DiscoverFinding Genius Podcast
Finding Genius Podcast

Finding Genius Podcast

Author: Richard Jacobs

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Podcast interviews with genius-level (top .1%) practitioners, scientists, researchers, clinicians and professionals in Cancer, 3D Bio Printing, CRISPR-CAS9, Ketogenic Diets, the Microbiome, Extracellular Vesicles, and more.

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2147 Episodes
Associate Professor Michelle Power discusses her expertise in the study of host-parasite associations in wildlife, with particular emphasis on protozoan parasites. Tune in to discover: What differentiates the two main classes of resistant bacteria and why this has important implications for humans, and potentially wildlife Why it is important to think about the many interactions within organisms relative to disease (i.e. the context of coinfection) rather than thinking about only about one host and one pathogen at a time What important ecological role flying foxes play in Australia The flying fox (i.e. fruit bat) is one of the world’s largest bats, and in Sydney, Australia, thousands of them can be found hanging from the trees in even the most urbanized parts of the city. Most of us are familiar with the idea that viruses can be transferred from these and other animals to humans, but what can be said about how the process might work in the opposite direction? In other words, what types of parasites and bacteria may be picked up by bats and other wildlife as the result of humans in their environment?   These questions involve the concept of reverse zoonosis, which comprises one of Power’s primary research interests. She and the research team in the biology department at Macquarie University work on a suite of different organisms, most of which are associated with the gut, such as cryptosporidium and giardia. Both of these parasites are transmissible through the water and can therefore travel through the environment. As a result, they can be picked up by wildlife through drinking water or through interactions during rehabilitation and/or long-term captivity. Power is also researching malarial parasites and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a global health concern for humans that may or may not be making its way into wildlife. Check out to learn more. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Carla McGuire Davis, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine; and Chief, Section of Immunology, Allergy and Retrovirology, as well as Director, Food Allergy Program at Texas Children's Hospital discusses her work, touching on topics, such as autoimmune diseases, immunology, and allergies.   Podcast Points: What are some of the most common food allergies? How does oral immunotherapy work? Should I be concerned about anaphylactic shock?   Dr. Davis talks about her background, and how early in her career as a pediatrician she came to realize that many children were highly impacted by allergic skin disease and food allergies. As she dug deeper, she found that while there was some research going on in these areas, the amount of research was small. She discusses particular cases that pushed her towards her current field, touching on anaphylactic shock, and severe allergic reactions, especially related to foods. The allergy and immunology expert provides details on some of the tests they have done regarding peanut allergies. As she states, it becomes a huge problem when someone with a peanut allergy ‘thinks’ they are eating a safe food, but then later ends up in the hospital. She discusses her studies, and immunotherapy protocols, such as oral immunotherapy which can increase an allergic person’s tolerance for the substance by introducing low levels into the body. Dr. Davis goes on to discuss medications that are being used to treat eczema, atopic dermatitis, and asthma that can stop the immune system in process, in order to help prevent reactions. Continuing, the research doctor discusses further studies that have been effective in treatment of allergy issues, including a discussion of appropriate dosing and issues related to the various effective options, such as peanut patches and other types of oral immunotherapy. Available on Apple Podcasts:  
Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Atomistic Simulation & Energy Group at MIT, Asegun Henry, discusses his research and how it may hold the key to moving the needle on climate change. In this episode, you will learn: How heat is transferred between atoms, what factors heat transfer mechanisms are dependent upon, and what happens at extremely hot temperatures    How electricity can be stored as heat in the “sun in a box” technology being developed by Henry and his group What benefits are conferred by liquid metals for transferring heat When you heat a pot of water, what’s actually happening? What’s behind those boiling bubbles…what processes and principles lead to your observations? It may sound like a rather simple question, but there’s probably more to it than you think. In fact, this was one of the questions that led Professor Asegun Henry into the field of research involving heat transfer, high temperatures, and energy. For Henry, it took awhile for him to get a straight answer to these questions, but today’s show begins with exactly that. Also discussed are the two projects Henry and his group are currently working on, which include an energy storage technology that involves storing heat rather than electricity in order to achieve extremely low costs, and a CO2-free technological approach to hydrogen production. He provides an in-depth explanation of the physics and chemistry involved, and the solar energy and other commercial applications of this research. Learn more by visiting Available on Apple Podcasts:
