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TWiV 115 Letters

Vinayaka writes:

Some additional info that I gathered on viruses on the verge of elimination (may or may not be new to you):

It appears that the next virus on the list of FAO to eradicate is PPR virus (Peste des Petits Ruminants). In fact, I heard from an Indian virologist friend that the Government of India will begin its campaign this year. It is a burning problem in South Asia, the middle east and equatorial Africa.


Laura writes:

Dear Drs. Racaniello, Despommier, Dove, and Condit,

I was listening to twiv #104 today which discussed recent research on Colony Collapse Disorder, a topic of obvious immense significance to everyone. You mentioned the work of Dr. May Berenbaum et. al. on increased r-RNA fragmentation among bees of affected hives. Then you went on to mention the lack of consistent correlation with the picorna-like viruses those researchers gave as a likely explanation for the finding. You followed w/ the pathogens du jour--IIV and nosema--which don't account for the r-RNA evidence.

You expressed your "gut feelings" that something, possibly environmental, as yet undiscovered may be the unifying explanation for the bees' susceptibility to so many pathogens. But you remained puzzled why an environmental factor would create an illness that arose abruptly and spread like an epidemic.

As ribosomes are intimately related to prions*, it is both puzzling and disturbing that there has been no visible interest (going by published articles) in seriously examining a possible prion cause. Researchers at the University of Malmo, Sweden have made great strides in amplifying prions and identifying them from tiny samples. Their techniques could be applied.

The finding of r-RNA fragmentation could be the smoking gun of an apian prion disease.

Ignoring prions is such a glaring omission that it makes me wonder if this direction of inquiry is for some reason being suppressed. Possibilities include the lack of known treatments for such diseases; the huge expenses associated with the potential need to destroy hives all at one time in large areas to contain such illness and start afresh w/ colonies from the few unaffected areas like Montana and Australia after burning and replacing all the current housing and perhaps most equipment; and the public's possible rejection of honey at the very time beekeepers would most need income.

People often avoid explanations that demand very difficult solutions. However scientists are a group who include more than the average percentage of "pragmatic" individuals. You understand that as insecure as a difficult solution may be, the only thing worse is no understanding and no solution at all.

Could it be that research money is only available to find palliative answers to allow colonies to hang on for the pollinating season with yearly replacement w/o eradicating the underlying cause?

If it turns out to be the case that the only promising explanation that has not been eliminated is "the kiss of death" to a researcher's funding, would there be any point to investigating further without speaking out?

I would very much like to hear your thinking.



* Yeast as a model and tool to study neurodegenerative diseases (prion-based diseases)

"The chaperone network controls proper folding of newly synthesized proteins, assists assembly of macromolecular complexes and promotes clearance of protein aggregates. The protein chaperone activity is carried out by soluble chaperones and ribosome-associated chaperones. In addition, the ribosome itself was found to possess an intrinsic protein folding activity (Argent et al., 2000; Chattopadhyay et al., 1994; Chattopadhyay et al., 1996; Chattopadhyay et al., 1999; Das et al., 1996; Das Gupta, 1999; Kudlicki et al., 1997; Sanyal et al., 2002; Singh and Rao Ch, 2002). In yeast, prion propagation was demonstrated to be critically dependent on the chaperone machinery"

Todd writes:

Hi Guys, I have listening to all the previous Twiv and Twips since hearing you on Futures in Biotech (currently at twiv #90) and have been intrigued with your discussions on Junk DNA.

While growing up in Canada, the highlight of my Saturday morning was listening to the CBC Radio science program Quirks and Quarks. It has had a few wonderful hosts over the decades, giving me a regular science booster until I moved to the US several years ago. I missed it greatly until I found it again as a podcast, giving me a taste home while living here in Denver.

This weeks 35th Anniversary show was recorded in front of a large audience in Toronto and one of the guests discussed Junk is her segment.

I'd love to her your ideas on this and apologize if you have gone over this since episode 90.

Vince, Dick, Alan and feel like old friends by now, and though you don't hear me, I'm constantly poking my comments into your conversations!

Keep Twiv and Twip going, you are an incredible source of information and entertainment!

Take care and and Happy Holidays, Todd


David writes:

Dear Twivers

I discovered TWIV this summer and am doing my best to catch up! I have a short 15 min walking commute to work so it takes some time to get through all these episodes but I look forward to it every day.

With Rich Condit on the show, this comment is probably unnecessary. Yesterday, Frank Fenner passed away and he was a key player in the eradication of smallpox and made many important contributions in poxvirology. Although I never met him, I consider him one of my science heroes, someone who's work has greatly influenced my career and interest in virology. It would be great to hear some discussion on TWiV about his contributions to science.

It has also started me thinking about the people who influence us in our careers and stimulate our interest in science. Of course our teachers and advisors are among them, but then there are the other scientists who's work or life stories influence our decision to go into science. Certainly he was one for me. Another was Linus Pauling, who died when I was in high school and my chemistry teacher wore black for several days after his death. I wondered who this guy was so I read his biography and it remains one of the most influential books I have read. Luckily, another of my heroes, David Suzuki, is still alive. Your Canadian listeners will know him well. I am curious about who the most influential people have been in your careers especially in terms of stimulating your interest in science or virology or who's work has had a major impact on your careers.



Kimberly writes:

I was listening to the Futures in Biotech episode 71 where you described the recent PNAS paper on TRIM21. You had mentioned that this antibody/TRIM21-mediated virus destruction may be why viruses such as Polio and Flu only need a few antibodies for neutralization. This could work for Polio, but probably not for the Flu as it is an enveloped virus. The paper states many times that this can only work for un-enveloped viruses, and it took me a bit to realize why as they didn't spell it out. If the antibody is directed to the viral glycoprotein (or any other protein on the outside of the virion) and binds the virion outside of the cell (as the paper describes), then upon membrane fusion the antibody would remain outside of the cell and inaccessible to TRIM21. I think only time will tell if there is a similar mechanism for enveloped viruses.

Thanks for the podcasts!



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