Ciencia Boricua Profiles

Every month we profile the work of an outstanding CienciaPR member or discuss a topic of relevance to our community

Sea cucumbers and regeneration

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Holothuria glaberrima
Sea cucumber, Holothuria glaberrima.

Sea cucumbers are echinoderms commonly found in the coasts of Puerto Rico. Although they are called ìcucumbersî due to their morphology, they are not really plants, but animals. In Asia they are considered a delicacy, but in Puerto Rico they are not used as food. Instead, they are used by researchers to understand one of the biggest mysteries in biology: the process of regeneration. Certain organisms, like echinoderms, have regenerative capacities, and can grow new organs from scratch even as adults. Other organisms, such as mammals, have very limited regenerative capacities.

Supernovas and X-Rays

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The Puppis A Supernova Remnant. The square shows the Bright Eastern Knot which is the target of the Micro-X rocket.

When we look at the sky during the night it is possible to appreciate stars of different colors and brightnesses. However, although we may think that stars will bright forever, the stars, as all the existence on the Earth and space, also have their life-cycle. There’s a type of stars called the supergiants that emit lots of luminosity. When a supergiant star collapse with itself in a way that they can produce an explosion, it produces what is known as supernova. A supernova is the process that occurs when a star’s life-cycle ends and explodes. In this process, the supernova explosion may produce a huge amount of energy similar to the one emitted by the Sun that is also a star.

Metagenomics of the Puerto Rican Soil

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El Yunque
El Yunque National Forest. One of the sampling sites of GeMS.

Although we are in a constant war to get rid of them, we have always lived in a world dominated by microbes. Interestingly, there is a new science field that aims to reveal the secrets of the microbial planet, but not as a tactic of war. Even though we donít pay a lot of attention to our microscopic friends, the microbial communities support all life of Earth, even ours. For this cause, understanding the characteristics of this unexplored microbial world may help us to solve many of the environmental, medical, biotechnological, energetical, and economical challenges of the world. The name of this new science is Metagenomics.

Development of the Neuronal Circuit

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Neuron cell (click image to zoom)

Did you know that in average humans have approximately 100 billion neurons in the brain? Neurons are cells of the nervous system that respond to electric stimulus and process and transmit information. If you though that neurons only reside in the brain, you are wrong because they are found also in the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves. The complex area of science that study neurons, their development and pathology is neuroscience.

Genomas: Personalized Medicine

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Overview of Genoma's PhyzioType System

Did you know that most of the prescribed or over the counter drugs have adverse reactions that we donít even know? The problem is that all the drugs that go out in the market, although tested in clinical trials, are studied in a representative sample of a population that probably will not represent what will happen to you. Most of the time when they go out to the market they present adverse reactions not reflected in the clinical trials. Then, what we should do? How we can predict if a drug that is supposed to cure me will kill me eventually? Thanks to Genomas and Dr. Gualberto Ruaño research, nowadays this is possible.

"Proteomics", Mass Spectrometry and Puerto Rico

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ESI-MS of Hemoglobin
ESI-MS of intact human hemoglobin showing the alpha-Hb (15,130.0) and the beta-Hb (15,869.8).

We know that you are asking yourself what these three words from the title have in common: Proteomics, Mass Spectrometry and Puerto Rico. However, if we analyze them closely you will figure out. Beginning with proteomics, the word in Spanish is a bit difficult to pronounce: proteomica. Proteomics is the science field that studies proteins and their structure and function. And what does "Mass Spectrometry" have to do in this? WellÖ a lot because mass spectrometry (MS) is one of the analysis techniques used to determine the mass, identity and modification of proteins. And for those that are wondering what is Puerto Rico's role in all this; please blame Dr. Irving E.

Corazón Hispano: protecting cardiovascular health in vulnerable Hispanic populations

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CT reconstruction of a human heart

Heart disease is the main cause of death in Puerto Rico and Latin America. According to the American Heart Association, every 35 seconds somebody dies due to complications regarding cardiovascular disorders.

The heart is responsible for pumping blood to all tissues. In spite of its strength, the heart is a delicate organ, susceptible to environmental risk factors.

Global health landmark: The genome of Aedes aegypti

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Aedes aegypti
Aedes aegypti, dengue vector

Aedes aegypti is the mosquito that transmits the flavivirus that causes dengue, a disease that afflicts about 100 million people annually. Aedes aegypti is also the vector for yellow fever and chikungunya virus.

Last month Nene et al published the complete genome sequence of Aedes aegypti in Science. This work will now allows researchers to develop sound strategies that prevent vector competence. For instance, this study will allow the identification of new genes and proteins that control the transmission of the pathogen, the mosquito resistance to insecticides and the mosquito behaviors that give rise to the transmission of the disease. The identification of those genes will then allow scientists to develop targeted drugs.

Quinones: cancer cell destroyers

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células cancerosas
Breast cancer cell

We have all been touched by this terrible illness. According to the American Cancer Society more than a half-million people die annually of cancer in the US. In Puerto Rico, the mortality rate is 5,000 patients per year, with a 2% increase each year.

Cancer results from uncontrollable cell proliferation, which leads to the formation of malignant tumors in different parts of the body. These tumors affect the physiological function of tissues and organs and are the target of cancer treatment.

Nanofibers: tomorrows high-tech bandages

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Nanofibers, new medical biotechnology that heals

The diabetic ulcers are the primary cause for amputations in the World. Diabetics are prone to circulatory problems. When circulation is poor, the tissue in the extremities is not well oxygenated, allowing these areas to become more susceptible to wounds development. If the wound is not treated promptly the extremities have to be amputated.