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Letters

TWiM 81 Letters

Ravi writes:

TWiM & TWiV team,
Keep up the excellent work! I am an electronics engineer who has never studied biological sciences, but now in my 50's, I find your podcasts fascinating. I listen to episodes while working out - a good combination of mental & physical exercise ... thank you!

If you haven't already, please read this article in Scientific American, Dec 2013:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fungal-infection-accident-of-evolution-may-thrive-in-our-bodies/?page=1

What I found interesting:
(1) Fungi have much larger genomes than bacteria or viruses, and this combined with sexual reproduction, gives them a larger arsenal for rapid adaptation.
(2) In the wild, the biggest predators for this fungus are amoebas, therefore it has developed protection mechanisms. If fungus ends up in humans, marcophages look very much like amoebas, and the fungus hitches a ride inside the macrophage, protected from the immune system until it can replicate and do damage.

Maybe you can do a show on virulent fungi? TWiF? Elio should be interested …

Anne writes:

Here's an article which describes a TB drug that can be tweaked to target multiple disease-causing bacteria, and also ward off resistance by targeting multiple pathways in organisms.

http://news.illinois.edu/news/14/0417TBdrug_EricOldfield.html

[here is the paper: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24568559]

Geoffrey writes:

Doctors:

I have a suggestion for a slightly out-of-the-way article that would be interesting to hear you analyze. I may be wrong but this article seems a little "primitive" and almost designed to continue an "alien origin" scenario. Despite that, this appears to be a genuine phenomenon in need of some specificity.

Personally, I'd love to learn that it is a stratospheric life form that got swept down to earth but I suspect that it is much more likely to be an oceanic life form swept up by a typhoon.

"Morphological and Molecular Analysis Calls for a Reappraisal of the Red Rain Cells of Kerala", Rajkumar Ganagappa, Mark J. Burchell, Stuart I Hogg, Current Microbiology (2014) 68: 192-198.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24071812

Geoffrey writes:
Doctors:

Regarding episode 72, I have to confess that it was one of those episodes that went, mostly, right over my head. Fortunately, I was saved by a listener's question regarding using beer as a vaccine medium against yeast infections. At least I know a little about beer.

First of all, I don't have any set answers for your querent. I do have some information that might help set the stage.

Yeasts are indeed used in the production of beer but comparing the basic beer yeast (Saccharomyces) with an infectious yeast like, say, Candida is lot like comparing the stomping power of the hyrax versus an elephant. They may be related but they're different beasts. That said, it might be possible and even practical to infect a beer wort with infectious yeasts and have them proliferate. If you could figure out some way to engineer a non-infectious version of that yeast, then I suppose that it might be possible to prime the immune system against infectious strains of that yeast. My guess is that the process is a lot tricker than with, say, polio or people would already be doing it. In addition, it would likely change the taste of the beer which might or might not be a good thing. Fermentation with non-Saccharomyces yeasts is being studied and does have some beneficial properties.

Then there is the question of actually getting the non-infectious infectious yeast or some significant immune-response-inducing part of it into the final product. If you lysed the yeasts and the appropriate vaccinating portions were soluble and smaller than the filter size, then that could work if you didn't denature it with the heating process first.

There might, however, be a simpler way. Europeans and Americans prefer their beer clear and non-yeasty so they heat it up and filter it. There is, however, a class of ancient beers called opaque or sour beers. These are simple beers which are not filtered (hence both yeasty and carbohydraty - a full meal at lunch time). They are also produced by the combined actions of yeasts and lactic acid bacteria (hence the sourness). For the most part, these beer are living beers, made in the home, and drunk within a day or two. They are best-known in Africa.

If the non-infectious infectious yeast could be supplied in a dormant state able to withstand, for instance, the hot african sun, (perhaps in a spray-dried sugar-yeast mix) then the yeast could be added to this sour beer, proliferate, and be drunk live to induce the immune response. Any taste differences would be much less noticeable in this product and it would fit in well and easily with the daily food consumption of some areas of the world.

Of course, if you could get it into a dormant state in sugar, then it might just be easier to distribute it in lollipops.

Interesting idea that probably won't work but it does lead to some interesting possibilities for integrating other medicinal microbes into diets.

Dalton writes:

Heard you mention that you had a competitor by the name of Goggles Optional, so being obsessive about science, I looked them up and tried listening to a few of their podcasts. It's reminiscent of TWIS and no real competition to your in depth science podcasting! Actually, it's a bit aggravating.


Juan writes:
Hi, I have some comments regarding your dislike of some choice of words in the microbiology and molecular fields. This discussion should be able to fit both twiv and twim.

First you say that the term prokaryote is wrong, but i think the meaning that it has widely attached to the word is wrong. Usually people think of the word to mean without nucleus, and usually we think of these organisms coming before the eukaryotes (that is another discussion altogether) but i don't find this is correct.

there are two stems pre- and pro- , both of them can be meant to mean before, but in a different way. pre- would mean to me something that happens before the appearance of anything, so cells that appeared before eukaryotes would be prekaryotes. Now, prokaryote would mean to me protokaryote, which people may have chosen to shorten to prokaryote. This fits best with the description of these organisms, since they have a nucleiod or protonucleus, some sort of organization that is not quite a nucleus but it is there. so I think prokaryote fits best if it is explained right.

The other is your dislike to the expression "a protein is expressed in the X", you say that we shouldn't say this but instead the protein is translated and that a only a gene can be expressed, and i think this is wrong as well. A gene is transcribed, a protein is translated. What i mean by wrong is that the word expressed according to (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/express) can signify to manifest. Following this, a gene is expressed when the DNA is copied and the specific bases of the gene are put together, an mRNA is expressed when the gene is transcribed by RNAPol, and a protein can be expressed when it is translated and when it has reached its final destination.

One other comment is how we are thought about bacteria. It is regarding the fact that bacteria are thought of archaic life forms, and while the first lifeforms might have resembled more single celled organisms, both the lineage that gave rise to humans is as old as that of bacteria since we should have the same primordial ancestor, unless there were independent primordial life forms formations. Everyone should be taught that any extant organism is as "modern" as any since all organisms have to adapt to the changing and current environment. So we can say that current bacteria are the best expression of their lineage, and not that being unicellular organisms they chose to not continue to innovate biologically.

A latest topic of discussion has been the state of science, and it occurred to me that while most people in science say that cutting down the number of PhDs and restructuring, it seems contradictory the fact that there are very active programs of highschoolers and minorities into science with the excuse that we need more scientists, what are your thoughts on this?

Thanks for your discussions, I'm always looking forward for each episode of the Twimvps and also urban agriculture.

 

 

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