Caffeine

I am just coming down from that finals rush that us university students are all so accustomed to. Those long nights of studying and early mornings to keep studying – it gets tiring. A lot of students have a particular molecule to thank for getting them through those long days: caffeine. Whether it’s coffee, or energy drinks, students can be seen anywhere on campus chugging down these caffeinated substances. But how does this particular substance work to keep the students active and awake?

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a purine alkaloid, which is a particular type of chemical compound. It is found organically in Coffea arabica and Camellia sinsensis.

Coffea arabicaCamellia sinsensis

Coffea arabica is the source of coffee, while Camellia sinsensis is the source of tea.

How does caffeine affect our systems?

Caffeine can be completely absorbed by the stomach and small intestine within 45 minutes, and it takes around 3 to 4 hours just to remove half of the consumed caffeine from your system.

Caffeine stimulates our central nervous system (CNS), which is composed of our brain and spinal cord. By stimulating the CNS, the caffeine molecules fight against drowsiness and helps keep you alert. It does all of this by preventing a nucleoside, named adenosine (which is found in our DNA!), from binding to its receptors in the brain.

Adenosine usually suppresses the CNS when it binds to its receptors; this leads to general drowsiness. When caffeine binds these receptors, adenosine can no longer interact with the brain receptors which leads to a decrease in drowsiness (or increase in alertness!). Another result of caffeine binding these receptors is the stimulation of other neurotransmitters that also lead to an increase in your ability to concentrate and stay awake. These neurotransmitters include: norepinephrine, dopamine, acetylcholine and serotonin (which will be explored later).

An interesting fact about caffeine is that its half life,which is the time it takes to remove half of the consumed substance from your system, can be shortened by one’s smoking. So if you’re smoking, you’re going to need more caffeine than the average person to get relatively the same jolt of energy.

And that’s a brief summary of caffeine and its effects! Now you know how exactly caffeine works to become your savior through those long nights. Thanks caffeine, on behalf of all of us sleep-deprived students.

Scabs

Ouchy, that’s a boo boo!

It can hurt like no tomorrow whenever you scrape your skin deeply or get a nasty cut and you start to bleed. Eventually, you’ll notice that in place of the bloody cut or scrape, there’s a scab. But what are scabs made of and how do scabs form?

As soon as your skin and blood vessels are damaged, your blood interacts with collagen. This is a protein that is found in your skin. When this is detected, specialized blood cells called platelets, or thrombocytes, rush to the area and secrete inflammatory factors. At the same time, these platelets stick together; they aggregate to form a clot.

Two other proteins, fibrin and fibronectin, then form a net-like structure to prevent further blood loss. Platelets attach to this net and acts as a temporary skin layer until the entirety of the net structure is replaced by collagen.

The platelets release growth factors, which stimulate the rate of cellular division, to help regenerate the lost or damaged skin cells. It releases a lot of other proinflammatory factors that help in the healing process, like serotonin and histamine, to dilate blood vessels and increase cell proliferation.

scab is basically the net structure intermediate of fibrin, fibronectin and platelets that acts as a shield for your body against any external infectious particles.

So, it’s good that our bodies scab in response to blood vessel damage because, otherwise, we would be exposed to several infectious particles and contract diseases with every paper cut that drew blood. And that could lead to much more pain than a little boo boo.