How Biological Research Harms Psychiatric Patients

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 12-03-2014

Most scientists live by the motto “the more knowledge the better.” We spend the majority of our careers, (and maybe even our lives), trying to understand the biological mechanisms involved in every facet of life and we will never be satisfied as long as there is more science to discover. However, in some circumstances, too much knowledge can be harmful.

In a study recently conducted by scientists at Yale University and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that when clinicians read descriptions of patients whose symptoms were explained using information that focused on either genetics and neurobiology, their level of empathy for the patient actually decreases.

According to Matthew Lebowitz, lead author of the study

Overemphasis on biology to explain psychopathology can be dehumanizing by reducing people to mere biological mechanisms

Two of the most important qualities that patients look for in physicians are competency and compassion. While competency is often a function of knowledge and understanding of mechanisms of disease, doctors must be careful not to allow that knowledge dampen their compassion towards their patients.

For more information visit For docs, more biology info means less empathy for mental health patients

Why This Public Agency is Replacing qPCR with Droplet Digital PCR

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 12-02-2014

The Southern California Coastal Water Research Project(SCCWRP) is a public agency that conducts coastal environmental research and suggest management strategies. They are responsible for monitoring the waters of California and for ensuring that the beaches are safe for the public. Due to the sensitive nature of their work, the SCCWRP cannot afford to make mistakes in their water monitoring techniques. After thorough review, the SCCWRP has chosen to implement droplet digital PCR in their water monitoring program. Watch the video below to find out why.

Why Your Bathroom is Never Really Clean

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 12-01-2014

Our microbiome, the bacteria that populate our bodies, is so essential for our well being that it can be thought of as an extension of ourselves; akin to another organ. There is much that can be learned through studying the human microbiome, and medical science has begun to utilize microbial therapy to treat numerous medical conditions (see Repoopulating the Gut).

Despite the positive reports surrounding treatments such as fecal therapy, western civilization continues to view all bacteria, (both good and bad), as a mortal enemy of human civilization. In an article written in this blog back in 2012, we discussed how our obsession with antibiotics, cleanliness and antibacterial soaps may be posing a significant danger to our health (see Death by Sterility). Nonetheless, a recent study at San Diego State University demonstrated that no matter how hard we try to sterilize our environment, certain bacterial populations can be relied upon to return to their native surroundings despite our best efforts to remove them.

In the article “Ecological succession and viability of human-associated microbiota on restroom surfaces” (Gibbons et al, Applied and Environmental Mircorbiology, 2014), Professor Scott Kelley and his team first decontaminated common bathroom surfaces and then monitored the microbial environment over time. The team found that the same community of bacteria that existed prior to sterilization returned to colonize the sterile surfaces within 5-8 hours post-sterilization. In bathroom surfaces, the bacteria that persisted both pre and post-sterilization were those that are commonly found in the human gut, which indicates that fecal matter is near-impossible to clean from bathroom floors. Interestingly, both male and female bathrooms exhibited similar microbial characteristics with the exception of the toilet seats which showed differentiation based on gender.

All things considered, while our fixation on cleanliness and antimicrobial environments may benefit those who make a living selling household cleaning products, pesky bacteria are harder to get rid of than most detergent companies would have us believe. Furthermore, considering that the human microbiome is so essential for our biological function, we must be careful in deciding how to effectively target bacterial infection without ridding ourselves of the very bacteria that we need to survive.

Does Turkey Make You Tired?

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 11-27-2014

The rumor is that consuming turkey makes you tired. The thought is that the amino acid L-tryptophan found in turkey is responsible for causing drowsiness. But is the rumor really justified? Will eating this traditional thanksgiving dish really put us to sleep?

Watch the Epic Science video below to find out the truth!

Agouti, Jirtle and the Birth of Epigenetics

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 11-26-2014

Dr. Randy Jirtle published the first study demonstrating that a mother’s diet can have a significant impact on the health of her offspring. The study related to the impact of DNA methylation and gave birth to the important field of epigenomics. Watch the video below to hear Dr. Jirtle describe his findings for a televised audience.