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TWiV 178 Letters

Josh writes:

Hello TWiV Doctors,

Two short things:

1. You probably already heard the TWiV shout-out you got on NPR's Morning Edition on Friday, March 30th. It's here:

2. Since the NSABB caved (and it was more like a rout) you can put one in the Win column against the forces of darkness. I know you are scientists, but high-fives are appropriate.

Ayesha writes:

Dear TWIValians,

I submitted my thesis last Monday and wanted to share Acknowledgements page with you. Please skip to end for the relevant acknowledgement.

Cheers everyone, you made a big difference to me!


I am extremely lucky to have many people to thank. Thanks are due to:

Dr Julian Naglik for his help, his patience and consistent encouragement throughout this process. He is truly a remarkable person and supervisor all around! I have been very fortunate to work with his group on this NIH funded project with further support from King‟s College for the Overseas Research Studentship (ORS).

Dr Celia Murciano for advice on figures, experiments, extensively proofreading the thesis, for performing last minute Luminex assays and conquering troublesome westerns. She is a giver of love, kindness and understanding that helped me get through.

Dr David Moyes knows everything about everything and is always willing to chat about it with anyone. His generocity and advice were always welcome especially for anything to do with fungus, qPCR, microarray, the thesis and computer savvy.

Dr Arinder Kohli for the Cat 3 training, most HIV techniques and so many moments that now make for very entertaining stories.

Manohursingh Runglall for his friendship and sharing his fantastic lab know how.

Dr Chengguo Shen and King‟s College Genomics Centre for performing the labelling, microarray protocol and producing the gene list for analysis.

Dr Simon Jeffs for UG21 protein and antibody for its detection.

Carlo Scala for performing p24 ELISA for my samples alongside his own and Professor Charles Kelly for ordering ZM96 from NIBSC on my behalf.

Dr Trevor Whittall, Thomas Seidl, and Dr Yufei Wang (from Professor Tom Lehner‟s lab) for help with flow cytometry, experimental design and trouble shooting.

Professor Stephen Challacombe for his wisdom, good humour and gentle guidance. I greatly appreciate the time he spent with me.

To Dr Abigail Tucker my postgraduate coordinator.

To my parents, Anne Senécal-Islam and Dr Shamsul Islam for encouragement.

To my husband Angel and daughter Aurora, who allowed me to finish this degree. It would not have been possible without their full cooperation and help.

Thanks are also due everyone at This Week in Virology (TWIV) podcast for re-infecting me with enthusiasm for science.

Johan writes:

I love This Week in Virology, and I just wanted to give my appreciation of the latest episode. So long time since the last video episode!




Sasha writes:

Hello, symbionts and hosts of TWiV!

I am a high school sophomore (from western Maryland,) and am writing to you for the first time in the three (or four) years that I've been listening to you. Admittedly, by now, you all seem like old friends whose voices would be sorely missed if I went a day without hearing a fascinating and entertaining conversation about viruses. What inspired me to write might come as a bit of a surprise, but I'll get to that in a moment.

On TWiV 142: Viral oinkotherapy, you discussed a paper involving microfluidics. The details are a bit hazy to me, as I often listen to TWiV while preparing for bed, but I remember the concept very clearly. Having always been interested in circuit design, and since my discovery of TWiV, virology, it occurred to me very recently that microfluidics and microarrays, (and I'm not quite sure which is a subset of the other,) are a very nice marriage of my two primary interests.

That being said, perhaps in the future you could spend a bit of time on some papers regarding those topics. (I'd also be interested to hear your thoughts on them!) It seems to me to be a very promising emerging field, particularly for use in fast-testing and analysis where relatively little sample material is available. I also found a blog/website by the name of Microfluidic Future, which I suppose will be my listener pick of the week.

Now, on to the less virus-related, but still interesting part, which caused me to write in the first place. Back in 2008, a comic was posted on It detailed a method for determining a number of random locations, at least one of which was guaranteed to be within a relatively small number of miles for any given location. This was termed "geohashing," and was imagined as a means to select a location for, say, a local meetup. There is a relatively active community centered around this concept, and they've demonstrated that it is quite possible for people to use these random locations for meeting places.

This could be relatively easily applied to meetings surrounding TWiV! Using this tool, anyone can find the geohash for their latitudinal and longitudinal zone. If some members of your wide and ever expanding audience became interested in this, we could begin to plan meetups at these locations. After all, networking is what viruses are all about, isn't it?

