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.

Subscribe today for the latest medical, health and bioscience insights from geniuses in their field(s).
2089 Episodes
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Researcher Gopike Nair and her colleagues have produced in vitro cells that make insulin and have successfully implanted them in mice, curing them of type 1 diabetes. She shares her research with listeners, explaining The difference between type 1 and 2 diabetes and how her research is applicable to both, Some of the challenges in creating these cells and ones they face when entering a patient, and The next milestone to overcome and an estimate of the timing before this therapy will be clinically available. Dr. Gopkia Nair is a stem cell biologist working as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco. She has been working on stem cell research and diabetes in order to reintroduce insulin-producing cells into patients who've lost these cells and suffer from diabetes type 1. She begins by explaining the physiology in different types of diabetic conditions and how these generated cells act like beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. While her focus is on type 1, she says the therapy will be applicable to both types.  In order to explain how this therapy works, she explores the cause in more detail, reviewing the immune system's overdrive that attacks insulin-producing cells after some sort of trigger. Researchers have found that the disease starts at the beta cell level, exposing a certain protein on the surface that the immune system recognizes and attacks. Scientists are still not sure what the trigger is, but this helps them know they must address this in the cells they've created from the stem cells. She addresses different ways they are protecting the cells from the immune system and how they will introduce the cells into the body of the patient, most likely through a patch in a vascularized area. Finally, she expects this therapy to be available to patients in 5 to 10 years at the latest. For more, see her LinkedIn page and personal research web page.
Seqster Founder and CEO Ardy Arianpour explains how the company integrates multiple data sources regarding health care into one system. He discusses How they integrate human genetic information, medical records, and wearable devises, How this becomes a longitudinal record sharable across institutions, and  Why this improves our health care treatment and experience. Ardy Arianpour is a genomics executive and serial entrepreneur in the biotechnology industry and has launched several clinical and consumer-based genetic tests in past companies. He co-founded Seqster in January of 2016. He describes the company as a SaaS healthcare platform used by enterprises in health care fields. It enables organizations to drive efficient healthcare via a comprehensive collection of medical records and electronic health record (EHR) data. It also includes a patient's genomic profile and human genetic information along with any wearable device data and puts this all in one place, allowing individuals to share that data and create a longitudinal health record. He addresses issues of privacy as well, emphasizing the patient-centric mode of this information and the empowering nature of the data alongside protective technology. He provides examples of the usefulness of this platform such as a caregiver's handling of a relative's cancer treatments, having to deal with six different health systems. Rather than lugging binders and CDs of information, all data can be shared across institutions with Seqster. Finally, he shares some recent additions to the system such as a covid-19 compass symptom checker module that is built into the platform for research subjects who may have been exposed. He adds that they are assessing the growth in telehealth, and says that a weakness in telehealth is sharing data, a weakness that Seqster can address.  For best ways to learn more, see seqster.com, follow them on twitter through @Seqster, and find them on LinkedIn.  
Amar Vutha is the Canada Research Chair in Precision Atomic & Molecular Physics at the University of Toronto, and he joins the show to discuss the nature of his fascinating work. In this episode, you’ll discover: What the difference is between dark matter and dark energy, why Vutha believes it’s important to figure out what each is comprised of, and how scientists are researching these topics What makes a molecule stable or unstable, and what happens when you remove some or all of the electrons from an atom How atomic clocks work, and how they are related to highly-charged ions How antimatter is made in the lab Everything we see around is—including every galaxy identified telescopically—comprises only 5% of the universe. The consensus among scientists is that this 5% of the universe is understood fairly well, but Vutha second guesses that position. Rather than the questions that can be answered in physics, Vutha is interested in the questions that cannot be answered…or at least haven’t been answered yet. By studying and conducting precision measurements of the properties of atoms and molecules, Vutha aims to understand more about how the universe and the laws of physics work. He discusses what he believes to be three of the most important unsolved problems in physics, emergent properties and energetically-favored states of molecules, how highly-charged ions are able to resist perturbation by external stimuli (and why this is useful in making atomic clocks), the absence of identifiable natural antimatter in the universe (and why scientists reason that we should be able to identify it), and so much more. Visit https://www.physics.utoronto.ca/~vutha/  to learn more about Vutha’s research.
