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Original Reports

The Cultural Implications of Eating Disorders: A Comparative Study Between Argentina and the United States

As a culture consumed with body image and beauty, Argentina is a mecca for eating disorder patients. In fact, Argentina has a higher incidence of anorexia and bulimia than either the United States or Europe, with one in ten Argentines suffering from the illness. These statistics clash with common conceptions of eating disorders and body dismorphia, as many assume that eating disorders are unique to the United States and Europe. Many studies in recent years have addressed this issue and have investigated eating disorder prevalence in non-Western countries. However, little has been done to assess the direct pathways between culture and eating disorders, and how these pathways influence treatment. This study aims to elucidate the specific effect of culture on eating disorders in Argentina and the United States, and to address how these effects guide treatment. Based on 15 interviews, 12 weeks of observation in Argentina and the United States, and a comprehensive review of current literature, this study is an examination of pathology and treatment of eating disorders in these two countries. The study found that Argentina and the United States are more similar than they are different in regards to the pathway between culture, eating disorder development, and subsequent treatment. - Megan Goldring, Steven Lopez, Ph.D. Published on May 26, 2013.

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Review Articles

Opium: fighting the war on drugs in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, opium production, addiction, and exportation have become an increasingly large problem. This topic has been reviewed extensively from a religious, social as well as political standpoint. This paper aims to analyze the current situation while considering the economic conditions of the country and the cultural influence on treatment programs. We hope to focus attention on the opium epidemic in Afghanistan as well as the current efforts and lack thereof in the country. As the nation that is responsible for 75% of the world's opium production, the circumstances in Afghanistan leave citizens highly susceptible to addiction and dependency. Therefore, a strategy that combines national and international law strengthening, with alternative crop production, would be most efficient to distribute money effectively. By understanding the beliefs and attitudes about opium addiction in Afghanistan and by assessing the current resources, we propose an efficient and culturally sensitive solution to the problem. - Beina Azadgoli, M.S., Sheila Pakdaman, M.S. Published on May 26, 2013.

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Reading the Fine Print

Streamlining, shortcutting, simplifying. The modern world thrives on efficiency, and the realms of science and medicine are no different. One day, patients will not have to wait for donor matches or organs; 3D bioprinters will be able to rapidly create tissue structures for all those in need. One day, testing experimental drugs on animals will not be necessary; human tissue scaffolds will be printed for the sole purpose of drug and toxicity testing. Invasive surgical procedures will be streamlined, organ transplant lists will be shortcutted, drug testing will be simplified. Recent and revolutionary, this methodology utilizes 3D model drawings as blueprints for tissue structures. Using Bioink, comprised of various cell aggregates, bioprinters are capable of manufacturing a variety of organs and biological machinery by building them up layer by layer. Ultimately, they can print a wide variety of tissues: bone to cartilage, vasculature to kidneys. They can aid in drug testing. They can prevent patient overflow on transplant lists. But most importantly, bioprinters can save lives. - Hannah Friesen. Published on May 26, 2013.

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Progress in Human Immunodeficiency Virus Research

For years, doctors, scientists and researchers have been looking for a cure for the devastating retrovirus Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). While pill cocktails have been found to extend the degradation of the virus into AIDS, a successful cure for the virus itself has not been found. However, one child has recently been cured due to a quick diagnosis and fast, aggressive administration of three antiviral drugs. This child is now only the second person to ever be cured, and represents a whole new possibility for treatment of young HIV sufferers. The first cured patient was an adult male, cured through a blood stem cell transplant from someone with a resistance to the virus. This new case provides hope for a new kind of treatment, specific to infants who are infected by their mothers during childbirth. While this is not the ideal form of treatment – the ideal form being treatment of the mother so that the child does not contract HIV at all – it is commonly the only option and could save many lives that would otherwise be taken before they had barely begun. - Giulia Lopomo. Published on May 26, 2013.

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Computers and the Human Body

Scientists have made some recent advances in connecting computer technology with the cellular level processes of the human body. Both of these advances use the concept of the transistor to gain human control over cellular level processes. Many processes within the cell use protons, so the development of a transistor that can control the flow of protons, as opposed to the traditional transistor that controls the flow of electrons, is a crucial step in being able to implement human-directed changes in how the human body functions. Furthermore, a group of scientists at Stanford University have even used the idea of the transistor in order to control the expression of certain genes at the DNA level. - Kylie Morgan. Published on May 26, 2013.

