The Link between Leukemia and Down syndrome

It’s been frequently asked why people with Down syndrome have a higher risk than most of developing leukemia. For about 80 years, it was a mystery. Recently, a connection between people with Down syndrome and having a heightened risk of developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia was discovered.

Down syndrome is a common genetic disorder. It occurs in one out of 800 live births. It causes birth defects, medical problems, and some degree of learning disabilities. In fact, Down syndrome is the most common genetic cause of mild to moderate learning disabilities.

This disorder is a complication with chromosome pair 21. There are a few causes of this problem. There could be extra genetic material on chromosome 21 which may be caused by an extra chromosome. This is called Trisomy 21. This is the result of an error in cell division in the egg or sperm.

It can also develop from extra chromosomes in some cells. This form is called Mosaic Trisomy 21.The last cause could be that part of the chromosome has broken off and reattached to another chromosome. This is called translocation trisomy. In about one third of people, the translocation is inherited from a parent.

Leukemia is a form of cancer that initiates in blood-forming tissue. The disease is characterized by the unrestrained growth of blood cells (usually leukocytes) in the bone marrow. White blood cells are a fundamental component of the body’s immune response. The leukemia cells crowd and substitute normal blood and marrow cells.

Children born with Down syndrome are at an increased risk of having thyroid conditions, heart defects, and respiratory and hearing problems. Even worse is that their risk for developing childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia is twenty times higher than that of the average, healthy person.

“Advances in technology—which make it possible to study blood cells and leukemias that model Down syndrome in the laboratory—have enabled us to make that link,” said the study’s lead author, Andrew Lane, MD, PhD, of Dana-Farber’s Division of Hematologic Neoplasia.

Researchers discovered that the primary difference was that in the abnormal cells, the group of proteins, called PRC2, was not functioning. By some means, the loss of PRC2 was prompting B cells to divide and thrive before they were fully mature.

To confirm that a shutdown of PRC2 is critical to the development of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in those with Down syndrome, Dr. Lane’s team directed their attention to the genes that PRC2 was in control of. By using two sets of acute lymphoblastic leukemia cell samples (one from patients with Down syndrome, the other from patients without the syndrome), they measured the activity of thousands of different genes. While doing this, they looked for differences between the sets. About 100 genes turned out to be much more active in the Down syndrome group, and all of them were under control of PRC2. When PRC2 is repressed, those 100 genes respond with a spurt of activity which motivates the growth and division of cells.

The question then was, what gene or group of genes was stimulating PRC2 in Down syndrome patients’ B cells? Through the use of cells from mice with an extra copy of 31 genes, the investigators switched off those genes to see what effect it produced on the cells. When they turned off the gene HMGN1, the growth of the cells was halted and they died.

“We concluded that the extra copy of HMGN1 is important for turning off PRC2, and that, in turn, increases the cell proliferation,” Lane remarked. “This provides the long-sought after molecular link between Down syndrome and the development of B cell ALL.”

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How to Save Money in College

Going off to college is a life-altering experience; being financially responsible for your expenses, managing your own time, and, ultimately, becoming self-reliant is liberating but also extremely nerve-wracking.

“College can be an expensive endeavor, regardless of how many scholarships you earn or how much money the government gives you,” says Gersan Lopez, a student at FIU. “It’s scary having to balance a hectic new schedule. Having to balance a check book is even more terrifying.”

