Let's Get Wise

Wisdom teeth are the last set of molars in your mouth and they usually erupt between the ages of 17-25. Anthropologists believe that these teeth were for the grinding of roots and meat that were in our ancestors’ diets. Because of the modern diet and silverware, we don’t need the teeth anymore and dentists recommend getting them removed between the ages of 15-17. If they aren’t removed and they erupt, they can cause problems like overcrowding and bacterial infection. Even if the teeth don’t erupt, they can cause cysts and tumors in the gums. These problems are because our mouthes and jaws have become smaller because of evolution. 
In wisdom teeth that are pulled, scientists can extract the dental pulp that is inside the tooth which contains stem cells. Stem cells are important because they are cells that can be turned into other cells to help cure diseases or problems. The stem cells that are in the teeth can help with curing bone and cartilage diseases, type 1 diabetes, and neurological diseases. An important way that these stem cells can help someone are by being used in corneal transplant. Corneal transplants are needed when the cornea of the eye is cloudy, resulting in vision problems and blindness. In a corneal transplant, the cornea is removed and replaced with one from a donor. While this works for the most part, there are cases where the eye rejects the transplant or there isn’t a donor cornea. Scientists have found that the stem cells in the teeth can be made into corneal stromal cells also called keratocytes and that these cells can be used instead of a donor cornea. The scientists tried this procedure out on mice and it worked without rejection.
These findings are very useful because this can prevent people from freaking out about stem cell research with embryos because now there is an alternative. This is also good because it provides a solution for the lack of cornea donors and it can result in more people with better eyesight. Since almost everyone gets their wisdom teeth taken out, there isn't a lack of supply of stem cells and the procedure isn't as controversial.

Debate Returns to the National Championships!

Congratulations to Nashay Day, Anna Sugrue, Kia DaSilva, and Eva Karlen on qualifying for the NCFL Grand National Tournament in Public Forum Debate. Last year, SLA became the first Philly school to send a debate team to the national tournament. This year, we are sending two teams in only our second year as part of the league! They will compete for the national championship in Sacramento, California over Memorial Day weekend. Wish them luck!
Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 8.21.05 AM
Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 8.21.05 AM

Prenatal Diagnosis

The science behind prenatal diagnosis

Prenatal diagnosis is the screening or testing for genetic diseases or other conditions before a child is born. Although there are many different techniques and tests, I will focus on a few:

  • Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD): During an IVF cycle, cells from the developing embryo can be genetically analyzed for chromosomal abnormalities - usually trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), trisomy 13 and trisomy 18. The parents can then determine which embryos, if any, to transfer into the uterus. It is also possible to determine the sex of the embryo.

  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound uses sound waves to “look” at a fetus as it develops in the uterus. Since sound waves reflect off of tissues differently depending on the density of the tissue, the sonographer can create images of the fetus’ external and internal anatomy. Ultrasound can be used to measure an embryo or fetus in order to predict the due date, detect twins, diagnose heart and other growth defects, measure heart rate, look for signs associated with Down Syndrome, and determine the sex of the fetus.

  • Chorionic villus sampling: The chorionic villi are a part of the placenta that arises directly from the embryo (as opposed to the mother). They are, therefore, genetically identical to the developing embryo. Chorionic villi can be removed from the placenta and genetically analyzed to detect Down Syndrome and other genetic disorders. CVS has a slight risk (.5-1%) of miscarriage, and can also lead to amniotic fluid leakage and/or infection.

  • Amniocentesis: A fetus develops in the amniotic sac, which is full of amniotic fluid. The amniotic fluid contains fetal cells that have naturally sloughed off. The doctor, using an ultrasound image as a guide, inserts a needle through the mother’s skin, abdominal wall, uterine wall, and into the amniotic sac, away from the fetus. Amniotic fluid is then collected, and the fetal cells contained in the fluid can be analyzed for genetic conditions such as Down Syndrome. Amniocentesis has similar risks as CVS, although CVS can be done earlier.

  • Maternal Blood Testing: A relatively recently developed technique can detect fetal DNA in the mother’s blood stream. Thus, with a simple blood draw, the fetus’ sex can be determined, and it can be screened for a variety of genetic disorders.


Societal Impacts

While the above techniques may sound like wonderful advances in medicine, they also have their downsides. First, there’s a difference between screening and testing. A prenatal genetic screen - like maternal blood testing - only gives the level of risk of a condition, but it can not with 100% certainty diagnose a condition. Prenatal genetic tests - like amniocentesis and CVS - are more diagnostic, but also have higher risks for the pregnancy. And if a non-invasive screen detects a high risk for Down Syndrome, for example, the parents are then faced with the decision of whether or not to do a more invasive, high risk test in order to more accurately determine whether Down Syndrome is present. If the results of a CVS or amniocentesis indicate a genetic disorder, then the couple could be faced with the decision to terminate the pregnancy. At the very least, these weeks of testing and waiting for results can be draining and extremely stressful. Pregnancy can already be a stressful time, and these prenatal screens and test can add to that anxiety.


On the other hand, some parents feel that they’d like to know the risks, regardless of the outcome of a test. If a screening test comes back positive for a genetic disorder, then the parents at least won’t be surprised at the birth. They’ll have time to prepare, educate themselves, and possibly arrange for special care that might be needed for their newborn.


