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Study Shows Paxlovid Decreases COVID-19 Related Hospitalizations and Deaths

by Moises Hernandez, age 18

A new study shows that a treatment for COVID-19 significantly reduces hospitalization and death rates. Patients prescribed Paxlovid are about five times less likely to be hospitalized and ten times less likely to die, compared to patients to whom the medication is not prescribed, according to a study published on Epic Research.

In December 2021, Pfizer’s Paxlovid received emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to be used as a treatment for mild-to-moderate symptoms in those 12 and older at high risk of developing severe symptoms that could lead to hospitalization or death. Factors that could put someone in this category include age, pregnancy, obesity, kidney disease, cancer, and serious heart conditions.

In March 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration launched the “Test to Treat” initiative. Through this, a single location can be the place where someone can be tested for COVID-19, see a healthcare provider, receive a prescription for treatment, and have that prescription filled. [Read More]

How Teens Learn to Avoid Risky Behavior

by Jacob L. Dunn, age 12

Many teenagers engage in risky behavior, such as committing crimes, due to impulsiveness. There are various factors that influence teenagers to be so impulsive, including social and peer pressure and a difficulty in controlling their actions.

In social situations, teenagers can experience peer pressure and stress related to their social environment. This can lead some teens to commit actions that could put them in scary or dangerous situations that are unknown to them. While many people may assume that a contributing factor for why teens engage in such risky behavior is because they underestimate the possible negative outcomes of their actions. However, the opposite is the case, according to postdoctoral student at New York University, Agnieszka Tymula.

“Relative to adults, adolescents engage more in unknown risks than they do in known risks,” stated Tymula. She claims that instead, teens are more open to this sense of the unknown, which serves as one explanation for the ways that the teenage brain works when it comes to high-risk situations. [Read More]

Fake Medicine, Real Results

by Moises A. Hernandez, age 17

The placebo effect, as doctors call it, is something that creates a real and positive change in a person's body but cannot be explained by the characteristics of the placebo itself. Something as simple as a father saying to a little girl who fell and bumped her knee, “I’ll kiss it and make it better,” can make the girl forget her pain.

With just a puff of air, a kiss, or a few kind words, a loving person can stop the pain of a child. Even though it should have no effect, a real change happens in the person’s body. That is why placebos are vital in medical research. In clinical trials, for example, a pill that contains no medicine but looks just like one with medicine is given to some participants. Researchers do this to show that people who are actually taking the medicine get better compared to those who really are not, therefore proving that a new medicine works.

“Placebos don’t do anything for bacteria,” Kathryn Hall, a medical researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital said. “Placebos can’t fight cancer. They can’t fight viruses.” [Read More]

Thousands of Sick Kids Linked to Lead Pipes in Milwaukee

by Sydney Steidl, age 15

More than 9,000 Wisconsin children were found to have lead poisoning between 2018 and 2020, with nearly two out of three of those children from Milwaukee County.

There are many possible causes for lead exposure and eventual poisoning, including lead-based paints and lead-tainted water, soil, and dust. Lead-based pipes and paints were often used in homes built many decades ago, so it is no surprise that 90% of children with lead poisoning in Wisconsin live in homes built before 1950.

Out of Milwaukee County children tested in 2020, about 5.6% were positive for lead poisoning. Exposure to lead can impair brain and nervous system functions and result in severe learning, behavioral, and growth problems in children. [Read More]

To Stop the Spread of Dengue Fever, Scientists Infected Mosquitoes with Something Else

by Samuel Garduño, age 14

Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries the deadly dengue virus, began as a forest insect in the sub-Saharan part of Africa, but one lineage evolved to enjoy the urban environment. Transported through slave ships, these mosquitoes have traveled globally for centuries, carrying viruses like dengue. Today, dengue is recognized by the World Health Organization as a top ten global threat. Dengue infects around 390 million people and kills about 25,000 individuals annually. Dengue may be a lethal virus, but there’s a solution: Wolbachia.

The bacterium Wolbachia was discovered in 1924 in a different mosquito species, but it wasn’t until the 1980’s that scientists realized its astounding ability to spread and to control the dengue virus. Mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia can’t be infected with dengue, thus helping to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. With equal importance, Wolbachia spreads quickly among mosquitoes. It allows an insect mother containing the bacteria to produce more abundantly and pass the bacteria to her offspring. Therefore, Wolbachia is a fast and effective method of combating dengue. The bacteria is also an eco-friendly and non-toxic method of controlling dengue; it doesn’t even kill mosquitoes!

