Image of an orb spider web.

Like most people, I’m scared of spiders. I jump merely at the sight of the eight-legged creatures. I even jump when I spot a ball of thread which remotely resembles a spider. Interestingly, the fear of spiders, also known as arachnophobia, is thought to be genetic.

A study in babies was conducted by Hoehl et al. in 2017 and babies showed increased pupil dilation when they were shown a picture of a spider. …


A pair of parakeets in London (copyright not intended).

I still remember the first time I saw a flock of parakeets in London. My jaw dropped, both in awe and intrigue, as these exotic-looking birds flew between the trees in my garden. The green feathered birds did not look native to the UK. Were they parrots? Escapees from the Zoo perhaps?

Turns out, I’m not the only Londoner who has been bewildered to see these bright green birds flying around the British skies. I was also right — this bird is not native to the UK. The ring-necked parakeet is actually native to West Africa and the Indian Himalayas.

How did parakeets end up in London?


I love sharks and I’m equally obsessed with shark films, such as Steven Speilberg’s classic: Jaws.

CHRIS AND MONIQUE FALLOWS/MINDEN PICTURES

However, sharks are often portrayed as dangerous boat-eating monsters in most blockbuster films.

Further to this, we only hear of negative shark encounters in the media, making this creature of the sea more and more despised. But, maybe it is time to ask ourselves who the real villains are?

Sharks are magnificent predators at the top of the food chain. There are over 1000 species of sharks; the great white, tiger sharks, and hammerhead sharks to name a few.

These fish have existed 100…


© Adobe Stock / LuckyStep

Pharmaceutical companies and universities around the world are working towards finding a COVID-19 vaccine — as fast as possible. In the past few months, we’ve seen bold claims from Pfizer saying they could produce a vaccine by October this year and others claiming we’d have a vaccine by early January.

“Having a vaccine is one thing but you need to produce it at scale (…) it is not an easy thing to do,” said the Chief Executive Officer of AstraZeneca.

It is important to note that vaccines usually take years to develop, so to have an effective and safe vaccine…


Shutters down, tourists fled, and lock-down measures put in place

Marrakech is a beautiful vibrant city, teeming with life and colour. Every corner you turn, there is something different to see whether that’s a snake charmer or a shop-owner trying to drag you into their souk. You can smell the aroma of spices, argan oil, and the fruit they sell at market stalls inviting you in.


Copyright not intended.

Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin disease that affects ~125 million individuals worldwide. The condition is genetic: there is a 10% chance of developing psoriasis if one parent has this disease. Recent evidence shows that psoriasis may also have an epigenetic component, studies have found dysregulated DNA methylation levels in psoriasis patients (to learn more about epigenetics, read my previous article).

Symptoms of psoriasis include red dry patchy skin with a silvery appearance on the surface. These lesions are also called plaques and can be very itchy and sore. Plaques around joints can be uncomfortable and often bleed more. Symptoms usually…


Image by Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Your grandmother's lifestyle when she was younger could be responsible for changes in your gene expression and your characteristics to this day. For example, you may be more likely to have clinical depression if your grandmother was neglected as a child. You may also have a predisposition for type 2 diabetes, metabolic disorders, or obesity if your grandmother or even great grandmother grew up during a famine while she was pregnant with your mother or father.

How can your genes be altered? One word: Epigenetics. Epi meaning ‘on top’ and genetics referring to the genome. DNA is more than just…


Patient with porphyria in hospital (copyright not intended).

What is Vampire Disease?

We’ve all heard of Twilight, the love-story of a sparkling vampire and a teenage girl battling an evil coven of blood-thirsty vampires. Stories involving vampires date back to the 17th century, way before Twilight or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The history of these blood-sucking creatures is thought to be inspired by a real disorder, vampire’s disease, scientifically known as porphyria.

Porphyrias are a group of rare metabolic disorders, the symptoms of which are akin to the characteristics of a vampire. …


The beloved diet of every Jaw Surgery Patient ever: Smoothies (Copyright not intended)

What is Double Jaw Surgery?

Double jaw surgery or as my surgeon refers to it as bi-maxillary osteotomy is a type of orthognathic surgery. There are various types of double jaw surgery but the main aim usually involves correcting the bite and improving the appearance of the jaw.

Some individuals may have a protruding lower jaw or an underbite and in my case an asymmetrical jaw. One side of my lower jaw was longer than the other and my top teeth did not align with my cupids bow; so the surgeons decided I would need double jaw surgery to correct my bite.

There are many…


The Structure of a CoronaVirus (copyright not intended).

Introduction

At the start of 2020, countries all over the world went into lockdown in the hope to defeat the ‘invisible enemy’ which has taken millions of lives. COVID-19 is labeled as one of the biggest pandemics the world has seen since the 20th century, perhaps even bigger. Coronavirus disease 2019 is a virus which emerged at the beginning of December 2019 from Wuhan, China. COVID-19 is a strain of respiratory viruses that belong to the Coronavirus family.

Other members of this family include SARs Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus. Unlike SARS and…

Heeral Patel

A writer of science, health, and anything that interests me.

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