Associate professor at UNC Department of Epidemiology, Dr. James Thomas, joins the show to discuss his line of work in health care ethics, and how it has changed in response to the recent COVID-19 outbreak. Tune in to learn the following: How medical ethics and public health ethics differ, and why the distinction is so important to understand What the Siracusa principles are and how they apply to the COVID-19 pandemic How politics are muddying the waters of communication about COVID-19, and why this is problematic How the government-led War on Drugs campaign caused the US to lead the world in incarceration rates, and how this disproportionately affected African American communities For much of his career, Dr. James Thomas has studied the social determinants of infectious diseases, focusing particularly on the effects of mass incarceration on the communities left behind. Over the last decade, he has done a lot of work involving health information systems in developing countries. Just as he was moving toward a study of digital data and how they are used in public health, COVID-19 hit. Dr. Thomas discusses the social determinants of this virus, which includes a look at how incarcerated individuals are being affected by the virus, the level of constraint being placed on the general public in this country and across the globe, the unprecedented implementation of digital surveillance in China and the US, why COVID-19 presents unique challenges to health care ethics and decision-making, what he sees as the primary ethical mishap of this pandemic, what he thinks will happen as states begin to reopen across the country, and so much more. To learn more about the current pandemic, Dr. Thomas suggests visiting the CDC website.
U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center Director Jonathan Sleeman explains the process for observing and reporting issues with wildlife. This podcast explores The mission and main activities of the center, The potential for spillover of viral diseases including covid-19 from humans to North American bats, and Current findings and projects of the center, such as bird flu, chronic wasting disease in deer and elk, and white nose syndrome in bats. The U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center has been in action since 1975 and has a mission to advance wildlife health science for the benefit of animals and the environment. Jonathan Sleeman has been the director since 2009 and explains to listeners some of the vital work of his team. This includes general surveillance of wildlife diseases including investigations into viral diseases and other pathogens when die offs of wildlife are observed.  He discusses the effect of the current coronavirus pandemic on their work. He says that one concern is that it could do a reverse spillover to our bats. Therefore the center is doing risk assessments to see the probability of this by analyzing human and bat wildlife interaction among other things. Bats, felines, mink, and deer are some animals that potentially could be affected. After the risk assessment is complete, they'll design a system to monitor these animals He covers some of the other wildlife pathogens the center monitors and tells the history behind discovering white nose syndrome in bats in North America and the continued monitoring of bird flu and chronic wasting disease. For more information, see their web page at https://www.usgs.gov/centers/nwhc and the email contact is asknwhc@usgs.gov. Mr. Sleeman urges listeners to enjoy wildlife from a distance; however, if you see sick or dead animals that seem out of the norm, contact your state wildlife management group.