Oliver Brady, a dengue expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, stated that “Wolbachia is a highly effective intervention against dengue.” To test the effectiveness of Wolbachia, the nonprofit World Mosquito Program (WMP) conducted a test in 2017 in the city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Researchers split the city into 24 sectors and released the carrier mosquitoes in half of them. In a year, results showed that 95 percent of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes contained Wolbachia. Starting in January 2018, fever comparisons were done between the Wolbachia and Wolbachia-free zones. [Read More]

Astronauts Face Bone Weakness While in Space

by Moore Vang, age 13

Astronauts may want to prepare for their next space mission by bringing exercise gear for their legs.

When astronauts spend time in space, they undergo some loss of internal support in their bones. This leads to the bones becoming thinner than before taking off into space. Space trips that last at least six months are equivalent to about 20 years of aging through bone loss. However, a new study shows that a year back on Earth rebuilds about half the strength originally lost in the affected bones. Leigh Gabel, an exercise scientist at the University of Calgary in Canada, says that “bones are a living organ” and that the bones in our body are “constantly remodeling.” Gabel was a part of a team with 17 astronauts who spent from four to seven months in space. Their team used a certain type of a CT or computer tomography scan to show the bones in their bodies, which was used to measure the structure of their bones on a fine scale. They focused primarily on the structures of the lower leg and lower arm which showed details on a scale of 61 micrometers.

The astronauts took images of the bones in the lower arm and leg four times: once before they took flight, when they returned home, and then again six and 12 months later. From each of those photos, Gabel’s team could determine the bone strength and density. A year after returning to Earth, astronauts that went to space for fewer than six months regained all their bone strength they had before taking the flight. However, those who stayed longer in space suffered more permanent bone loss in their shin bones. Surprisingly, the lower arm showed almost no loss, likely due to the bone not being weight-bearing, unlike the lower leg bones on Earth. Instead, arm bones get stronger in space than on Earth because astronauts rely on exercising their arms by pushing off handles and doorways in space. [Read More]

Can Walking Improve Your Memory?

by Mariama Bah, age 14

Until the late 1990s, scientists believed that human brains were fixed and through aging, decreased in function. This belief has since changed due to studies indicating that our brains continue to make neurons, cells that transmit information to other cells in our body and allow creation of thoughts and memories. Studies also showed that exercise could increase neurogenesis, which is the process of creating neurons.

Studies revealed that human brains create new neurons throughout life and it is possible to accelerate neurogenesis through exercise, but these studies mainly focused on gray matter. With white matter, it was a different story. White matter, brain wiring connecting the neurons, is considered fragile and was thought to weaken as aging occurred. That is until a professor of neuroscience and human development at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Agnieszka Burzynska, and her team of graduate students decided to test whether white matter is just as malleable as gray matter.

The team recruited 250 older people and tested their aerobic and cognitive skills, then divided them into three groups. The first, the control group, did stretching and balancing exercises three days a week; the second group began walking together three times a week for forty minutes; and the third started taking dance classes together three times a week. After six months, the groups re-did the skills tests and all but the control group saw improvement, both physically and mentally, with the walkers exhibiting the most improvement. The scientists found that the white matter in the brain of the walkers and dancers had grown. The stretchers however, showed degeneration of the white matter and did poorly on their cognitive tests. [Read More]

New Study Suggests Cannabis May Cause
Long Term Changes to Teen Brains

by Kelly Vazquez, age 16

Since the late 1930s, cannabis, otherwise known as marijuana, has been a topic of great debate in the United States. Currently, many states have legalized marijuana or decriminalized it for recreational and medical use. Despite the growing movement to legalize recreational use for adults, Matthew Albaugh, professor at University of Vermont, explains that it can still be harmful for young users. He stated,“Brain areas that change the most during adolescence may be especially vulnerable to cannabis exposure.” There have been significant studies that indicate cannabis having brain altering effects on humans.

Albaugh and his team conducted a study with 799 14-year-olds throughout four European countries: Germany, France, Ireland, and England. The kids received MRI scans and five years later, the study was repeated with the same kids. During the second MRI, 46% of them said they had tried cannabis; approximately 75% said they had used the substance 10 or more times. The study showed that there was quite a contrast between the prefrontal cortex (which is responsible for decisions, impulses, and focus) of those who used cannabis and those who didn’t. The prefrontal cortex had thinned faster for those who used cannabis than those who didn’t, even more so for those who used it frequently. These results have been somewhat inconsistent since researchers can’t experiment with real teenagers. However, results do add to the existing data that supports the claim that cannabis affects the brain's development.

