Author Archives: richellee

Energy Drinks: Drink Fast, Die Young

With over 20 billion dollars in sales last year in the United States sales alone, it is safe to say that energy drink consumption is not slowing down. The “dangerous” and “bad-boy” names, such as Monster, Rockstar, and Cocaine, are clearly meant to target a younger market. In fact, Cocaine energy drink’s packaging even reads: “Warning- this beverage should be consumed by responsible adults. Failure to adhere to this warning may result in excess excitement, stamina, fun and possible feeling of euphoria.

A few of the numerous brands of energy drinks
Image Source: Flickr Commons

 Ignoring the high levels of sugar, the main culprit in energy drinks remains the caffeine content. As they are considered “nutritional supplements”, energy drink companies can ignore the caffeine limits set by the USA Food and Drug Administration. On a cup-to-cup basis, it appears that energy drinks do not contain much more caffeine than coffee, though brands vary.

Caffeine content per cup (8 oz.):                                                          Energy Drinks 40-150 mg                                                                                            Generic Black Coffee 35-100 mg                                                                                      Black Tea 14-61mg                                                                                                                    Coca-Cola 20-23mg

However, energy drinks such as Monster are generally sold in large 16 oz. cans, doubling the caffeine intake to 80-300 mg. For the average healthy adult, whose daily caffeine limit is approximately 400 mg, one or two cups of coffee and an energy drink later in the day may not be an issue. The problem arises, however, with overconsumption in teenagers, who continue to be the main consumers of the product. The daily recommended caffeine limit for teens is much lower, at approximately 100 mg. A single energy drink can exceed this limit and doesn’t account for any other sources of caffeine throughout the day.

Overconsumption of caffeine has been associated with numerous negative health effects from tremors, cardiovascular problems, to mental health issues. A study from the University of Waterloo found a positive relationship between teen energy drink overconsumption, depression, and substance addiction. “The trends we are seeing are more than cause for concern,” said Azagba, the main researcher on the project.

Initial effects of caffeine overdoses
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

            As teen energy drink overdoses continue, there has been a call to limit their availability for those under 18. Attempts to pass this bill in Maryland, USA, are met with controversy. The short clip below, courtesy of WBAL-TV 11 News Baltimore, reports on the situation:

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 Should we actually ban the sale of energy drinks to minors, or fine them for “possession” as the video suggests? Probably not. Restricting materials to minors, such as alcohol, is often fraught with complications. Additionally, many other energizing caffeine products would still be widely available. Ultimately, public education on the subject is key. Individuals have to be aware of their own limitations when it comes to consuming products; everything is harmful at a certain dose.  Know your limit and stay within it.

-Richelle Eger


 “Dieticians of Canada.” Food Sources of Caffeine. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2014. <>.

 “Energy Drinks Linked to Teen Health Risks.” ScienceDaily. N.p., 06 Mar. 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2014 < 095358.htm>.

3-D Printers: Hope or hype?

        Over the past few years, hype over 3-D printing has continued to grow. With each new revelation comes increased anticipation of the industry’s potential, now including even the biomedical field. The media reports of printers designed to create almost unbelievable possibilities from live tissues, bone substitutes, to the potential of organs. However, how reputable are these claims?  How is this technology even possible? Well to start, simply by changing the ink.

A Standard Public 3-D Printer
Source: Wikipedia Commons

The “Ink” is Alive

        Genuine cells have been printed and successfully cultured into tissues through the use of “bio-ink”. This ink contains live cells in a formulation of matrix molecules. During printing, the cells are layered upon each other in an additive procedure, eventually resulting in a 3-D structure. Why bother “printing” out the cells? The appeal of 3-D printers is in the efficiency. They save countless hours of manual labour normally needed to layer a simple tissue, let alone an organ.

Beyond In-Vitro

      The BioPen goes beyond the standard of printing tissues onto slides. The handheld printer literally “draws” a framework onto damaged or missing pieces of bone. Initially, the pen deposits modified ink, a gel made from biopolymers and live cells, onto the targeted area. The notion is that by combining this with regenerative stem cell therapy, the polymers will eventually degrade and be replaced by new tissue. The BioPen would allow surgeons to deliver cells instantly and accurately as a temporary substitute.

Below is a short clip showing the pen in action, courtesy of the Australian Research Council of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES).

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Tailor Made Organs?

          3-D printing has large implications for the future of regenerative medicine, even if we are not quite there yet. This technology would reduce the demand for organ and tissue transplants, notorious for their long wait lists. Though it’s not near ready for clinical use, the bio-printing company Organovo claims that they will unveil the first 3-D printed liver by the end of 2014.

Cancerous liver cells: a common reason for the high demand of transplants
Source: Wikipedia Commons

The Hope

         3-D printing continues to rapidly evolve as it becomes more readily available in many fields. The 3-D biomedical industry is still in its initial stages, as researchers will have to overcome barriers to make it more efficient and economically feasible. Regardless, presentations have already demonstrated its viability, from the printing of live tissues to the BioPen’s application into orthopedic surgery. Ultimately, the potential of 3-D printing is likely to have large further implications for not only the medical industry, but society in general.

-Richelle Eger


“BioPen to Rewrite Orthopaedic Implants Surgery.” University of Wollongong.              N.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2014.

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. “Need different types of tissue? Just print them.”                        ScienceDaily, 24 Oct. 2013. Web. 19 Jan. 2014.

Institute of Physics. “3-D tissue printing: Cells from the eye inkjet-printed for the          first time.” ScienceDaily, 18 Dec. 2013. Web. 19 Jan. 2014.

Mearian, Lucas. “The First 3D Printed Organ – a Liver – Is Expected in 2014.”                    Computerworld. 26 Dec. 2013. Web. 19 Jan. 2014.