Recanati Family Associate Professor of Microbiology at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, Ken Cadwell, discusses the virome and how it relates to infectious and inflammatory diseases. In this episode, you will learn the following: What exactly is a virome, where it is found, and what it is comprised of What a bacteriophage is, and the ways in which it can interact with bacteria to ultimately cause the production of certain toxins What the inherent drawbacks are of “shotgun” sequencing for metagenomics, and how to overcome them Understanding the role of the virome in health is an emerging field of research. In fact, many people aren’t even familiar with the term ‘virome,’ which refers to the collection of viruses that inhabit living things, which of course includes humans. Dr. Caldwell’s lab is focused on understanding the functional consequences of viral infections primarily through the use of mouse models and cultured human cells. Through a collaborative network, Dr. Cadwell’s team is also trying to make correlations with humans directly in order to examine how viral exposure changes in individuals with certain diseases, such as irritable bowel disease (IBD). Dr. Cadwell explains the approach they take in determining what viruses are present in a particle sample, whether it be in a mouse model or the human gut. The approach involves sequencing everything that’s there…which means sequencing a lot of bacteria and bacteriophages, which are viruses that infect and replicate within bacteria. Dr. Cadwell says that about 90 to 95 percent of the viruses they sequence are identified as bacteriophage.  So, what comprises the remaining five to 10 percent of viruses? Although it’s a small percentage relatively, Dr. Cadwell explains that identifying these other viruses is of high interest because these are the viruses that infect animal cells directly, rather than bacterial cells. The team at Cadwell’s lab is interested in seeing what viruses are present in healthy people, and why. Dr. Cadwell also shares some exciting new research findings that show the human immune system is capable of reacting to certain bacteriophages that are supposedly only inside bacteria, suggesting that researchers need to be paying a lot more attention to bacteriophages that don’t seem to directly infect animal cells. Dr. Cadwell discusses a number of fascinating topics, including the norovirus (in mice and humans), symbiotic relationships between viruses and hosts and how they are similar to symbioses between humans and the human gut microbiome, why it’s difficult to define what constitutes a healthy microbiome, and so much more. Tune in and check out www.cadwelllab.nyu.edu to learn more. 
Chantal Abergel studies giant viruses, which are a relatively new discovery. She tells listeners how the size offers new observations in virology. She explains Why preconceptions of virus properties delayed their discovery, What functions and processes the larger size enables researchers to observe, and  What these things may tell researchers about virus and cell coevolution.  Chantal Abergel is the Research Director of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). She achieved her Ph.D. in Material Science in 1990 from Aix Marseille University. Dr. Abergel co-founded the Structural and Genomic Information (IGS) Laboratory at the CNRS. She specializes in a study new to virology, namely giant viruses. She tells listeners that their very size made them undetectable previously because of filtration measures assuming a certain size, which kept these viruses out of the literal scope of study. Dr. Abergel shares many traits and processes of the families they’ve been able to identify thus far. For example, bigger viruses are more complex with genomes that can be as large as 2.5 million base pairs. She gives a bit of the history, telling listeners about the first giant virus discovery called the Mimivirus as well as the family she’s currently studying, the Pandoravirus. Their size makes them easier to isolate and observe.  Dr. Abergel and her colleagues are studying their relationship with amoeba and have observed processes such as the capsid opening and contents transferring into the cell cytoplasm. Some explains that some viruses divide up and reproduce in the cytoplasm and some transfer and unfold into the nucleus and use cell machinery to duplicate. She shares many fascinating processes that have implications about giant virus evolution. For example, after causing the overexpression of nuclear proteins inside of amoeba to address the question of whether the viruses are really cytoplasmic replicators, they observed the transcription machinery was not in the virus capsid and the virus didn’t enter the cell nucleus to replicate. Rather they observed proteins leaving the nucleus of the amoeba and going to the virus for transcription. She remarks that this implies that these viruses may have been independent of the cell and this is a demonstration of how they coevolved. To learn more, see her lab web page at CNRS, http://www.igs.cnrs-mrs.fr/en/the-lab/?lang=en, and search for her articles, which include pictures of some of these recorded processes.