Some people opt out of the screens and tests altogether. They might argue that what’s meant to be is meant to be, and they’d rather spare themselves the stress and anxiety surrounding these tests and their results.


And finally, with PGD it is possible to choose the sex of your child. This is illegal in some countries, including Canada - but not the US. Given that IVF and PGD could cost $15000-$20000, the opportunity to screen embryos for genetic conditions and possibly select the sex would not be affordable for everyone. Is this fair? Should people be allowed to choose the sex of their children?


Personal opinions

As someone who loves science, I’m fascinated by these medical advances, and support further research into tests and screens like these. It’s exciting when new, improved tests come out that can help people get answers to their pregnancy concerns, and hopefully allay some of their fears. However, it’s easy for me to support these tests in a general, abstract way. It becomes more complicated when we’re talking about real pregnancies in my personal life. I’ve gone through some of these discussions and decisions, and sometimes there is no easy answer. I can see why people would be in the “no testing” camp - the screenings and testing definitely can raise anxiety and stress levels during pregnancy, which can already be pretty stressful. Still, I’m glad the tests are available, and I think they should continue to be offered to pregnant women. Key to this though, is that they need to be able to make informed decisions. Through discussions with their doctor and a knowledgeable genetic counselor, the parents-to-be can weigh the pros and cons for themselves, and then decide how they want to handle the conundrum of prenatal genetic diagnosis.



References:

Nierneberg, C. (2014). Prenatal Genetic Screening Tests: Benefits & Risks. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from http://www.livescience.com/45949-prenatal-genetic-testing.html


Sidhu, J. (n.d.). Women Are Paying Huge Sums To Have a Daughter Rather Than a Son. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2012/09/sex_selection_in_babies_through_pgd_americans_are_paying_to_have_daughters_rather_than_sons_.html


I wish I hadn't known: The ups and downs of prenatal testing. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2016, from http://www.pregnancyandbaby.com/pregnancy/articles/944203/i-wish-i-hadnt-known-the-ups-and-downs-of-prenatal-testing


ILP

what went well i think was the way i worked productively. im looking forward to sitting in another class. what stands out is the way i work there i think is really well. i think it is important that i keep going cause it teaches me important skills.

ILP Progress

My current ILP at the library isn't really working out because all I was doing was sitting there for two hours which I felt was a waste of my time so i'm in the process of getting a new ILP. I'm talking to Mr.Todd to see if I can make debate my ILP since I debate at central every other Wednesday, sometimes two weeks in a row and since I spend so much time doing it. 

Chen: Ilp Reflection

My ilp has not change, it is still greenfield. I am currently enjoying it because it is nice to see the kids and be able to help out. I go there ever Wednesday unless if I am unable to make it. In greenfield, I help out the kindergarten teacher. This will include passing out stuffs. I am looking forward to help out more because it feels nice to help people. In my opinion, I found the kids to stand out. They are full of energy and so adorable. I really enjoy playing with the kids in recess and helping out. I can't wait till next Wednesday so I can help out more.

ILP 1st Semester Reflection

​2-25-16

What went well at my ILP at Project Space is that I am learning to create virtual worlds and how to create maps for out project. What I am really looking forward to is getting closer to the end project and seeing the virtual reality full function. What stands out is that I got to attend a very interesting presentation about Eclipse and learn all about them. I also got to learn more astrology than I have than ever before. What I think is important is teaching the public about space in this format as it is really engaging and can teach kids easily. 

ILP Blog Post 1st Semester, Randle

Somethings that went well is I got a chance to help students with autism learn how to interact better with people and their surroundings. Something I am looking forward to is getting a chance to work with the older autistic children. Something that stands out is the way the school operates , and how the students react to things. For the most part I am printing copies for the teacher but I am sometimes placed in the classroom and I play with the blocks with the kids. Go over colors with them and try to get them to converse more. 

Nadia Green ILP Check In 2/25/15

  • What went well?
What went well in my ILP is that I am advancing in what I am doing. I am now meeting more new people and working on another aspect of my project. 

  • What are you looking forward to?
What I am looking forward to is actually creating my final project and getting the rest of the information that I need in order to complete it. I am also looking forward to going back to the office where I stay and working more on the project and comparing more collections of data. 

  • What stands out that has happened so far?
What stands out that happened so far is that I have been working with basically my mentor and creating titles for the different Object codes and Activity codes that I am working with. 

  • Add what you think is important.
What I think is important is that I am developing experience dealing with finances and also working with different kinds of project creating technology. Also I am becoming aware of what it feels like to work in a professional space. 

ILP Update

I am learning more about verb tenses and when and where to use them. It was very interesting and complicated at the same time. I am looking forward to learning about new serahs and stories in history. What stands out is the eagerness of everyone there. I have a great time at my ILP it's very interesting. Last week we started a new unit and are diving further into our studies than planned. 

2/25/16 L. Shareef-Trudeau ILP

In my ILP at the Parkway Central Library I've begun creating tags for the books which I have enjoyed. It is a nice change from the video reviews that I had been doing every week. I look forward to working with the actual books and learning some of the inner working of the library. So far I have done many video reviews, created book tags, and taken photos to put on the library's social media accounts. 

ILP Reflection

What went well in my ILP is that I found out how to set up lighting an when to have it on and off. What I'm looking for in my ILP is that I hope I'm able to switch my ILP. Nothing stands out. What I think is important in ILPS is the satisfaction of learning something new, and expressing what I learned.