Author and researcher Asher Yaron talks about his process of discovering the elements of what it takes to bring in a satisfying pot of coffee.  He tells listeners  That caffeine is only one of several important chemical components to coffee and how to make the most of them all, Whether fresh-roasted coffee really needs to "rest" and other myths large coffee corporations spread, and How compounds fresh from roasting have positive health impacts that deserve more research. Author and speaker Asher Yaron has been working with coffee for over 15 years. He begins the conversation with his own discovery of some of the truths of coffee and coffee machines and then describes the evolution of coffee discovery by the industry starting in the 1990s. He makes his way to the first time he drank a cup of fresh roasted coffee and how that flavor was eye opening enough to pursue a fuller exploration of all things coffee.  He explains to listeners what happens in a fresh roast that makes the difference and how a fresh grind prevents the oxidation that enables a flavor loss of an older grind. He also talks about how we are trained to think bitter means strong whereas it's actually the opposite—the bitter flavor develops from age post-roasting. A fresh roast and grind can produce a strong, non -bitter flavor. Further, chemicals beyond the caffeine that lend positive feelings to the drinker are still part of the bean soon after a fresh roast. He also addresses much of the harm and misleading information that's been perpetuated by the big coffee industry such as the effort to make Nespresso coffee machines have their coffee appear to have crema to match the look of good coffee. He then turns to the ways individuals can roast their own coffee and how to grind and brew for the perfect cup. He describes the current products he's designed and sells such as a specialized coffee machine called the Power Roaster that's been on Kickstarter and addresses different grinding techniques. Listen for more interesting science behind a good cup.   For more, see his YouTube channel, Coffee University, and his web site,  Available on Apple Podcasts:
Dr. Jakob Begun is a professor at the University of Queensland School of Medicine where he runs a research lab, as well as a practicing gastroenterologist at the Mater Hospital where he runs an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) clinic. In this episode, you will learn: What the important distinctions are between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) Why identifying microbial diversity in the gut isn’t sufficient to understand how individual communities of microbes might be interacting or affecting the host, and how Begun’s research aims to address this What conditions fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) can be used for and how it may stack up against pharmaceuticals as a treatment for certain conditions What factors may be at play in the development of early immunity You have approximately 10 pounds of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract at this very moment. What is the role and function of these bacteria? How many species exist, and how do they interact with one another? How does the immune system come to tolerate these bacteria…or do they? These are just a few of the questions discussed by Dr. Begun on today’s show. Dr. Begun has a particular interest in understanding the interplay between the gut microbiome and the immune system, and specifically how the bacteria in our gut can influence inflammation in our body. He points to the rising incidence of IBD alongside industrialization as a motivating factor for understanding what’s really at play. He argues that in order to develop a better understanding, it is necessary to understand the function of individual bacteria within the gut, rather than an overview of the types and quantity of species present. This approach will allow for the determination of which chemicals are being produced by which bacteria in the gut, which may lead to an understanding of whether those chemicals promote or suppress inflammatory responses. He describes the technique employed in his lab for studying this, and how he believes this research could shape the future of clinical treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and many other immune-mediated diseases, which are also increasing at unprecedented rates around the world. Visit to learn more. