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The Truth is in Here

I am a professional scientist in the biological arena, and the fundamental goal of my profession is to seek truth, understanding, and knowledge. We don’t always get it right, but we always strive to reach the absolute truth even if progress is slow and incremental. We are taught to follow the evidence wherever it takes …

This Little Piggy

Organ transplants have become a staple of modern medicine with 9 types of transplants approved in the United States: cornea, heart, kidney, liver, lung, pancreas, skin, trachea, and vascular tissue. These transplants are usually highly successful at both extending and improving the quality of life in the recipients, with about 40,000 performed yearly in our …

Epigenetics and Stress: “The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on.” – Omar Khayyam

There is a well-known connection between early life stress (ELS) and depression that develops in adolescence or the adult years. Individuals with severe ELS suffer from an up to three-fold higher incidence of depression as adults, a risk seen both in humans and in animal models. What has remained mysterious is the mechanism by which …

Bioengineered Yeast Combat Clostridium difficile

Clostridium difficile (C. diff for short) is an environmental bacterium that has become increasingly common as an opportunistic pathogen. Like its relatives, Clostridium botulinum (the cause of botulism) and Clostridium tetani (the cause of tetanus), C. diff is a spore-forming organism. Spores are dormant forms of bacteria that are very stable and resistant structures. Their …

Rubella Has a Family at Last

Some viruses, such as the human papillomaviruses (HPVs), have co-evolved with mankind throughout evolutionary history. These ancient human viruses often cause silent infections and may establish persistent infections that last for years to decades. Other viruses, often ones associated with common human acute diseases, entered the human population only within the last few millennia. Typically, …

COVID Vaccine Hesitancy

According to national polls, a significant fraction of Americans currently remains hesitant to take any of the three approved SARS-CoV-2 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson). I’ve seen several different reasons given, but one common reason is a safety concern. It is the fear that the rapid development and deployment of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines …

The Gut-Brain Connection

Our gastrointestinal system is teeming with diverse bacteria that collectively comprise our gut microbiome. These bacteria contribute to our digestive capability as well as more broadly influencing our overall health and wellbeing. As the bacteria in our gut digest our food they produce and excrete their own biomolecules that we call metabolites. Bacterial metabolites can …

COVID-19 Update – Variations on a Theme

The news is filled with alarming stories about new variants of SARS-CoV-2 that were isolated in recent weeks. These variants are versions of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus that have acquired mutations. Mutations are a natural and regular occurrence that happens when the parental viral genome replicates during the process of making progeny viruses. In an …

Famous Virus Tales of Christmas Past

To start December here are some versions of Xmas tales that only a virologist would love. Happy holidays to all! “Twas the Night Before Coronavirus” - Santa isn’t the only thing sneaking into the house this winter! “A Christmas Calicivirus” - A crotchety old man discovers that it is better to give than receive (viruses that …

COVID-19 – Are We Nearing the Endgame?

I suspect that everyone has heard the highly encouraging news this week from two vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. Both companies released the first phase 3 trial preliminary results this week and based on these early data each of their vaccines is highly effective after 2 doses. In the case of Pfizer’s vaccine, the initial …

Nobel for CRISPR

I just wanted to add my congratulations to the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winners, Drs. Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier. Only the 6th and 7th women to receive the Chemistry Nobel Prize, Doudna and Charpentier received the award for making the bacterial CRISPR/Cas9 system into the most powerful genetic tool of the 21st century. …