Archive: February 2021

Social Initiatives

Menstrual equity is an issue that affects tens of thousands of students within the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, as said by Joy Liu, a Grade 12 student trustee of the board. Along with Charles Chen, she leads the ME (Menstrual Equity) Project, an initiative that recently succeeded in passing a motion to implement period products in female, gender-neutral, and male washrooms across the OCDSB. In this article, we have interviewed her about the process of initiating, planning, and executing the passing of this motion, as well as the recent feedback that the project received. As an excellent step forward, we hope to see more initiatives like this one in the future.

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the achievements of Black individuals and communities and to recognize their prominent role throughout history. The contributions of Black Canadians have been—and continue to be—of great significance to the nation’s heritage and identity; however, they are often overlooked. uKnighted Against Racism is a student-led group based in St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School in Hamilton, Ontario that is determined to educate on the topic of racial injustice, shed light on the ongoing issues faced by BIPOC communities, and ensure all students are represented and supported within the school community.

The pandemic youth are certainly feeling the brunt of this emotional alienation as many key opportunities for relationship building are being digitized. Last month, Cara, Max, Marie and Advik were feeling under the weather but their letters held clues to surprises that would brighten their days to come. Read on to see how the love of family and friends was able to put a smile on our beloved characters’ faces, even during these isolating times.

The pandemic youth are certainly feeling the brunt of this emotional alienation as many key opportunities for relationship building are being digitized. Last month, Cara, Max, Marie and Advik were feeling under the weather but their letters held clues to surprises that would brighten their days to come. Read on to see how the love of family and friends was able to put a smile on our beloved characters’ faces, even during these isolating times.


Scientific News

CRISPR stands for "Clusters of Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats," a form of genetic engineering that allows scientists to alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. Currently, one of its applications stands on the forefront of the global pandemic. Scientists have used CRISPR to create COVID-19 testing technology that is rapid, reliable, and low-cost. In fact, it uses a cell phone camera to generate results in as little as 30 minutes. As research continues, there is hope that this technology will create accessible COVID-19 testing in all regions.

Tandem repeat sequences are situated in the repeatome.  When mutated, these sequences can cause diseases such as Huntington’s disease and Fragile X Syndrome. But something researchers don’t know much about is tandem repeat mutations in relation to polygenic diseases such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. To further explore Tandem-repeats concerning polygenic diseases, Mitra et al. used the bioinformatics tool "MonSTR" to examine tandem-repeats in those with ASD.

Medicinal Chemistry is an interdisciplinary that connects various disciplines such as organic chemistry, pharmacology, biochemistry and more. Medicinal chemistry aims to discover, design and develop new bioactive compounds suitable for therapeutic use. Specifically, these compounds are known as pharmaceutical drugs, and have a variety of positive and negative effects on the functioning of the human body. There are numerous drug therapies that operate in various ways in order to destroy cancerous cells. Pharmaceutical oncology is one of them.

Our eyes contain millions of cones and rods. Cones are responsible for detecting different wavelengths of light and send signals to the brain relaying this information. Depending on the combination of signals, different colours can be perceived by the brain. Colour blindness is the characteristic used to describe the inability to detect certain colours or wavelengths due to the loss of function of certain cones.

Genomic surveillance has proven to be an effective tool in outbreak investigation and virus evolution. This surveillance has also aided in tracing during the Ebola outbreak, and continues to aid with tracking the Zika virus in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and the United States. Genomic surveillance requires sequencing, and with this sequencing, the tracing of the newer COVID-19 variants can be improved upon. By comparing patient samples and epidemiological data, virus spread can be traced.

Viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19, are always mutating. SARS-CoV-2 is already changing the shape of its spikes to overcome the defences of human immune systems battling against it. Currently, there are several variants of this virus prevalent across various areas of the world, which has been raising concerns regarding the effectiveness of vaccines targeting the original variant of SARS-CoV-2. This article explores some of the most common variants, where they occur, and how they may affect vaccine effectiveness.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made many advances in medicine, health care, and pharma and biotech efficiency. In particular, it has improved the ability for physicians to diagnose disease. 

With the capability to mimic human cognitive functions and increase availability of healthcare data, AI aids in increasing drug development, speeding up clinical trials, personalizing treatments, and improving gene editing. In the past few years, AI has become extremely accurate, with a performance that is comparable to medical experts. With respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, AI has become a useful tool for accurately and efficiently detecting asymptomatic cases and COVID-associated lung disease.

