Science

Image of a handheld glucometer, continuous glucose monitor, and insulin pump.

Electronic monitoring and storing of health data is all of the rage right now. Many of us track the number of steps we take with our mobile phones or smart watches, log food consumption, and measure our heart rate. But would you trust a mobile health app to decide when you should receive a life saving, but in some cases, life threatening, drug? For diabetics, this possibility is approaching reality.

Students participate in March for Science in Washington, DC.

On a rainy Saturday in Washington DC, I joined 40,000 scientists from all academic disciplines gathered to March for Science. This was one of over 600 satellite marches across the world spanning all seven continents. The marches drew hundreds of thousands of people out to make our voices heard. We marched to end the use of “alternative facts.” We marched to encourage diversity in science. We marched to display the importance of immigrants to the scientific community. And most prominently, we marched for the future of science.

Embryo cells viewed under a microscope.

A couple sits close, intently studying a dossier. On the dossier is a list starting with Embryo #1.

Amused, I clicked the hashtag #menaresofragile and learned that a clinical trial for TU NET-EN, an injectable male contraceptive, had been cancelled due to “intolerable side effects.” As I looked around the Internet that day, I saw that the hashtag reflected widespread outrage among women: we have had to stomach the unpleasant side effects of hormonal contraceptives for decades, and now an entire study is down the tubes because men can’t handle a little bit of acne?
The March for Science logo

Science has always been politicized. Whether it comes to research funding or classroom curriculum, political values and agendas continuously shape the scientific endeavor and its development. However, under the current political climate, science is being directly threatened and outspokenly admonished. From the deletion of White House pages on climate change to threats on NASA’s Earth Science Division funding, concerns about the growing politicization of science are rapidly resurfacing.

The scientific community and the general public aren’t known for agreeing on all the issues, to put it gently. For example, 88% of surveyed members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science think genetically modified foods are safe to eat. The American public? Not so much — a mere 37% would dig into a plate of GMOs without some serious reservations.

​With the advent of CRISPR technology, editing human genomes is no longer the stuff of science fiction. But Hank Greely, a Stanford law professor and bioethicist, isn’t too concerned: “I don’t think it’s very important, I don’t think it’s gonna happen, but I don’t care about it even if it does,” he remarked (perhaps with a bit of tongue in his cheek), speaking at UCSF in January.

Our DNA fits into our cells by tightly coiling into structures called chromosomes. During cell division, the machinery that is responsible for DNA replication cannot replicate the very ends of chromosomes, so some genetic information may be lost d

The chair squeaked quietly as I fidgeted, swiveling left, right, left. I sat toward the back of a long wooden table flanked by my fellow graduate students, while a pair of eminent biologists led a discussion on how to talk to skeptical non-scientists about evolution. Perhaps it was an intrinsic bias instilled by our families, or a side-effect of years spent steeping in the world of science; whatever the case, as we sat in that conference room we discussed those who dared to disbelieve as if they were at best misguided lambs to be converted and at worst heretical fanatics, frothing at the mouth and waving crosses wildly to fend off fish with feet.
In the fight against cancer, harnessing the natural defense mechanisms within the human body is gaining promise. Termed cancer immunotherapy, researchers have discovered ways to bolster the immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells.