Written by Bria Metzger '20
Edited by Elana Balch '21.5
In the heat of the summer of 2015, vast tracts of the Wallkill River in New York turned green for the first time — but not the last. It happened again in 2016. The green took on the appearance of mats, foam, scum, and even, in a few desperate calls to local environmental groups, spilled buckets of green paint .
These thick green swaths may look like algae, but the offending organisms are actually cyanobacteria, somewhat misleadingly called ‘blue-green algae’. Like algae, cyanobacteria are photosynthetic: they store the sunlight they receive as nutritionally-packed sugars. Like other photosynthetic organisms, they’re limited by nitrogen and phosphorus, the two main components of any fertilizer. When the weather is right and resources are abundant, they’re well-equipped to take advantage. A HAB can quickly cover an entire lake, or, in the case of the Wallkill, 30 miles of river .
By: Sarah Wornow
Edited by: Alyscia Batista
Undergoing a surgical operation to remove a tumor may be the only way to save a cancer patient’s life. Yet even with a potentially life-saving operation, cancer cells left in the body post-surgery can begin to grow again and lead to cancer recurrence. Cancer recurrence isn’t uncommon — for example, pancreatic cancer has a 40% chance of recurring after surgery, bladder cancer has a 50% chance of recurring post-surgery, and advanced soft tissue sarcoma has a nearly 100% chance of recurrence . Even though surgically removing the tumor may appear to be beneficial in cutting cancer out of the body, it can actually “increase [the] shedding of cancer cells into circulation,” thereby promoting the growth and spread of cancerous cells throughout a patient’s body . In the end, surgery can actually be counterproductive to treating cancer.
Recently, researchers at UCLA have developed a sprayable gel for surgeons to use after removing a tumor that boosts the immune response to any remaining cancerous cells left in the area. Cancer cells usually overproduce CD47, a protein that sends “don’t eat me” signals to phagocytic cells, which essentially makes them invisible to immune cells and allows them to grow without being killed . The gel– which consists of the blood clotting proteins thrombin and fibrinogen, along with CaCO3 nanoparticles laden with antibodies– slowly releases anti-CD47 antibodies at the site of the tumor. These antibodies block CD47 from sending out their signal, allowing the cancerous cells to become visible to the immune system. Macrophages and other phagocytic cells can then respond to the cancer cells and kill them.
In addition to bolstering the innate immune response, the adaptive immune response becomes stronger due to the macrophages presenting tumor-specific antigens to T-cells . The adaptive immune system can then fully destroy the cells. In a clinical setting, this gel could potentially have a huge impact on decreasing the chance of cancer recurrence. Researchers found that mice who underwent surgery for advanced melanoma and were sprayed with the gel remained tumor-free for over 60 days. Not only can the gel prevent tumor recurrence in the same site, but studies in mouse models have shown that it also can prevent distant tumor spread, decreasing the chance of cancer forming in another area of the body, a process known as metastasis .
Another benefit to using this gel is that patients wouldn’t have to undergo additional chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or radiation treatments post-surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells. All of these treatments cause unwanted side effects to the patient such as hair loss, nausea, or illness.
Despite these incredible discoveries, there’s still a long way to go before the gel can be used in humans. The researchers have to optimize the concentrations of anti-CD47 antibodies, fibrinogen, and CaCO3 nanoparticles to more effectively boost the immune response. Future testing could take years to complete. Nevertheless, this preliminary gel has proven to be effective at reducing the chance of post-surgical cancer recurrence.
Cancer surgeries could now potentially be a one-and-done deal, with one surgery having the ability to completely remove all cancerous cells. Finding a way to make surgery more effective will impact the majority of cancer patients, as most cancers typically require surgery as part of the treatment.
There are a few reasons why this gel could become standard practice for surgeons to use in the future. First, it’s fairly simple to produce, with the main three ingredients being fibrinogen, thrombin, and CaCO3 nanoparticles. All of these molecules can be created in a lab and tweaked to obtain the right concentration. Secondly, the gel can be used for most types of cancers. Because most cancer cells overexpress CD47 to hide themselves from the immune system, having a general anti-CD47 antibody can effectively make those cells visible to the immune system and able to be phagocytosed. Lastly, it causes no extra harm to the patient. As opposed to chemotherapy or radiation therapy, which both negatively impact a patient’s body, this gel seemingly has no side effects on the patient, as shown by mouse models.
While there’s still a long way to go before seeing this gel being used in clinical trials, with the advent of this gel comes the hope that one day cancer patients won’t have to fear cancer recurrence after surgery.
Image from the American Chemical Society
 Primeau AP. Cancer Recurrence Statistics. [Internet] [Cited 2019 Oct 4]. Available from: https://www.cancertherapyadvisor.com/home/tools/fact-sheets/cancer-recurrence-statistics/
 Tohme S, Simmons R, Tsung A. Surgery for Cancer: A Trigger for Metastases. American Association for Cancer Research [Internet]; 2017 Mar 22. Available from:
 Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. CD47 [Internet] [Cited 2019 Oct 5]. Available from: https://med.stanford.edu/stemcell/CD47.html.
