Insight into DICER1 Revealed in Macular Degeneration Research

A scene as it might be viewed by a person with macular degeneration.
I was sad to learn that a friend of mine was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) at the age of 62. Doctors told him that the blurriness he was experiencing in the center of his field of vision (see photo)  was a classic symptom of AMD. Millions suffer from this chronic condition that is now the leading cause of blindness in people 60 and older. This debilitating eye disease is caused by the degeneration of the macula, the central portion of the retina important for reading and color vision.
There were encouraging findings into the etiology of AMD in the March 11 issue of Nature by Kaneko et al., entitled “DICER1 Deficit Induces Alu RNA Toxicity in Age-Related Macular Degeneration”. The authors not only proposed a molecular mechanism leading to AMD, but also described a new function for the role of the microRNA processing-enzyme, DICER1. Continue reading “Insight into DICER1 Revealed in Macular Degeneration Research”

Pop Pi Quiz

Teachers, architects and engineers have found the mathematical constant, π, to be an invaluable tool for understanding and changing the world around us. Without Π, we would not be able to quickly calculate the area of a circle. To celebrate Pi Day (March 14th), today’s mental exercise will be to test your knowledge of Π. Are you ready for more Π?

1) What does Π represent?
a) The ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter
b) A rounded value of 3.14
c) The 16th letter in the Greek alphabet
d) All of the above Continue reading “Pop Pi Quiz”

Writing Your Worries Away

Experiencing sweaty palms, a rapid heart rate and nausea shouldn’t be the standard response before taking an important exam. However, for many students this has become a debilitating reaction when the pressure to perform academically affects their test scores.

I became more aware of this situation when my 13-year- old niece started “choking under pressure” on her math exams. She did well at solving problems in class. She completed her homework on time and received good scores. But when it came to the day of a math test, she would become anxious, her stomach would hurt and she failed to complete all the questions on the test. Consequently, her parents focused on personally sitting down to help her with homework assignments, assuming this would overcome her anxieties.

So it was just by chance that I picked up the January 14, 2011, issue of Science to read over lunch, when I came across the title “Writing About Testing Worries Boosts Performance in the Classroom”.  The title seemed counterintuitive though. Writing about fears makes them disappear? But as I’ll convey here, timing is everything. Continue reading “Writing Your Worries Away”