‘Lab Rats’ are a common term for the rodent test subjects that are widely used to advance many different categories of research.  Mice are very different from humans, however,  so mice models should be selected with caution in order to accumulate the most helpful data. Differences between the two speci range from size to metabolic activity, and so some variables between the two differ greatly. On the other hand, there are immense benefits to using mice as test models, two of which include availability and humanizing capabilities. Mice are being used to study diseases such as Hepatitis B, Malaria, and even stem cell research.

The 21st century has brought many advancements to civilization, but the changes within the medical field are definitely some of the most significant. Traditional surgery may still be the stereotype of surgeries for most people. It involves cutting open layers of large areas of the body to expose the region that needs to be operated on, often accompanied by considerate amounts of blood loss and immense pain. With robotic surgery however, pain, time, money, and resources can be saved.

As school work on top of everyday life may take a toll on students’ sleep schedules, they are often told to make sure that they get sufficient sleep. But, are there actually many negative consequences on a lack of sleep? Well, the answer is yes, as sleep is extremely important to mental health, emotions, and cognitive function. In fact, a lack of sleep can even increase one’s risk of neurological disease! This article explains why less sleep can lead to these consequences, as well as how sleeping the recommended amount can improve our overall well being.

With the world taken off its course due to the pandemic and rising cases around the world, it is not a surprise that there is a significant psychological impact of traumatic events related to the pandemic, leading to cases of traumatic stress in healthcare professionals. According to a study conducted by Peking University in May 2020, 50% of healthcare workers treating patients with COVID-19 reported elevated rates of depression, 45% reported anxiety, 34% reported cases of insomnia and 72% reported distress. These elevated levels of stress mainly stem from a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), an increased workload, inadequate training and infection control practices, pandemic fatigue, and guilt and stigma associated with this virus.

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, global warming has become a worldwide crisis. One biome that has suffered at the hands of man made energy sources such as fossil fuels is the Earth’s oceans. Oceans temperatures have been rising exponentially, while ocean pH levels have been decreasing exponentially, causing disrupt within marine life ecosystems.

Though depression is prevalent across a large portion of our population, its exact effects on the brain are not yet certain. One particular question that researchers have been asking is whether depression affects an individual's memory, and if so, in what ways does this occur? In this article, we will review some recent findings regarding this topic, from the effect of depression on short-term memory, to the link between depression and dementia.

Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are both neurodegenerative diseases that affect motor function and communication, prevalent in people over the age of 65. While both diseases currently have no cure, there are different options to treat symptoms. The brain is incredibly complex, which is why scientists are now only touching the surface to comprehend the "why's" of the two diseases.

The Perturb sequencing method is technology used to observe the function of many different genes in various cells at once. This method allows scientists to investigate gene function on a larger scale, by increasing sensitivity and scale of genetic screens by orders of magnitude. Scientists at Harvard and MIT have applied this method to genes associated with ASD or autism spectrum disorder on a developing mouse brain. The purpose of this application was to see how the cell types are impacted by the mutations. Since Perturb-seq is also applicable to other organs, this method holds immense potential in advancing gene research and better understanding complex disorders from a genetic level.

As bacteria adapt and change, they can acquire antibiotic resistance—a major and costly threat to global health today. Despite this global health crisis affecting millions yearly, treatment developments for antibiotic resistance have been scarce, ineffective, and costly. Exposure to heavy metals are highly effective causes of bacterial resistance to antibiotics. However, a new proposed treatment of taraxasterol, the main component in dandelion roots, has been shown to reverse heavy-metal induced antibiotic resistance. As a viable, natural, and cost-friendly treatment, dandelion root extracts show great promise for more extensive research.

Cases of mental illness have soared since the onset of COVID-19. There are several different risk factors, causes, and effects of mental illness in the context of the pandemic. In particular, the restrictions that quarantine puts on individual social freedoms is a significant stressor for many. Studies show that emotional distress increases one’s chance of violating public health measures. This makes it more important than ever for people to seek the support they need.

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, degenerative brain condition that silently damages memory and thinking skills over time. There is no known cure for this disease, but recently there has been a fascinating discovery of a biomarker that could help predict Alzheimer’s years before signs, such as memory loss and mood or personality changes, appear. A study published in Translational Psychiatry is the first to discover that people with elevated glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in the blood have more amyloid beta, a known indicator of Alzheimer’s, in the brain. The GFAP biomarker is a promising approach to the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

DTC Genetic Testing is genetic testing bought by consumers without the involvement of health care professionals, and has a low accuracy as information is compared with other consumers. DTC Genetic Testing provokes many concerns among the scientific community, such as the reliability of these companies, and the worry that they use people’s DNA for reasons other than data collection.