 Chen Q, Wang C, Zhang X, Chen G, Hu Q, Li H, et. al. In situ sprayed bioresponsive immunotherapeutic gel for post-surgical cancer treatment. Nature Nanotechnology [Internet]. 2018 [Cited 5 Oct 2019]; volume (14), 89-97. DOI: s41565-018-0319-4
 Paddock C. Spray gel could reduce cancer spread after surgery. [Internet] [Cited 2019 Oct 5]. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324009.php
By Malika Ramani ‘21
Edited by Jess Sevetson
Imagine putting your hand down on a hot stovetop and not even realizing you are burning. A life without pain – without analgesics, without anxiety – sounds liberating. It is, however, also dangerous – to need someone to inform you of injuries, to be unaware of the fact that you may be hurting your body without even realizing it. For Jo Cameron, this is her reality: the now 71-year-old woman has spent her entire life without feeling pain. It has only recently come to light that her lack of sensation is due to two unusual genetic mutations, and this discovery could lead to innovative treatments for pain and anxiety in the years to come.
Jo Cameron, 2019 (Image by Mary Turner for The New York Times) (1)
By: Ashley Nee, ‘22
Edited by Jess Sevetson
Alzheimer’s disease has a complicated history with estrogen. Two thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are women, and scientists have long turned to estrogen, a primary female sex hormone, in the hopes that further research may explain why the Alzheimer’s burden is greater in women than in men. Studies regarding hormone replacement therapy as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease report conflicting evidence, making the subject controversial among some scientists. However, a recent study supports the concept of using hormone replacement therapy to increase women’s exposure to estrogen as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease/dementia. 
By Erika Nakajima, '21
Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in women with more than 2 million new cases reported in 2018. While breast cancer often appears as an umbrella term for cancerous growth of breast tissue, this cancer can be divided into 21 distinct histological (differing in tissue) subtypes and at least 4 different molecular (differing in genetic mutation) subtypes, each with characteristic risk factors, response treatments, and outcomes. With this variation, it is increasingly apparent that instead of treating breast cancer as a single disease, targeted therapies, designed with specificity for each unique patient, are necessary.
Written by Neha Mukherjee, ’22
Edited by Ashley Nee, ‘22
While the rise of smartphone usage has allowed for people to remain connected at all times, it has also led to an unfortunate increase in traffic accidents. Distracted driving, which accounts for about 25% of all US traffic accidents, are largely due to texting while driving . A recent study from the American Journal of Criminal Justice determined that the reasoning behind texting while driving could be attributed to low self control.
by Rahul Jayaram '21
edited by Rishi Patel '21
We have all been put in situations where we wish that sleep was not necessary. From college students racing against the clock to finish term papers, to parents struggling to quiet bawling infants at midnight, many of us have probably questioned the importance of sleep and the purpose it serves. Years of research have proven that that sleep has crucial roles in roles in learning, memory formation, toxin removal, blood pressure maintenance, and more  . However, the core cellular function of sleep still remains unknown. In humans, sleep can be defined by specific electroencephalography (EEG) rhythms, while in non-mammals, sleep is solely defined on the basis of behavior, such as posture during sleep and changes in arousal levels with regard to external stimuli. Yet, across all animals there has been no defined marker that can be used to define sleep in a single cell . That is, until now. Recently, scientists at Bar-Ilan University found that individual neurons perform nuclear maintenance, or DNA restoration, during sleep, suggesting another critical role sleep plays for our bodies at the cellular level.
Written by Olivia Woodford-Berry, '19
Edited by Hannah Ngo, '21
From computer scientists studying artificial intelligence to neurologists investigating neurodivergence, researchers across specialties struggle to understand the inner working of neural networks and the human brain. Indeed, despite expansive advances made in the medical field over the last fifty years, there is still little understanding of neurological diseases. However, a recent study by Gargi Banerjee and David Werring of University College, London, suggests Prion diseases may be more prevalent than previously anticipated. 
By: Ashley Nee, ‘22
Edited by: Jess Sevetson
By Ethan Thio '22
Edited by Ishaani Khatri '21
It is human nature to distill our problems to their most pertinent metrics and obvious consequences. We focus on the open wound and ignore the sore back, because doing so makes us feel as if we can make our problems more manageable. But when considering complex issues such as climate change, the instinct to simplify is costly. A Guardian article titled “Our Oceans Broke Heat Records in 2018 and The Consequences Are Catastrophic,” explains that rising air temperatures are the most commonly reported evidence in the media of global warming.  Simply put, rising surface air temperatures are a hallmark of modern climate change.