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MTS54 - Carl Bergstrom - The Mathematics of Microbes

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In this podcast I talk to Carl Bergstrom of the University of Washington about the mathematics of microbes.

Bergstrom is a mathematical biologist who probes the abstract nature of life itself. We talk about how life uses information, and how information can evolve. But in Bergstrom's hands, these abstractions shed light on very real concerns in medicine, from the way that viruses jam our immune system's communication systems to to the best ways to fight antibiotic resistance.

Publications:

  • Mapping Change in Large Networks [html][pdf]
  • The transmission sense of information [pdf]
  • Dealing with deception in biology [pdf]

 

Download: mp3 (40 min | 36.5 megs)

Photo by: Noah Kalina

MTS53 - Bonnie Bassler - The Bacterial Wiretap

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In this podcast I talk to Bonnie Bassler, a professor at Princeton and the president-elect of the American Society for Microbiology.

Bassler studies the conversations that bacteria have, using chemicals instead of words, Her research is not only helping to reveal how bacteria work together to make us sick, but also how we might interrupt their dialogue in order to cure infections.

Related Projects:

 

Download: mp3 (37 min | 34 megs)

MTS52 - Mitchell Sogin - Expeditions to the Rare Biosphere

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In this podcast, I talk to Mitchell Sogin, the Director of the Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Wood's Hole, Massachusetts.

Dr. Sogin is one of the leaders of an ambitious project to survey the microbes of the ocean--which total over 36,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 cells. Using the latest DNA-sequencing technology, Dr. Sogin and his colleagues are cataloging microbes from all over the world, and are discovering a genetic diversity in the microbial world far exceeding anyone's expectations.

Dr. Sogin explained how most species they find only exist in small numbers, while a minority of species dominate their samples. Dr. Sogin is investigating how this "rare biosphere" changes the way we understand how the ocean's ecosystems work.

Related Projects:

 

Download: mp3 (42 min | 38.5 megs)

MTS51- James Liao - Turning Microbes into Fuel Refineries

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In this podcast I talk to James Liao, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UCLA. I spoke to Dr. Liao about his research into engineering microbes to make fuel.

Today, we get most of the fuel for our cars out of the ground. It's a process fraught with dangerous consequences, from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to the rise in global temperatures thanks to greenhouse gases. Dr. Liao is among a growing number of scientists who think that microbes can help us out of this predicament.

We talked about the attraction of microbe-derived fuels, and the challenges of getting bacteria to turn air, water, and sun into something that can power your car.

Selected Publications:

Download: mp3 (38.5 min | 35.5 megs)

MTS50.5 - The Making of Meet the Scientist

To mark the celebration of Microbeworld's 50th episode of the Meet the Scientist podcast, we created a time lapse video that shows exactly what it takes to produce a single episode of the show.

We hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look and we thank you for listening week after week. Cheers, to another 50 episodes!

MTS50 - R. Ford Denison - Darwin on the Farm

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In this podcast, I talk to R. Ford Denison of the University of Minnesota. Denison is an evolutionary biologist who's interested in how to make agriculture better. The ways in which plants thrive or fail are shaped by their evolutionary history, as well as the evolution that unfolds every planting season.

We're most familiar with the evolution of resistance to pesticides in insects and to herbicides in weeds. But evolution has many other effects on farms. For example, many important crop plants, like soybeans, cannot extract nitrogen from the atmosphere on their own. They depend instead on bacteria that live inside their roots.

In exchange for fixed nitrogen, the bacteria get nutrients from the plants. It may seem like a happy case of cooperation, but the evolution of cooperation always runs the risk of cheating and deception. How plants and bacteria come to a compromise is a remarkable story that Denison and his colleagues are now documenting.

Cross section though a soybean (Glycine max 'Essex') root nodule. The bacterium, Bradyrhizobium japonicum, infects the roots and establishes a nitrogen fixing symbiosis. This high magnification image shows part of a cell with single bacteroids within their symbiosomes. In this image, you can also see endoplasmic reticulum, dictysome and cell wall.

