TWiM 58 Letters

Daniel writes:

Dear Vincent and his fellow TWIMsters,

Hello, my name is Daniel, I am a first year graduate student at Michigan State. I would like to thank you all for making a great podcast. I recently caught up to the most current episodes by having my own TWIM marathon during my 6 hour drive home to Wisconsin over the holiday break.

I'm not sure where to begin explaining how much I value this podcast. As someone who cares for outreach, education, research and in general having a good time with science, you folks are first rate. This series has been accessible all the way through for grandparents to grad students. When things maybe get a little to verbose you have done well to bring it back down. But you also make it just intriguing enough to hold the attention of the grad student in me. I have even been known to actually follow along in the articles. :) And of course I have had a great time learning and exercising my mind while listening in. You guys went even further to impress me with the discussion of Jo Handelsman's research last time, it gave me lots to think about for the future. Please keep up the great show!

I also wanted to share a paper with you all that I thought about after listening to TWIM #47: Resistance On the Surface. Michael said something that made me remember it during his discussion of the paper in reguard to conjugation. He said, "It's having sex wicked fast!", and you guys went on to exclaim about how fast conjugation was happening.

In this Science paper by Babic et al. in 2008 they are using a very beautifully designed experiment to visualize DNA transfer by conjugation, and it agrees... wicked fast! I suggest the supplemental videos. The experiment involves a recipient strain that is Dam- or defective for DNA methylation by Dam methylase, and which has a SecA-YFP fusion . (Note by MGS--- it is not is SeqA ) SecA being (correct me if I'm wrong) the protein that keeps replication from occurring when hemi-methylated DNA is present in the cell. Effectively keeping multiple rounds of replication from occurring at once since newly replicated DNA has not yet had the time to be methylated on the new strand.

The result of this recipient cell is no DNA methylation, or SecA-YFP binding and diffuse fluorescence. The donor cell, however, has Dam methylase and will donate methylated DNA during conjugation. When this happens, the donor DNA will become hemi-methylated upon replication allowing SecA-YFP to bind and show a localized fluorescence to that DNA. This means we can watch it happen at a single cell level! They do show a rather surprisingly fast transfer of DNA, as well as make other neat conclusions in the paper which include the use of a red fluorescent gene on the donor DNA to measure expression of conjugated DNA, but the e-mail is long enough already. It's not a bad read, and I hope my explanation was TWIMable enough.

Thank you for providing a wonderful supplement to my microbiology education, and Happy New Year,


Here is the link to the article.

Robert writes:

I am listening to eps 49 and heard the mention of biodynamic vineyards. Biodynamic farming is similar to organic farming, with the addition of such things as burying dung in the horn of a bull and sprinkling magical powders around the farm. Take a look, it's quite entertaining total nonsense.

Clark writes: [this email was read on TWiM #56 but not published]

I'm slowly getting caught up with TWIM after Christmas and just listened to episode 43. I came away very confused and I hope you can clarify something for me.

I understood that the major problem with using phages for disease was due to FDA regulation. However when speaking about acne you suggested that there were ways for the FDA to approve them as a type of drug treatment. If this is the case, then why on earth aren't they being used to treat anti-biotic resistant TB or other such diseases?

If you could do a show on the interplay between the FDA, government regulation and commercial use of phages to control disease I'd be quite excited. I confess I get confused when hearing about the problem of antibiotic resistance on the one hand and phages on the other.

Todd writes:

it's true

(also, I love your podcast, and in the future when I write a longer letter I'll explain more why I love the podcast)

Erik writes:

Long time listener, 2nd time emailer. ID doc. Mostly i treat HIV patients and hospital acquired infections. You've talked a lot about copper as an antimicrobial and that ancient civilizations might have used it to reduce war wound infections. I'm not aware of it's use in modern wound care. However silver based products are used a lot in wound care and on catheters, etc. I would be interested in understanding the antimicrobial properties of silver, and in why copper is not used topically if it is so effective at killing bacteria. Thanks.

Jim writes:

Hi all,
Thought Michael Schmidt might like this reference. It is to a Canadian podcast called Quirks and Quarks.
The reference is:

In this episode, they discuss a paper by Jayne Danska talking about diabetes in nonobese mice. The outcome of diabetes can be changed by changing the microbiome in young mice. It reminded me of Michael' s thinking on how the microbiome might come into play in the future.
I found it very interesting after hearing the TWIM episode.

The paper appeared in Science.

Best Wishes,

Justin writes:
Hello to the TWIM team and guest(s) I have written to TWIV but this is my first letter to TWIM. I was recently watching a documentary about
how beer was the driving force behind beginning agriculture and numerous other massive human accomplishments and the documentary
mentioned skeletons from 500 BCE containing tetracycline. My first reaction to this was where is my computer I have to find this article.
Well I did find that the orgiginal discovery in the late 1980's was meant with extreme skeptacism (not surprisingly) but then I also found
an article from 2010 with more data to back up the claim. Now, I am not one to interpret Mass Spec data very well but would love to hear
what the TWIM team thinks of this. Here is a link I found to the article in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology

Thanks to all for the wonderful podcast,


Robin writes:
Alaric the Great

One would expect that Italians would be familiar with Alaric the Great.

Alaric I (Gothic: Alareiks; 370 – 410) was the King of the Visigoths from 395–410. Alaric is most famous for his sack of Rome in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Roman Empire.


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