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Simone Biow's blog

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The Cholesterol Conundrum

It’s no secret: I’ve got high cholesterol. Well, actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. The truth is that for an 18-year-old, my LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol level is astronomical and my HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol level is pitiful. According to the American Heart Association, a desirable level of LDL cholesterol—the “bad” kind that can forms clots in your arteries and causes heart attacks or strokes—is below 200 milligrams per decilitre of blood (mg/dL). Between 200 and 239 mg/dL is considered “borderline high risk,” and anything above that is “high risk” (1). Well, my latest LDL count was 240 mg/dL. On the other hand, my HDL cholesterol count is 17 mg/dL, when a desirable level is above 40 mg/dL. To clarify, HDL cholesterol is considered to be “good” cholesterol, though no doctor could really tell me why. Experts have suggested that HDL cholesterol may carry LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is passed through the digestive system and excreted. Other doctors believe that HDL cholesterol “removes excess cholesterol from plaque in the arteries, thus slowing build-up” (2). But ultimately, no one really knows.
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Bio 103 vs. the Big Fat Textbook

Campbell Reece defined Biology as “the scientific study of life” in the Seventh Edition of his textbook Biology (1). Needless to say, this statement is vague and written as a conclusive fact. It is difficult to question its veracity or scientific merit because it’s not really saying too much in the first place. Instead, Professor Grobstein began his course by similarly suggesting that Biology is the “science of life,” but he then presented a series of additional questions:
• What is science? Why can't it "get it right"?
• What is life? Can one get it "right"?
• Does science = life? (2)

From the start, Grobstein involved his students in the discussion and made them think. Yes, think about science, not just memorize it and move on. He encouraged us all to actively participate in and ask questions about the study of Biology. He acknowledged the fact that much of science is “theory” and not “fact” and that there still exist hundreds of questions that neither he nor anyone else could answer. According to Grobstein, science is simply a series of hypotheses that have not been disproved. On the other hand, Reece wrote in absolutes. It is as if he felt obligated to answer all of the questions about Biology, and therefore life. Grobstein’s lectures did not attempt to account for the unknown, but did often acknowledge it. Ultimately, Grobstein and Reece’s didactic approaches to Biology differed on three particularly interesting subjects: their definitions of life, their approaches to diversity and evolution, and their attitude towards the human brain.

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Stem Cells Cure Blindness

The Controversy

Earlier this November, scientists from the University College London Institutes of Ophthalmology and Child Health and Moorfields Eye Hospital were able to restore vision to blind lab mice. This scientific breakthrough signifies that millions of people with optical conditions such as macular degeneration (loss of sight experienced by the elderly), diabetic retinopathy, and a variety of other forms of blindness could be able to regain sight through a remarkably simple procedure. However, the fact that the procedure requires stem cells from foetuses—currently viewed as a highly controversial method by many politicians—has prevented this procedure from becoming more publicized in the U.S. (1).

The Breakthrough

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Does Adolescence Make Sense?

Serving as a transitional period between childhood and adulthood, adolescence is an integral stage in the human growth process. It is both a period of physical metamorphosis and of identity formation. However, sociologists have begun to place "emphasis on adolescence as a problematic stage in modern society" (4). In fact, some scientists have even asserted that adolescence has become obsolete. Today, it is undeniable that, if current trends continue, the prolongation of adolescence and postponement of adulthood will have increasingly detrimental effects on both youths and society (6). Nevertheless, history and biology have proven that when regarded as a period of physiological and intellectual maturation, adolescence makes sense.

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