Anyway, thank you for reading my lengthy and geeky letter, and I hope you enjoyed my comments!


(alias: Alexander help I'm trapped in a username database)

Lawrence writes:

I just wanted to express my appreciation for your podcast, and to tell you that I find your discussions fascinating. I am trained in engineering, but have a wide range of interests in all things scientific and am now turning my attention towards microbiology. Listening to your discussions of scientific publications and hearing the scientific mindset at work is soothing balm to my psyche in our world awash with banality, scientific illiteracy and anti-science. I keep a notepad with me as I listen and jot down words with which I am unfamiliar, and spend time afterwards researching their definitions which opens up new horizons and broadens my perspective in areas that I likely would never have encountered were it not for your podcasts. Thank you all very much for your time and effort.

Paul writes:


I just thought you might be interested. I donated blood today and as I was signing in, I had to read a paper that would disqualify me if I had ever be diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The most interesting part of the paper was that it said a virus called XMRV was linked to CFS and since they didn't have a valid test for XMRV, I couldn't donate if I had been diagnosed with CFS.

I'm an IT guy by trade, so I was really surprised when I read their paper, completely understood the "link" that had been made between XMRV and CFS, and knew that it had already been proven false... all thanks to the TWIV podcast! Your podcast has always been interesting, but I had never been able to directly use anything in it.

I just wanted you to know that TWIV is also enjoyed by those of us that are not in field. Keep up the great work!


Taylor Ridge, Illinois

John writes:

Dear Dr. Racaniello,

I enjoyed TWiV 171, especially your lively discussion on our study of virus production from single cells (Timm and Yin, Virology).

Your discussion touched on what might happen if cells were infected with single virus particles or how virus yields might depend on the cell cycle. In previous work* we infected single cells will single virus particles (using a GFP virus, that allowed us to detect and sort single infected cells before the start of virus release); we found that in most cases 'high-yield' or 'low-yield' growth phenotypes did not persist from one virus generation to the next, suggesting the variation in growth behavior does not reflect viral genetic variation. Our population-level measures of virus yields on synchronized cells suggested some of the growth variation could be linked to the cell cycle -- on BHK cells VSV made on average about six-fold more virus during G2M compared to cells in early S phase.

If you are interested, I'd be happy to discuss further. The ASV meeting will be in Madison this summer. If you attend, I would be happy to meet you and introduce you to my co-workers.
Best wishes,

John Yin

Systems Biology, Theme Leader

Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

University of Wisconsin-Madison


Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Cedric writes:

Dear TWiV Crew,

I read this article in today's Wall Street Journal which discusses the growing number of pediatricians refusing to work with families who will not have their children vaccinated. It seems to me that this is an appropriate response on the part of physicians who do not want their other patients contracting preventable diseases in the waiting room just because one family has chosen not to vaccinate their child.

I was reminded of the Australian story, where families lose their tax breaks when their children are not vaccinated. Because I cannot see that scheme working in the U.S., it seems that this would be one of the few effective means left to physicians who can no longer persuade their patients of the importance of vaccination.

Thank you all for the many hours of work you put into this podcast. As an undergraduate biology student, I really appreciate the head start it gives me in many of my science classes.

James writes:

Dear Prof. Racaniello,

I have been enjoying TWIV, TWIP & TWIM for some time. I am on faculty at a smaller institution and these podcasts have become my “journal club”. I have also begun to share the information and, in some cases, the podcasts themselves with my students – asking them to listen to the podcasts and then discuss what they’ve learned.

This past weekend, a thought occurred to me that, as a virologist, you might be able to provide some practical information for me. When I joined the faculty, I inherited glassware and other supplies. Among them were these pipettes. I’ve attached a couple of photographs of one (image oneimage two). They are all 10 ml pipettes with a smooth plastic or Teflon tip. To me, it looks like they were designed to have removable/disposable tips. Since the lab I inherited had been previously used by someone with a virology background, I thought perhaps these were for tissue culture – something that transitioned between glass pipettes and disposable plastic pipettes. Have you or your colleagues ever seen/used pipettes such as these? I don’t suppose tips are still made for them, but I’m curious as to their history.


James Masuoka, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Department of Biology

Midwestern State University


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