Dr. Bezerra specializes in biliary atresia research. It's the single most common cause of end-stage liver disease in children and the number one indication for pediatric liver transplants. He explains to listeners The ways this diseases causes harm, including the obstruction of biliary ducts; The importance of early diagnosis and its connection to survival rates; and New breakthroughs improving testing for the disease and treatment of epithelial cells in the ducts. Jorge A. Bezerra is Director of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition and Medical Director of the Pediatric Liver Care Center at the University of Cincinnati. He is also a professor in the Department of Pediatrics.  In this podcast, he carefully explains the progression of pediatric biliary atresia and research addressing this disease of the liver. He tells listeners that this indicates a closure or obstruction of the liver's biliary ducts in the first three months after birth. In the first few weeks of life, parents notice yellow jaundice in the infant's eyes and pale stools. He remarks that immediate treatment including surgery offers the most benefit. He then explains a few gastroenterology hypothesizes for when this actually starts. A recent study found that babies that develop this disease often have slightly abnormal bilirubin increases at birth, which indicates that it most likely is a prenatal disease. He adds that if a baby is diagnosed early and taken to surgery, there's a much higher possibility that surgery will work. He finishes with several breakthroughs in treating this disease and means of testing. For example, researchers have developed a novel test that can be given very early with fast results.  Testing normally requires a liver biopsy and as long as two weeks for results. He also talks about liver organoid research that has led to a new way to treat the epithelial cells of the ducts. For more, see his lab's website: https://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/research/divisions/g/gastroenterology/labs/bezerra.
Merlin Sheldrake is a biologist and writer who has written a book about the vast world of fungi while pursuing a plant study involving fungi symbiosis. He shares with listeners The prehistoric and ongoing relationship between plants and fungi, The nature and variety of these multisystem symbioses, and The composition of the "wood wide web" that the ecology and environment of plant and fungal symbioses creates. Merlin Sheldrake has studied plant sciences, microbiology, ecology, and the history and philosophy of science. He has his Ph.D. in tropical ecology from Cambridge University for his work on underground fungal networks in tropical forests in Panama. He was awarded the position of research fellow of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute while pursuing his Ph.D.  Merlin has just published the book Entangled Life, which describes how fungi affect our world. He shares many of these effects in this conversation, starting with his own fascination as a child for how natural objects transform. As he studied about decomposers and learned about symbiosis, plant study and research into plant and fungi relationships was a natural direction to pursue. He explains that fungi exists in plant roots and spread deep into soil but also live in plant leaves and stems as endocytes.  In fact, there are no plants found without endocytes. Therefore, he says, fungi are a fundamental part of planthood, even more than roots and leaves, as fungi existed in symbiosis with plants even before roots evolved. He tells listeners more about this relationship, current studies on communication between plants, fungi, and other plants and the necessity of fungi for health soil.  For more, find his book Entangled Life, which was just published, and see his website: merlinsheldrake.com.
Director of Pediatric Rheumatology at UAB Hospital, Dr. Randy Cron, joins the show to discuss his work and research as a physician-scientist. In this episode, you will learn the following: What rheumatology is and how rheumatic diseases work How often chronic arthritis occurs in children How macrophage activation syndrome (a type of cytokine storm) may explain why some people become severely ill or die from COVID-19 Dr. Randy Cron holds an MD and a PhD in immunology. As a physician-scientist, he sees both sides of the coin: the research and the clinical medicine it informs.  Dr. Cron primarily sees patients in the field of pediatric rheumatology and is currently studying macrophage activation syndrome, which is a potentially life-threatening type of cytokine storm syndrome that is a complication of some rheumatic diseases and infections—including COVID-19. Dr. Cron aims to study the genetics behind this syndrome in order to identify patients who are predisposed to developing it, and to learn more about the pathophysiology of the syndrome in order to improve treatments.    He also explains the basics of certain rheumatic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and touches on a number of other interesting topics. Tune in to learn more.