Where most college students tend to go wrong is in the way they spend their money. Between courses, textbooks, meal plans, transportation, housing, and entertainment, a lot of money is spent; there’s no way of avoiding that. Have you ever heard the phrase “starving student?” Well, college students are notoriously penniless, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are a few simple ways of keeping more money in your back pocket for the next four (maybe 6) years:

  1. Buy Used Textbooks: Buying brand new textbooks from a university’s bookstore can be quite expensive. Buying new editions costs even more. The DSM-IV-TR, a necessary purchase for psychology majors, costs around $500 for a brand new book. Buying it from a friend or from used bookstores can save you hundreds of dollars. An even better option is to buy your books online. Even with shipping charges, they usually turn out to be cheaper than books from stores.
  2. Look for Alternative Transportation: Rather than waste money on the many expenses of a car, save your gas, insurance, and maintenance money for more important things like tuition. Before starting the first semester, do your research. Find local buses or subway systems that run by your campus. Most will allow you to ride for free with a student ID card. If you live close enough or live on campus, invest in a bike or some comfortable running shoes and get some much-needed exercise while walking or biking to class.
  3. Deck the Halls (the residence halls, of course): Aside from tuition, room and board are going to be your next major expenses. At some schools, room and board costs even more than tuition. They have to pay for those dreadfully expensive dorms somehow. Students who work as Resident Advisors frequently get free or considerably reduced room and board. Considering the fact that the average full-time student attending an in-state public school pays $8,535 per year in room and board (according to The College Board), being an RA can be one of the most worthwhile jobs on campus.
  4. Be the Iron Chef of Your Kitchen: Schools accommodate students by offering several meal plan options but can have a whopping annual cost of $1,000. While many schools require those living on-campus to purchase a meal plan, students can typically choose whether they want a large or small option. Prepping some of your meals at home can save a ton during college.
  5. Work Hard: Earning good grades and being close to your department advisors will not only make job hunting and recommendations easier as senior year approaches, but it will also help you find scholarships and grants. Most colleges have special aid awards intended to reward students who have excelled in academics, athletics or extra-curricular activities, as well as assistant positions and paid research for juniors and seniors. Do well, keep in touch with the financial aid office, and check with your department heads and coaches about aid for upperclassmen.

 

These are only a few ways in which students can cut back on monthly spending and keep more money in their pockets. The most important thing to remember is to be responsible and be wise about managing your time. If you stick to that, college will be made a lot easier.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Packing for College

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You’re a high school senior; the school year is almost over and you just got your college acceptance letters. Soon enough you’ll be going off to school, hopefully somewhere far, far away. You eagerly pack your bags to finally move out but there’s just one problem: you don’t know what to take.

A lot of college freshman arrive on campus hauling loads of boxes and suitcases filled with things they “couldn’t leave behind” but later realized were completely unnecessary or took up space they could have used for all of the essential things they forgot to bring.

The best thing you can do is visit your future school and get a feel of what your life in a dorm room would be like. See what amount of space you have and how much of your things you will and won’t need to bring.

Here is a list of basic things you should take with you or that you should purchase:

Clothes:

  • Clothes and shoes appropriate for the climate: sandals for a sunny state, boots for a cold one
  • Pajamas, slippers, work out gear, bathing suits, flip flops, etc
  • At least 3 elegant outfits and matching shoes for special occasions
  • Toiletries: Toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, razor, shaving cream, and hair products
  • Towels, bath robes, and bath slippers just in case the shower is down the hall and not in your room
  • Clothes hangers

Food:

  • The only food you’ll be able to afford for a while: Ramen/Cup Noodles
  • Lots of canned and freezer foods
  • Eating utensils: forks, knives, spoons, etc.
  • A few sets of bowls, plates, cups, etc.
  • A recipe book (in case you want to get creative one day)

Things for your room:

  • Comforter/bedspread
  • Pillows
  • Bed linens (find out what size your mattress is)
  • Desk lamp
  • Cleaning supplies: laundry detergent, glass cleaner, mops, brooms, etc.
  • Medication for emergencies: Tylenol, Advil, Benadryl, and Motrin
  • First-aid kit
  • An alarm clock
  • Desk organizers
  • A small book shelf packed with a few personal favorites
  • Dry erase board for reminders
  • Photographs, photo albums, or digital photo frames to always have a reminder of home

Things for class:

  • A laptop
  • Plenty of paper and writing utensils
  • Dictionary
  • Backpack
  • Calculator
  • Sticky notes

These are just a few basic necessities and they are only a few of the things that you’ll need to make space for in your suitcase. Depending on you and your needs, the things and the amount of those things that you carry with you will vary.

Now for the don’ts: DO NOT take every single item in your room or buy everything you see at Wal-Mart because you don’t need everything you see. As hard as it might be to accept, you can’t wrap your room up in a suitcase and take it with you wherever you go. You need to let go of the things you don’t need:

  •  Your bed (they have one for you)
  • Your stuffed animal collection
  • Hotplates, skillets, toasters, toaster ovens
  • Air conditioners (bring a small fan instead if your dorm room has no a/c)
  • Extension cords
  • Candles
  • Pets (your parents will take care of them)
  • Waterbeds
  • Nail picture hangers

Now that you know the do’s and don’ts of packing for college, it’s time to get started!

Prom Made Affordable

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Senior year is the most exciting and memorable year of your high school experience, but it is also the most expensive. Between grad bash tickets and dresses for every major dance, you might not realize how much money is going into these events. Senior year can run up quite a tab for families.

Prom is probably the most expensive event of the year. The average family plans to spend a whopping total of $1,000 on this night alone. You want to make sure to have a memorable but reasonable, senior prom. So, your best option is to make a budget. Decide how much you will spend on a dress, shoes, accessories, etc.

“I’ve gotten pretty used to saying ‘no’ to the things I don’t need and can’t afford, but prom season has been the epitome of these recently formed habits,” says Melanie Yanes, an MLEC senior. “Pretty much anything I would normally buy, I either substitute for something cheaper or don’t buy it at all. The leftover money then goes straight to my prom fund.”

Prices for girls are usually higher than those for boys because boys only really have to rent a tux. Depending on where they go, a tux can cost anywhere from $125 to $150. The fancier the tux, the more expensive it gets. Shoes are usually included in the price of the rental. A cheaper option would be to wear a formal suit you already own.

Now for the girls: dresses are probably what you’ll spend the most money on. Prom dresses can cost anywhere from $100 to $600. Instead of spending a fortune on a dress you’ll only wear once, be sure to check the sales racks at bridal stores and dress shops such as David’s Bridal or Zayas for bargains. Try to budget for shoes and accessories at the same place as well if possible.

Another option would be to order a dress online. These are just as nice but are usually cheaper than dresses that you’ll find at a retail store. The only problem is sizes. You must be sure about your size before you order it and try to place your order at least 3 months in advanced so that you give the company time to ship it, and yourself a month or two to make any alterations if necessary.

Ladies: mani-pedi treatments, blowouts, and make-up are a must! But is it necessary to spend $250 for all of that? A fun option would be to hold a hair, nail, and make-up party with a few friends. You can bring all of your supplies and fix each other up. It’s a much better option and a good time for some girly bonding. Save your money for any special treatments like hair dying or haircuts that should be done professionally at a salon.

An important detail is the corsage for the girl and a boutonniere for the boy. Her corsage could run from $10 to as much as $50. His single pin-on flower will run about $10 to $20 if it’s simple. Supermarkets sell corsages and boutonnieres that are less expensive than the local florist.

It’s a rare occasion for kids choose the glitz and a glam of a limousine – an expensive extra for prom night. You can hire a limo at an average cost of $450 for the evening. If you and your date ride solo, that’s a lot for only the two of you. If you still decide to go with the pricy choice of a limo, you can split the cost between eight people if you get together with three other couples. It comes out to be a lot cheaper for everyone.

Prom night is supposed to be a night to remember. These tips will help you have much happier memories without credit card debt.

Protein May Determine Who Gets Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. The symptoms of this disease usually develop slowly and worsen with time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks such as doing things that require multiple steps or even communicating with others.

Some common symptoms of this disease are increased memory loss and confusion,problems recognizing family, friends and even oneself, continuously repeating stories, favorite words, or motions, an inability to communicate, lack of control over bowel and bladder,difficulty doing things that have multiple steps, like getting dressed, and needing help with activities of daily living.

