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Issue 23 Science Shoutout

The Need, the Needle or the Needless?

Among the deadliest diseases worldwide is diabetes. Despite the exhausting public health campaigns designed to raise awareness of the fatal complications that develop within one year of untreated diabetes, one in ten people around the world suffer from it. The “hidden” sugar is added to virtually every soda, not to mention the abundance of sweets in our everyday diet. Kids as young as two years old are exposed to such high sugar food in every social encounter and there’s no way to protect them from it, even if we want to. The fact that so many of us have become accustomed to the taste of sugar is scary if not alarming already and is starting to cost us not only money, but lives. Lives of so many lost over a little 6 carbon ring molecule.

However, not all of it is our fault. According to their literature, even the ancient Greeks and Egyptians noticed a sweet taste of their urine. The term diabetes was first used over 2000 years ago and the first medical texts describing it appear in 1425 in Britain. The diabetes mellitus they talked about is, as we call it today, of type 1. The onset of the type 1 diabetes is usually already in childhood, due to genetics and congenital pancreatic insufficiency. With the modern world came the type 2 – caused by the overconsumption of sugar and carbohydrates, usually starting later in the adult life. The difference is – in type 1 diabetes pancreatic cells produce very little or no insulin due to the organ dysfunction, whereas in type 2 it’s either all other cells in our body stop recognizing the insulin our pancreas produces and become blind to it in a way, or the pancreas stops producing the insulin because of the exhaustion caused by constant high blood sugar levels.

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Issue 22 Science Shoutout Understanding Science

Danger in disguise

The most prescribed drug in the world is atorvastatin (the inhibitor of cholesterol production in the liver, used to lower blood cholesterol levels). However, the most prescribed group of drugs are benzodiazepines. Behind the elegant and “clean” chemical structure of three rings – benzene, diazepine and phenyl ring lays a group of drugs so powerful and potentially harmful, and yet… so safe. Their list of indications is amongst the longest of all drugs, but they are also known as most commonly used drugs without doctors’ prescription. Not only are they being sold in the streets and on the black market, but they are also shared with friends and family as a “help” to get through a stressed or hard period in one’s life. What’s worse, because of their clinical efficiency when used properly, even doctors often prescribe them for minor problems and in the wrong dosages, or for too long of a time period. Although there are many positive sides of benzodiazepines and they can be extremely useful for many patients, which we will talk about in a minute, there is also a great risk attached to them, which not so many people are aware of. But let’s start from the beginning – how do they work?

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Issue 21 Presenting Alumni

Julia Hamblin-Trué: “Seek discomfort – the uncomfortable things we say yes to make us grow the most”

This issue comes with yet another alumni interview. This time we wish to present to you Julia Hamblin-Trué, a pretty loyal alumni member and, as you’ll probably agree after getting to know her, a Swiss knife of Summer School of Science. Julia is currently an undergraduate student at CODE University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, where she studies Product Management. Her Summer School of Science journey started back in 2017 when she was a participant in S3++ camp. Continue reading and you’ll find out how her S3++ journey continued, where she is now and how she got there.

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Issue 20 Understanding Science

HIV – a hero?

Several studies conducted in the 90’s suggested that prevalence of HIV infection was smaller in patients with sickle cell anemia than in healthy individuals. Although the mechanism behind that is still not fully understood, today we know a lot more than we did back at the end of the century. In order to understand the connection between sickle cell anemia and HIV infection, let us first take a look at both of them separately.

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Issue 20 Science Shoutout

The most popular anti-procrastination method

Ah, the never-ending cycle of continuous working, feeling you haven’t done enough and then binging on YouTube self-improvement videos hoping to start fresh tomorrow… or on Monday… or, well, at least next year. We have all been there and we have all done that. The amount of money those self-help videos and books make is even more ridiculous when you realize how toxic they can get. However, among the noise there is legit advice and a few methods that have been proven to work and are even applied in school curriculums for children suffering from attention deficits. One of them, the most popular one for sure, is the Pomodoro method.

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Issue 19 Understanding Science

Friedreich’s ataxia – a “not so rare” disease

Friedrich’a ataxia (FA) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects 1 in every 50 000 people worldwide. Therefore, it falls under the umbrella of rare diseases. The thing with rare diseases is that it’s hard to get funding for researching their pathophysiology and possible therapies (ergo the name “orphan drugs”). However, with the recent rise of gene therapy, more and more private investors put their money towards finding a cure for 1 in 50 000 people. So don’t be misled by the title of this article – FA is still a rare disease, but its popularity among research groups and institutes has been growing for the past few years. The main reason for such blooming is the emerging field of gene therapy.

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Issue 18 Understanding Science

Ultrasound, magnetic fields and brain tumors – only fiction or a possible reality?

I believe it is safe to say that those of us who were at some point (or maybe still are) glued to our screens watching Grey’s Anatomy often found yourselves intrigued by some of the innovative treatments used on the patients. One of my personal favorites was a clever use of ultrasound waves to treat a hypothalamic hamartoma in a young boy. After that episode, I rushed to the Internet trying to find anything published about the technique. I was amazed by the idea and was trying to find out more about it. Is it really possible? Can it really be used as a completely non-invasive way of treating brain masses, including tumors? Is it safe? Is it maybe already in use? To my disappointment, I found nothing. I’m not sure whether I did a very bad job at googling those facts back then, or maybe really nothing had been published yet. However, I recently stumbled upon a very interesting article about the use of a head-mounted magnetic device that shrinks tumors. Since it reminded me of the cutting-edge treatment from Grey’s Anatomy, I once again googled it, only this time with greater success. As it turns out, a lot has been done and published upon this subject over the past few years.

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Issue 17 Science Shoutout

The mysterious neurology

Some of the most interesting, yet often limited clinical evidence comes from so called case studies. A case study offers a unique and thorough view of the disease in question, especially of how it affects one specific individual. Although intriguing, a case study can’t be considered reliable proof for forming or changing clinical guidelines or practices, due to its lack of statistical significance, or statistics in general. You see, big clinical studies, for example, are designed to predict how the majority would react to a certain drug, leaving the rare ones marginalized. Case studies, on the other hand, are meant exactly for the ones that “don’t fit in”, but also for the ones that are simply so rare it’s impossible to draw statistically supported conclusions. It’s the rare ones that bring case studies to the spotlight, and they make great teaching material for both professors and students.

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Issue 16 Understanding Science

Drug interactions 101

Since I started working as a community pharmacist, it has come to my attention that a big part of the general population takes six or more medicines every day, especially the elderly. Although they prepared us for this at university, it still surprised me once I witnessed it in everyday practice. The major problem with polytherapy are drug interactions, which are often neglected, especially in Croatia. The idea of rational pharmacotherapy is just that – to rationalize drug use and consequently assure safer treatments (fewer side effects, minimal risk of sub-dosing or overdosing), less cost to the healthcare system and greater adherence to the therapy; the latter possibly being the most crucial.

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Issue 14 Understanding Science

Can we treat Alzheimer’s?

It is likely that most of us, especially if we are hopeless romantics, had heard about the book or movie called „The Notebook“. In this two-hour romantic drama we are led through a wonderful and a bit painful story of a young couple who, against all ods, managed to grow old together. However, „The Notebook“ shows us much more than just a romantic love story – it also shows us the tragic lives of some 50 million people around the world whose memories and families fade away due to dementia.