Chemistry Health 

Artificial Sweeteners Affect Our Bodies and Environment

By Emily Folk (@EmilySFolk) Artificial sweeteners are prevalent in many grocery stores, restaurants, and fast-food chains, particularly aspartame (sold as Equal), sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), and acesulfame (Sunett or Sweet One). Society’s food technology has evolved drastically in the past century, enabling us to make these types of commercial sweeteners, which are often added to sodas or other beverages for the taste and low-calorie benefit. Yet changes in the environment are showing that these seemingly innocent beverage additives come with a cost. The sweeteners used as health-promoting sugar substitutes…

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Biota Project Health 

Medicinal Plants to Nourish the Soul

White sage. Peyote. Opium Poppy. African Dream Root. What do all these species have in common? These are all plants that serve both medicinal and spiritual roles in cultures across the world. Plants have long since played important roles in human experience since time immemorial. Plants have provided civilization with food, shelter, tools, and the earliest form of health care. It is from the plant kingdom that people began developing the first medicines. Foxgloves, from the genus Digitalis, native to Europe, Asia, and northwestern Africa, were the original sources of…

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Biology Health 

Nicotine Receptor May Play a Part in Cannabis Addiction

By Andrew Neff (@neuroscience_fu) In 2019 scientists discovered an association between the prevalence of cannabis use disorder and a mutant nicotine receptor in the brain (Demontis, 2019). What does this mean for diagnostics or treatment? Maybe not a lot in the near future. But what does it mean for science?  The thing is, we know pretty well how cannabis works. The main psychoactive ingredient is THC, which itself can make people feel high and is known to interact with a dedicated system of receptors in the brain. So when this…

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Citizen Science Citizen Science Connected Blog Environment Health 

You Can Help Beat Extreme Heat in Cities

Imagine a smoldering hot day in downtown Boston: temperatures have reached over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the sidewalks and streets are absorbing the strong heat from the sun and radiating it back into the air.  Days like this are becoming hotter and more frequent. This “silent storm” causes more deaths in the US than all other weather hazards combined. Heat impacts human health, infrastructure, and the environment. The Urban Heat Island (UHI) Effect Urban areas trap heat inside of them, experiencing hotter temperatures than in surrounding suburban areas. Cities are…

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Citizen Science Environment Health Science Policy 

Environmental Health Is a Social Justice Issue

By Shayna Keyles (@shaynakeyles) When we talk about recycling, mitigating climate change, protecting habitats, and more, it’s not only for some abstract mission of “saving the earth,” though that would be good, too. These are environmental justice issues; they are part of the struggle for basic human rights. Environmental justice in the US In the United States, the environmental justice movement grew out of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Communities of Black, Latinx, Native American, low-income, and immigrant groups found that they were disproportionately affected by…

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Citizen Science Citizen Science Connected Blog Environment Health 

Empowering Communities to Examine Lead Exposure with Crowd the Tap

By Bradley Allf Lead pipes for transporting water have been a fixture of modern civilization for more than two thousand years.  Ancient Romans channeled water into homes and bathhouses through lead piping. In fact, the Latin word for lead, plumbum, is where we get the English word “plumbing.” Yet we have also long recognized that lead can have a serious impact on our health. Vitrivius, who lived during the first century BCE, wrote at length about the physical harm caused by lead exposure, concluding that “water should therefore on no…

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Environment Health Science Policy 

Imagining Future Wastewater Solutions

By Emily Folk (@EmilySFolk) Wastewater represents a serious risk to human health in both developing and developed countries. Through industrial, commercial, agricultural, and domestic activities, affected sources of water cause illness, disease, and even death. One particular case study serves as an example of these dangers. The Adyar River in Chennai, India, once supported the area’s economy and culture. With the introduction of untreated wastewater, the river soon became an active landfill, inundated with debris and refuse, with a thick consistency that no longer allowed for safe interaction (Hariram, 2017).…

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Biology Genetics Health 

Depression: In Our Genes or All In Our Heads?

By Mary McMillan (@maryemcmillan) World Health Organization estimated that more than 300 million people around the world are currently affected by depression. That’s just over 4 percent of the world’s population. Despite how serious this disorder is and the huge numbers of people that suffer from it, there is still a lot of stigma associated with having depression, and people often misunderstand what causes it (Jorm, 2000). You may have heard people say that depression is all in someone’s head and that they should just get over it. However, scientists…

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Animals Biology Health 

How Does Tissue Regenerate?

By Noeline Subramaniam (@spicy_scientist) Regeneration often sounds like science fiction—Wolverine’s healing superpowers probably spring to mind. But you don’t have to be a mutant to be able to regenerate. In fact, humans have the ability to regenerate in utero until the beginning of the third trimester. With the exception of our liver and digit tips, we largely lose this capacity as adults—but why? Let’s turn to the animal kingdom for answers. Is regeneration lost through evolution? Before we get to the species that, for the most part, are unable to…

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Biology Health Technology 

Ultrafast Camera Freezes Time

By Kate Stone (@GotScienceOrg) A new camera technology is making it possible to see extremely fast phenomena, even light, in slow motion. Called T-CUP, the world’s fastest camera can capture ten trillion (10 exp 13) frames per second. To put that into perspective, high-speed cameras capture around 250 to 1,000 frames per second. Let’s think about that for a moment. CUP stands for compressed ultrafast photography. The operative word here is ultrafast. This new camera technology is so fast and so precise that it operates on a scale far beyond…

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