Jacqueline-Marie Ferland, brain researcher at Icahn School of Medicine, explains that the thinning of the prefrontal cortex is often connected to maturing, decision making, rationality, and managing impulsivity; a properly matured prefrontal cortex can perform these functions. However, another study on young animals shows that thinning too early can cause long term problems with behavior and memory. [Read More]

Assisted Reproduction Technologies Bring Hope to Thousands of Couples Around the World

by Sandy Flores, age 15

Many people do not know that over 15% of the couples in the world cannot conceive naturally. This situation can cause a lot of sorrow and feelings of loss. Just a century ago, science could not help these couples, however, medical science has evolved over the last few decades, offering new hope for those who cannot have babies.

By the 20th century scientists understood that a woman usually produces one mature egg every month, but as the woman's body ages, she produces fewer eggs. Women stop producing eggs around the age of 40, or in some cases earlier or later. It all depends on when the woman starts menopause (the ceasing of menstruation).

By 1921 doctors were inseminating women with donor sperm. Originally this caused a lot of controversy as many people believed this practice was a form of adultery, but it is commonly accepted today. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is another alternative offered to non-fertile couples. This treatment works by removing a mature egg from the mother and mixing it with the father’s sperm in a lab dish. Scientists let the zygote (fertilized egg) grow for a couple of days and then they return it to the mother’s uterus where it has the opportunity to develop into a fetus. [Read More]

Epidemiologists: The Scientists Who Study Pandemics

by Eleanor Pleasnick, age 12

There are many illnesses in the world, such as the novel Coronavirus, which is currently fueling a global pandemic. Between 1918-1920, there was another pandemic: the Spanish flu pandemic. These are just a couple of examples of the diseases that epidemiologists study by observing these illnesses and their patterns.

According to National Geographic, epidemiologists study infectious surfaces and spread within communities, as well as injuries acquired in the workplace and as a result of crimes. Aside from studying such illnesses, epidemiologists also focus on the effects of environmental exposures to pollution and substance abuse and how they relate to people's mental and physical health. They do this so that they can figure out more about the effects of people’s surroundings on human mortality and illness.

To describe illnesses, epidemiologists explain mortality rates, prevalence, and incidence using statistics from the communities. Prevalence is the total number of current cases, incidence means the number of new cases within a certain time frame, and the mortality rate is the number of deaths overall within a community. Using measurements and calculations, epidemiologists can use the data from individual communities and apply them to the whole population. [Read More]

An Epidemic of Overdoses: Synthetic Fentanyl Causes Dramatic Increase in Opioid Addiction —
by Sydney Steidl, age 15

In 2020 alone, 93,331 people in the United States died from drug overdoses, a 30% increase from the previous year and the highest number on record. [Read More]

Crab Shell Bandages: the Future of Medicine? — by Dyami Rodriguez, age 16

Scientists at the University of Wuhan in China have discovered that shells from crabs, shrimps, and lobsters can help heal wounds faster, as well as reduce the chance of infection. The shells contain a material called chitin (Ky-tin), which have powerful healing properties. Scientists are testing ways to make chitin into gauzes and bandages to accelerate the healing process. [Read More]

The Worst Plague in European History Killed Millions in Just Four Years — by Dulce Maria Vazquez, age 13

Surprisingly, the Bubonic plague, known to cause one of the deadliest disease outbreaks in history, only lasted for only four years. During those four years, two million people died in the country of England alone. In total, the plague killed over 20 million people worldwide. Due to the large death poll, the Bubonic plague is commonly known as the Black Death. [Read More]

The Macabre Dissections of Andreas Vesalius Revolutionized Medical Science — by Devika Pal, age 16

Before the 16th century, there was little to no knowledge on human anatomy. Most of the information came from centuries prior and was largely incorrect. This changed in the 16th century with the anatomical discoveries of Andreas Vesalius. His works on dissecting and studying bodies helped greatly to expand the knowledge of human anatomy. [Read More]

Dr. Charles Drew Pioneered Methods of Blood Storage and Transfusion that Are Still Saving Lives Today —
by Yoyo Hoskins, age 15

Dr. Charles Drew, known as the Father of Blood Banks, was an African-American surgeon who developed innovative methods to store blood plasma for transfusions and established the first grand-scale blood bank in the United States. [Read More]