by Lauren Lin
Cell phones today have many uses, like texting, taking photos, scrolling through social media, playing games, and of course, actually calling other people. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the number of people who use cell phones rises every year and that cell phones are becoming increasingly important to our day-to-day lives. As a student, it’s not uncommon to see your classmates checking their phones in the middle of a lecture, and many of us would probably find it difficult to go a full day without using our phones.
Despite the frequent use of the term “cell phone addiction”, it is critical to note that while some researchers believe that cell phone addiction is a valid mental disorder that should have diagnostic criteria and treatments, others are hesitant to classify problematic phone use as an addiction. The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition), which was published in May 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association, does not include cell phone addiction in its list of mental disorders. In fact, addictions in the DSM-5 are mostly substance use disorders (e.g. alcohol use disorder), with gambling disorder being the only behavioural addiction in the DSM-5. According to the DSM-5, behaviours like compulsive buying or compulsive sex are considered to be impulse control disorders rather than addictive disorders. Therefore, there are researchers who suggest that the next edition of the DSM should include a new addictive disorder for cell phone use, as well as researchers who believe that it should be a new impulse control disorder instead.
The criteria for substance abuse disorder and gambling disorder described in the DSM-5 includes (but is not limited to) the following:
A 2016 review by Gutierrez, Fonseca, and Rubio found that many studies done on cell phone abuse reported behaviours that have parallels with the DSM-5 criteria for addiction. Therefore, cell phone addiction may align with our current understanding of addictive disorders. However, some researchers theorize that the distress, anxiety, and inability to stop cell phone abuse could be caused by the social aspect of cell phones (i.e. the communication cell phones facilitate) rather than the cell phone use itself. Additionally, other researchers believe that cell phone abuse could be a consequence of another psychological issue or variable, such as social anxiety or the desire for approval due to low self-esteem, instead of being its own disorder. Some researchers even acknowledge that what seems like cell phone abuse could be adaptive and typical for certain lifestyles or professions.
Although there isn’t a consensus on whether cell phone addiction exists, there are many studies that try to investigate cell phone addiction and abuse. These studies seem to indicate that there is a high prevalence rate among young people (especially adolescents who had their first cell phones before age 13) and that the prevalence rate varies across different cultures. Interestingly, men and women also seem to differ in how they use their cell phones. Females generally use cell phones for more time than males and mainly for communication purposes, while males tend to use cell phones for communication and gaming equally. In terms of effects, cell phone abuse seems to decrease the amount and quality of sleep an individual gets and is associated with substance use disorders, anxiety, depression, stress, and loneliness. However, the relationship between mental health issues and cell phone abuse could be bidirectional in that they affect each other. Currently, treatments used for gambling disorder, such as therapy and self-help groups, seem to be the most promising ways to help people who have cell phone abuse, but more research needs to be done.
Therefore, the good news is that you may not have a cell phone addiction even if you find yourself seemingly glued to your phone. However, problematic cell phone use can still cause issues, so it’s important to be aware of whether your phone use is negatively impacting your life.
by Amy Haddlesey
As this weekend approaches, along with Queen’s Homecoming, it will not be uncommon to see engineers purpled from head-to-toe flocking to Richardson Stadium to watch the football game. This tradition, albeit messy, is one aspect of what makes Queen’s Homecoming so special and school spirit so unmistakable. Although it’s not always explicitly referred to, Gentian Violet, or Crystal Violet, is at the centre of this tradition. As an important part of not only Homecoming but other traditions on campus as well, it seems that Gentian Violet deserves a closer look.
Although our engineering students use this purple dye for aesthetic purposes, the dye actually has many notable medicinal properties. In the first half of the 20th century, Gentian Violet was predominantly used to treat trench mouth, thrush, impetigo, burns, pinworm, cutaneous and systemic fungal infections. With that said, it has been noted to have numerous applications, including anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-helminithic, anti-trypanosomal, anti-angiogenic, and even anti-tumour properties. Some of the latter mentioned effects have been proposed as recently as 2013. Today, Health Canada describes Gentian Violet as an herbal medicine that helps to relieve digestive disturbances, stimulate appetite, prevent nausea, and increase bile flow when it’s advantageous. Overall, Gentian Violet has an extensive and perhaps growing medicinal background as researchers continue to investigate its possible applications.
Beyond just the scope of medicine, Queen’s and other universities use Gentian Violet for its brilliant and intense colour, which is named after the gentian flower with similarly coloured petals. The stabilization of the molecule through resonance results in the intense colour of the compound. The molecule itself is symmetrical with three amino groups each containing two methyl groups attached and has many alternating double bonds throughout the structure. The intensity of the purple is also why the compound is an extremely effective biological stain.