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The Physics, Biology, and Psychology behind Music

Swaying back and forth in a sweaty mosh pit, fist pumping in the air to the bass drum, and voices screaming out lyrics; a concert can be a thrilling experience. Seemingly far away from academics, rock stars rule crowds with glittering guitars and windmills. But where does music come from? While music may be enhanced by large crowds of people and cultural trends, in essence, music is explained by scientific phenomena. In fact, art through science happens everyday. As the laws of physics create music, our anatomy and brain function allow us to hear and process the music. The question then becomes how can something as simple as a guitar string conjure up such emotions or make such interesting sounds? - Megan Herring. Published on May 26, 2013.

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Product Stewardship

The United States accumulates more solid waste per person per day than any other nation. Efforts to improve landfills and incinerators have not sufficiently alleviated the nation's unmatched waste production. Concerns over the irreversible exhaustion of natural resources, global warming, and pollution have contributed to environmentalists' shifting strategies for minimizing the impact of widespread producer-consumerism. Design for Environment (DfE), an increasingly utilized concept, encourages the systematic integration of environmental considerations into industrial design and production processes. Despite studies exposing Americans' increased loyalty to companies known for their environmental awareness, 17 states have yet to pass a single law requiring manufacturers to invest in the sustainability and waste management of their products. Distributing the responsibility for a product's impact among manufacturers, retailers, and consumers will lessen reliance on end-of-life processes that contribute to pollution and will minimize resource consumption. - Madeleine Heller. Published on May 26, 2013.

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Stemming the Flow of Blood Doping

In the world of athletics, performance-enhancing techniques follow in the footsteps of scientific advancements made in the realm of biomechanics. New technologies have made it increasingly possible for old records to be shattered by young athletes. New training regimens are tailored to strengthen specific portions of the anatomy, and new athletic gear is made to be more aerodynamic,. However, some developments have yielded less positive results; false victories have been won by those resorting to illegal performance-enhancing practices. A prevalent problem in sports today is blood doping: artificially boosting the body's natural count of red blood cells for the purpose of increasing oxygen levels and decreasing muscle fatigue [1]. As an attempt to lessen illicit transfusions and injections, blood doping was declared illegal by the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1986 [2]. Ultimately aiming to reestablish the integrity of competitive athletics, researchers have been developing detection methods in order to calm the storm science itself created. - Hannah Friesen. Published on August 21, 2012.

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The Dopamine High: From Social Networking to Survival

The mesolimbic pathway involving the neurotransmitter dopamine has been associated with various survival and reward behaviors, from eating to sleeping. Studies have unveiled that diseases and disorders such as Parkinson's Disease and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can arise from irregularity of dopamine's activity. Recently, a study conducted at Harvard University has unveiled another activity that is linked to dopamine: social networking. - Victoria Saadat. Published on August 21, 2012.

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Conversion of Dermal to Hematopoietic Cells Through Genetic Manipulation

The induced pluripotent stem cell can be derived in order to convert a somatic cell into a stem cell that can be differentiated into any cell type. However, a study conducted at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada has demonstrated that dermal fibroblast cells can be converted into white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets without use of a pluripotent intermediate. The findings of this study have the potential to impact fields such as oncology and bone marrow transplants by allowing production of hematopoietic cells. - Astgik Amy Demirchyan. Published on August 21, 2012.

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Adderall Abuse and its Implications for the College Academic Community

A psychostimulant typically prescribed to patients with attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy, Adderall has found additional followers within college campuses. Adderall abuse is becoming increasingly popular among college students since the drug accommodates the basic college lifestyle of studying, doing all-nighters, and partying. Adderall functions by increasing mental concentration, alertness, and energy. However, Adderall use holds a high risk for dependence and addiction. Structurally similar to euphoria-inducing neurotransmitters such as dopamine and epinephrine, the compounds in Adderall function like these homologs. The implications of Adderall abuse are many and include both biological and social aspects. - Nahel Kapadia. Published on February 8, 2012.

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Preserving the Past for the Sake of the Present: The Science Behind Art Conservation

Art conservation refers to the techniques used to maintain and preserve the appearance and cultural heritage of artwork. As technological advances change our environment, art pieces have become subject to negative factors, such as high temperatures and increased pollution. Museums have implemented measures to protect their items from such changes. Conservation methods are used to clean and maintain artwork that has undergone varying degrees of damage. While some of these processes involve direct contact with art pieces, scientific advancements have allowed conservators to clean and preserve artwork through minimally invasive methods. The advantages and disadvantages of each technique vary based on type of art undergoing conservation. - Hannah Friesen.Published on February 8, 2012.