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Clair Brown is Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley. Clair has published research on many aspects of inequality and sustainability. Her book Buddhist Economics: An enlightened approach to the dismal science (Bloomsbury Press) provides an economic framework that integrates global sustainability, shared prosperity and care for the human spirit. This holistic approach is based on actual national policies that reduce inequality, protect the environment, and support all people living a dignified, meaningful life. Her research team created the Sustainable, Share-Prosperity Index (SSPI) for 50 countries. Clair is a volunteer with 350 Bay Area Action, where she co-chairs the Legislative Committee to work on passing key climate justice bills in California. Read about Clair in Eminent Economists II: Their Life and Work Philosophies (Cambridge). You can listen to podcasts with Clair: Book trailer (2 min): Professor in the Department of Economics at Berkeley and author of Buddhist Economics: An Enlightened Approach to the Dismal Science, Clair Brown, joins the show to discuss the role and importance of economics in our lives. Tune in to discover: How economics have changed over the last few decades for the better in terms of understanding human interdependence and impermanence How the coronavirus has and will continue to change the economy and the way in which companies operate, as well as the way people perceive value and change In what three key areas countries need to improve their policies and performance “Most people go into economics because they want to change the way the world works. Most people really do care about…how well people are living…inequality…the climate crisis, the health emergency, and racial justice, but economists tend to think that all of those things are interdependent in economic systems, and that how the economy works can make a difference in all of those areas,” says Brown, as she explains why she’s an economist. To her, economics is about figuring out how to take the resources we have and work with them to provide what people need in order to have happy and meaningful lives. She discusses her book, Buddhist Economics: An Enlightened Approach to the Dismal Science, which addresses ways in which to think about the worldview of how the economy functions and the assumptions derived from this worldview. For instance, are people selfish or altruistic? Independent from or interdependent with one another and the planet? What differentiates the rational from the irrational? Brown argues that the way an economist answers these questions necessarily impacts the way they think about the way the economy functions. She provides insight on her view of the effects of the coronavirus, which include a reevaluation of what we find meaningful in our lives, a greater awareness of the climate change emergency (noticed through the significant improvements in air and water quality during the lockdown), and a realization that we really can implement change quickly. Tune in for all the details and visit to learn more. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Professor Kallol Gupta's research into natural peptides and receptors, specifically neurotoxins, lead him on a path towards the deep sea cone snail, which release neurotoxins particularly helpful in studying how our cellular membranes work. He explains Why the hydrophobic exterior of membranes are particularly hard to study and how a new technique with mass spectrometry has enabled a superior approach, What the "resolution revolution" of mass spectrometry enables researches to observe in protein and membrane interaction, and How this information is useful in the field of biology and also in developing drugs that address numerous physiological issues. Kallol Gupta  is an assistant professor of Cell Biology at Yale University and runs the Gupta Lab. He started his academic studies in chemistry and developed an interest in biology after studying the venom library of cone snails of the coast of India. Often called poisonous snails, they are actually venomous because they inject their prey with neurotoxins through a harpoon-like structure that houses a proboscis that's able to shoot out, sting, and inject. He became interested in how these toxins had fine-tuned their actions and were able to hijack animal physiology. He explains to listeners how mass spectrometry has opened the door to a much more thorough glimpse of this action on a cellular level.  He describes how these toxins bind to membranes. Like a bomb, the toxins throw a large number of compounds at the cell and a small number hit the target. But it's enough to effect the neurons of their prey. He adds that he wants to study what is special about the few that are able to bind with the membrane. If scientists like him want to target specific proteins, they can figure out how other organisms are already doing this in nature and learn from them.  Dr. Gupta tells listeners about the challenging environment of the lipid cell membrane and how they have figured out how to study it inside the mass spectrometer itself before it degrades and loses its nature. He adds why these studies are so important, from developing a fundamental understanding of biological functions to developing drugs that can appropriately bind to their target. Listen in for interesting details. For more, see his lab's web site: Available on Apple Podcasts:
Andrea Ferrero studies monetary economics and international macroeconomics. In this podcast he discusses what has and may happen to the economy under government-imposed shutdowns. He shares with listeners his thoughts on How the collapse of 2007 set us up with low interest rates at the outset of the pandemic and why that's important, The difference between how monetary and fiscal policy are playing out, and What he projects under a substantial second wave and how health and political policies will ultimately determine economic policy. Andrea Ferrero is an associate professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Oxford and the Levine Fellow of Economics at Trinity College, Oxford. He begins the podcast summarizing how he fell into the academic sector of macroeconomics and monetary policy. His first job after his Ph.D. was actually with the Federal Reserve Bank in New York in their research department after the economic collapse of 2007. In addition to his teaching and research, he serves as an academic consultant to the Bank of England. He connects today's situation with the financial crisis of 2007 and distinguishes how we face a whole new set of questions as economics and policy makers under the COVID-19 pandemic. He points out governments have been extremely aggressive with fiscal policy as determinants of  monetary policy didn't have a lot of room to respond; interest rates were already low and several places didn't have room to lower them. He discusses complications of current and future responses, the shocks of supply and demand, and other elements of baseline responses to the economic effects of a second wave of COVID-19. He notes that the quick rebound of the stock market has been a surprise though speaks to a cautious view of the future. He also addresses the ways health policies and political processes effect this future in macroeconomics and to what extent governments should be planning now for long-term objectives. Listen in for more details on his expert opinion. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Mark Lurie is an associate professor of epidemiology at Brown University who joins the show to discuss his work from the early 90s until the present day. Tune in to discover: What was primarily to blame for the early spread of TB in Africa, as well as the spread and development of HIV hotspots How and why early intervention is so important in the control of infectious diseases How the response to the COVID-19 pandemic differs from the response to other infectious disease outbreaks and whether the decisions made so far in the U.S. are appropriate Lurie has been involved in epidemiology since the early 90s, when he came across a fascinating study that looked at the early spread of TB in Africa. Since then, he’s studied the spread of HIV and various other infectious diseases. He talks about how treatment for HIV has developed remarkably over the years despite there still not being a vaccine, and where the largest reduction in new cases of HIV have been seen. He reminds us that it wasn’t more than three or four generations ago that our geographical footprint was very small… reaching not more than five or 10 miles from home. Clearly, this has changed significantly and impacted patterns of infectious disease. He discusses the coronavirus pandemic, when he thinks a vaccine may be available, the public health interventions surrounding it, evidence that the coronavirus-related lockdowns helped slow the spread, the less-talked-about consequences of the coronavirus outbreak (some of them positive), the purpose and importance of testing for the virus, the pros and cons of a treatment versus a vaccine for the virus, and what he thinks will happen in the near and long-term future.   Available on Apple Podcasts:
Co-lead of the meteorology team on the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Extreme Expedition and professor in the Department of Geography at Appalachian State University, Baker Perry, joins the show to discuss his fascinating and truly unique work. Tune in to discover: How the recently-installed weather stations on Mt. Everest are filling a critical role in climber safety  What has been learned about the intensity of solar radiation on the mountain and why this is important for projected glacier changes and current models used to make those projections Which new insight gained from the implementation of these weather stations might explain the incidence of climber disappearance on Mt. Everest How the data sets from these stations can take viewers on a virtual reality trip into the glacier for an immersive, once-in-a-lifetime experience On Tuesday, June 30, 2020 at 10pm ET on National Geographic, you can watch the television premier of Expedition Everest, an unprecedented journey that resulted in the installation of the world’s highest weather stations and the collection of the highest ice core known to man.     Baker Perry shares firsthand experience as co-lead of this incredible mission, offering you a glimpse of what it would be like to make the climb yourself. By virtue of Perry and the rest of the expedition team, real-time weather data from the mountain and past and future projections of glacier change is now possible. This not only changes the game for climbing safety, but paves the way for significant improvements to forecast and glacier change models, as well as a better understanding of how the climate is changing. Perry explains the reasoning behind the placements of the weather stations, the challenges encountered as they gained elevation, what types of equipment and instrumentation were used, and so much more. Learn more and access real-time data links to these weather stations by visiting Available on Apple Podcasts:
Author, screenwriter, and storyteller Edward Savio joins the show to discuss his works and the perspectives that inspired them. In this episode, you’ll discover: What led Savio to write Idiots in the Machine, an anti-screenplay novel (and what rules were broken in the creation of it) How Savio (or his characters) view a range of topics, like technology, sustainability, the idea of economic growth, and even interpersonal relationships Why Savio has a passion for writing about characters who live in the past, and what type of research he did in the creation of one of his most popular series “You have to have a kind of determination and a belief that is almost beyond reality,” says Savio, commenting on how he dealt with everyone in his life who, at one point in time, told him he needed a “real” job and shouldn’t pursue a career as a writer. He shares with listeners the sources of motivation that have led him to become the great writer he is today, and provides insight into some of his main characters. He also discusses some practical differences between the considerations that must be made while writing a novel versus a screenplay, how he’s been able to write a series about time travel without there actually being any time travel involved, human adaptation and evolution, how and why the future will "reveal us to be ignorant," and so much more. Tune in for a compelling and unique conversation with a brilliant mind and some new ideas for good reading.   For more, visit and Available on Apple Podcasts: Edward Savio BFF Volume 3: The first two installments in Savio's Battle For Forever action adventure sci-fi series were just #1 and #9 Best Sellers with Wil Wheaton narrating the audiobooks. Those two titles are ALEXANDER X and ANCIENT AMONG US. Edward is working on Volume 3 of BFF now, LEAGUE OF AULD, and the goal is to have another Wil Wheaton narration dropped before the end of this year. Get yourself ready for Volume 3, and get access to a free novella in the BFF universe when signing up at
In her research, Dr. Caroline Ng addresses how to effectively treat malaria as scientists face possible drug resistance.  She explains for listeners The cycle and stages of malaria-causing parasites and what causes common malaria symptoms, Why the asexual blood stage of the parasite is especially important in understanding how to disrupt its infection, and What signs of resistance are scientists observing and how her research hopes to solve the issue. Caroline L. Ng, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She specializes in the pathogenesis of Plasmodium falciparum and the genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying drug resistance. She begins by explaining the life cycle of the parasites that cause malaria. Plasmodium spp. have evolved to require two hosts in their life cycle, mosquito and animal, and she specializes in the species that use human hosts in addition to the mosquito. She explains how the parasites move from mosquito saliva and make their way to the human liver. She describes their entry into red blood cells, how they divide asexually at an exponential rate, when they evolve into different sexes, and how a debris release causes the common malaria symptoms of fever and chills. She then builds on this explanation to describe the issues facing researches in how to treat malaria as symptoms of drug resistance seem to be showing up. In particular, the parasite Plasmodium falciparum is of concern as it is the most virulent and causes the most deaths. Artemisinin is a potent drug that's short-lived that must be partnered with another drug to make sure parasites are being cleared. But scientist in Southeast Asia have seen a decrease in the ability of this drug family to clear parasites. They worry this indicates artemisinin resistance. If they can understand this, they can designs drugs that synergize or identify a pathway to build up the efficacy of this drug. Along the way, she explains mechanisms of how these drugs work and how these poorer countries that face malaria need inexpensive treatments.  To learn more, see her information on her institution's web site: Available on Apple Podcasts:
Professor Vythilingam started working with parasitic diseases in the early 1980s and now studies the recent upsurge in Plasmodium knowlesi in humans, which is a malaria originating in monkey hosts.  In this podcast, she discusses How scientists traced the different Plasmodium species to discover that humans were being infected with this simian malaria that originates from different parasites, Why it's important that Malaysian mosquitos have adapted to biting in the early evening outdoors instead of indoors late at night, and  How researchers and the Malaysian government are working together to find a solution to stopping these parasites. Indra Vythilingam is a professor of parasitology at the University of Malaya. Malaria is not a virus; rather, it's a disease caused by a parasite of the Plasmodium species that follows a host and vector life cycle. She started working on malaria the early 80s. In the early 1990s, she worked on a study with insecticide-treated mosquito nets, proving their efficacy. However, in the years since, malaria-infected mosquitoes have adapted their behaviors and evolved in Malaysia to bite earlier in the evening and outdoors. Furthermore, she explains that malaria is traveling from monkeys to mosquitos to people in Malaysia, a discovery made in 2004. Previously it was thought that humans could only catch malaria from a few specific species thought of as the human malaria parasites. However, a 2004 paper showed the simian parasite, Plasmodium knowlesi, had been transmitted to humans. Professor Vythilingam explains that the human malaria has been almost eradicated from the area, but they now have this difficult development to face. She discusses what measures she and her colleagues are hoping to take after the COVID-19 virus pandemic slows enough to allow them to return to the field. For more information, search for Indra Vythilingam in Google Scholar and other such research-accruing sites.  Available on Apple Podcasts:
Andrew Thompson is a Professor of Parasitology at Murdoch University who joins the show to discuss the ins and outs of his research on parasites. In this episode, you will learn: How parasites can change and/or be introduced as a result of human involvement How the recreational pursuit of fox hunting and domestication of horses led to an artificial parasitic cycle (hydatid disease) in the UK What mechanisms certain parasites have developed to help them survive in their hosts Thompson’s work on parasitic diseases began many years ago, when taking a class on invertebrate zoology. One project in particular struck his interest: the role of the dwarf tapeworm in mice. Since then, his research has gone far beyond tapeworms. In recent years, the focus has been on parasites of wildlife—particularly those that may have conservation effects. In other words, parasites that normally don’t cause much of a problem without the impact of human involvement and man-made domestic cycles. He gives a number of fascinating examples, and discusses the studies which led to these findings. He discusses the progression of hydatid disease in humans and domestic animals, surgical removal as an intervention, what can be done to prevent it, and much more. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Cheri Ackerman and Cameron Myhrvold explain their innovative new system to test for multiple viruses in one test. They explain The overarching goal of low cost alongside high scale allowing multiple diagnostics at once, How a microwell array chip and criprs cas-13 work together in this test, and How the timing of this test works and their future goals.  Dr. Cheri Ackerman is the cofounder and CEO of Concerto Biosciences and Dr. Cameron Myhrvold is a post doc fellow at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. In this podcast they discuss their project to develop a new virus diagnostic method that involves cripr. While there are several standout attributes to this new diagnostic, an integral element is that it tests for multiple viruses at once. They explain that they wanted to answer what is making a person sick by testing for different viruses at the same time. The technology can by summarized as using crispr cas-13 diagnostics in a microwell array. This allows different detection reactions for multiple viruses and multiple patients at the same time. As with common COVID virus PCR tests, it starts with a nasal swab. After taking the swab and performing sample preparation as with a PCR test, the process starts to differ, specifically in two ways: the detection is conducted with a small volume, which allows them to do many tests on the same sample; second, the test allows for all of these reactions to set themselves up on their own. Detection regents and samples self-organize in a way that gets a robust result that crispr cas-13, as an RNA target, allows. They explain the method in more detail as well as goals for improvement, including reducing the turnaround time from 7 to 3 hours. Listen for more details about this exciting technology. To keep tabs on this and related work, visit Available on Apple Podcasts:
Most listeners are familiar with circadian rhythms, but Professor Zhu is working on less-studied 12-hour cycles and how they affect our well-being. He talks about his research, explaining How 12-hour rhythms match the tidal shifts and patterns, Why this 12-hour rhythm probably evolved before the circadian rhythms, and How a better understanding of the physiologies of ultradian rhythms might lead to Alzheimer's and other disease treatments. Bokai Zhu is an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism and the Aging Institute at the University of Pittsburgh. He's working on biological rhythms, also known as oscillations, and specifically narrowed his study to research ultradian rhythms, which signifies 12-hour cycles, rather than the more commonly-studied circadian rhythms.  Thus far he's found evidence that 12-hour rhythms originated to adapt to the 12-hour tidal rhythms, which we see in crustaceans. Furthermore, Zhu believes as we've evolved from the sea, humans and other animals have kept this 12-hour rhythm. In other words, this same tidal pattern followed by our evolutionary ancient ancestors is ingrained in our body clock. He discusses how he is conducting studies in mice to better understand this cycle and how it might regulate our systems.  He makes an interesting analogy to morning and evening rush hour, how these 12-hour switches of increased activity present more risk for bodily damage like misfolded proteins. He's also found potential connections to memory issues because the hippocampus is especially engaged in the 12-hour cycle.  Listen to learn about these issues and more. For more information, see his web site at the university and search for recent news articles covering his research: Available on Apple Podcasts:
