for the youngins. CUMC’s CHALK/JustMove program has been selected by ChildObesity180, a national non-profit organization. This means that schools across the country will now be given the opportunity to implement CHALK/JustMove into their academic and physical education curriculum. The program allows for math, English, and science to be woven into aerobic, yoga, and stretching exercises.

“How Fit Are You, Really?” We were wondering the same thing… so it’s swaggy that Dr. Christopher Visco, director of sports medicine at CUMC, tells us what you can learn from this online calculator. Check it out!

It would be hypocritical for CUMC to endorse physical activity without actually partaking in such fitness regimes themselves, so it’s cool that students at CUMC are able to take advantage of the renovated Bard Athletic Center. With new squash courts, cardio machines, and an A/C system, the center has everything students need to get their sweat on.

Sign me up in the gym via Shutterstock



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img March 11, 20152:07 pmimg 1 Comments

Our favorite kind of Gene

Our favorite kind of Gene

In an attempt to satisfy the 1% of Bwog readers who are science majors, we’re bringing back an old favorite: BunsenBwog—a brief review of some of the science-related findings and contributions done by members of our campus community. This week, we sent mad scientist Mason Amelotte to the CUMC newsroom to find out what’s new.

Find yourself buying too many $3 Rolling Rock’s at 1020 every weekend? Fear not, thirsty undergrad. Neuroscientists at Columbia University Medical Center have identified neurons in the brain that both trigger and suppress our sense of thirst. CAMKII neurons were found to turn thirst on when activated, and VGAT neurons were found to turn thirst “off.” Both neurons were found in the subfornical organ in the hypothalamus through “mind control” experiments on mice.

“But what about controlling my appetite?” you ask. “How am I supposed to say no to JJ’s Place when my heart (and stomach) tell me otherwise?” Well lover of food, researchers at CUMC and at the New York Stem Cell Foundation have found a way to generate hypothalamic cells, generally inaccessible neurons that control appetite. Through genetic reprogramming, researchers converted human skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, which they then turned into hypothalamic neurons. This now gives researchers means by which to study diseases like obesity.

“But I’m not worried about eating all the time! I’m so tired that I can barely keep my eyes open” Well, researchers at the Center for Infection and Immunity have you covered there, as well. Are you someone that identifies as having myalgic encephalomyelitis, otherwise known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? If so, you must be exhausted from being told all the time that your disease is merely psychologic (double entendre intended)! Scientists have actually discovered distinct immune changes in patients with the disease that may actually make diagnosis easier and more accurate!

“None of these apply to me because I’m perfectly healthy! Do you have any news related to something a little bit more mainstream?” Of course we do, pseudo-science intellectual. Remember that #IceBucketChallenge that clogged newsfeeds everywhere last summer? Well it turns out that researchers have found a new specific gene that’s related to sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS. This new gene, called TBK1, plays an important part in affecting patients’ inflammation and autophagy. Tell that one to your friends in Mel’s!

Bob’s Burgers is amazing via Wikia



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img March 03, 20155:25 pmimg 1 Comments


Yeah science, bitch!

Even though it’s March, the “new year, new us” mindset is alive and well. We’re bringing back an element of our past with the revival of BunsenBwog—a brief review of some of the science-related findings and contributions done by members of our campus community. We enlisted the assistance of Bunsen Burner Belle Briana Bursten to enlighten us with her scientific wisdom. 

Everyone knows that a cellphone is the number one item in a millennial’s starter pack, so we think it’s pretty smart that Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and College of Physicians and Surgeons decided to capitalize on the usage of this technological necessity for health purposes. Earlier this year, kids were sent text messages reminding them to get their second flu vaccination. The results? Text messages both increased the receipt of the vaccination and also brought children to receive their vaccinations sooner.

A new magnetic technology developed by doctors at Columbia known as MAGEC (MAGnetic Expansion Control) is now being used to treat early-onset Scoliosis in children. While growing rods are effective in correcting the curvature of the spine for children with Scoliosis, the child is also subjected to multiple surgeries throughout their youth in order to adjust the size of the rod. However, the MAGEC permits surgeons to lengthen the rods with a handheld external magnet, thus avoiding surgery and additional costs for parents.

According to a CUMC study, children and adolescents with autism have an excessive amount of synapses in the brain. This excess affects cognitive development, particularly during the “pruning process.” Knowledge of this neurological finding can perhaps lead to a cure, as there are drugs available that may work to restore synaptic pruning.

Outbreaks of Kawasaki disease in Japan, a rare childhood condition that causes inflammation of the blood vessels that later leads to heart disease, may be traced to wind currents coming from northeast China. A study by Mailman School of Public Health reveals that instances of the disease peaked when winds that originated from a region with “vast cereal croplands” swept over specific locations.

Missin Walter White via Shutterstock



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img November 18, 20123:15 pmimg 6 Comments

Read about a study correlating sadness and short-term gratification and by extension consumption of Ben and Jerry’s after the jump!

Zach Kagan PhD (Professional hummus Dipper) gives a rundown of what is happening in the medical world.  

Here’s the problem with modern medical science: it’s just too damn productive. In the past medicine was all about leeches, treacle, and the occasional tobacco smoke blown up the rectum. But scientists and doctors seem to think they can improve on proven, albeit antiquated, techniques. Damn their steadfast pursuit of knowledge. Their curiosity cannot be sated!