While scientists know antibiotic resistance is linked to the widespread use of antibiotics, understanding the physiology and microbiome of guts that have never been exposed to synthetic antibiotics might offer information to help address this resistance. Researcher Sharmily Khanam designed a study to tackle this gap in knowledge. She explains How our understanding of resistance mostly comes from clinicallybrelevant bacteria that's pathogenic and our understanding is therefore incomplete; Where she found a population without any exposure to synthetic antibiotics and what her research process is; and What pattern and discovery this research has offered, namely the ubiquitous nature of the antibiotic resistant gene and additional questions this raises. Dr. Sharmily S. Khanam is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with the Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology at the University of Oklahoma. She explains her initial question in her research, namely what the microbial population in our ancestors was like and how resistant they were to the current antibiotics. She and her colleagues are therefore studying a population in a remote village in the Amazon Forest in Peru.  Currently they are studying the scope and extent of antibiotic resistance in the gut microbiome population of this ancestral-like population, comparing them with the gut microbial population, physiology, and antibiotic resistant population in the microbiome of people exposed to modern antibiotics. They are trying to see if our ancestral microbiome was well positioned to tolerate the modern day antibiotics. She explains that researchers need to fill the gap of knowledge in understanding the molecular mechanism involved in resistance to a diverse group of antibiotics.  She adds that at the same time, this will provide a foundation to investigate and characterize the molecular mechanism in the bacterial population and how that is related to host metabolism—the combination of host and microbial population is creating the outcome that scientists need to understand in order to interrupt this process and prevent resistance. She adds an explanation of their findings thus far and explains how this may help the medical community. To learn more about this study, see her LinkedIn profile and Google scholar account. 
Scarring of the liver leads to numerous health concerns and in this podcast, Dr. Friedman addresses these concerns and ways pharmaceutical companies are trying to prevent these diseases. He tells listeners How nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is one component of the umbrella term Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and why that's important, How metabolic syndrome connects to these liver issues and why type 2 diabetes as an accompanying disease is of special concern, and How pharmaceutical companies are targeting scarring prevention with a new drug.  Dr. Scott L. Friedman is the Dean for Therapeutic Discovery and Chief of the Division of Liver Diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. He has worked to address liver diseases since 1984 and considers himself a physician scientist who oversees clinical trials and program. He explains that the liver gets scarred as a consequence of a variety of insults, from hepatitis A and B to alcoholic disease to NAFLD and NASH. Progressive inflammation leads to scarring and then advanced scarring known as cirrhosis.  He tells listeners that any disease of the liver often begins with a fatty liver and explains the physiology of this, how liver regeneration can be impeded by fatty liver, and how the liver functions to handle any toxins that enter our bodies.  He says that the main fibrotic or scaring disease targeted by pharmaceutical companies is NASH, which falls under the umbrella term NAFLD. He adds that a disease that is rising worldwide and part of liver disease is a full body disease known as metabolic syndrome, which includes type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other issues. He explains why liver disease is often overlooked and why this is a problem. He finishes with mentioning some new drugs, one of which should be available soon, to prevent this scarring. For more, see helpful groups that address liver issues such as the American Liver Foundation, the Mt. Sinai web site, the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease, and the Fatty Liver Foundation.
Kathleen Mullin Bio: Kathleen Mullin, M.D., is the Medical Director for Clinical Research at the New England Institute for Clinical Research and the Associate Medical Director at the New England Institute for Neurology and Headache (NEINH). Dr. Mullin is board-certified in neurology and headache medicine and after graduating from Tufts University and New York University School of Medicine, she completed her residency training at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, followed by a fellowship in Headache Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center. Prior to joining NEINH, Dr. Mullin was the Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology at Montefiore.  She was also Director of Clinical Trials, overseeing a busy clinical trials program. She has been a principle and a sub-investigator on numerous studies, with her work being published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at national meetings. Newer migraine medications are designed to address a different arm of the pain source than traditional triptan therapy, an approach not usable by patients with vascular issues. Dr. Mullin explains How this medication works by blocking CRPG receptors and why that makes a difference What exactly defines a medication as being effective and how Nurtec™ fits the definition, and How to let your doctor know about these newer medications. Kathleen Mullin, MD, is the Medical Director of the New England Institute for Clinical Research (NEICR) in Stamford and specializes in headache medicine. A neurologist by training, she continued working in headache medicine after a fellowship following medical school and has never looked back. She is a clinician who also helps companies run migraine medication trails on her patient population and has found a very effective new medication that's now FDA approved: Nurtec™. She explains how this works differently than the common triptan line of medicines, which work to decrease inflammation through vascular shrinking. However, any patient with a vascular condition of any sort is not able to take these medicines. She explains how the migraine medication Nurtec™ binds with CGRP receptors; GCRP is a neuropeptide that we all have in our bodies. Migraine sufferers have an increased amount of them and blocking their ability to bind blocks their ability to cause pain. Therefore, medications that work this way are called CGRP antagonists.  She discusses the success patients have had with this who haven't found relief with any other medication She adds that headaches are wildly underdiagnosed and urges listeners to seek out medical help if they suffer from headaches. She says that if you ever had a headache that made you feel you had to cancel something, you probably had a migraine—so go to the doctor, she advises. For more about Nurtec™, see https://www.nurtec.com/ .