One of the best-known uses of Gentian Violet is as a stain for visualization purposes in the lab. In 1884, Hans Gram was the first to notice the importance of the irreversible fixation of Gentian Violet by Gram-positive bacteria. This discovery was the basis of the Gram stain for categorizing bacteria. Gentian Violet is also used as a histological stain to study cells and tissues in plants and animals. In a similar way that Gentian Violet is an effective stain in the lab, its properties make it a great stain for when you want to be entirely purple. Thankfully, it comes off easily enough with a bleach-water mixture.
Another important thing to note is the history of Gentian Violet and the reason why Queen’s and other university engineering students chose the colour purple. It has been proposed that purpling is a tribute and in dedication to World War II British Naval Engineers. These individuals wore purple armbands, which would stain their skin after many days of working in the boiler room. It has also been suggested that it is in reference to the purple jackets engineering corps of the British army and navy wore instead of the customary red jackets. Another possible explanation that has come up is that the engineers abroad the Titanic wore purple overalls and that purple is a symbol of bravery for their efforts to keep the smoke signal going while the ship was sinking. No matter the exact origin, there’s no question that purple is strongly associated with engineering on our campus and on others as well.
Overall, it seems Gentian Violet has a lot more uses than just covering our FRECs and frosh here at Queen’s. It is another prime example of how much history (and science!) goes into the fun, uniting traditions at Queen’s. Having just celebrated 175 years, it’s no mystery how Queen’s has become a treasure trove of new and old traditions, each with their own stories. You never know what you may learn looking into some of them.
by Haley Richardson
While genetic engineering of the human genome may seem like a concept exclusive to works of science fiction a la Gattaca or Ender’s Game, the reality could be much closer than you think. Recent technologies, such as the development of CRISPR/Cas9 techniques, have made genome editing better, faster, and above all, cheaper. The accessibility and relative ease of these technologies have caused a boom in genome research unlike anything since the Human Genome Project. Although researchers initially limited themselves to editing genomes of the most basic organisms, recently scientists have been upping their game with more complex organisms, including humans. Ethical concerns with this practice have been raised across the political spectrum and in both public and private life with many questioning if, and how, this research should be regulated.
There are two categories of human genome editing: somatic cell editing or germline editing. Somatic cells are any non-reproductive cells, and any changes made to the genome of somatic cells of an individual cannot be passed down to his or her children. Changes to germline cells, on the other hand, are heritable and can be passed on to future descendants. As a result, germline editing research is often more controversial than somatic cell research, and is illegal in several countries including Canada, Australia, and most of Europe. While not outright illegal in places such as the United States, China, and Japan, germline editing research is highly restricted. Despite these restrictions, in 2015, researchers in China reported their first attempts to edit human germline cells in embryos, sparking ethical debates and calls worldwide for tougher regulation of the research.
In response to these concerns, several organizations within the scientific and medical community have reported their own findings and recommendations. The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine in the US released a report in 2017 titled Human Genome Editing: Science, Ethics, and Governance. The NAS/NAM report analyzed the research that is currently being done in this area and provided recommendations on how to manage it. While the report is more in favour of somatic cell research, they recommend that germline research should be allowed as well, so long as the public is notified and in favour. Furthermore, it states that genome editing should be used strictly for “the treatment of disease and disability”, and not for aesthetic or performance enhancing purposes. In other words, the designer babies of science fiction should not be on anyone’s agenda, unless it is to rid the gene pool of a serious disease or disorder.
While some scientists have applauded the report, others are not so sure. Those in favour often cite how restrictive many of the recommendations are, saying that the report only allows germline editing in extreme circumstances with no available alternatives. Critics are quick to point out, however, that while the report recommends these restrictions now, they leave the future open to debate once the technology has improved. As a result, many researchers have argued that germline editing should not be allowed under any circumstances, as once the door is open, it will be harder to control how the technology is used.
Even scientists who have worked with genome editing research for years, such as Edward Lanphier, are opposed to the transition to germline editing. An article in Nature co-authored by Lanphier, who has been involved in somatic cell editing research and clinical trials, claims that germline editing could have “an unpredictable effect on future generations”, making it “dangerous and unacceptable”. Furthermore, Lanphier argues that somatic cell research has the potential to cure genetic disorders and save many lives, and allowing controversial germline research to occur jeopardizes the already tenuous acceptance of somatic therapies by politicians and citizens.
After all, while some reports have shown that the public is becoming more comfortable with genome editing, many are still strongly opposed or mistrustful of the idea. A study conducted by the PEW research centre indicated that nearly half of the American citizens questioned in the study said that genome editing to produce healthier babies was “crossing a line” and “meddling with nature”. This indicates that even if the scientific community manages to come to a consensus on germline editing, it would likely require a significant amount of outreach to get the public (and therefore politicians and lawmakers) on board. So while you can’t expect to wake up tomorrow living in an Aldous Huxley novel, you might not be mistaken for feeling as though a brave new world is just around the corner.