Scientists believe Alzheimer’s disease prevents parts of a cell from running properly. Although they do not know where the trouble starts, they do know that backups and breakdowns in one system cause problems in other areas. As damage spreads, cells lose their ability to do their jobs and, eventually die, causing irreparable changes in the brain.

Why some people whose brains accumulate the plaques and tangles like those associated with Alzheimer’s do not develop the disease has always been a mystery. Research done at Harvard can shed some light as to what the answer to this mystery is.

“Why should a fetal gene be coming on in an aging brain?” Dr. Bruce A. Yankner, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of the new study, asked himself. He thought that this was because in aging, as in birth, brains encounter great stress, threatening neurons that cannot regenerate if harmed.

The new research suggests that Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia may be related to a failure in the brain’s stress response system. When this system functions properly, it is capable of protecting the brain from abnormal Alzheimer’s proteins. If this system is wrecked, critical areas of the brain begin to degenerate.

It is a credible explanation as to why some people are more susceptible to Alzheimer’s than others. Scientist’s research is concentrated on a protein called REST. This protein was previously thought to act mostly in the brains of developing fetuses. It now also seems to protect neurons in healthy elderlies from aging-related stresses. But in people who suffer from Alzheimer’s or other dementias, the protein is harshly depleted in key regions of the brain.

His team discovered that REST appears to switch off genes that promote cell death, protecting neurons from normal aging processes like inflammation, energy decrease, and oxidative stress. It was found that healthy adults between the ages of 73 and 106 had a sufficient amount of REST proteins in their brains.

People with Alzheimer’s and other dementias such as mild cognitive impairment, frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body dementia had much less REST in parts of the brain affected by these diseases than healthy brains.

This was true of people who had issues with memory. People who remained cognitively healthy but whose brains had the same buildup of tau tangles  and amyloid plaques (present in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s) had three times more REST than those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The studies conducted proved that roughly a third of people who have these plaques and tangles will not progress to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s hard this instant to see how the research will result in reducing Alzheimer’s as proteins are not absorbed by the body and put into the brain directly, but undergo a long, circuitous path to end up in the brain,” says David FitzGerald, assistant professor at the Department of Neurology at the University of Florida. “Even if we absolutely positively know that a specific protein is important for neuroprotection, it’s not so simple to get the protein there.”

The protein could lead to the development of new drugs for dementia, which has so far been nearly impossible to treat in the past. However, this needs to be further studied to conclude that it could eventually led to effective treatment. Things such as whether the decline of REST was a cause or effect of brain deterioration still need to be determined.

The Secret Life Of A Band Kid

Information For The Nation

This is my family This is my family

Nerd, geek, loser, weirdo- these are all names that have been assigned to band kids over the years. As a “band kid” I have heard all the stereotypes. I’ve been called a dork, a geek, and all of the above. But its nothing like that, band is this big pot of completely different people that came together and created this weird little dis-functional family.

I must admit that when I first joined band I underestimated it completely. I thought I would go in, play my instrument and leave. To this day I still fail to comprehend how such strangers could somehow become my best friends.

When I joined band I went in with the mentality that I would have to learn everything on my own, but I didn’t. Everyone was so incredibly kind and helpful. I joined with one friend, Caroline. She led me in and…

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FDA Approves of New Treatment For Hepatitis C

Over 3 million Americans have Hepatitis C, an infection that affects the liver. Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. There are many causes of hepatitis. For example, drinking too much alcohol, various drugs and chemicals, and also several different viruses can cause hepatitis.

Hepatitis C is a virus which is carried in the bloodstream to the liver. It can then affect and damage your liver. However, this virus can also affect other parts of the body, including the digestive system, the immune system and the brain.

There are six types of hepatitis C viruses, which all have different genes. These different types are called genotypes and they are numbered 1 to 6. Different types respond differently to treatment.