Chief Academic Officer at Beth Israel Lahey Health, Dr. Gyongyi Szabo, joins the show to discuss her research on the role of inflammation in innate immunity and liver disease. In this episode, you will learn: What is meant by innate immunity and what type of cells are involved in phases of the immune response In what way it is an overactivation of innate immunity as opposed to a lack of innate immunity that is the real issue in many diseases What evolutionary process is responsible for low-level inflammation in certain diseases such as hepatitis C and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease How the blockage of the inflammasome complex has been shown to reduce the effect of alcohol-induced liver disease in mice, and what sort of promise this might hold for the treatment of alcoholic liver disease in humans For nearly 20 years, Dr. Szabo has been studying innate immunity, innate cell function, and signal transduction pathways. The focus in her lab is on various types of liver diseases that have an inflammatory component, which accounts for almost all liver injuries and chronic liver diseases. The goal of her research is to gain a better understanding of what causes the inflammatory response in certain liver diseases with the hopes of intervening with certain medications or treatments that would benefit patients suffering from liver disease. She discusses the difference between innate and adaptive responses of the immune system, how the evolutionary-preserved pattern-recognition receptors that are normally activated by pathogens can also recognize damage-associated molecular patterns, thus leading to low-level systemic inflammation, in what ways her research might lead to an effective treatment for alcohol-related liver disease, and more.  
Dr. Schilsky is a professor of medicine and surgery and medical director of liver transplantation at Yale, and he joins the show today to discuss issues related to the liver and liver transplantation. Tune in to learn the following: Under what conditions the use of acetaminophen can become a problem for liver and overall health In what ways and to what extent the liver is regenerative The relationship between atherosclerosis (which leads to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke) and fatty liver disease Dr. Schilsky had the privilege of witnessing the transition of organ transplantation from the imaginary world, to the world of practical application, to the world of successful application. He has seen firsthand the influence of pharmacology and advanced techniques on the outcomes in this field, and perhaps most importantly, increased quality of life and lifespan enjoyed by patients. For Dr. Schilsky, this is precisely where his interests exist: in the space where patient care and science marry. He discusses acute and chronic injuries to the liver, the safeness of acetaminophen, infectious causes of liver diseases, the crucial balance between liver injury and regeneration, the relationship between NSAIDs and kidney malfunction and other disorders, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, when and why life-saving bariatric surgeries may be performed, the absence of signs in early stages of liver diseases, whether or not liver diseases tend to happen in certain locations of the liver, and so much more. Learn more at https://liverfoundation.org/ and https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/liver-disease. 