Electives provide a look into many different fields of study. It is with them that you may find your passion. Selecting electives is a mandatory component of a student’s high school life. From the arts and finance to robotics and physical education, your school will have various course opinions to choose from. They allow for a break in compulsory credits as well. Selecting electives may seem complicated, but through the right planning (looking at pre-requisites, availability for upper-years, etc.), you’ll be able to decide on the right secondary path for you.

With February being the beginning of a strong burnout period for students, it is important to understand what steps to take moving forward with the remainder of the year. In addition to that, February is the peak of the application period for Summer jobs and internships. Fellow students have lended their advice on opportunities, interviews, and self-reflection, all angles that will aid with both periods of  burnout and the stress-inducing application season.

Mixed messages are scattered over the Internet about finding our passions. Some life coaches believe that it is up to us to discover our passions, but others suggest that external factors such as mentorship are valuable. So which conviction should we follow? And how do we unearth our passions?

Learning a second, third, or even fourth language has a plethora of benefits that will serve you in your development. Firstly, it benefits your body by way of improving cognitive function, boosting amounts of grey matter in parts of the brain that deal with executive control, and improving memory. In terms of culture, you’ll be able to better connect with a tool that has forged the diverse nature of the modern world. Lastly, it will serve you well in the job market by making you a more valuable applicant. Language learning is sure to improve your development regardless of your reasons to pursue it.

These periods of self-isolation are absolutely necessary, but that doesn’t make them any less difficult. It can be very hard to find enjoyment the same way you would normally, as connecting with others has gotten much more difficult. Through activities like Netflix parties, shared social media accounts, old-fashioned letters, and even creative Google Slides presentations, you’ll find that there are many ways to reconnect with your friends and family.


Other News

Despite the continued lockdown, new fashion trends are still on the rise! Online shopping is an activity that has resulted in 3.5 trillion dollars of e-commerce sales worldwide in 2019, 4.2 trillion in 2020, and is expected to reach 4.9 trillion in 2021. This article features up and coming fashion trends to add to your online shopping cart. From statement sleeves to trench coats, and patchwork denim to tie dye, you will be sure to find a fashionable trend that suits your style!

Eating disorders are dangerous mental illnesses that affect approximately 1 million Canadians. They can affect people of all ages, ethnicities, and genders, and they can be extremely hard to spot. For those living with an eating disorder, it is crucial to seek professional help and create a strong support system to aid in the recovery process. Although it can be challenging, it is important to remember that recovery is possible and that life without an eating disorder is worth it in the end.

Deforestation is the permanent removal of large amounts of trees for human use. In the context of the current climate crisis, deforestation is a huge issue. Because trees absorb carbon dioxide, cutting down entire forests in a very short period of time releases CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Climate change has devastating effects on people, animals, and the environment alike. What many don’t know is that those who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are actually the ones contributing the least to it. In order to combat climate change, we must work together and take action to protect our forests.

While the lives killed by systemic racism are on the rise, Canada continues to be praised for its dedication to equality and developed healthcare systems. Yet, racial minorities are being disproportionately affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The shocking video of Joyce Echaquan gained her story national attention and highlighted the systemic racism in Canada’s healthcare system, but it came to much less shock to the indigenous community who had been suffering similar experiences since the establishment of healthcare systems.

Chinese New Year is a festival that has a longstanding history. It celebrates the beginning of the new year on the Lunar calendar and brings hope for a year filled with good luck, health, and prosperity. Every year honors a different animal of the Chinese zodiac sign. This year is the year of the ox! Chinese New Year is a truly joyous time that consists of intricate traditions and delicious food.

The amount of sleep one gets is linked to mental, emotional, and physical health. For teens, who are growing and developing, getting an adequate amount of sleep each night is especially important. Despite this, teenagers are more likely to stay up late rather than go to bed earlier. These sleeping patterns are largely a result of puberty, busy schedules, or anxiety. To make up for this lack of nighttime sleep, many ponder the efficacy of taking naps during the day. A study at the University of Delaware found that habitual nappers had better concentration, non-verbal reasoning ability, spatial memory, and overall quality of sleep!

Les articles en français

Le traitement du cancer étant un domaine de recherche qui progresse rapidement, la thérapie virale oncolytique est un terme que vous avez peut-être déjà entendu. C'est une alternative prometteuse à la chimiothérapie qui réduit la toxicité du traitement du cancer. Mais comment cela fonctionne-t-il et cette thérapie a-t-elle été approuvée? Et comment un virus fait-il la distinction entre une cellule normale et une cellule tumorale? Dans cet article, nous répondons à ces questions parmi bien d'autres, donc si vous souhaitez en savoir plus sur ce sujet, assurez-vous de lire notre article complet sur la thérapie virale oncolytique!