Past treatments were arduous and only 70% effective. However, a new drug option may now make patients’ lives much more manageable. Janssen Therapeutics, Division of Janssen Products, announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Olysio (Simeprevir). This antiviral treatment (combined with interferon and ribavirin treatment to interfere with viral replication within hosts cells) could mean a new beginning for Hepatitis C patients.

Olysio may benefit patients with Chronic Hepatitis C, including those who are treatment naïve (for example, a person with HIV who has never taken HIV drugs.) or who have failed prior interferon-based therapy.

Olysio works by blocking the viral protease enzyme that enables the hepatitis C virus (HCV) to replicate in host cells. Hepatitis C patients are excited about this recently FDA-approved treatment option that promises to be all in all, gentler and more effective than previous therapies.

“We want to get it as soon as possible,” says Russell Myers, a client with Harlem United and a peer mentor. “I want to live, just like everybody else.” Simeprevir has proven to have a high curing rate. There are also less pills to take on a daily basis.

It has less side effects and has a shorter duration of therapy. A responding patient would last 12 weeks with Olysio and 24 weeks with interferon and ribavirin. A previously non-responding patient would last 12 weeks taking Olysio and another 48-week period with interferon and ribavirin.

However, Simeprevir, like most drugs, has its downsides. For years, researchers have attempted to create a treatment that was interferon-free. Unfortunately, Hepatitis C patients must continue to use interferon and ribavirin treatment for a full 48 weeks to get the long term effects of Simeprevir.

“Given the complexity of the condition, Olysio was studied in a number of different patient populations, including individuals who have relapsed or failed to respond to previous treatments,” said Douglas Dieterich, M.D., Professor of Medicine in the Division of Liver Diseases, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and Olysio clinical trial investigator. “The FDA approval of OLYSIO™ is an important milestone for people living with chronic hepatitis C as it means that patients have a new treatment option with the potential to cure this challenging disease.”

The Truth About Music

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Music is present in every aspect of life. It’s the sweet or sorrowful melodies that perfectly compliment a scene from your favorite movie. It’s that nameless, faceless voice that tells you it’s okay, that your struggles aren’t yours alone, that someone gets it. It’s the tune that makes your hips sway and your head bob and your foot tap. It’s what makes your heart race and the goose bumps crawl across your skin. It’s that shimmer of hope when everything goes dark.

Music speaks to and inspires different people. The thumping of the bass blasting over the speakers makes an EDM enthusiast pump their fists in the air. The easy sound of Ron Pope’s voice and his sweet lyrics can draw couples to one another the way gravity draws you down to earth. The slow, lazy beats of reggae can help someone relax and feel cheery. The beautiful arrangements and harmonies of classical music can make someone concentrate, work harder.

Music is something that everyone can find comfort in and identify with. It sometimes says a lot about the type of person you are and what mood you’re in at a given moment. It’s something that can bring people together. It can make people who were once “just friends” something more. It can bring best friends closer than ever. It can spark friendships that will last a lifetime with people you never would’ve dreamed you’d have anything in common with.

The truth is, music isn’t merely the sound of someone banging drum sticks obnoxiously and the quick strumming of strings; it’s not just senseless lyrics with no meaning to them. It’s something with a rhyme and a reason, something with a message to all those in need of a reassuring voice. It’s the familiar sounds of comfort, the voice of unity among a divided world. The most important thing is finding the voice that speaks to you.

Celebrities: Why Do They Act The Way They Do?

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Celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Shia LaBeouf are known for their impulsive behavior. Their actions give the press and the public something to talk about. Their names are tarnished by the ridiculous things they say and do at times.  But do people consider why they act the way they do?

In December LaBeouf was accused of plagiarism. Critics saw some similarities between a short film he created and a story by Daniel Clowes, a graphic novelist. He tweeted an apology which apparently was also plagiarized.

