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Ask Erika Your Questions

ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Erika Ebbel is going to answer your questions while curing several diseases and executing a perfect pageant-queen wave!

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Q: Maytha Frankford

Do you think that researchers will be able to find cures for neurological diseases? Are they “coming close” in their efforts? I am personnally interested in Multple Sclerosis.

A: Erika

Hi Maytha,
I hope that researchers will be able to find cures for neurological diseases. What makes it difficult is that, we are still learning about the diseases themselves. Researchers are gradually making progress understanding the disease mechanisms behind ALS, MS, Huntington’s Disease, etc. Still, much is unknown. Once these diseases are more fully understood, I think that we will be closer to finding “cures.”

Q: Jackenson Durand

I understand that the first beauty pageant objective would be the competition winner.
– What always is your second wishing after each of your competition?
– Does a biochemist have been scheduling a deadline time frame on any kind of case study research?

A: Erika

Hi Jackenson,
It is true that it is nice to be the competition winner. However, I think it was always more important for me to learn and improve from the experience I was going through. Hence, each time I competed I tried to improve myself in some capacity. I would say this was really the most important focus.

Regarding your second question, which is about deadlines; it depends on the study. Some samples are time sensitive, meaning that once you start working with them you have to complete the project in a certain amount of time before the samples are ruined. In general, planning out experiments so that you are able to finish all steps of a particular portion of your research at once means that you lessen your chance of introducing confounding factors such as contamination, deterioration of samples over time, etc. Also, it is nice to feel like you are making progress, so at least in my case, I like to get as much work done as possible when I have the chance!

Q: Roy

How interested are you in Theoretical Quantum Physics?

A: Erika

Hi Roy,
I’m interested, but this is not my field of expertise. It is always fun to learn about new things when time permits!

Q: Riyan Mendonsa

Subject: Treatment vs. Cure
Hi Erika,

You mentioned that you are studying the difference in composition of a healthy sample to a diseased one in hopes of finding the difference and a way to correct that as a treatment.Will this method be useful in the long run in finding a cure or will that require much more work to find the root cause and correct it at that level?In your view is there a big difference between a “cure” and a “treatment”?

A: Erika

Hi Riyan,
We think that in order to discover a cure, one first needs to fully understand the disease itself. Hence, comparing healthy versus diseased samples essentially allows one to determine biochemical differences between the samples. Once one understands the differences he/she is able to hypothesize what biochemical pathways may be disturbed in diseased patients. Understanding this helps to further understand the mechanism of the disease itself. After the mechanism is understood, it is easier to come up with potential treatments, because one knows what it is that he/she is trying to “cure”.

In my opinion there is a difference between a “cure” and a “treatment”. In the case of a “treatment” you are essentially treating “symptoms”. Symptoms, however, can be caused by downstream pathways affected by the disease. Thus, the patient could be diseased long before any symptom is ever seen. Just like when you have the flu, you take decongestants. These decongestants do not necessary help to kill the virus, instead they help you to breathe easier (congestion being a symptom of the viral infection). A cure is much more complicated, because it requires addressing the factor causing the disease.

Hence, finding the underlying cause of the disease is very important.