And so BunsenBwog is left with stacks upon stacks of new papers on medicine each week. And they just keep coming. There’s only one prescription fit to treat this problem, and it involves a concentrated dose of medical science news.




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img November 14, 20122:45 pmimg 6 Comments

Some galaxy somewhere

After a brief hiatus, BunsenBwog is back, bringing you the best science happenings at Columbia. This week, Bwog’s resident stargazer Zach Kagan discovers that when you stare into a black hole, it stares back into you.

While Columbians have been bogged down with hurricanes, blizzards and midterms, NASA’s plucky  NuSTAR X-ray telescope has been enjoying clear skies in orbit 550 km above Earth’s surface. BunsenBwog has been keeping close tabs on NuSTAR because A) it’s awesome and B) Columbia Engineers are responsible for the device that allows the telescope to focus and amplify X-rays as they are collected. Now NuSTAR has been directed at the center of our galaxy, to observe the massive black hole in the center of the Milky Way. To be more accurate, it’s aimed at Sagittarius A*, a very compact radio-source that is thought to be a black hole.

However, Sgr A* doesn’t act like black holes in neighboring galaxies, which have a habit of gobbling up whatever star or gas cloud passes too close to their event horizon. That cosmic consumption results in temperatures of over 100,000 million degrees Celsius and massive emissions of radiation, but scientists haven’t seen the same behavior from Sgr A*. Then again, there’s been no way to directly measure the X-rays created during such events, until now. NuSTAR is already  collecting X-ray data from Sgr A*  which will allow astrophysicists to learn more about the eating habits of black holes. According to Columbia’s Professor Chuck Hailey, “astronomers have long speculated that the black hole’s snacking should produce copious hard X-rays, but NuSTAR is the first telescope with sufficient sensitivity to actually detect them.” Your sleeping and smoking habits after the jump



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img October 22, 201211:30 amimg 4 Comments

Carbon footprint

Bwog’s resident carbon confidant, Zach Kagan, brings us sordid tales of sustainability, statistics, and snacks.

This midterm season, an incalculable number of sodas and assorted caffeinated beverages will be drunk. Scores of candy bar pick-me-ups will be scoffed. Bag after bag of vending machine purchased chips will be opened and consumed. Exams and snacking go hand and hand this time of the semester, but as you cram for your sustainable development midterm, you may pause and wonder about the sustainability of your own increasingly junk food fueled diet. As it happens, PepsiCo wondered the exact same thing and, thanks to engineering professor Christoph Meinrenken, they know quite a bit more about it.

But PepsiCo didn’t just want to analyze one product. It wanted to determine the carbon footprint of each of its 10,000+ products, not an easy task. Determining the footprint of something requires so-called “life-cycle assessment,” following the product on each stage of its development from bare materials to consumption. Each step of production has its own set of emission factors that needs to be accounted for. Each requires a different team of experts to analyze and compute the footprint. That data needs to then be used to create a meaningful description of the carbon footprint of an individual product. To repeat that process for each of PepsiCo’s products would take an exorbitant amount of time, money, and patience. Prof. Meinrenken sensed that this problem could be solved much more efficiently, but to do so he would have to think outside the box.




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img October 13, 20127:58 pmimg 4 Comments

This week on BunsenBwog, our double feature puts the Homeric dichotomy of city of peace and city of war to shame. Zach Kagan brings you the stories of how the Nobel prize relates to sweet-toothed Swedes and the legitimacy of North Korean nuclear tests.

Oh the irony

This week Columbia celebrates the addition of CC and College of Physicians and Surgeons alum Robert Lefkowitz to its list of 95+ “Columbia affiliates” who have been awarded a Nobel prize. Lefkowitz won this year’s Chemistry Nobel for his work with Brian K. Kobilka on G-protein coupled receptors (or GPCRs). His original interest was studying the mechanisms that control heart contractions. Knowing that certain hormones such as adrenaline can increase heart rate, Lefkowitz and Kobilka set out to characterize the so-called beta-adrenergic receptors responsible for reacting to such hormones. The researchers were able to clone these receptors and in doing so, they created new avenues to study GPCRs in general. Their result proved influential in pharmaceuticals as well, where it led to the development of groundbreaking cardiovascular medications.

Columbia continues to hold the world record for number of Nobel laureates, that is counting all current and former alumni, faculty, and mathematical geniuses who choose to work as university janitors. What gives Columbia an edge over runner-ups such as University of Chicago or Cambridge? According to Columbia Prof. Franz H. Messerli, the answer might lie in the amount of chocolate consumption. Messerli ranked countries by number of Nobel laureates per capita, and then cross referenced that list with the average amount of chocolate consumption per person in that country.

The result turned out to be a “close, significant linear correlation between chocolate consumption per capita and the number of Nobel laureates per 10 million persons.” Messerli’s regression line suggested that it requires about 0.4 kg of chocolate per capita per year in order to produce an extra Nobel laureate. There was only one major outlier: Sweden. The Scandinavian nation that awards the Nobel prizes also seems to win several of them, without a suitably high level of chocolate consumption to match. Messerli provided the following explanation: “the Swedes are particularly sensitive to chocolate, and even minuscule amounts greatly enhance their cognition.” Read about dangerous explosions, or the lack thereof, after the jump

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