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The Viruses Within

One of the most startling findings from sequencing the human genome is that humans aren’t entirely human. Approximately 8% of our DNA is viral, the result of ancient viruses invading our cells and inserting their DNA into our genomes. These insertions are scattered throughout our genomes and are primarily the remnants of a family of […]

Polio 2022

The last three years with COVID and the current monkeypox outbreak have dramatically illustrated that viruses are and will remain persistent dangers to human health. In addition to these new threats, the usual panoply of human viruses is ever present and continually spreading among susceptible individuals. The recent polio case in New York (an unvaccinated […]


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Human Brain Evolution

Primates are our closest relatives with chimpanzees sharing almost 99% of our DNA genomes. Neanderthals are even closer to modern humans with genomes 99.7% identical to ours and with brains nearly the same size as modern humans. Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) and humans (Homo sapiens) were so genetically similar that successful interbreeding occurred, resulting in a […]

Artificial Sweeteners and the Microbiome

Obesity, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), and type 2 diabetes are major medical concerns whose prevalence among adults and children has risen in recent decades, at least in part due to our sugar-rich diets. To reduce sugar intake, a variety of artificial sweeteners have been developed and marketed, including saccharin (e.g. Sweet’N Low), sucralose (e.g. Splenda), […]

Mosquitoes, Scents, and Viruses

Many viral diseases are spread via mosquitoes. Some of the more familiar viral diseases in the Americas that are transmitted by these insects include West Nile, Saint Louis encephalitis (SLE), Zika, and dengue fever. Mosquitoes are typically not the primary host for these viruses and are just vectors that carry the virus from animal to […]