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Anti-FIV Gene Therapy: Lighting the Way to an AIDS Cure

The worldwide Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) epidemic has infected over 30 million people throughout the world. After exiting its dormant stage, the AIDS-causing Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) interferes with the body's ability to fight oncoming infections by infecting immune cells. Since HIV is a rapidly mutating virus, modern anti-HIV drugs have not provided an absolute cure since they cannot target all HIV mutants and also have side-effects. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic studying the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), an analog of HIV, have used gene therapy to enables cats to produce anti-FIV proteins. Similar gene therapy-based techniques can be used to target and inhibit HIV more effectively. - Victoria Saadat. Published on February 8, 2012.

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The Black Death – Alive Once Again?

The Black Death wrecked havoc across Asia, Europe, and Africa during the 1340's and even wiped out about half of London's population. The plague continues to kill thousands of people every year even though modern antibiotics and vaccines have lowered the mortality rate. While the modern plague has been associated with the bacterium Yersinia pestis, much controversy has been stirred over whether this bacterium is responsible for causing the ancient Black Death epidemic. However, in 2011, new sequencing technology and molecular techniques allowed a team of scientists to confirm the involvement of Y. pestis in the plague, both in past and today. - Nicole Runkle. Published on February 8, 2012.

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Exploring the Nuclear Accidents of Japan: A Tremor, a Tsunami, and the Dark Cloud It Left Behind

Most residents of Southern California stay prepared for earthquakes. Creditably, so were the Japanese. Nevertheless, on March 11th, 2011, a large earthquake and subsequent tsunami upturned the northeastern coastlines of that emerging super power, and no one was prepared for what followed – three nuclear reactor blasts, a fire, loss of basic amenities such as food, water and shelter for the residents, and the biohazard of radiation leaking from the cooling towers. Scientists, physicians and environmental specialists are exploring the nuclear accidents and recalling similar past incidents to determine how the radiation will affect residents near the reactors, other Japanese residents, and those in other neighboring countries. - Tripti Gupta. Published on June 16, 2011.

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Gardasil Continues to Stir Heavy Controversy

Gardasil is the first made human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18 in both males and females. Since HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, HPV vaccination is considered a must by many health care providers. Since Gardasil was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June 2006, about 33 million doses of Gardasil have been administered in the U.S. and 18,354 adverse side effects, 92% of which were non-serious, have been reported. Physicians and other health care professionals have been debating about the benefits and risks of Gardasil. Most agree that studies need to be done to assess the long-term side effects of this vaccine and to determine if Gardasil can lower cervical cancer rates. - Harmony Phuong Huynh. Published on June 16, 2011.

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The Science Behind Exercise

Exercise is known to promote muscle growth, allow weight loss, and support a healthier body and mind. The scientific details behind muscle growth and weight loss are becoming clearer with ongoing research. For example, research has shown that different types of exercise can alter the physiology of muscle cells in distinct ways, whether they be an increase in muscle strength or enhancement of muscle endurance. Understanding the impact of different sports, such as swimming, on hormonal levels has allowed people to achieve weight loss more successfully. For most of those who frequent the gym, exercise is simply a way to maintain a healthy weight, relieve stress, and reduce the risk of diseases that accompany the aging process. Understanding the scientific mechanisms behind the physiological effects of exercise can allow athletes and the general public alike to tailor exercise regimens to fulfill their personal goals. - Victoria Saadat. Published on June 16, 2011.

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Rewinding the Age Clock: Anti-Aging Research

As we blow out the candles on birthday cakes year after year, we may not be completely aware of the changes that are accumulating in our bodies with the passing of time. The mind and body gradually degrade with age, losing their former vigor and resulting in a wide range of effects. Every year, countless attempts are made to reverse aging and recapture youth, from cosmetic products to creams to plastic surgeries. While the search for the elusive fountain of youth is no new phenomenon, recent research has yielded findings that could potentially bring us closer to the end of this search. In experiments performed on mice, it was found that TA-65, a telomerase activator extracted from a Chinese medicinal plant called Astragalus membranaceus, increased the lifespan of adult mice without increasing cancer risk. Raising both excitement and controversy, the company Telomerase Activation Sciences has incorporated TA-65 into a nutraceutical capsule that is meant to prolong the human lifespan when ingested over a period of time. - Hemalatha Bhamidi. Published on June 16, 2011.