Professor Girguis studies microorganism in the ocean and their contributions that make our planet habitable. In this conversation, he explores How and why some microbes live in these extreme environments around hydrothermal vents and methane seeps; How these chemo autotrophs, or organisms that feed off of chemicals, connect to life in the upper reaches of the ocean and what that means to fisheries; and Why a reframing of ocean science is important in understanding and taking care of the interconnectedness of our biosphere. Peter R. Girguis is a professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. He works in a field of molecular biology that studies microbes and animals that live in the ocean, especially microbial organisms that interact with metals like iron and magnesium, which he describes as akin to the multivitamins of the ocean. His microbiology study focuses especially on bacteria and archaea.  These microbes inhabit environments, like hydrothermal vents and methane seeps, to feed off the released metals, which are toxic to most animals. Professor Girguis utilizes molecular biology to understand how these microbes play a role in moving energy from the abiotic world, or nonliving structures like rocks, to the biotic world. Significantly, this microbiology study connects to the food chain. He mentions one study that shows how plankton feed on these microbes which in turn feed small fish that are eaten by the larger fish off the coast of Chile, which are integral to the fishing industry there. He describes other elements to this underwater architecture, from methane ice to giant sulfide structures, and how some fish use these extreme environments to rid themselves of parasites. He also posits a new view of ocean science that is much more outward looking and should engage people from all over the world.  To find our more, see his lab’s website: Available on Apple Podcasts:
Karl Hassan researches antimicrobial resistance specific to hospital-associated pathogens. He talks about his work towards developing compounds that can overcome this resistance. He explains The two main types of resistance, acquired and intrinsic; Which pathogens are the toughest to combat, namely gram-negative bacteria; and  How understanding a specific gene expression for a bacteria may provide answers toward generating compounds to kill that bacteria. Karl Hassan is an ARC Future Fellow at the School of Environmental and Life Sciences at the University of Newcastle in Australia. He studies antimicrobial resistance of pathogens common to hospital settings. He explains that these pathogens adapted to the hospital niche and have become superbugs. Because big pharmaceutical companies experience low profits from antibiotic development, the research has been taken up by university scholars like Hassan. He talks more about the inner workings of the bacteria, especially the gram-negative bacteria, which present more of a challenge because they have two membranes and are intrinsically resistant. He explains more about the mechanics and cell architecture and then shares an exciting find: they were able to identify a gene that was unknown and verified that when expressed, it offered resistance to the bacteria. They believe, based on tests, it may code for the efflux pump protein. Understanding how different families of efflux pumps work will help develop compounds that can infiltrate the bacteria cells. He finishes by explaining the process for how something like this find can lead to eventual compound production.  For more, see his page at the University of Newcastle: Available on Apple Podcasts:
Jen-Tsan Ashley Chi: I was born and grew up in Taiwan. I obtained my MD from National Taiwan University and PhD from Stanford University. From my post-doctoral training with Dr. Patrick Brown at Stanford, I have been using genomic analysis and gene expression to dissect the influences of various tumor microenvironmental stresses in human cancer and tumor heterogeneity. Since arriving at Duke University, we discovered the presence of abundant and diverse species of RNAs in mature erythrocyte, a cell type long thought to lack any DNA or RNA. Since then we have pioneered the efforts to apply the genomic analysis of erythrocyte microRNAs to dissect the phenotypic variations among sickle cell diseases and blood storage. From the investigation of erythrocytes, we have been interested in the role of erythrocyte RNA in the malaria parasites, including the recent adoption of single cell RNA-Seq technology of malaria parasite pioneered by Dr. Katie Walzer during her thesis work in my lab. Katelyn Walzer: For over ten years, Dr. Katelyn Walzer has studied the genetics and genomics of multiple apicomplexan parasites, including Toxoplasma gondii, Plasmodium falciparum, and now Cryptosporidium parvum.  She completed her PhD in 2018 under the guidance of Dr. Jen-Tsan Ashley Chi at Duke University, where she studied the malaria-causing parasite P. falciparum using high-throughput genomic technologies, including single-cell RNA sequencing.  Her work, published in multiple journals including mSphere and PLoS Genetics, identified distinct gene expression differences between male and female parasites during the transmissible sexual stage and uncovered unexpected transcription of genes during multiple times in the P. falciparum life cycle.  These findings imply that significant transcriptional diversity allows the P. falciparum parasite to survive its dynamic host environment.  Now a post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Boris Striepen’s lab at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Walzer studies the transcriptional regulators of the C. parvum life cycle and has used single-cell RNA sequencing to determine the genes expressed during the asexual and sexual stages.  