This podcast explores how readily available genomic testing and databases of human genetic information raise ethical concerns. Dr. McGuire discusses How information from direct-to-consumer genetic testing can be used and what to look out for, Where different lines of concern lie between genomic testing that prevents or treats disease and potential uses that are less clear, and What direction trends for the next few years are heading in the biomedical ethicist world while facing a pandemic. Dr. McGuire is the Leon Jaworski Professor of Biomedical Ethics and Director of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine. She specializes in ethical issues of genetic testing and genomic research.  Modern technologies and commercialization put human genetic information at the forefront of medical ethics revolving around multiple health issues. For example, she begins the conversation by addressing gene editing, which has brought a lot of attention: it offers great promise, but also raises ethical concerns about how we influence nature.  She also discusses privacy issues from direct-to-consumer genetic testing and genealogy information. She advises listeners to use caution and understand that who can access the information depends on the company you are using. She reviews different company policies but also the ways the fine print may include provisions the consumer can miss. Ultimately, these companies have created a business model to amass this data and sell it to pharmaceutical companies to develop health initiatives like new drugs. She talks about the extent to which HIPA and GINA, a newer suite of laws that directly address genomic research and human genetic testing information, meet the needs for protection yet could be tightened. She also brings up newer technologies and reproduction issues, some mass testing programs, and how balancing competing health issues with a global health emergency is a rising issue. For more, follow the work of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities and see the web site for the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor Medicine at https://www.bcm.edu/centers/medical-ethics-and-health-policy.
Bugworks Research, Inc., is a company focused on producing a next generation antibiotic in light of antibiotic resistance. Dr. Datta details surrounding issues, including Why there have been no new antibiotics introduced in the last 50 years, How this new broad spectrum antibiotic is designed to evade antibiotic resistance, and  Which bacteria in particular it targets and under what circumstances. Dr. Santanu Datta is the CSO of Bugworks, Inc., and has been working in the field of infectious disease for decades. He begins telling listeners about the background of antibiotic development, highlighting the difference it has made. He explains why it has been difficult to develop new antibiotics from both a market and scientific perspective. He also explains the mechanisms of antibiotic and bacteria interaction, from the parts the antibiotics have traditionally targeted to the types of adaptations and evolutions bacteria are able to make to impede antibiotics, resulting in antibiotic resistance. He then talks about his company's work to make a new broad spectrum antibiotic that targets the most dangerous bacteria hospitals face in one antibiotic, from E. coli to Staphylococcus aureus to other common bacteria in hospital patients. Therefore, doctors may use this in an IV form when they don't have time to wait for test results because of the health risks to the patient. Dr. Datta explains that his new generation antibiotic targets two parts of the bacteria at once, limiting its ability to escape unharmed. One of the targets includes the enzyme bacteria require for replication. He also explains their approval process as they head towards phase 1 and adds that they are funded by Carb-x. For more, see the company's web site at https://bugworksresearch.com/
Environmental toxicologist Martin Wagner joins the show today to discuss the effect of plastics and other endocrine-disrupting agents on human health and the ecosystem at large. In this episode, you will learn: Roughly how many compounds have been detected in many plastic products, and what percentage of those compounds are actually identifiable What one of the main challenges is in determining which chemicals are leachable and therefore potentially dangerous to humans How to begin making steps toward the development of plastics that are less threatening to human and environmental health Wagner began studying plastics while obtaining his PhD, and has since focused largely on trying to determine what compounds exist in the products we consume, how those compounds function, and what effect they have on human and environmental health. Many of these chemicals are known to disturb hormone signaling in the body, which can lead to all types of ailments. Despite this, they have become “almost invisible to us because they are just so pervasive in our everyday life,” says Wagner. Following his PhD studies, Wagner began focusing on an area of research where he saw a void: while most researchers were looking at marine plastic pollution, Wagner wanted to look at microplastic and nanoplastic pollution on freshwater systems like lakes and rivers.  In light of the recent increase in public attention on and awareness of the environmental impact of single-use plastics, Wagner has recentered his work on this topic with the goal of emphasizing not just the use of plastics and the impact on the environment, but also the significance of the chemical compounds within these plastics. He discusses the details of past and recent studies in the field, what it means for a plastic product to have a certain dispersion factor and why this is significant, what items are found most often on European beaches and what’s being done about it, surprising sources of plastic pollution, why recycling only works well for a few types of plastic, and more. To learn more about Wagner’s work or reach out with questions, contact him through Twitter.