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Computerized Axial Tomography: A Revolutionary Medical Imaging Tool

The CAT or CT scan is a versatile imaging tool that has helped to diagnose a myriad of medical conditions. Since its invention in 1972, researchers have continued to improve the speed and clarity of CT scanners. Today, the CT is used to detect tumors, assist surgeries, and assess post-trauma injuries, including that of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords caused by the January 2011 shooting. - Phuong (Harmony) Huynh. From Volume 1, Issue 1. Published on April 2, 2011.

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Controversy Over Use of Mercury in Dental Amalgam Fillings

The installation of mercury dental fillings is a cost effective yet controversal procedure. Reports from patients and professionals suggest that the amalgam filling may be toxic and cause serious side effects. Research is being done to elucidate the effect of mercury fillings on body tissue. - Victoria Saadat. From Volume 1, Issue 1. Published on April 2, 2011.

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Cardiovascular Disease: The American Epidemic

Heart disease has become America's leading cause of death, afflicting 81.1 million people and claiming the lives of 831,300 people in 2006 alone. Patients at high risk of heart disease should maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly to avoid a major cardiovascular event. Studies are being done to determine unknown risk factors as well as novel techniques of repairing heart damage after a heart attack. - Hemalatha Bhamidi. From Volume 1, Issue 1. Published on April 2, 2011.

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Cluster Headaches: A Rare, Yet Debilitating Pain Syndrome

The cluster headache is a rare condition, only affecting 0.1 to 0.3% of the population. However, this pain syndrome is associated with severe, debilitating pain. In an attempt to develop more effective medical treatments for the cluster headache, researchers are attempting to elucidate the pathophysiology behind this pain syndrome. - Christine Choi. From Volume 1, Issue 1. Published on April 2, 2011.

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Mini Insights

Déjà Vu: Where have I heard this before?

We have all experienced it—the strange and eerie feeling of recognizing something despite encountering it for the first time. This phenomenon known as déjà vu (which in French translates to "already seen") is experienced by 60-70% of adults and can occur upon exposure to a familiar place, person, or circumstance. Neuroscientists at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT may have shed light on the neurological mechanisms in the hippocampus that create the sensation of déjà vu. - Christine Nagy. Published on April 3, 2011.

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The Science Behind Wrinkles

With every birthday, it gets harder and harder for our skin to conceal our age. Wrinkles, age spots, sagging, and looseness of the skin are the telltale signs of aging. An understanding of how skin ages can help us to take the necessary preventive measures to keep it looking young. - Marcela Hasbun. Published on April 3, 2011.

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Frisbees in Flight

Frisbees have long been used recreationally by people of all ages. However, rarely do people stop to wonder about the physical phenomena that allow them to enjoy this addictive flying disc. Understanding the two fundamental ideas behind the flight of a Frisbee may help you to keep the Frisbee lifted in the air for a longer period and greater distance. - Jordan Altaras. Published on April 3, 2011.

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Do fingernails grow faster than toenails?

Fingernails grow about two to three times faster than toenails. While it takes about 6 months for a fingernail to replace itself from the root at a rate of about 3 millimeters per month, toenails grow back in 12-18 months at a rate of about 1 millimeter every month. Even though fingernails and toenails grow through the same processes, a variety of factors cause fingernails to grow much faster. - Olivia Gardner. Published on April 3, 2011.

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Margarine vs. Butter: Which is the Better Spread?

The debate over which is better—butter or margarine—has been going on for years. While opinions can be decided based on a wide variety of criteria, such as taste or texture, the question of the chemical difference between the two can often elude consumers. The difference in composition between butter and margarine is important to consider when comparing these two spreads. - Jacqueline Kurth. Published on April 3, 2011.

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News Articles

Job Opportunity: Science Education Teaching Assistant Positions for Young Scientist Program

USC ReadersPLUS is searching for five undergraduate students with at least one year to commit to the Young Scientists Program. The Science Education Teaching Assistants will assist in implementing hands-on science lessons for 4th and 5th graders in the USC Family of Schools, including Weemes and Vermont Elementary Schools. These lessons will support teachers and students in reaching the goal of implementing effective science instruction into their classrooms. The objective is that the science labs at these schools will serve as a model for other school sites and will lead to increased science activities in all of USC's Family of Schools. Undergraduate students will teach science labs to a group off about 25 elementary school students. - Published on June 19, 2011.

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Office of Pre-Health Advisement

The College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences has opened an Office of Pre-Health Advisement. Under Dr. Kenneth Geller's leadership, this office will provide advisement and a variety of services to all of USC's pre-health students.- Tripti Gupta. Published on April 2, 2011.

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