Further work will focus on functionally characterizing stage-specific regulators and determining single-cell gene expression of the host immune response. Walzer KA, Fradin H, Emerson LY, Corcoran DL, Chi JT (2019) Latent transcriptional variations of individual Plasmodium falciparum uncovered by single-cell RNA-seq and fluorescence imaging. PLOS Genetics 15(12): e1008506. Walzer KA, Kubicki DM, Tang X, Chi JT. Single-Cell Analysis Reveals Distinct Gene Expression and Heterogeneity in Male and Female Plasmodium falciparum Gametocytes. mSphere. 2018;3(2):e00130-18. Published 2018 Apr 11. doi:10.1128/mSphere.00130-18 Researcher Katelyn Walzer and her Ph.D. mentor Dr. Jen-Tsan Ashley Chi used single-cell analysis to study the malaria-causing parasite, Plasmodium. Dr. Walzer is now studying another parasite called Cryptosporidium. In this podcast, they discuss How Cryptosporidium infects hosts and the dangers it poses, especially for children, Past bulk-sequencing techniques for parasites and what they missed in analysis, The mechanics for single-cell genomics analysis, what it offers microbiology, and advantages specific to fighting Cryptosporidium. Jen-Tsan Ashley Chi, MD, PhD, is an associate professor at the Center for Genomic and Computational Biology at Duke University School of Medicine. His former microbiology student, Katelyn Ann Walzer, PhD, is currently working on her post-doc at the University of Pennsylvania with single-cell analysis. They tell listeners about their specific findings on Plasmodium and Dr. Walzer's current focus on Cryptosporidium, a parasite that causes a diarrheal disease, and what else she hopes to study regarding the parasite. She gives some background on the parasite, describing how detrimental it can be for children in some countries of Africa who've already suffered from other diseases. Cryptosporidium can actually reactivate and cause chronic infection in these children, affecting their general health and quality of life. Dr. Walzer explains how single-cell genomics analysis has allowed her to identify which genes are expressed in the two different matting types (sexual and asexual). Dr. Chi explains how this technique also helped in Plasmodium research because mating is the only way to achieve intrapersonal human transmission, and identifying males and understanding the stages of development in both parasites may offer ways to block their development. Dr. Walzer explains additional findings, plans for upcoming research, and her goals to discover information that will help develop better treatments for infection by Cryptosporidium. For more information, search these researchers in Google Scholar. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Assistant Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Dr. Augusto Rodriguez, talks about the scope of his work and research on different aspects of liver oncology. In this episode, you will learn: Which underlying diseases are the main causes of liver cancer, and how long it generally takes for liver cancer to develop How many therapies have been approved for use in patients with liver cancer, and why it has been challenging to determine which type of therapy will work best for a particular patient What it means for a liver tumor to be heterogenous and why it’s significant   Dr. Rodriguez’s work centers around the goal of incorporating molecular information from tumors into tools that can be applied in the clinical setting to improve prognosis predictions, and developing novel methods for early detection of liver cancer. The current gold standard for early detection of liver cancer is a combination of abdominal ultrasonography to look for evidence of small tumor formation, and blood tests to identify the levels of a certain protein known to be elevated in patients with liver cancer. So, what’s wrong with the current gold standard? Dr. Rodriguez explains that in addition to operator error with regard to the ultrasound procedure, it requires patients to travel to an imaging center every six months, which is difficult to manage for many people. Due to the inconvenience and difficulty presented by compliance with the gold standard protocol, many people end up developing liver cancer that goes undetected for far too long. A potential solution that Dr. Rodriguez has his eyes on is a technology called liquid biopsy. In essence, it entails an analysis of tumor components within the bloodstream, such as fragments of DNA from tumors or extracellular vesicles released from tumors. The detection of such components in a blood sample taken at the point of care can detect liver tumors when they are very small, leading to better overall prognosis. In addition, liquid biopsy may address another complication in the area of liver cancer treatment, which is the determination of how best to sequence the many therapies that have become available in recent years. Dr. Rodriguez discusses a number of fascinating topics. Tune in for all the details. Available on Apple Podcasts:
Comments (6)

Austin Peek

Insightful episode. Learned a lot, thanks!

Jan 30th

Richard Jacobs

Thank you for all you do, Dinesh!

Jan 17th

Chris Hartigan

can you provide a link to the article he mentions in the interview please

Nov 5th

Jorge Luna

Theme music volume is too high. Host and guest volume too low. Difficult to listen while driving.

Jul 22nd
Reply (1)

Gonzalo Garcia Luna

This is teally interesting

Mar 7th
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