Author: Van Wilson

  • Understanding Molecular Biology Part I – DNA Structure and Organization

    I usually write about recent scientific publications that I find interesting and important, usually in the general area of biology. My goal is to promote scientific literacy and an awareness of the many remarkable advances in all areas of science. I try to provide some background context for the published study and then summarize the […]

  • Sniff, Sniff, Bite (Mosquitoes are Hunting You)

    Mosquitoes, the bane of summer, are persistent pests that can plague our outdoor activities. Not only do they produce itchy bites, but they can also carry a variety of disease-causing viruses including Zika virus, West Nile virus, dengue virus, and St. Louis encephalitis virus. There are 176 species of mosquito found in North America, with […]

  • A Mutational Limit for Lifespan?

    It has long been known that mammalian lifespan roughly correlates with animal size, i.e. larger animals live longer than smaller ones. Mice generally live less than 2 years, your average dog lives 10-13 years, and humans have a typical lifespan of 73 years. What is less clear is the mechanistic basis for this observation. Differences […]

  • New  Predictive Biomarkers for Cardiovascular Disease

    Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a catchall term for any medical condition affecting the heart or the blood vessels. Serious cardiovascular health issues include heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure, events often preceded by hypertension (high blood pressure) and/or atherosclerosis (plaque in the arteries). Even with medical monitoring and a large array of cardiovascular drugs, CVD […]

  • Viruses and Gene Therapy

    There are around 6000 known genetic disorders that cause health problems with the number continuing to grow as more are discovered each year. The clinical effects can vary from just an increased risk for disease (e.g. breast cancer and BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations) to an inevitably fatal condition (e.g. progeria). Many of the more frequently […]

  • A Giant Among Us

    Bacteria are single-cell wonders. They live, grow, reproduce, and can perform all the functions of life as solitary organisms independent from their brethren. With rich and complex genetics, these microbes vary enormously in their properties and populate every possible niche from the frigid Arctic to the interior of our bodies. But one common feature is […]

  • Sonogenetics – Controlling the Brain with Sound

    My neuroscience colleagues have long been proponents of the technique known as optogenetics, a procedure that was named the scientific “Method of the Year” in 2010. For this method, brain cells are genetically engineered to respond to a specific wavelength of light. Typically this involves using a virus or other delivery system to augment brain […]

  • Viruses: Intimate Invaders

    My book on virology for the general public is now available at Springer as either an ebook or a softcover bound volume. It is also available on Amazon.

  • Epstein-Barr Virus and Multiple Sclerosis – Another Link

    In a recent post, I reported on a massive retrospective examination of military personnel records that strongly implicated the ubiquitous Epstein-Barr virus (EBV-the agent of infectious mononucleosis) as a major risk factor for the development of multiple sclerosis (MS). What was lacking in this epidemiological study was a mechanism by which EBV could physically initiate […]