Selected Publications:

Download: mp3 (38.5 min | 35.5 megs)

MTS49 - Irwin Sherman - The Quest for a Malaria Vaccine: The First Hundred Years

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In this podcast, I talk with Irwin Sherman, professor emeritus at the University of California at Riverside, about the century-long quest for a vaccine against malaria.

Scientists have been trying to make a vaccine for the disease almost since the discovery of the parasite that causes malaria. Yet decade after decade, they've encountered setbacks and failures. We talked about why it's so hard to make a malaria vaccine, and how likely it is that scientists will ever be able to do so in the future.

If you want to find out more about this long-running saga, check out Sherman's new book, The Elusive Malaria Vaccine: Miracle or Mirage.

About the Book:Chronicling a 100-year quest, this book tells the fascinating story of the hunt for the still-elusive malaria vaccine. Its clear, engaging style makes the book accessible to a general audience and brings to life all the drama of the hunt, celebrating the triumphs and documenting the failures. The author captures the controversies, missteps, wars of words, stolen ideas, and clashes of ego as researchers around the world compete to develop the first successful malaria vaccine.

The Elusive Malaria Vaccine: Miracle or Mirage? is based on author Irwin W. Sherman’s thorough investigation of the scientific literature as well as his first-hand interviews with today’s pioneers in malaria vaccine research. As a result, the book offers remarkable insights into the keys to a successful malaria vaccine and the obstacles hindering its development.

Malaria is one of humankind’s greatest killers, currently afflicting some 300 to 500 million people. Moreover, malaria infections have begun to spread and surge in places previously free from the disease. With the book’s easy-to-follow coverage of such topics as immunity, immunology, recombinant DNA, and monoclonal antibodies, readers gain a new understanding of the disease itself, the importance of microbe hunters, and the need for responsible leadership to face the challenges that lie ahead in the battle against malaria.

Other Publications from Dr. Sherman:

Download: mp3 (54.5 min | 50 megs)

MTS48 - Keith Klugman - Pneumonia: The Hidden Giant

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In this podcast I talk to Keith Klugman, William H. Foege Chair of Global Health at Emory University.

Dr. Klugman studies the disease that is the number one killer of children worldwide. If you guessed malaria or AIDS, you’d be wrong. It’s pneumonia. Two million children under five die every year from it every year--one child every 15 seconds.

Dr. Klugman and I spoke about his research on how pneumonia causes so much devastation, its hidden role in the 50 million deaths in the 1918 flu pandemic, and how a new pneumonia vaccine can stop the disease in its tracks. For more information on pneumonia and how we can all help fight it, visit the World Pneumonia Day web site.

Read more: MTS48 - Keith Klugman - Pneumonia: The Hidden Giant

MTS47 - Peter Daszak - Stalking the Wild Microbe

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Dr. Peter Daszak is a disease ecologist and President of the Wildlife Trust, an international organization of scientists dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity. He is a leader in the field of conservation medicine and is well known for uncovering the wildlife origin of the SARS virus. Dr. Daszak also identifed the first case of a species extinction caused by a disease and has demonstrated a link between global trade and disease emergence via a process called "pathogen pollution."

In this interview I ask Dr. Daszak about the threat new pathogens pose to endangered species and go into detail about his discovery that chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease caused by the chytrid Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, is responsible for global amphibian population declines. Dr. Daszack also discusses a unique study that exposes how the W.H.O. might better use their resources when faced with new pathogens such as the kind we've seen with the recent outbreak of the H1N1 virus. We also explore how pathogens of animals have the ability to evolve into human diseases like flu and HIV.

Read more: MTS47 - Peter Daszak - Stalking the Wild Microbe

MTS46 - Curtis Suttle - It's a Virus World and We Just Live On It

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In this podcast I talk to Curtis Suttle, a professor and associate dean at the University of British Columbia.Suttle studies the diversity and population of viruses across the entire planet. He has helped show that viruses are by far the most common life forms on the planet. They also contain most of the genetic diversity of life, and they even control how much oxygen we have to breathe. I talked to Suttle about coming to terms with the fact that we live on a virus planet, and how hard it is to find a place on Earth that's virus-free--even two miles underground.

Links to Curtis Suttle and his work.

Download: mp3 (26.5 min | 25 megs)

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