Daniel Heller runs a lab developing nanomaterials for the treatment and detection of cancer and other diseases. He explains this technology by describing The research tools used to try and improve biological systems testing in general, Specific nanotechnology designed to detect the signs of cancer, especially ovarian, much earlier than current tests, and The movement towards fitness tracker paradigms for noninvasive medical detectors. Daniel A. Heller, PhD, runs the Daniel Heller Lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. They're making sensors to detect signs of cancer at the earlies stages, like ovarian cancer, which is often detected at later stages when it is hardest to treat. Currently, they're creating sensors that would be implanted in patients at higher risk to detect ovarian cancer. He explains that the sensors identify biomarkers, which appear at higher levels in certain areas of the body like fallopian tubes, for example, before they appear in the blood where they are normally detected but too late for effective treatment. He explains that nanotechnologists are working alongside the popularity of fitness trackers like the Apple watches, hoping to merge that trend with medical advancement. These trackers shoot light to measure bodily functions like your pulse. Heller and his colleagues thought that they could get at these key biomarkers through something similar, a wearable device, which can use light to compare and measure indicators but noninvasively. A nanotube in the body can send infrared signals to this wearable device.  He describes how these can offer an accumulative measure—so even if the cancer is at a very early stage, and a single time point measure wouldn't find significant biomarker levels, if clinicians do accumulative measures, they should be able to catch it. Then, they can tell if they are increasing or measure their rate of change, also called the biomarker velocity. For more, find him on twitter through @HellerLab and see the lab web site at https://www.mskcc.org/research/ski/labs/daniel-heller
Azra Raza is the Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine and Director of the Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) Center at Columbia University in New York, a practicing oncologist, and author of The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last. She joins the show to discuss several incredibly important topics, including the following: Why there is a significant problem with the use of mice as models for cancer research and what needs to be done in order to really understand the earliest footprints of cancer in humans   How Dr. Raza is trying to overcome the financial barriers to the research necessary for cancer prevention and early detection Why a complete paradigm shift is needed within the cancer industry “Today…we are curing 68% of the cancers, and that’s great, but what are we curing them with? Slash, poison, burn: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation…the same treatments we were using…with a few rare exceptions…it is shocking that in this day and age of such advanced technology we are using such paleolithic caveman treatments...” says Dr. Raza, who has devoted over 30 years of her life to the early detection and prevention of cancer while working firsthand with countless cancer patients. She continues by explaining that these treatments (surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation) were initially given as stop-gap measures, and despite the efforts of thousands of scientists over the course of the last several decades, a more successful treatment has not been developed. Why? According to Dr. Raza, a big part of the answer has to do with the fact that cancer is heterogeneous; it’s a moving target that’s continually evolving and picking up new mutations. So, what’s the solution? In Dr. Raza’s view, the solution is early detection and prevention of the development of cancer, rather than attempts to treat it once it’s already advanced, and she emphasizes the need to use every available resource to this end, including genomics, metabolomics, proteomics, and transcriptomics. She explains the financial burden of pursuing this research pathway, how she’s trying to overcome it, and so much more. “On a daily basis I am seeing patients, and it is their stories that are the motivation for me…I am looking at everything through the prism of human anguish…to separate human suffering and pain from the need to find the answers is criminal, because the motivation has to be…to reduce human suffering.” Tune in to hear the full conversation, and visit https://azraraza.com/ to learn more about Dr. Raza’s mission.
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Comments (6)

Austin Peek

Insightful episode. Learned a lot, thanks!

Jan 30th
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Richard Jacobs

Thank you for all you do, Dinesh!

Jan 17th
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Chris Hartigan

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

Nov 5th
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Jorge Luna

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

Jul 22nd
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Gonzalo Garcia Luna

This is teally interesting

Mar 7th
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