From the Bench
Advances in photonics—the science and technology of the generation, manipulation and detection of light— had made the notion of peering into a cell and observing its functions in real time more than just a dream. Quantum-like particles of light called photons were already being used to transmit, process and store information.
The brain is our body's central processor, controlling our behavior, our organs, and virtually all our bodily functions and activities. It governs body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. It facilitates speech and locomotion; processes thinking, emotions, and imagination; and allows us to interpret sensory inputs from the world around us.
In 1513, the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon explored Florida in search of a mythic spring reputed to turn back the clock for anyone who drank its waters. He never found the Fountain of Youth he sought, but the legend, which dates back to antiquity, has retained its grip on the popular imagination.
As diseases go, cancer is the ultimate shape shifter. Thought to start with just a single mutation in the DNA of a single cell, it spawns generation after generation of quirky, out-of-control progeny whose genetic instability results in many additional mutations and wild proliferation leading to solid tumors and blood cancers.
There are, by most estimates, an average of 100 trillion cells in the adult human body. Yet all that we are, all that we may become, derives from only about 30—the embryonic stem cells that were formed roughly five days after conception.
Of all the senses, vision is perhaps the most fundamental to our interactions with the world. Roughly a quarter of the brain in involved in visual processing—more than nature allocates to any other sense—and references to vision also permeate our speech.
Securing the world's food supply in a changing climate may be one of the biggest challenges we face in this century. In six of the past eight years, the human race consumed more corn, wheat, and rice than it grew.
The Prevalence of obesity has increased an alarming 75% since 1980, rendering a third of all men and women obese in the U.S. With the increase in body weight comes a slew of metabolic disorders, including: glucose intolerance (high sugar), insulin resistance (high insulin), high cholesterol (high fat), hypertension (high blood pressure), atherosclerosis ("hardening" of blood vessels).
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