Issue 17 Understanding Science

The story of CRISPR

CRISPR-Cas9 technology probably needs no special introduction. After all, exactly this system for precise genome editing has started a complete revolution of genetic engineering. Still, the focus of today’s article won’t be the application of CRISPR-Cas9 in biotechnology, no matter how fascinating it gets (but no worries, we will come back to it some other time).

Today, it’s time to take a look at the background of this almost perfect molecular tool, today’s version of which is reduced to only one enzyme and one carefully picked RNA molecule.

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.

Issue 15 Understanding Science

From Röntgen to Damadian: demystifying radiation and explaining radiology and nuclear medicine

Co-author: Mario Zelić

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Marie Curie

Radiation is a word that incites fear in a lot of people. Much of that fear originates from a misunderstanding of what it actually is, what it does and what it does not. “Radiation” is a very broad term, generally used to represent any emission of energy by a source of some kind. However, there are many different phenomena that fall under that umbrella, and they come in varying degrees of rarity and of danger. Even those that may be seen as “dangerous” in some respects can be more useful than harmful – which is why medicine has both treatments for those who suffered too much damaging radiation, and treatments utilizing the purposeful irradiation of a patient.

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.

Issue 14 Understanding Science

Patient tumour avatars improving treatment outcomes

With more than 19 million cases diagnosed per year and around 10 million deaths worldwide, cancer represents a big challenge in health care and an important cause of mortality and morbidity. Some of the most diagnosed cancer types like lung, female breast, and colorectal cancer account for a third of this incidence and mortality rate. So, how come we are still so ineffective in treating cancer? Part of the answer is tremendous tumour heterogeneity: between different types, between two people having the same type, or within one single tumour in one single person. And this biological phenomenon has been challenging scientists for a long time now.

Issue 12 Understanding Science

What happens when we mess up?

It is in the nature of medicine that you are gonna screw up; you are gonna kill someone.

Gregory House, on the TV show House
Issue 11 Understanding Science

From dissections to CRISPR: animal use in biomedical research

World Day for Laboratory Animals is marked annually on the 24th of April to raise awareness about experimenting on animals. Animal models have been used for scientific purposes, such as helping us understand cell mechanisms, complex biological functions and in finding new cures for diseases. Due to anatomical and physiological similarities between humans and animals, especially mammals, potential medications, vaccines and therapies are first investigated on animal (and non-animal) models. Clearly, not all results conducted on animals can be directly applied to humans; rather, they help us understand crucial processes and decide whether it is safe to move on to the next level. It is almost impossible to imagine biomedical research being run without animal models as they are crucial for fundamental discoveries – from ancient dissections to contemporary gene editing technology.

Issue 10 Understanding Science

Why it’s sometimes okay to use 3 instead of π

Now, now. Lay down the pitchforks. The title of this post might seem all the more blasphemous to some of you due to its date of publication, but it allows us to introduce a very important topic – the power of approximation, and when it should and should not be employed.

Issue 9 Understanding Science

What’s a number?

Three is a number, right? So are pi, the square root of two or i. But mathematics is all about abstraction, so how do we abstract the concept of a number? How do we properly define numbers?

Issue 8 Understanding Science

How do we learn and how do we remember?

Learning is the process of acquiring new knowledge, skills, and behaviour. It follows us throughout our lives and enables us to adapt to various new situations.

Memory is the ability of storing the knowledge, skills, and behaviour acquired through learning in our brains. We can differentiate between explicit and implicit memory, as well as sensoric, short-term, and long-term memory. These types of memory are frequently misunderstood, so I will try to explain them as easily as possible.