Earlier in the month of February, he attended the premiere of “Nymphomaniac,” his latest movie, wearing a paper bag over his head. It said, “I am not famous anymore.” He wore a bag similar to this one with cutout eye holes and stared at the visitors of an Art Gallery he staged.

His recent behavior makes people question his wisdom. Most would say that his actions are the mark of immaturity. Others might think that it’s just carelessness on his part, or that he’s pretentious. But has anyone considered that maybe this was his way of grasping his slowly slipping fame and catching the public’s attention again?

Actors are sometimes forced to be the most important figure in a production but at the same time, the ones with the least authority. They have very little to no say in what happens on stage and what the finished product looks like. They play a role, and that’s all.

As a result of this, many artists tend to act out. They distance themselves, in a way, from their true personas to live up to the figure the public (and their advisors) create for them. Shia LaBeouf’s insurgence against the public image is his way of liberating himself from the expectations of the masses.

Compared to other artists, for Mr. LaBeouf, this was a little harder. Starting his artistic career at the ripe age of 10, he was forced, early on, to fit the image the public wanted. Those who start acting at a later age have a better chance of creating an image for themselves.

Miley Cyrus also claims that being a Disney Channel star at the age of 13 put her in a position where she was forced to grow up in a rush.

“I was an adult when I was supposed to be a kid,” Cyrus said in the October issue of Harper’s Bazaar. “So now I’m an adult and I’m acting like a kid.”

Artists feel pressured to maintain this image created for them. They begin trying to break away from it when they approach adulthood. This pressure they face can lead to acting out and that only starts an endless loop: misbehavior, bad publicity, more misbehavior, more publicity, and so on.

Some might argue that celebrities do indeed search for publicity to keep their name in the mouths of others but not exactly to break free of the cage they are confined to from the start of their careers. Some might say they do it to keep the attention directed towards them.

“Publicity: there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Anything that will put them in the limelight and keep them spotlight is all the better for them. It means more people searching for their name, or their song being played on the radio. It’s all about getting their name out there,” says Ana Mijares, MLEC sophomore.

So, yes, their better-judgment can be questionable at times because of the absurdity of their actions. However, we should also learn to be more considerate of them. There’s always a reason behind a person’s actions, and although they aren’t ordinary people, celebrities are people nonetheless.  They make mistakes and, hopefully, learn from them. We can only hope that for their own good, they don’t lose what little good will they’ve earned.

Same-Sex Couples Deal With Nightmarish Taxes

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Same-sex couples are finally allowed to pay their taxes conjointly which is a step forward for gay couples. However, for those who reside in a state in which their union is not acknowledged, this season for taxing will be a nightmarish one.

Dave Greenbaum and his husband, Mike Silverman, were legally married in California in 2008 but they now live in Kansas, where same-sex marriage isn’t recognized.

Because the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned, over 1,000 benefits were made available to same sex couples. Silverman and Greenbaum should be able to file cooperatively under federal law, but they live in Kansas so they are forced to file separately.

That means their accountant will need to fill out a total of five returns: two separate state returns, one joint federal return, and two separate federal returns that won’t actually get filed to the government. These will in fact be used to calculate individual state obligations.

They also have to modify their tax returns to disclose their marriage for the past three years. Greenbaum is outraged that he has to lie about his marriage when he files as a single tax payer although his marriage is recognized at the federal level.

“We pay the accountant by the hour, and she’s going to have to redo everything and file double the returns,” said Greenbaum, who paid around $600 to prepare their returns last year. “We don’t know how much extra it’s going to cost yet, but I’d just expect it to be around double.”

It’s imperative that couples check with their state for guidance on how to file or hire someone who is up to date with the latest advances. Otherwise, it could be complicated. Hiring a tax preparer who is experienced in the impediments of same-sex marriage law doesn’t come cheap.

It’s hard to plan anything because the states continue to change- one moment you can file as married, and in the next, you can’t. So unfortunately, same-sex couples are going to face some major issues this year with tax returns.